Monday, 27 January 2014

CAN THE TORY SHIP-WRECK BE SALVAGED? (PART II)

After two years of non-stop acrimony, the arrogance and incompetence of a seriously battered Government is exposed following Premier Dunderdale’s banishment.

The concern, now, is that her departure has deflected blame that should be accorded her uninspired cabinet, particularly the two most senior cabinet ministers, Tom Marshall (now Premier) and the recently retired Jerome Kennedy. 

The truth is that not just the leader, but the whole Government, suffered a malady whose symptoms span spinelessness and unbridled pigheadedness. 

An isolated electorate, mad as hell, understands it has the last laugh.  They will have their say in a year’s time; but if this Government wishes to survive the ignominy of history’s dustbin, it will acknowledge that it is ship-wrecked.  It ought to claim salvage while there is still something to save.

The electorate is not laughing, at least not now.  It knows that the Dunderdale Government has unleashed an agenda whose worst parts may be irreversible. 
Admittedly, many do not recognize the Muskrat Falls Project as containing huge risk.  But many of these same people claim it was a just problem of perception that brought the Premier down. 

At 20% in the Polls, it might occur to some Ministers that the other 80% of voters were turned off well before Nalcor’s Black-Out 2014.   Some are appalled by the huge budgetary deficits in a time of prosperity, many by Bill 29, still others by the failure to deal with the mounting pension crises, the politicisation of Nalcor and the Government’s endeavour to hold its own ‘independent’ inquiry into the power fiasco.
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Every member of Cabinet supported these policies.   

The new Leader will have a year to restore public confidence; the work needs to begin now.

A beleaguered public will not be an easy sell.

Some recognition of the current state of affairs was elicited from Cabinet Ministers Susan Sullivan and Kevin O’Brien on CBC last Friday.  Yet, their admission that the Government’s communications has been poor, hardly registers on the spectral analysis of entrenched public opinion. 
The public demands far more revealing confessions of public policy failures.  It seeks an acknowledgement of guilt; it wants immediate change.

Unfortunately the new temporary Premier, Tom Marshall, exemplifies the Government’s state of denial.  What does he say after taking the Oath of Office: “If we’re doing something wrong and need to do better tell us."   We have been telling you for more than two years, Sir.  You have not been listening.

Let’s be jack-blunt.                             

How is it possible that an entire Cabinet and most of the backbench, for a period of 27 months, could outwardly support or quietly play along as the Premier pursued a ruinous agenda?

Though Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy quit, even he feigned support for the Premier and the Muskrat Falls initiative as he went through the door. 

None were prepared to put their Cabinet positions on the line or go public as a warning signal that parts of the Government’s program had not passed scrutiny, needed further assessment or should not proceed at all.

In a Cabinet of 15 Ministers, not a single person raised a hand to publicly signify a need for more sober judgment. 

Now, as a shallow media engages in the prattle of speculation, we too, are expected to play along. We are asked to consider which of that diminished group might become the new Premier!

Little wonder some see politics as facile and temporary as a magazine cover. 

How can one muster respect for an elected Government that succumbed to arbitrariness; that mistook overbearing arrogance for a concept of leadership; that saw pillorying legitimate critics an acceptable tactic to suffocate citizen involvement? 

I am sceptical that a group entrusted with the mantle of leadership, one that saw excessive public spending, speculation and unbridled risk as portals for progressive policy, can ever be reformed.

I am dubious that Nalcor can be reined in after it has been handed public policy roles that ought to be the purview of the Department of Natural Resources.

But, we are compelled to be optimists.

Premier Marshall stated his will not be just a caretaker government.  

If he is as good as his word he can begin, immediately, with this short list of changes:

The Premier can call the House of Assembly together tomorrow and repeal Bill 29 as a signal the Government is listening and is ready to respond.

He can declare that Muskrat Falls is put “ON HOLD” pending a thorough public review; one that gives special emphasis to current information as to its cost and the prospect of huge cost overruns. 

He can ask the Legislature to Repeal Bill 61, which provided a monopoly for Nalcor, contrary to the path taken by jurisdictions in the US and the rest of Canada. 

He can set up a financial and technical committee inside the Department of Finance, answering to a Cabinet committee, to monitor Nalcor’s expenditures on Muskrat Falls and other investments, particularly offshore investments, should the Project proceed.

He must insist that the Auditor General audit the books of Nalcor.

The new premier must let the Public Utilities Board (PUB) proceed with its enquiry into the recent blackouts and do nothing to impede this investigation.  If the PUB enquiry finds that poor management at Nalcor was the cause of the problem, heads should roll.

The Government should scrap its own ‘independent’ inquiry, which would not be independent at all, unless it is prepared to ask a Justice of the Supreme Court to head it up.

It should be prepared to compensate individuals and businesses that lost considerable money during the blackouts of 2014.

The Government may be a ship wreck but the forthcoming Budget should not look like it has been prepared by drunken sailors.

There are a plethora of additional issues which deserve attention but let’s not be too hopeful that Marshall will act on even one.

Though Dunderdale’s departure will lower our collective blood pressure, no one should feel safe that the arteriosclerosis of this Administration is at an end.

