|Cartoon Credit: Anthony Rockel|
your time reading the Liberal Government’s Speech from the Throne. It contains
the ramblings of a group that can’t put one foot in front of the other.
unfortunate. If there was ever a time when the province needed a clear plan and
someone with the ability to communicate it, it is now. In the last Speech from the Throne, the
Government promised “decisive actions… with Budget 2016 followed by… medium and
long term actions…” Those are still absent. Then, too, it has been a year in
which fumbling — from library closures to Ed Martin’s severance — compounded by
Ball’s own incapacity for articulation, has left the government severely weakened.
needed to be ready with a coherent document that presaged a Budget styled for
crisis. It could muster no such a strategic focus.
Speech and the Budget — whether well thought–out or duds — expose the intellectual
and policy depth of the government. At a time when the Ball Administration has
earned one of the lowest approval ratings in the country, what better time to exhibit
policy heft and the determination to turn things around.
giving appropriate acknowledgement to the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who
made the ultimate sacrifice in war, the first five pages essentially constituted
a compliment to the achievements of others. They included Katarina Roxon,
Kaetlyn Osmond, Team Gushue, the skilled people behind Take The Shot
Productions, and others — all having demonstrated exemplary leadership, talent
and persistence on an international scale. Even the chefs responsible for
making the province an “international foodie destination” were recognized.
are proud of them all. But, ultimately, the Throne Speech is supposed to
describe not the achievements of others but the government’s own, especially its immediate legislative
and policy agenda.
Governor can only have been bewildered by the onslaught of verbiage. Thirty-one
pages of minutiae — not dissimilar to the last one issued by the Tories.
That’s the one this Blog described as having “the finesse of a chainsaw”.
really. The Throne Speech was never a document that caused the public to queue
for the next serving. Still, for policy wonks, public servants, crown
corporations, and even external watchers like the federal government, as well as
the lenders, public policy groups, and others — including Judges — the Throne Speech offers a glimpse into the
intellectual prowess of a government facing incredibly challenging times. It is a record of their intentions, their political savvy, their conviction and purpose.
It is an opportunity to give proof that at least some of their ideas have a
shelf-life beyond the next election.
these were normal times, we might not care if the government let a group of
mid–level public servants paste together a litany of second-rate ideas
and programs. But these are not normal times. The province is suffering a fast–unfolding fiscal crisis. We can’t afford to let the PR types in Executive
Council force–feed the Premier with the innocuous and the vacuous. I am
referring to “The Way Forward”, the government’s self-assessed economic and
social policy road map, which even its friends have determined is disconnected
from our fiscal realities.
Speech did acknowledge the burden of the Muskrat Falls project, but it offered
no proof that the province would be any worse off had it been shut down. Nor was there
any expression of regret that, in Opposition, they supported Muskrat, in consequence of which they miserably failed to hold the Tories to account.
trite to say that a fiscal crisis deserves a singular focus. But a line or two
blaming the Tories for Muskrat or castigating their free-spending ways does not constitute an
appraisal of our circumstance, and is most certainly not a clarion call for collective
action. No one wants or expects a government to be the voice of doom and gloom.
Still, after more than a year in Office, and amid persistent claims that it will
consult with the electorate, the government has only itself to blame if public expectations continue to well exceed our fiscal capacity.
Speech lays claim to a “leaner, flatter management structure” and commits to
“addressing a deficit and a debt that will overwhelm our children and
grandchildren in the absence of action” but the government won’t say how it
intends to stare it down. What do the claims: “we will do better with less”, “we
will collaborate”, and “we will challenge ourselves to remain ambitious, responsible,
and accountable” actually get you? Worse than rhetorical flourish, it contains
all the portents of Cathy Bennett girding for a side-show.
which I have always believed every government takes far too much credit when the
jobs are created, and receives too much blame when they disappear — it promises – dare I repeat it – a
Part of its self-described vision “… includes a commitment to
increase mining activity…” It is a sensible objective, but it is not a vision. And
even that much contains more than one caveat: government can barely influence
mineral exploration, make the necessary private investment appear, or be
anything more than a bystander given the cyclical character of the international
commodities market. That is the kind of chatter that exposes the government’s ignorance about economic policy.
the Speech pursues aquaculture, tourism, and food security. On the social side
it comments on the “need to address mental health and addictions” and commits “to
a strong health and community care system”. It speaks to supporting women,
seniors, children, affordable housing and a plethora of other groups, programs
government is not committed to those things? What Throne Speech, at one time or
another, has not included all those priorities as essential items on the public
the public wants clarified is this: what are the Liberals going to do differently? What are its targets? What is the time frame
for their implementation? How much can it do and yet still deal — meaningfully —
with the fiscal crisis? Or is all the self-congratulation and verbiage cover
for kicking the can still further down the road?
care, for example, where the axing of 93 positions was just announced – will the lay-offs result in poorer care and longer queues? Or
does the government have a new model of health care management, in pursuit of
which it has spent the last year consulting with governments across Canada and
elsewhere whose lower per–capita expenditures contain proof that even this country offers more effective
models of delivery?
Did anyone notice that the saving from the management cuts amount to only $8 million.If we are ever to fix a $1.58 billion hole in the current account budget, the notion of death by a thousand cuts may seem far too few.
nutshell, the Throne
Speech offers no meshing of policy, strategy, or politics. It is exactly what
it manifests — the disparate ramblings of an incoherent government.
was given a grab bag of self-aggrandizing, half-thought–out ideas snatched out
of The Way Forward. It seems the government expects that the gloss of a different cover might allow them to
the chance that the Budget Speech will do better.