BUDGET CRISIS EXPOSES WEAK PREMIER

The new Liberal Government is taking a political shellacking. 

Ball is turning fiasco into a phenomenon. If he doesn’t use
his own political instincts, assuming he has any, he won’t last as long as did Kathy Dunderdale.

Such a conclusion, little more than five months into his tenure, seems
ridiculously premature. But it isn’t. That the Government’s first set of decisions
were so strategically ill-chosen, suggests the Premier is quite prone to
stumble.

It is not just the deficit levy or the doubling of the gas
tax, though these measures are the predominant catalysts of dissension. His
public relations capacity seems to mirror his own lack of fire; a relaxed and
passion-less treatment of deeply felt political issues magnifies an incapacity
to connect with a public jolted by their vastly changed financial circumstance.


The April NTV/MQO Poll placed the Liberals at 37% following the
Budget Address by the Finance Minister, 20 points less than the 57.2% of the
popular vote in the general election. While that result is not surprising,
given the budget, the protest movement was then only starting to build.

Ball has not benefited even having co-opted the public service with the promise of lay-offs through attrition. A courageous Premier would have boxed the leadership of NAPE and CUPE about the ears by now, just for pretending the status quo is possible. 

Nevertheless, it is the job of politicians, not public
sector unions, to establish the correct context for the Government’s fiscal decisions, and
to “sell” the Budget.

Even if the Premier had sold off the entire Office of Public
Engagement, as proposed in an earlier Post (and still the right thing to do), the
Government’s interface with the public could not have been more vacuous.

That he let himself get tricked into a massive public search
for budget saving tips, when the public lacked a clear idea of the sheer scale of the problem, is
difficult to digest.  

Most so-called professionals and the better educated seem not to possess
the knowledge and expertise to interpret the implications of five successive
deficits, or net
debt estimated well in excess of $20 billion by 2022, once Nalcor’s multi-billion dollar fiasco(s) are accounted for. Why would Ball expect more from the general
population?

A fiscal mess cannot be a crisis and an ordinary problem at once; it is one or the other. Crisis demands urgency, an insistent and consistent description of why it deserves such a characterization, a plan of attack, and an appeal for support of the plan. If the message of crisis is confused, why would anyone be concerned? 

The appearance by the Premier and the Finance Minister on
the CBC Evening News having preempted the program for the Q&A session, is one example of politics badly practised. 



Even if the pair had given the Budget
some context a thousand times in previous days, a few introductory remarks were
necessary to explain the depth of problem and how those unprecedented tax
measures might be expected to assist in its resolution. Instead, the two could
have been middle managers out of central casting, given their poor exhibition
of both empathy and insight.

Ball obviously didn’t learn a thing from Smallwood whose
penchant for repetition was legendary.  In
the same vein, Peckford didn’t keep the public on-side and win the Atlantic
Accord just with an occasional mention of offshore resources jurisdiction.  They took pains to capture public understanding and support. But let’s be clear. Public engagement occurs only after you have earned the public’s attention.

Of course, a good PR job on the Budget, alone, would have
been insufficient. It still needed choices that were defensible; ones relevant
to the amount of money saved.

Ball even overlooked the demands of party politics; the Budget
reflects no consideration of a strategic element, one that respected the
Liberals traditional rural base. The Premier forgets he capitulated to Paul Davis far
too easily on a Seat reduction scheme that reduced that base, last year. If he
is calculating the Avalon Peninsula, home to the bulk of public servants, is
the new Liberal bastion he will find those loyalties far more divided and transitory, too. 

Library closings disturb people’s sensibilities in areas
where services are scarce. The HST on books, a minuscule revenue source
anyway, is an affront especially to the arts community, an articulate group having
both a stage and a microphone. In place of cancelling full day kindergarten, its
necessity arguable in the circumstances, the Budget chose the very lightning rods of
protest. Even the Premier’s insistence on an allocation of $750,000 to study a
Straits tunnel, when penury beckons, is just proof of tunnel vision.

The oddest part is that the Budget did not accomplish what it
should have; expenditures having gone up, not down.

Now, the Government will have even less courage for the really
tough decisions that await. 

Ball has taken a political pounding with little to show for
it.

Being savvy implies getting it right the first time.

It is true the fiscal problem is so large the Government
could not possibly have fixed it within one budget period. But the first cut
should have gone for the big money, the bloat; now the Liberals face death by a
thousand cuts. On top of that, Ball has no idea what Stan Marshall will present
him on the Muskrat Falls project, except that it threatens to be a Hobson’s
choice.


