Thursday, 21 January 2016

Won't Somebody Please Help the Premier!

Won’t Somebody Please Help the Premier!
By:  Ryan Young

In light of the updated facts about the dire economic situation facing our province, good hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have been bracing themselves for the hard knocks they have long suspected were coming their way. We quickly and unceremoniously swept Paul Davis and his PC party from their role as keepers of the purse, and ushered in a new era of Liberal government on the basis of not much more than the fact that they were not the outgoing PC party. 

Certainly Dwight Ball and his team did not give us much to go on. With a policy of mums-the-word, Premier Ball has been very adept at playing “duck and cover politics,” since his ascension to the Liberal throne in 2013. Even the Liberal platform, which was finally made available a few short days before the general election, held no real clues to how the new government intended to right our course. There was plenty of talk of public engagement and consultation, plans to make plans if you will, but no real substance to the direction the party would take to ensure the restrengthening of our fiscal situation and the prosperity of future generations.

Is it really a shock then, that when the government announced their approach to tackling the economic situation there was no real affirmative plan to make the necessary changes in the short term? For some, the shock of it all must have been too much to bear. Imagine bracing yourself for the inevitability of cuts and restructuring that could cost you your job, only to hear that the government was quite willing to go on with business as usual. For some it must have felt much the same as someone who has narrowly avoided an auto accident. Shock and awe indeed!

So just what does this fifteen month public engagement process really mean? I am certainly in favor of more public engagement in the political process, but anyone who follows provincial politics closely has no choice but to question the motives of such an extended period of consultation. Indeed during their time in opposition the Liberals held dozens of public engagement events on a variety of issues. I myself attended several of these, and found that the suggestions being offered were very often well thought out and appropriate. Why then, with so much of this work already done, do the Liberals feel the need to repeat the process with such a long and drawn out process? Some would argue that the government is trying to buy itself some time in an attempt to wait for oil prices to rebound and that this whole public engagement process is just a cover and a waste of taxpayer money. Surely I am very reluctant to agree with such a cynical statement but when you look at how the Premier has reacted to early engagement it does make one wonder.

Last week the government launched an online portal where people could make suggestions directly and users would be able to vote on which suggestions they liked the most. News quickly surfaced on social media that someone had suggested a communist revolution as the best way out of our economic situation and that it currently had the most votes. When asked about the story Ball was quick to say that the government would not likely be taking that approach. Now certainly I am not suggesting that we do actually engage in a communist revolution, but the point that struck my mind is that if the Premier is so quick to dismiss the top rated idea so far listed under his public engagement project, even if it was a joke, then how serious is he and his team about actually looking at new ideas? Again I am not saying Ball should bring down the veil of communism down upon us, but if it is to be so obvious that they will not entertain any idea that they do not consider worthy of further consideration, then indeed what is the point of this whole public engagement process?

What this province needs now is a strong leader with a clear vision. From his earliest days as opposition leader to his present job has Premier Mr. Ball has not been willing to share any vision with the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and as a result we continue to fail our province and our people. Indeed we can be compared to an unruly teenager who needs the tough love of a strict master. The time has come to tighten our belts and do our best to undo the mess that the previous government has left us. Oil prices will rise again, but we must be ready when that time comes to use it wisely and create a Newfoundland that our forefathers would be proud of.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Why We Need Democratic Reform

Why We Need Democratic Reform

By: Ryan Young

Well the dust has settled from the longest election year in modern history and the new Premier and his cabinet have been officially sworn in. The most optimistic of us are looking forward to the stronger tomorrow that the Liberals have promised, but now more than ever we need to hold the feet to the fire and get government working for the people again.

For this reason I was a little disappointed that there was no mention of democratic reform in any of the thirteen mandate letters that Premier Ball issued to cabinet this week. With a record low voter turnout of 55% in the November 30th general election you might think that the new government would be more concerned with the state of democracy in our province.

Almost half of the eligible voters in the province couldn’t be bothered to take the time to cast their vote and participate in the democratic process. Premier Ball need not look far to find the reasons that keep people away from the polls in droves, the major reason is quite clear. People don’t feel that their vote matters. I mean why take the time to go out in the cold November wind to cast a vote for the PC’s or the NDP when we all knew that the red tide was on the way in?

