Monday, 10 October 2016

THE PUBLIC LIBRARIES FIASCO: BUMPKINS ON A "B" TEAM

Education Minister Dale Kirby is “surprised that about half the people who attended a consultant session on the future of libraries in Newfoundland and Labrador walked out in frustration”, according to the CBC. Kirby shouldn't be “surprised” at all. It was an appropriate response by a public aghast that politics is so badly broken in this province.

When an elected Government sends out an accounting firm to perform a role politicians are expected to do daily on a completely non-accounting issue, one that has no technical underpinnings you know you have elected the “B-Team”.

Don’t misunderstand. It’s not as if we had the option of electing an “A-Team”. That wasn’t on offer by any Party. But the Liberals are so oblivious to the purpose of politics, and their role in it, that we are left to worry not just they are second-rate but that they are a team for which the “B” stands for “bumpkins”. The terminology is deliberate. It refers to those who are more ignorant than uneducated.

This Government should have realized that it miscalculated on the library closures in the first place; that the attempt to save $1 million when the real goal ought to have been saving several hundred million was not just silly, it detracted from achieving the larger target.  


Politicians are elected to be the voice of their constituents, to hear their concerns, to elevate their priorities. Members on behalf of their constituency, Ministers in their particular public policy area, are expected to influence Government decisions through the mechanisms of the House of Assembly and more pragmatically, and on a timely basis in Caucus and Cabinet.

The issue isn’t just about public libraries; this is simply how politics should be practiced. It is true that MHAs spend a great deal of time dealing with local community councils and constituents’ personal issues breaking through bureaucratic inertia and untying red tape. But that is not their primary role.

The role of a politician is to talk to people, to listen to them, to make assessments of public policy matters and how policy changes might relate to the broader society. This is the essence of representation, of democracy in action the elected, the people, and the democratic institutions operating within a continuous feedback loop.

How should the discourse manifest?

Primarily, it should be reflected in the decisions Government makes. Good judgments occur when sensible, careful, and experienced people have listened, made thoughtful assessments, and shared them with the policy-making institutions of which they are also a part.

The process which Education Minister Dale Kirby has introduced to reassess public libraries has trashed this essential political process. He is not just burning up money unnecessarily on high priced consultants he is subverting the very mechanism on which a working democracy is founded. He is facilitating a process in which he and his elected colleagues are allowed to hide from public view and from engaging people face-to-face.

That Premier Ball is allowing this travesty of politics to take place, in front of his own eyes, is a measure of his own political sophistication. On issues such as this, we shouldn’t have to ask: what is the calibre of “judgment” at the Cabinet Table? But we must. 

Equally, we might inquire: why wasn’t the idea trampled upon the very minute it was uttered? Are the handful who claim to have a clue Perry Trimper, Cathy Bennett, Gerry Byrne just watching as Ball and their other Cabinet colleagues become more deeply mired in a political sink-hole from which there is no escape?

When a Government can’t clear a simple but essential issue of public libraries, costing a mere $1 million, as it burns up the political capital the Government needs for far more complex and contentious issues, how can we possibly expect them to make good decisions on the Budget deficit, on appointing an expert Panel to review the North Spur, or even to provide oversight on a runaway “boondoggle”?

The Ball Government is not operating at a very high level. And it consistently shows. Some Ministers may be smart and well-educated. But a Cabinet whose judgment is so poor that it will let an accounting firm supplant an essential political obligation as the elected Minister responsible hides suggests nothing more than a “B-Team”.

Bumpkins all of them.

9 comments:

  1. Disgraceful.....bunch of idiots ..the lot

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  2. Being a university engineering student in the 1960s, I remember the student demonstrations in the USA, mostly about the Vietnam war. It seems no issue in Nfld made much impact on MUN students. I had never engaged in a protest march in my lifetime of 68 years.
    I regret not being able to be present at last weeks protests by MUN students at Nalcor on the Muskrat Falls issue.
    As a naysayers I have opposed this project mostly on cost, lack of transparency, misleading information, and lack of power reliability. The MUN protest was mostly on poisoning of the food chain and the negative health effects that is to follow for those in the area, as well as the risk to life of those downstream if the North Spur fails.
    This blog and others have carries the arguments of reason for 4 years now, with no big benefit of change by those who push ahead with this boondoggle.
    Unfortunately, there were only 50 or so at the protest here in St. John`s, and about 30 at the Muskrat site. Almost none of the naysayers, myself included, seem to have taken part in the protest.
    In the end, I expect significant protests by those who oppose the project would have 10 times the impact of all rational arguments put forward. No doubt, the protesters are acting on what are rational arguments and sentiment. I wonder if it is past time that we naysayers should join those who physically engage in peaceful protest, as nothing else seems to have any impact.
    Winston Adams

