I'm sure Jerry Dean is a fine fellow and all that. You don't get to be elected as a Mayor of your community without the respect and support of that community, so it goes without saying the man has, or had, that. However, Dean's comments in the House of Assembly this week likely did a lot to damage that reputation.
In the wee, dying hours of the House of Assembly this week Dean stood up and began speaking off a prepared script. Yes, a prepared, written script. He made constant reference to it as he spoke. What does that have to do with anything? Well, a prepared script from a back bencher in our politics means the party in charge of the government crafted it for him to say. That's normally for several reasons: to fly a trial balloon by someone who is expendable (ie: don't use a Minister to do it); to start the spread of a message the government wants out there; and to change the channel and focus of discussion. Likely, in this case, all three were at play.
Here is exactly what Dean said in the House in the late hours of May 11, 2016:
"Despite the squandering revenue and resources by the PC administration, they don't, you people don't (points to the PCs across the House) deserve shouldering all the blame either. So, now who can we blame? ... (suggests Clyde Wells, Brian Peckford, or Joey Smallwood could be too blame then says) No, they don't deserve the BULK OF THE BLAME either. Everybody here tonight, and everybody at home throughout the province, it's time for all of us to take, take the blame. The unfortunate truth is that WE COLLECTIVELY, the CURRENT POPULATION and the PREVIOUS POPULATIONS, ARE TO BLAME. Nobody likes to say it, but there persists a culture of ENTITLEMENT in this province in which we demand jobs, benefits and services from government that our province simply cannot afford to continue enduring. At the rate. Decades of borrowing and spending by our governments, to pay for our CULTURE OF ENTITLEMENT, because we demand it."
( link is here for the speech - around the 2:40 mark - differs on different systems)
If you watch you will notice that Dean reads that little diatribe word for word off the prepared speech he was given to say. So, it wasn't just his position, but in fact a Liberal government message he was putting across. Now he clearly states: the people "collectively are to blame"; the people past and present deserve the "bulk of the blame"; the people have a "culture of entitlement"; and absolves the political parties of the "bulk" of the blame as entities. That's a fact of the record.
Now go to Dean's recorded interview with the CBC (the audio of the interview located in the story is what you need to listen to here . Here is what Dean said 3 days later to the CBC:
The CBC reporter asks: "So Mr. Dean, why do you think the population is to blame for the deficit?"
Dean answers: " Well, uh, I don't think that's exactly what I said."
Yet that is exactly what he said.
Then he said: "If some people want to take that, and misconstrue it, that I was laying the entirety of the blame at the people, at the general population, both current and previous, excluding Jerry Dean, and Dwight Ball, and Cathy Bennett and previous finance ministers and previous premiers and cabinet ministers and the list goes on then that's not what I said and it's there on the record... and if one were to take the time to take it, not from second hand news from someone else out.. you know I believe... there was quite a bit of cherry picking going on there, but I'm where I'm to on my reputation of being open and honest...."
So, when Dean refers to "someone out there" he is referring to me, because I watched as he said it, and put the info out immediately on social media - which caused a fire storm of indignation amongst the people - as it should. Then, Dean accuses people of "misconstruing" what he said. But, as you can see above, it is exactly what he said. He then relies on his reputation of being open and honest, yet it is quite clear he is not being honest at all.
The CBC reporter goes on and asks him:
"It's not second hand news. We heard your voice there in the House of Assembly and you did say the general population and people listening to that would say how is the general population to blame when they don't get to make the decisions?"
"Ya, well... but ... I'm looking at what I said here now... that collectively the current and previous populations ... now, you know ... what ... what that encompasses is everybody... so ... if ... again somebody wants to take something out of context that... that I can't control that.."
Dean stumbles so badly he has to read the same prepared statement he read in the House to buy himself some time to answer the question. He then stammers to make his answer sound palatable, and ends with people twisting his words. Yet, he admits in the same breath he was referring to everybody - ie: the people of the province.
The CBC reporter isn't buying that and follows up with this:
"If you're including everybody, how are those of us not elected responsible?"
"Why... this is ... unfortunately... like I say this is something that inadvertently... I guess has been brought upon inadvertently, uh, not in a mean spirited way... uh just be the harsh reality of the ...that the populations of the day uh... have...I guess...you know...like listen and follow the lead of ... of a consecutive government, whether they be Liberal or PC, and we've all had a ... probably ... a ... oh um...how can I put this ...we're all guilty as politicians and sitting governments... so um ... unfortunately... uh...ah of promising things to people... and in a lot of case delivering to the people...the people themselves...everyone of us collectively, couldn't afford to begin with... and ...so inadvertently and stuff...like we've ...like we've a ... unfortunately just found ourselves in this mindset."
If you think that answer was a complete run around by a scared politician, trapped by his own words in a corner, you aren't alone. The CBC reporter comes right back at him:
"So...I'm trying to understand this in a clear way, does that mean those of us that are the electors, or the voters or the citizens are responsible for where we sit right now, because we expected things from the government or that we accepted what the government was promising?"
Dean: "Well.. I'm saying collectively in part...." and the dribble just goes on from there. I really encourage you to listen to the taped interview at the link for the CBC story. The reporter did an excellent job of holding him to account. And therein lies the purpose of this post - accountability. That one word every politician in Newfoundland and Labrador is scared to death to hear. Anything but that! The truth is the people don't suffer from a sense of entitlement - not at all. The simple truth is they want roads and services that are accepted as routine in the rest of the country, but for some reason here they depend on how you vote as to what level of service you'll get - if any. Successive generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians haven't suffered from a sense of "entitlement". Quite the opposite is true. Successive generations have been brainwashed to believe they aren't entitled to the basics of all modern societies of the world, and to complain about that is to be a "whiner". To demand services before spending on mega projects is to be a "naysayer". To demand basic services is to have a sense of "entitlement".
It goes back a long way here. The Merchants. The small number of business families in the province that were the Merchants and are now the Corporations have a long history of keeping people "in their place". Keep them hungry so they'll work. Keep them uneducated so they won't question. Keep them poor so they'll be grateful for the crumbs of the natural wealth they rightly own. The key to all these things for them is not to be held accountable for it. That's why they have ingrained into the people the principle "don't trust outsiders" and "don't have outsiders coming in and telling us", because "outsiders already know what is basic human expectations in the modern world. That the interests of people take priority over the wealth of a few families. That holding people down isn't acceptable. All dangerous philosophies here to the ruling elite, but the standard everywhere else in the country. Like my neighbor who moved away 20 years ago, came back, and after one year is selling to move out, Newfoundlanders that have gone afar know now what should be expected of our government and are incensed at the mentality of "keeping people down". They won't accept it, and they leave.
We don't live in a culture of fat cat citizens with a "sense of entitlement". We live in a province of hard working people, fighting just to get by, with low expectations and strong family values who have been conditioned to believe that demanding what is normal elsewhere is somehow being greedy here. That's why Jerry Dean's statements are so offensive. Make no mistake, this was a prepared statement written for him to read word for word by the Premier's office - as is the case everywhere else for backbenchers. this is the position of the government. Like all the governments before it. It's aim is to invoke that item from your memory. Your conditioning. Don't ask for anything. Sacrifice for us. It is how you've been and how you must remain. Don't hold us to account. Yes, in this province there is definitely not a culture of "entitlement". Instead, we have a "culture of excuses". The culture of "it wasn't me" to quote the Caribbean singing star Shaggy. But, it doesn't apply to current and past generations of the population. No, it applies to current and past political elites as they spend the fruit of the land and sea on themselves, and toss the crumbs to the population as if they should be grateful they got that. The "culture of the Merchants".
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)