Videos by several comedy groups surfaced during the campaign where residents were asked to name their electoral districts and/or the candidates vying to be their MHA. The results, while amusing, were downright embarrassing. The simple truth is that the majority of Newfoundlander's are not engaged in the political process and have very little knowledge of what is happening on Confederation Hill. When you ask them why, the answer is usually simpler still. People don’t vote because they don’t feel that the current system is representative of them. But how do we change peoples minds? How do we get people involved in the process? The answer to those questions might be the simplest of all.

During the federal election campaign there was plenty of talk about electoral reform. Canadians overwhelmingly support a shift towards a proportional representation style of democracy. There are many different forms of PR to be studied but the main point to be considered is that a PR system makes every vote count. The number of seats in the legislature would be directly related to the percentage of the vote. Prime Minister Trudeau has promised that we have seen the last first past the post election in Canada, even if we don’t know yet what the new system will be. But why have we been so quiet about the issue here in Newfoundland and Labrador?

The Liberal government promised an all-party committee on democratic reform as part of its election plank on openness and transparency. As part of this plan, the Liberals promised to consult with the public on new ways to restore democratic integrity to the province. It was surprising then, that when the Premier issued his mandate letters, there was no mention at all of democratic reform. No minister has been appointed responsible for democratic reform and there is no mandate for the creation of the all-party committee as was promised during the election campaign. With the clock already ticking on the next election we don’t have the time to drag our feet on this issue. It needs to be addressed immediately with a clear mandate from the Premiers office.

Some critics argue that we would be best served to wait until the federal government has established how it will conduct its elections and change our system accordingly. That is a fair statement that does have some credibility as we certainly want to minimize the amount of confusion that will result in any major change to the democratic system. It would be wise, however, to start laying our own groundwork so that we don’t be left having to do all of that work in a short amount of time when the feds make their final decision.

The real question to ask is this: Is there sufficient political will to make major changes to the democratic system in Newfoundland and Labrador? Remember that this new government was elected with a large majority,  and any changes that would be made to the system would reduce the amount of power they wield. Can we really expect any political party to give up the power for the betterment of the people? I guess we will have to wait and see.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Should We Drug Test Welfare Recipients?

Should We Drug Test Welfare Recipients?

By Ryan Young

Should we drug test welfare recipients? It is a hot question that evokes an emotional response in many people. Anyone who has a Facebook account has seen one of those memes where somewhere that has decided to drug test welfare recipients and that we should do it here. Yes, we probably all know someone who fits the bill. Too lazy to work. Sitting home all day and getting drunk and high on the taxpayer dime. I won’t deny that this does happen and I certainly understand the emotional reaction people get when they think of people “living it up” on their hard earned tax dollars. But is that really the case? Does it happen as often as we think? What are the causes? And what happens to the most vulnerable users when the plug is pulled and the safety net is gone?

Addiction is no simple issue and certainly there are no simple answers. We are only beginning to scratch the surface on the root causes. For half a century we have been hell bent on treating drug use as a criminal and moral issue instead of a public health issue. Even the most conservative estimates show that the United States has poured over a trillion dollars into its war on drugs, with the net result being that drugs are more prevalent now than when Nixon first declared war on recreational drug use nearly fifty years ago. History has shown that increasing prison terms for drug users only drives the trade even further underground and the availability of drugs on the black market makes it easier for youth to get access to them.  Furthermore, people who have developed a problem are often afraid to seek help lest they end up in jail.

So what happens when we pull the plug? Firstly we will see a wave of addicts clogging up medical facilities when they are unable to procure their drugs. Addiction IS a disease and people WILL get sick when they are forced to go cold turkey. Without support, many will soon become homeless and in many cases will turn to crime to feed their addictions. Those who get caught will end up in prison, but at what cost to society? The cost per month to house a prisoner can be from five to ten times higher than the cost of sustaining them through social welfare programs, and in many cases the drugs are even more accessible in prison than they are on the streets. In turn we also will need more police resources to combat the rise in crime, which will cost the government even more money, not to mention the cost of the tests themselves which are certainly not cheap. So where does that leave us? What is the point? What are the real costs to society from such a “cost saving” measure?

In 2014 Tennessee introduced drug testing for welfare recipients on a large scale. Out of nearly thirty thousand applicants only 55 tested positive. That works out to about 0.19%, far below the national drug use average of 9.4%. With an average cost of two hundred dollars per test, the program turned out to be a big waste of taxpayer money and is now under review. A total of 7 states have introduced similar programs at a total cost of over a million dollars. Not surprisingly, the results are very similar across the board. In every case the number of positive tests was far below the national average for drug use. The evidence seems to suggest that the popular conservative myth of the rabid drug users living large on the taxpayer dime just doesn’t appear to have any factual merit. In Florida, their testing program was ruled unconstitutional and discontinued, proving that there are strong moral as well as financial arguments against these drug testing programs.