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  3. Never fear - Premier Dwithers has laid out a road map for a process to advance the options to be considered for a draft plan to develop an outline strategic response in the five-year go-forward.

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    1. After 3 more town hall meetings and if they can get another consulting firm to take notes with dissappearing ink.

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  4. The way forward indeed... the governance of this province has descended to the level of lamentable farce.

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  5. As there appears little real concern that our power rates are about to double with MF, I wonder if in reality we are richer than we think, as the Scotia Bank ad says. I mean, the Atlantic Loto brings in 148 million a year to the government, that is nearly a thousand dollars per family spent on gambling, so it must be surplus money, much by the lower income group. Total electricity sale revenue to Nfld Power is I beleive about 600 million, which includes commercial customers. Electricity for heat for all our houses is probably about 300 million. Gambling generates 148 million, while the upper Churchill brings in about 70 million. MF will lose perhaps 300 million per year.
    So, a doubling of electricity costs perhaps is no big deal, much of it could be paid for with reduced gambling, but this means government would need to get this money by other means.
    But any wonder that there is little concern about Danny rolling the dice on the 11.4 Billion MF when so many of us are gambling on the Loto. Guess it reflects our culture.

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    1. you are kidding right??

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    2. Kidding............partly, but the figures are fairly factual. And what other explanation is there for little protest over a boondoggle scheme that doubles electricity cost, and not improve reliability, but likely may be worse.
      Can it be that people are ignorant that rates will about double and so hardly anyone is concerned....If ignorant, is it because they do not read this blog, and other media has done little to enlighten the public.
      That people are aware but will just switch to wood or oil or prepared to stick with electric heat, but use less electricity, but be colder in the house......
      That most can afford the high rates so no big deal.......
      I happen to be fortunate to be not a low income person, but I still consider it a big deal, and thought that high, and even more so low and mid income families would consider it a bigger deal.....
      So, if not concern by most all Nflders......is there a good explanation. Just asking.

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  6. Ed Hollett, whose blog I read regular, says there is no point to protests as to Muskrat Falls, since the project is near complete anyway.
    In Iceland 6 percent of the population protested when their Prime Minister was found to have a secret account in Panama, and he was forced to resign.
    Muskrat Falls is only about have way through their spending plans, and there is the likely prospect that the transmission system will not be very reliable, and need considerable additional spending on thermal generation on the Avalon.So there is yet to be another 5 billion or more spent on this near useless project.
    50 or 100 protesters will not make a difference, it takes a certain critical mass to be effective. If 6 percent is needed , this is some 30,000. Perhaps 1 or 2 percent is the critical mass, or much fewer, if from the most affected towns, especially in Labrador.
    Protesters are the ones most likely to affect change, and are the one who run the risk of being arrested for no reason. I agree it is late for protests, but not to late. And what effect has all of Ed Hollett`s anti-Muskrat writing had to change the direction of the boondoogle. His writings, like this blog, does enlighten and inform, but it has a limited audience and effect.
    I hear today that the town of Cartwright in Labrador has come out against the Muskrat flooding plan.
    I guess we Islanders who are naysayers will let Labrador do our heavy lifting on this.There are only a few from MUN involved in the protest, and Wade Locke did not lead the group. 11.4 billion is way past his upper limit of 8 billion. And I believe Ed Hollett reported that he received some 700,000 dollars in consulting fees, and a prime promoter of Muskrat. Guess he can afford the rate hikes that are coming.
    I guess, if MF is stopped and there is no power delivery from there, the PUB cannot authorise rate hikes applicable to power that is not available.
    Winston Adams

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