Monday, 9 May 2016

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.

8 comments:

  1. Premier Joyce there's a good story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Two more good for nothings who can criticize to save face, but are still basically empty heads.

    ReplyDelete
  3. GB Fan Club Member 000039 May 2016 at 10:22

    Premier Byrne is more like it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. 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.

    ReplyDelete
  5. 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.

    ReplyDelete
  6. 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

    ReplyDelete
  7. Does Dwight know how to spell Kathy Dunderdale's name properly or is he illiterate like the author of this blog post?

    ReplyDelete
  8. 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.

    ReplyDelete