TRANSPARENCY: LIBERALS FAR TOO SHORT ON DETAILS

Barring a
catastrophe, the Liberals will win a landslide victory on November 30th

It would be a
fine tribute to “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” if this outcome could be
attributed to their advocacy of good governance.  Sadly, no such claim can be made.

Could that be
why a review of the “Red Book’s” contents reveals few ideas for how the
Liberals might run the processes of government better than did the Tories?

Ball may
bristle at suggestions the Tories are the sole authors of their demise; but the
facts don’t help him much.

Ed Hollett’s
Blog, The Sir Robert Bond Papers, recently offered an excellent review of Tory
blunders. I suggest the seeds of public discontent predate even his enumeration
of what brought them down.

It is good
to remember that Premier Dunderdale’s banishment culminated with her stumbles
during DARKNL. They did not begin there. The removal of the PUB from the
Muskrat Falls review, Bill 29, and her own incoherent logic, won her no
friends.


Tom Marshall’s
tolerance for corruption in the Humber Valley Paving affair, was also followed
by Paul Davis’ own missteps, though it can be argued, no differently in the
case of Dunderdale and Marshall, he was just a constable stumbling in larger
shoes.

Who would
argue that the winner in the 2011 general election was the “Gang Who Couldn’t
Shoot Straight”?

There will
be time, later, for such obituaries. But Mr. Ball may as well come to terms,
now, with the fact that changes to access to information legislation, alone, are
no panacea. They are only a partial cure to what has been one of the most
retrogressive periods of our political history.

Recognition
of this fact ought to have inspired the Liberals to make ‘governance’ the
flagship of a new administration. That failure may explain why so much is missing.

The Liberals
have made a big deal about town hall meetings as “avenues for dialogue with
residents”. Town halls are fine examples of democratic exposition, to be sure,
but they serve little purpose if the public is treated like dolts, at other
times, and if major institutions go unreformed.

Dwight Ball
needs to understand governance isn’t something a government does.  It is a style of administration, a process of
review, analysis, and public engagement. 

On major initiatives, like Muskrat,  government will consult on a serious and deliberate level, and attempt to garner public consensus. The process is respectful of dissenters
and it is honest with everyone.  

Transparency
is not a series of Nalcor style information dumps which leaves the public to
figure out what is important. Neither is it the constant invocation of the
claim to “commercial sensitivity”.  Neither is honesty a default to claims of a “100 year project”, when its sole purpose is to massage cost overruns, especially when simple economics speaks to the
implicit lie.

Premier
Dunderdale tolerated and even embraced the approach. But, then, any regard for challenging
public policy ideas was already obliterated by puerile demagoguery, when she
came to power.

The question
that remains unanswered is whether a Dwight Ball Administration will pay more deference
to form than to function; whether his idea of accountability is just more of
the same.   

Ball states
that Liberal core values are based on openness, transparency and
accountability. He says “Newfoundlanders and Labradorians deserve a government
they can trust.”

He has promised
taking politics out of government appointments for senior positions at Crown
corporations, public commissions, and other public agencies.

They are
admirable goals to be sure, but that is all they are; the public needs a
prescription, not more high sounding rhetoric.

Ball has
been heard to say he wants to strengthen the Committee system of the House of
Assembly. Yet, the new forty Seat reduction plan, one he supported, undermines
a system the Humber Valley Paving affair confirmed as useless.

He told the
St. John’s Board of Trade, recently, that he will make public details of the
finances of the Muskrat Falls project.

What does
that even mean?

Does he plan
to authorize a full review; one independent of bias from the folks at Nalcor;
one in which the competence of Nalcor’s senior management and project
management is assessed?

Will the
review confirm the full expenditures incurred and committed to date, the cost to
finish the project, and a real completion date, rather than the trumped up
chatter of a failed Nalcor CEO?

Will he
undertake the review within 60 days of coming to Office?

Former
Premier Tom Marshall said he would install “oversight” of Muskrat Falls. He
proceeded to establish only the mechanism of a “façade”; one that periodically
parrots the narrative Nalcor approves.

Will Ball continue
to support this offense to transparency and to the truth?

Will the
role of the Public Utilities Board be re-instated? Will the PUB be given a
mandate equivalent to that given the UARB, in Nova Scotia, which reviews
expenditures on the Maritime Link?  

Other
institutions of government need reform, too.

The independence
of the Public Service Commission should be reasserted; the principles of
fairness and objectivity in the hiring of public service need to be free of
political bias.

The Public
Tender Act needs to be strengthened and protected from politicians willing to
subvert it for their friends. 

The Office
of the Auditor-General, a key public institution, needs direction and renewal.
As a beginning, the Liberals should make former officials of the Department of
Finance ineligible for the position of Auditor-General.

The
deficiency of oversight and inspection of capital projects, within the
Department of Transportation and Works, is a serious financial issue. It also
constitutes a threat to public safety. Structural issues at Roncalli and Waterford
Valley Schools have exposed both dishonesty and incompetence.

There is also
the issue of the Province’s finances, which are in a perilous state.  

The Tories,
the biggest spenders in our history, are about to be brought down.  Ball should think less about when, than why.

The Liberals
have come a long way on platitudes. Now is a good time for specificity.

If Ball is
unable to give the clarity such issues demand, as premature as it might seem,
he will have sown the seeds of his Party’s demise.

NDP leader,
Earle McCurdy, has not yet made much impact in this election campaign. He
should try.

Voters might
see him more engaged if he forces Ball’s Liberal rhetorical balloon to fly a
little closer to the ground.
Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Premier Ball should resign, his whole campaign was a lie. The hardships that his budget will be devastating for the middle and lower earners, he has destroyed the Newfoundland dream, we have to pay to live here, such deceit on the government is shameless, I have no faith that any administration would be honest and truthful.