At the other end of the spectrum, Portugal decided to decriminalize all drugs in 2001. Despite the popular american drug  myths, the country was not run into the ground by drug fueled hooligans. In fact, things got dramatically better. The lifetime prevalence of drug use dropped dramatically, as did the number of drug related deaths. This wasn’t just because of decriminalization but due to the fact that Portugal coupled their new drug law policies with new health policies that recognize addiction as a public health issue, and they began to treat it accordingly. They shifted drug control from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Health and instead of building new prisons they invested in rehabilitation centers and health clinics. They introduced a guaranteed minimum income program to expand the social welfare program which helped to lift many people out of poverty and beyond the siren song of addictive drugs. Major changes in policy, and even more importantly, the resources available over the past fifteen years, are a major factor in Portugal’s positive results with their drug policy.

Just this week Ireland has made “a radical cultural shift” in its drug policy. Small amounts of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin will be decriminalized and safe injection sites will be set up for intravenous users. Moving from shaming addicts to providing them with a support network will be the basis of the new policy shift. Some dispute the opening of injection sites on the grounds that it promotes drug use, but the minister responsible stated that by opening safe injection sites they would aim to prevent vulnerable individuals from exposing themselves to further risk. This is indeed a radical shift in thinking from the traditional anti-drug establishment. While the program has many opponents, many more are praising it as a long awaited step towards lowering HIV/AIDS rates and breaking the cycle of drug and alcohol addiction in Ireland.

So what lessons can we learn from places like Tennessee, Portugal, and Ireland? Abandoning our most vulnerable citizens is not only morally questionable, but it doesn’t seem to make smart financial sense either. Many welfare recipients claim that the cost of recreational drugs are out of their reach, even if they wanted to do them, and the low numbers of positive results back up those claims. We have also learned that when it comes to reducing drug use among the poor, the best path is by empowering people caught  in the system to take control of their own lives. Creating programs that address the root causes of addiction and treating people like human beings has been proven to do much more for drug users than any prison term ever could.

So what can we do here at home to combat our increasing addiction problems and all of the bad elements that go along with it? As tragic as the recent shooting death of Mr. Wellman was, it is a sad indicator of the way things are going under the current system. Our approach to drug use and addiction is simply not working. If we want to seriously address the issue and make progress we need to look past the status quo and find new ideas to tackle this problem. It is time to heed the lessons of those who have gone before us and start to rethink our approach to drug use and addiction in this province. Only by changing our attitudes will we ever make headway and see real positive change.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Child Care Is Key To Population Growth

Child Care Key To Population Growth

By: Ryan Young

(Originally Published in The Telegram, June 13, 2015. See Link at Bottom)

The front page of The Telegram on June 5 proclaimed that “population issues are getting to a crisis point" Over and over in the media we hear about the need for a population growth strategy due to our continued declining population, and according to all indicators we are nowhere close to turning those numbers around.

But what I fail to understand is the reason why, when we discuss population growth in this province, there is no mention of the need for a provincial child-care strategy that encourages residents to have more children.

The Conservatives have tried offering financial incentives to encourage more births, but a thousand dollars and tiny tax incentives have failed to turn the tide on population issues. Most recently there has been a push to attract more immigrants to the province, but that, too, has had limited success as many of these newcomers quickly move on to bigger centres such as Montreal and Toronto where there are more opportunities for them and their families.