A shell-shocked electorate seeks reassurance.  It demands analysis and reflection.  It needs to know not just what went wrong but more importantly, confirmation that the ship of state is being righted, that it will not have to wait another full year to see it sunk.

If there are legitimate leadership contenders in the Cabinet, eager to win the mantle of Premier, we will know soon if the cleansing has started. 

Who among them is bold enough to push Tom Marshall along?

Can the Tory ship-wreck be salvaged?  Don't get your hopes up.

5 comments:

  1. The litmus test for the new premier, and the recylced cabinet is for the immediate release of 2 essential pieces of information by Nalcor. The first is the Power Purchase Agreement between the Muskrat Falls Corporation and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. This agreement should spell out the energy and capacity which we will be garunteed over the 50 year life of the project. It should also document what we will pay. But it should also document what damages NLH can recover in the event of non delivery by either the generation, or the transmission.

    The second piece of critical information is what are the current cost estimates. Where the hell are they, and how can Nalcor justify 14 months of silence on what this project will cost. The city is amock with rumors of considerable cost over-runs, conversion of contracts to reimbursable, and other issues. Where is this information.

    The test for the PC party is how many of you have asked these questions of yourselves. How many have asked this question of the new premier.

    Remember... it is the role of governemnt to protect the taxpayer. This is your duty.

    It is a scandal that this information is not in the public domain. The energy act of 2007, and how it embedded Nalcor in secrecy, will be the PC's legacy in 20 years from now!

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  2. Mr. Sullivan, you write about the most significant and important shortcomings of this administration and I applaud your frank assessment of the sorry state we find ourselves in. At a moment when we ought to be celebrating our status as a "have" province, this administration is quickly driving the bus toward "have not" status. Their inability to manage expenditures….. their short-sighted approach to the oil revenues they had at their disposal and mostly squandered in a bid to stay popular….. their usurping of the PUB's authority….. their creation of that two-headed monster(NALCOR)…... their monopolization of energy sales….all of this comes from the people who carried the cry of "no more giveaways" to victory, time and time again. One can't help but compare it to the great Five Year Plans of the old USSR…it was all fluff and no substance.

    I fervently hope that somebody…. anybody….on the government side will come forward and stand up for the province. Even that newly-minted Liberal, Paul Lane, continues to extol the virtues of Muskrat Falls….a situation I find disconcerting, as a sometimes Liberal myself. In my opinion, Mr. Ball is making a mistake to bring someone like that on board and it may cause a lot of people to reassess his judgement.

    The floundering ship that is the PC government is going down, of that there is no doubt, but if the Liberals don't want to simply be the ones changing the decks, they need to be bold, assertive, and as insistent as you and I that the first priority of the new Premier should be to put a complete halt to the Muskrat Falls project. Closing the barn door, by revoking Bill 29, after the next election, will not change or reverse the irrevocable damage to the economy the completion of this project is going to cause.

    Time for someone is the PC administration to stand up and also time for the Leader of the Opposition to devote all of his energy to getting the MF deal put on hold.

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  3. Des, You are so articulate!
    Donna Thistle

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  4. You must be getting a thousand hits per day on this site. Someone is interested. Keep it up. Others take a smack at the sorrowful lot that run our affairs, but none says it like you. How I keep looking forward to your next piece.

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  5. Yes, it seems like a blow to the powers that be, like the Bond Papers, but what is the end goal of this blogosphere, really? These online rum-diarys reaffirm that old feeling that gubberment is out to do us in, and we are powerless, add some maybe-facts/smart-talk, and perpetuate the info-barage that keeps everyone reading something and nobody doing anything. Like Penney and Vardy, they are all in the game for themselves. Des likes to come off like a renegade or something, but really him and rebel Ed Hollett should just pull the anti-muskrats together to stop the bleeding. NO, thats not showbiz, nor good agit-prop, so we don't go there. They are all barking about the slaughter in indignation, but ready to lap up the blood when it spills. Managing the fallout the liberals call it. These COMMON-HERO BLOGS are the only thing preserving the illusion of two parties (yes, the NDP is DEAD, and know one cares, like when God died in Time magazine in the 80's). These blogs serve no solutions. Instead of writing a book, challenging legislation, teaming up with ANYONE off the island with half a clue...why work in a vacuum....hmmm me thinks Des and Ed are just plain full of themselves. Not quite full of shit (yet), but so full of themselves, they can offer no solution, and are indeed a problem in fact, like Cabana was a problem. These meritless challengers go out alone to be slain, as distraction, as a psychological deterrant to true dissent. For those of you who read the blogs please understand that none of this translates into real dissent or patriotism or solutions. How long will these scribbling schmucks writhe and fume about our issues? As long as you listen - same as VOCM. Same thing, concepts to perpetuate the poverty mindset of our underpopulated nation. VOCM is welfare journalism - these blogs are like some dole from a religion you'd like to trust, but can't. Makes us happy for now, but what is the real deal? No doubt, the blogs serve a purpose, but do not directly serve anyones interests only the powers that be. They both know MUSKRAT OVERLOAD is the best way to totally sicken us of the debate by spring. So, why do it? A good article once a month, a nice piece, rather than this semi-daily masturbation would be more effective, but less EGO-BOOSTING. {Cashin Delaney - Professional Arsehole}

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