The Government finds itself fought from every quarter.

Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce
Minister of Municipal Affairs


For what reason would Gerry Byrne and Eddie Joyce, two
Cabinet Ministers, let it be known that they counselled against the deficit
levy, as CBC’S David Cochrane recently reported? In a place where secrecy, not just loyalty, is badge of honor it is telling
that such a story could be published, and go unrefuted by either of them.

Corner Brook MHA Gerry Byrne
Minister of Advanced Education  and Skills
Ball’s only advantage is that no one else in the Liberal
Caucus has demonstrated a skill-set better than his. But that doesn’t count for
much. For the same reason, the Tories ended up with the Constable Premier.

If Ball continues to demonstrate the empathy of a rake, if
he insists on making decisions that put the public service ahead of the entire
voting population, if his key rural constituency is marooned by his own lack of
vision, having allowed the bean counters free reign to weigh what is politically
astute, some bucko
, like Byrne or Joyce, might yet get to sup with the
Lieutenant Governor.

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.

OPINION POLL OVER-RATES INEFFECTIVE TORY OPPOSITION

Having survived in spite of themselves, in Opposition the Tories have been lazy and uninspiring.  The fact that it is summer, and the House of Assembly is closed, admittedly makes their job tougher, except that the Party’s manifest weakness is not a seasonal problem.

REMEMBERING CABOT MARTIN (1944-2022)

He was an exceptional person. A gifted intellect for sure; irascible and argumentative, too. What endeared him to many was not just that he was analytical and insightful, but that he was honest and forthright. He was a public policy wonk; resource policy interested him most. He loved to travel and read; people, with something to say, were always important.

GNL RUSHING INTO ANOTHER “SCHEME”: CABOT MARTIN

I must say that after the Muskrat Falls fiasco, I thought our government had finally learnt its lesson and would not to rush into another such scheme where calling it “green” was enough to suspend all critical analysis.

8 COMMENTS

  1. The library cuts, the levy and all these issues are red herrings. They are insignificant in the scope of the issue we have. We are still running a 2 Billion dollar deficit. We need to get at least 1 Billion of this from reductions in the salary expenditure heading, either through reduction of people and/or reduction of salaries.

    NTA, Lana Payme, Mary Shortall are doing this province a diservice in protecting the needs of their current memberships. Their language is self serving, short sigted, and doing significant harm to the province.

    We need to cut the public service, and it cant start early enough.

  2. We get the politicians and the government we deserve. We elect them on criteria that you wouldn't use to hire a druggy to rack your lawn or something like that. We are the morons who do not demand proper resumes, qualifications, business plans, strategic plans from politicians who pretend to want to manage and administer our societies. We are the idiots who allow the trade unions to extort excess moneys from our governments. We are the idiots to forget that so long as the majority of people in NL work for the government and all associated organisations, these people will look after themselves first (they have the power), and will simply imploded the little NL economy.

    It's not Ronald Reagan whom brought the Soviet Union to its collapse. They did it themselves, whereby the official government had all the expenses, but the real economy under which people could survive, was an enormous black market economy… Newfoundland is flirting with the same disaster.

  3. Newfoundland's favorite demagogue did so much more damage than could the likes of Payne, Shortall, Earle et al. by providing the unions with more resources than they could ever imagine. 10,000 more public servants from the period 2006 to 2010 plus massive raises bought off the unions while also providing them with huge war chests for the current propaganda war.

    Anyone care to identify the person responsible for this brilliant political maneuver?

    Keith

  4. Your headline sums it up nicely. Ball got the job as liberal leader because he bought it. He was not voted in as Premier based on merit, but rather, he happened to be in the right place when the Tories were tossed. He wanted to become Premier for his own ego. Look at me, I'm the Premier now! He reminds me of the dog who chased the car & then caught it….Now what? His lack of empathy for the struggling citizens is only exemplified by his incoherent bafflegab. The budget is the product of a naive & immature mind. I got from Bennett what was expected – protect their own & screw the little guy. She is way out of her depth running a multi billion dollar budget, equipped only with grade 12 math skills. Their nit picking of the little things while wasting money on consultants & now, pay increases for judges shows how out of touch they really are. We have plenty of intelligent, common sense, industrious people in this province, yet we always seem to end up with leaders who are at either extreme – egomaniacs or weaklings who got there by happenstance. We pay very well to attract the best…That is clearly not working.