Through my work with child care, I have heard from hundreds of parents in this province, many of them professionals, who want to have more children but they are holding off due to lack of accessibility and the high cost of quality, regulated child-care spaces.
Many professionals, most often women, are being forced out of the workforce if they do decide to have children. We know this, yet for some reason we are still not looking at child care as a part of the population growth solution.
There will always be the handful of people who will ask why their tax dollars should pay for child care. The answer to that question could be quite complex if we were to get into all of the social benefits of quality, universal child care, but let’s keep the discussion purely along economic lines.
Study after study, all over the world, has concluded that investing in child care nets a return of $1.50 to $2.50 into the economy for every dollar spent. Even without taking into account that early education has been proven to create a better educated, less incarcerated society, the benefits of putting parents back into the workforce just makes sense.
When you add in the fact that the reason we need to grow our population is to grow our tax base to keep the economy strong, it makes even more sense that we would want our future workers to be highly educated, productive members of society. That is the capitalist dream after all.
Before we start coming up with radical plans and expensive programs to attract a wave of new residents to the province, why don’t we try supporting our own families and try to grow our population from within? All you have to do is listen to the people and remove the barriers that are holding young families back.
Sure, immigration should be part of the plan for our province to grow and diversify, but the real issues that are holding us back need to be addressed if we are going to get back on track. Newfoundland families want to have more children, they just can’t afford it. Remove the child-care barrier and the population will grow.
It really is that easy.
Original Publication:

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Election Questions We Should Be Asking

The Election Questions We Should Be Asking

By Ryan Young

As the writ drops today in advance of the provincial general election on November 30th, the media is abuzz with questions for our politicians. The economy is the issue on most minds, with low oil prices causing job losses and general uncertainty. Issues like education and childcare, gender equality, and natural resource development are getting a fair amount of attention as well but the majority of talk so far has been about the candidates and not the issues. So far the biggest story has been Ryan Cleary deciding to run for the PC’s.

This is a common theme in Newfoundland politics, which is so much a popularity contest as it ever was. The high poll numbers for Dwight Ball and the Liberals is certainly not based on policy as they have not announced any yet, so one must assume that the issues really have no part in provincial politics.

So what are some of the issues that we are not talking about? Obviously jobs and education are important issues, but what are a few major issues that are hardly even given a thought?

Here are four discussions that we should be having prior to November 30.

Our Relationship with Canada

Under the rule of Stephen Harper, the relationship between Newfoundland and mother Ottawa has deteriorated to the point of being nearly non-existent. No doubt Danny Williams had a part to play in the frosty relations, as did the reluctance of the electorate to send tory MP’s to Ottawa in the wake of the ABC campaigns. But now, with the country dusting itself off from a marathon federal election and a newly elected Prime Minister sworn in, we need to look at repairing our relationship with the feds and try to finally become a working part in the great game of confederation.

Increased control of the fishery and offshore royalties should be a priority for any provincial government, as should be securing our fair share of Mr. Trudeau’s infrastructure spending.

For as long as we have been Canadians we have been fighting with Canada for the opportunity to be able to help ourselves. Now is the time for us to really pressure Ottawa to open its arms fully to the poor little cousin and welcome us in as equals once and for all.

Electoral Reform

One of the enduring issues during the recent federal election was electoral reform. The vast majority of Canadians are in favor of changing the way we elect our governments and the winning Liberals have promised that a new system will be in place before the next election in 2019.

Strangely, there seems to be much less interest in changing our own antiquated electoral system. With the Liberals in the driver's seat, it is no wonder that they have no desire to change the “first past the post” system that will hand them a large majority of seats proportional to the actual popular vote. In hindsight, maybe instead of reducing the number of seats, the outgoing PC’s should have made changes to the system to allow a House of Assembly represented by the percentage of the vote and not the number of seats. It might well have saved them from being blown off the map later this month and could possibly have given them a strong opposition voice Instead they will be obliterated on November 30th, and the Liberals will have their chance to rule with an unchecked majority.

It is true that Newfoundlanders are not big fans of change, but maybe it is time that we start the conversation about our electoral system in hopes that someday someone might take it seriously and establish a system that fairly represents the wishes of the people.

Renewable Energy

Despite our firsthand knowledge of how the boom or bust oil economy works, Newfoundland continues to forge ahead with all of its eggs in the petroleum basket. Sure, oil has changed the financial landscape of the province for the better, but recently we have been witnessing the other side of the industry, when prices drop and big projects get put on hold.

With all of the talk of future development of offshore oil resources, we hear very little discussion of investing our new windfall in a way that will benefit the people of the province long after the last barrel of crude has been pumped from the sea floor. Will we continue to reap the rewards of oil revenues, only to spend then on short sighted social programs that become unsustainable when the price drops? Why are we not talking about re-investing that wealth into renewable resources that can benefit the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for generations to come? Technologies such as bladeless wind turbines and tidal generating stations have advanced to the point where they are now affordable and commercially viable but yet we continue to collectively drag our feet and depend on big oil.

