Search This Blog

Loading...

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Paul Lane. Hero or Heretic?

Paul Lane (no relation) has made the news again today by essentially changing parties one more time. He did it back in 2014 when he left the PCs for the Liberals, and today he did it, not entirely by his own choosing, after being very public about his concern over the current Liberal budget.

As some disclosure up front I know Paul a little, starting back in his municipal days on the Mount Pearl Council and leading into his entry into the Liberal Party, of which I was active at the time.

Check out the CBC article here and if you have a few minutes to checkout the peanut gallery (i.e. the comments section), you will get two very diametrically opposed viewpoints on this development. In the minority are those who feel Lane is a political opportunist who is merely exploiting the current disgust with the aforementioned budget: heretic. The vast majority of the comments are quite the opposite, literally praising Lane's courage at representing the views of his constituents, the loud ones at least. I'd like to look at these two sides and then pose another question that seems to be rarely asked.

Paul the Heretic.
It is certainly true that Lane has ditched a sinking party in the past. But does that make him smart or an opportunist, or maybe both? Lane has stated that he has had concerns about the budget and specifically the hated levy. He says he raised his concerns within proper channels but heard no acceptable response and felt this was the only option. Premier Ball on the other hand says he knew of no such concerns raised by Lane. Of course Lane knew what the fallout would be for threatening to vote against a budget his party had developed. Kicked out both for not supporting his party and as a warning to others who may be considering similar action.

The party/Government already has a few folks out there painting Lane as a bit of an opportunist to deflect their responsibility and focus on the message that the budget is a necessary evil. The calls of heretic are however quite few and far between, and they are being overshadowed by the cries of a frustrated people happy to have "one brave soul" who will "stand up for the people."

Paul the Hero.
I'm sure It is not necessary to go into detail here about the level of frustration surrounding this budget. And as a result anyone who stands against it will automatically gain support and cheers. Except for poor Paul Davis of course. So it is no surprise to see Lane being heralded as the only voice of reason in a den of elitist fools who pray on the poor and support the rich. At least that's what I've read.

Lane is the most popular man in the province for today and likely a few days with plenty of cheers of support and calls for other Liberal MHAs to join him. Even if it means that they will sit as independents, just like Lane. My Face Book feed is full of praise for his "bravery" and "courage" in "support of democracy" and little poor people everywhere.                

Paul the MHA.
Lane will get lots of support for this right now simply because of the current frustration with the budget but who knows where it will put him in the future. People forget very quickly in this province and after a year or so has gone by this story will be one of those "hey you remember that time when that MHA..."

Other MHAs.
I propose a different level of question that is getting passed over in all the cheers and boos of late. What is the responsibility of an MHA? Seriously. Is that person responsible to act on the views of the majority of constituents, or at least the vocal ones? Or is it to make and support decisions that are in the long term best interests of those same people? Very rarely are those two the same and the dilemma must be a difficult one to reconcile. 

The most stressful profession currently in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has to be that of a Liberal MHA. Hands down. I know a couple of them and I can say that the completely ridiculous comments made against some of them is certainly defamation and boarders on harassment in some cases. Stories of family members, wives and daughters who are bombarded with ignorant vitriol are enough to make me ashamed and I'm just an observer.   

Sure there are parts of this budget that are damn hard to swallow or understand. But I have to say that at least on some level I have to think that some of the people who were involved in its development were exposed to information that I have not been. So While I do think there are parts of the budget that should be scrapped or changed, like the levy, and the library budget. And I think that the PR machine for Government has completely fallen flat, and I mean hard. I still have some degree of faith that the majority of the fees and taxes and cuts are necessary.

In the end I respect Paul's decision. I know he has integrity and works very hard for his district, but I'm not sure this was the move I would have made. I do hope to see him back in the Liberal ranks again in the future. For now he is following what he feels is right and no one can fault him for that.



Friday, 16 October 2015

Lets Ban Banning!

In case you haven't heard people go to bars on George Street, get drunk, do stupid things and it is their own responsibility. If you agree with that statement then we'll get along just fine. If not then keep reading and we'll see where we end up.

There's this guy named Kirill who somehow has made a career of taking crappy pictures of drunk people doing stupid things in clubs. While I happen to think that his career is the real crime here I'll carry on accepting that you can make a career out of most anything if you're willing to leave your conscience at the door.

Back to Kirill. He was here at club Allure a while ago a made a bit of a stir because there were underage girls in the club (not his fault) at the time and some topless photos were posted on his website. It was the talk of old St. John's town for 5 minutes or so and then it passed. And now he's coming back again.

So once again we give media coverage (read "free publicity") to a guy who knows how to play the game very well indeed. If that wasn't bad enough there's a petition online to ban him from George Street clubs.

