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.

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