If Newfoundland and Labrador really wants to get serious about becoming an energy superpower we need to look past the oil resources and start developing in a sustainable way that will provide energy and jobs for generations to come.

Food Security

One of the scariest issues facing this province today is one that gets very little attention. To wonder about the reality of our food situation, just head to your local supermarket a few days after the Marine Atlantic ferries have been grounded due to bad weather. It doesn’t take long for the shelves to get bare and fresh goods to disappear. In rural areas, where getting fresh goods can be a challenge at the best of times, winter can be a nightmare on the food chain.

A vital signs report on agriculture in the province has called it “shameful” how little farmable land we have. The national average of per capita farmland is 1.19 hectares while NL has just 0.06 hectares per person. That is about the size of an average urban building lot. We currently have the smallest amount of farms in Canada. In 2006 there were 558 farms on the island compared to 4226 just prior to confederation.

As changing global conditions continue to wreak havoc on external food sources availability is reduced and prices rise. Can we do better by increasing the amount of farming here in the province. It might be worth looking into.

So as we move ahead towards the general election on November 30, let’s keep these issues in mind and ask them to the candidates when they come knocking at your door. There will never be political will to make the changes if nobody asks the questions. It will be no good to wait until December to ask them. Once the votes are counted it might be harder to get an answer.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

#NLBudget2015 - The Bigger Picture

#NLBudget2015 - The Bigger Picture
By: Ryan Young

“This budget is all about choices.” Quote Ross Wiseman, nevermore.

Nobody was expecting too much joy out of budget announcements at confederation building this week. With a projected 1.5-1.8 Billion (depending on who you ask) deficit, it would be hard to imagine too much coming down the pipes in terms of new spending. What actually came down was not really what anyone expected at all, but the general consensus is that for an election budget, #NLBudget2015 was a big miss.
The biggest “highlight” from the budget was a 2% increase of the HST from 13% to 15%. Despite the tax hike, the government will still run a deficit of just over 1 Billion dollars in this fiscal year, and many people are questioning if raising the sales tax was the right move. Corporate tax stayed the same, but that is not a big surprise since that will be where Paul Davis and the PC government will draw the majority of their spending for a fall (hopefully) election campaign. You would expect party unity, but even some hard line conservatives were speaking out against this years provincial budget, In fact Conservative senator David Wells said “While the Federal Conservative Government has lowered the sales tax from 7% to 6% to 5%, the provincial government has raised the provincial portion of the HST and pocketed the difference.”
Those are strong words from a federal senator who should be trying to mend fences with provincial Conservatives leading up to this fall’s federal election. Harper’s mantra, however, has always been to avoid tax hikes in favor of less social spending, and you can be rest assured that the PMO will not support any provincial government running large deficits for long periods of time.
Opposition leader Dwight Ball said that the Liberals would repeal the 2% tax hike if they were elected, but he did not offer an alternative to lowering the deficit. He called the HST a job killer and emphasized that raising the tax would be bad for business in the province.
Richard Alexander from the Employers Council said that we don’t have a revenue problem in the province, we have a spending problem. The current government certainly did not do a good job in terms of foresight and long term spending with the billions in oil revenue they had to work with.  It leaves many of us wondering; “Where did the money go?”
When you really think about it, for better part of the last decade the PC’s  have talked endlessly of being a “have” province. It has been the backbone of their continued political success after the departure of Danny Almighty,  but as Dale Kirby put it, we are now a “had” province. Sadly, there is a lot of truth to that that statement, but it does it have to be? Do we have to hang our heads like the poor working stiff who won the lottery and was broke in five years?  
The opposition Liberals, who still hold a comfortable lead in the poles, have yet to say what they will do to get us back to the glory days of “have” status. Frankly I don’t know if they can. Even a strong majority would only buy them four years before the spirit of the electorate will be broken by a government trying to maintain services with no money. The provincial debt will likely balloon under a Liberal government but what other option do we have? Even the Conservatives have been reluctant to make any major cuts to programs and services, at least not yet.  All the while, the vast majority of economists and policy makers that got us in to this mess shuffle their feet and pray for the return of hundred-dollar oil.
Surprisingly there were not many cuts to programs in the 2015 budget. Some jobs will be lost, many though attrition, but current social programs remained intact and some even received “new” funding. “New” being a misnomer as much of the money, such as funding for the Family Violence Intervention Court, is really just money being returned that was cut in the austerity budget of 2013. I can’t deny that things could have been much worse for social programs, but we still need a solid plan to deal with the plethora of social issues that we have in this province. We continue to throw band aid solutions at these problems instead of looking at and treating the underlying causes. We need a government that is willing to work with the community to create a real strategy for dealing with these issues.

