Monday, 1 February 2016


The Government of Dwight Ball risks putting the financial underpinnings of the Province in even greater peril than it is already, having failed to take early action to remedy the fiscal crisis.

With political leadership so obviously missing, there is bemusement that a Premier, one given an overwhelming mandate, wants the public to go first!

He should worry bemusement will become derision, and that laughter will follow.

Liberal partisans excuse Premier Ball’s attraction to the photo-op as he eschews the role of Chairman of the Board. They watch, some without enthusiasm, as Paul Davis saddles him with a problem the Tories created.  

Inexplicably, Ball seems incapable of fighting back. Turning the other cheek may be fine for "church-goers" but, in politics, it means you are either weak or you are taking advice from someone who wants your job.

The Telegram reported recently: “Davis said if he were still premier, he’d look at deeper public service job reductions through attrition. …he’d be taking the situation seriously and taking action right away.”

Davis was in the Premier’s chair for 14 months. He was elected under Danny Williams and served in the Cabinets of Premiers Dunderdale and Marshall. He was one of the ‘drunken sailors’.

We can summarily dismiss Paul Davis, even if he has a legitimate role to play, as Leader of the Opposition.

But we cannot dismiss Dwight Ball, if only because he is the Premier. As one wit offered, it’s not as if the ballot box offered another choice.

Ball is an experienced businessperson, having operated on the west and east coasts; although entrepreneurship is not synonymous with enlightenment. But four years, as Leader of the Opposition provided plenty of opportunity to acquire essential insights into budgetary practices, the intricacies of public policies, and program spending.

He witnessed, first hand, rising deficits and debt.

Did he not see such spending behaviour as unsustainable?

Not once did he connect his own and his Party’s approval of Muskrat Falls sanction with the speculation it implied for the public purse.

So, Dwight is not Mr. Clean in any of this. Neither is he a newbie, who should be cut some slack.

Three years of Polls, presaging the Liberals’ return to power, held the clue he needed to get ready to take the reins.

Is it possible he did not know he needed to replace the most senior public servants who advised Tory politicians and bowed to them?

Do we need to ask: just how weak is this Premier?

Ball, seemingly, came to power with no plan and no expertise; he brought to his Office none, but a single person, with public policy expertise at a senior level; none, at all, who served at the highest level.

He has surrounded himself with partisan political types; except the Premier’s Office is no place for “yes-men” or “yes-women”.

Ball needs capable advisors, some only temporarily, perhaps; but they must have skills in the financial, engineering, and public policy fields. They must be able to offer sound counsel and act as a bulwark to private agendas, especially those held by Nalcor.   

Crisis demands a response that is different than those that caused the trouble, in the first place. The solutions can only come from different and better people.

But this Premier is content to be advised by a small handful of public servants, some of dubious value, others proven dead-weight.

Ball blesses them, as he did Nalcor CEO, Ed Martin. He implicitly confirms the acceptability of Muskrat overruns, Tory spending practices, and even former Finance Minister Ross Wiseman’s delusional plan to balance the Budget. For Ball, too, it's just those damn oil prices.

This Premier was not even astute enough to have banished all the PR types who inhabit the Offices of Executive Counsel and government departments; a large group disguised as purveyors of public engagement.

Would Ball have accepted if they had guaranteed themselves 4 years in place of 15 months of consultation?

The public would laugh if they knew that there was a time when “normal” austerity afforded one Executive Assistant, and one Press Secretary to the Premier in St. John’s, and two scribes handling the Press for all the other Departments.

Back then, we had a larger population, and a more critical media, too.

In those days, the 7th floor of Confederation Building employed thirty people or so, including secretarial staff, which housed the Cabinet Secretariat and Intergovernmental Affairs Office, combined!

Who thinks we don’t have bloat?

Soon, the government will have to choose between paying people to send out “tweets” and keeping a social worker.

If Dwight finds even this kind of decision-making hard, imagine when he has to make a real choice.

The public doesn't like bitter medicine; but they value vacillation and dither even less.

The Liberals probably think Dunderdale had a rough ride.

Let's see now: what rhymes with dither?