Friday, 15 January 2016

BUDGET CONSULTATIONS: WAIT FOR THE COLOURING BOOKS

The voice coming over VOCM radio said he is the Premier.

"We have never been into the financial situation we are into, right now...the “province is facing a difficult fiscal reality…” the voice said.

He promised “decisive action….”

"Difficult decisions have to be made”, his Finance Minister intoned.

The Minister of Public Engagement said the Press Conference was about a “…call to action".


The “Fiscal situation (is) grim…” she stated. $1.96 billion this year; without changes it may reach $2.4 billion next year.

My god, I thought, this is going to be good. Dwight is ready to deal with our financial crisis. The early billing also suggested important stuff was on the way.

He is going to get tough, I said to myself. We’ve got it coming to us now!  

Hit us in the kisser, Dwight, I thought, all half million of us; ‘cause we’re just a bunch of ragged stunned arses, having let the Tories get us into this mess.

Then, the voice said: "Our…difficult fiscal reality…requires a new approach — one that is open, transparent and engages the public in meaningful ways”

And, the Finance Minister chimes in: “…we all have a role to play."

And then the Minister of Public Engagement says: "Today, we are beginning an important conversation and I invite everyone to be involved."    

What’s all this about, I asked no one in particular; bewilderment suddenly kicking in?

Where are the decisions?

The Minister was polite enough, even if you could tell her voice held an undercurrent of desperation.

All of a sudden, she got up the nerve to issue a plea.

What did she want?

Well, the way I heard it, she was saying: please, please, please for the love of god, tell the government what to do.

And, she was giving us fifteen months to do it!

Then, I heard Siobhan asking…if we would be kind enough to answer three important questions….the government might be able to figure out the rest.

I thought: it’s your turn first, lady; you were the ones elected. At least show us you have one idea in your heads; we can chime in, later.

It’s not as if the fiscal freight train was slowing down, I thought. Decisions are needed now. Where had the Liberals found time for more chatter? We did have a General Election.

And, it’s not as if Ed Martin wasn’t greasing the tracks every minute of every day.

But hearing the Minister’s plea, I went on-line anyway….and before I even got a chance settle in, up pops the three skill-testing questions:

1. …what are three things that could be stopped in order to save money?
2. …what three things do you think government could do to raise money?
3. …how can government be more innovative or efficient (and) provide quality services
at lower costs?

I thought: sure why would they be asking me those questions? Aren’t they paying thousands of people in Confederation Building to do that?

That wasn’t the best of it.

There wasn’t even a single suggestion to get us started.

There was no warning that our ideas might have consequences or that we might want to refrain from proposing abolishing certain things, like the House of Assembly.

The government didn’t say how many public servants we had when the population was quite a bit larger, or attempt to deal with the certainties of what is a spending, rather than a revenue problem.

There were no benchmarks against which we might assess our own opinions as possibly frivolous and unwarranted.

There wasn’t even the courtesy of a good briefing note; unless you thought adequate the few general numbers proffered, which actually failed to describe the full extent of the fiscal problem, having omitted capital account and the continuing demands of Nalcor; the government didn't know enough to tell us the "net debt" is a fiction.

Here you were being asked to answer the biggest, most complex questions an entire government is supposed to be addressing every day of the week, questions, which in the context of “crisis”, if be put to the Treasury Board, would require hordes of management teams searching for the answers.

Yet, now, this new band of worthies, want ordinary citizens to offer advice on matters Deputy Ministers, Directors, analysists, and a plethora of specialists, in dozens of specialities, find very difficult.

And Premier Ball wants us to believe this na├»ve exhibition of juvenile politics, this silly “fill in the blanks” method of dealing with the most serious fiscal nightmare in the post-Confederation era, is actually legitimate, meaningful, and serious!

And then it dawned on me.

….if that’s the way the Liberals handle a crisis….. 

the colouring books should be on the way, soon.