While 3 Billion in health care spending was announced in the budget, including investments in private-public partnerships for long term care and new mental health initiatives, there will be big delays in new infrastructure programs under the health portfolio. Projects such as the new Waterford Hospital and the Gander and Bonavista hospital refits will be “temporarily” shelved but the government promised that they are committed to opening the new hospital in Corner Brook by 2018. With the number of seniors expected to double over the next twenty years we soon need to start planning for how we will care for our aging population. Many people are questioning the delays but the government says it just does not have the money right now for many new infrastructure projects.

This is not quite an austerity budget. Things like full day kindergarten, new school commitments, and a small increase into the provincial child care strategy budget help the government avoid the use of that term, but only just barely. NDP leader Earle McCurdy says that the government overspent when times were good and now the people of the province will have to pay for their mistakes. You can be sure students will be organizing in the wake of a 20 million funding hit for MUN, and labour groups are already organizing a march on Confederation Hill on Tuesday, calling the budget a “missed opportunity.” Whichever way you look at it, the fact that this is an election budget is a little scary. OK, maybe a lot scary. Conservatives will not run deficits for long, and you can expect that if oil prices stay low that big cuts will be coming in budget 16 or 17 if they are re-elected. The Liberals will likely run deficits to avoid cuts, although they won’t come out and say it...or anything. The NDP have been quick to criticize and have been fairly accurate in their assessments, but they have yet to offer a solid plan for fiscal solvency either. Perhaps there isn’t one. Perhaps we will just have to ride out the storm, and whoever we vote into the House of Assembly when we go to the polls this fall (again...hopefully) will likely only decide how far we run into debt before the price of oil rebounds or we end up in some other, darker situation. Something like a commission of government. A commission of government under Stephen Harper...They say history always repeats itself...How is that for food for thought?

Monday, 27 April 2015

No Consultation is Par for the Course

No Consultation is Par for the Course

By: Ryan Young

Last week we heard that the fees for hunting in the province are on the rise. A thirty percent rise for local hunters and a fifty percent increase for non-residents. The government claims that due to the current fiscal “crisis” they need to increase fees across the board and that there has not been a fee increase for big game in well over a decade.

Liberal Tourism Critic Stelman Flynn says that outfitters were not consulted about the fee increases and that some operators will have to recoup tens of thousands of dollars that will be lost on licenses that were sold as part of packages in 2014. Flynn says that the approximately 125 outfitters in the province are unhappy with the decision to raise fees this year. He says it is time that the government stop paying lip service to the tourism industry. Fellow Liberal caucus member Christopher Mitchelmore echoed Flynn’s comments in the House of Assembly, asking if the fee increase can wait one year to avoid outfitter losses.

Minister responsible for Service NL and Environment and Conservation Dan Crummell defended the move on VOCM Nightline with Jonathan Richler. The discussion started with the host mentioning his homemade maple syrup and the Minister saying “I guess I’ll have to steal some from ya.” At the risk of sounding partisan I would say that comment is very apt, when discussing the current government's attitude toward the people, but I digress. The Minister went on to say that they regularly consult with the outfitting industry but that they did not consult them on the fee increase. He says it will cost outfitters on average $5600 this year but that they should have foreseen a fee increase and planned accordingly. When asked when the fees last went up the Minister was unable to recall but he did say that fees had been reduced in 2007. That comment leaves this writer wondering how outfitters were supposed to “foresee” a fee increase when the Minister himself can’t even recall the last time fees were increased.

The fact of the matter is that as we try to grow the tourism industry in this province government has stepped in with another rushed policy that will cost our hard working tourism outfitters thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. Whether or not the government is paying lip service only to tourism outfitters as Stelman Flynn suggests, it is clear that the government has no intentions of consulting with the groups that are most affected by these fee increases. Am I surprised? No. Am I concerned? You better believe it. Whenever you have a government that feels so entitled that it doesn’t even consider discussion on major issues to be relevant, you are stepping into dangerous territory. Brushing aside legitimate concerns breeds dissatisfaction and the tories seem to be breeding that wherever they turn. Perhaps when the election dust has settled Minister Crummell and the rest of team blue will realize the importance of listening to the people they were elected to represent.