Now let me be clear that generally speaking I think this guy is a douchebag. He exploits drunk people, mostly women, to make his career. But at the same time consider that if you skim his pictures there are no forced pictures or video, and everyone certainly appears to be having a grand old time. Is it stupid? Yes. Is it illegal? No. The end.  

If we started banning every asshole and idiot with questionable morals from George Street the place would be a ghost town. Not to mention the fact that we live in a free society where people can do as they please, and that includes getting drunk and getting photographed doing stupid shit. Proposing a ban for a person is fucking stupid. If you don't like what he stands for then don't go. If you really hate what he does then convince others not to go. If you want him to fail and have to choose another way to make his money then be smart and talk sensibly to young men and women about making responsible choices. And then accept that won't work and carry on.

Banning people you don't agree with is just this side of book burning. Grow up and accept that there are a whole bunch of people out there who do things you don't like. If you don't agree with people then work to change the conversation or shut up.


Cheers.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Ideas + 1

For the next installment of my short series on ideas to make NL a better place to live I thought I should explain the two types or levels of ideas that I like to talk about. First is the practical on the ground and generally tangible type. It could be a simple Gov program, a new funding source, a slight shift in approach or adding a new planning angle to something that is already in operation. These ideas tend to be easier to implement and cost comparatively little as well. The other type of idea is on a larger scale that could involve a significant directional shift in how we do things. This ideas can be much more difficult to implement and potentially very expensive. In this piece I'll provide one of each.

Homemade Bread to Baker's Fog 
Today I'll start with an idea that has been brewing in the back of my head for quite a long while. I have read and heard about how people feel that Newfoundland and Labrador is such a unique and wonderful place because of the unusual economic and cultural landscape that encouraged our independent and resourceful spirit. Besides a few very rural and tourism related exceptions that unique culture and the related skills are being lost at an alarming rate. I think we need to raise the level of importance of our cultural heritage and start actively preserving it.

Can you bake a batch of bread from scratch? How many students who graduated high school this year can bake bread, or knit a par of socks, split a cod, pip a squid, play an instrument, spin a yarn? Or even understand some of our basic traditions, history or language? Unless we work to continue to spread those cultural attributes they will be lost to history. Now I'm not saying that those skills are essential for survival, however they can still provide important cultural lessons and transferable skills that we should celebrate.

What we need is a Newfoundland and Labrador Cultural Institute. This NLCI could capture and offer these key aspects of our history and culture and offer them up in various formats for those who wish to learn more. I want to learn to knit, but I don't have any immediate family members who are able to teach me. What if there was a place I could turn to where I could learn to knit a pair of mitts or vamps? It could be a combination of digital and concrete resources that would act as a repository of information and a learning resource for everyone. The focus would have to be on collecting and sharing the skills, stories, history, pastimes, languages and anything else that has helped NL become the place it has become. And yes I do include Labrador specific and aboriginal specific information. Why not collect and share all that amazing cultural information? This idea needs more fleshing out and I'm certainly not clear on every detail, but I do think it is certainly worth the time and effort to take a closer look at it.

Close to Home
It seems to be the general idea that many successive governments in NL have felt that consolidating services and offices is the best choice because it saves money. I would argue that saving money is not always the primary goal of government services. So over the years as we have seen decision making bodies move further and further away from the people who are most directly impacted, we have seen both the level of service and the quality of the decisions made erode significantly. I think that what we have seen is quite the opposite of what we need. Our decision making bodies should in fact be as close to those impacted as practical, and most of my larger scale ides focus around that very theme; as local as practical.     

One of the most ridiculous moves the current Government has made that is the complete opposite of my line of thinking was the consolidation of the school boards. There was a time when important school decisions were made by those in the community where the school was located. Then it moved to a regional basis with some consultation with communities, and now local community leaders and school administrators wait together while bureaucrats in the capital region decree the latest mandated changes.

Of course the Department of Education must set main education criteria and province wide policy, but with the English school Board taking in 99% of provincial schools why do we need two giant bureaucratic administrative bodies with so much overlap? Why not just scrap the school board and let the Dept of Education handle it all? Or why not do the proper thing and go back to the sensible approach of letting local people make decisions about local schools? It may cost a little more but isn't it worth it? Healthcare and education are always chosen as the top two priorities of taxpayers, so if we're going to spend the money then why don't we get some real local value out of it?

Stay tuned...     


You can read Ideas Part I here.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Ideas

There are many characteristics that a good leader can possess, and one of the most important is the willingness to explore new ideas. Albert Einstein supposedly said "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." If that is indeed true then we need to change the way we seek to make our society better. We must not focus on our problems and then try to solve them, but instead look at our assets and explore what we can achieve with them.

As the next election draws near I hope we hear new ideas that will help develop and improve our society. Even a simple idea can have a profound impact over time. I have certainly voiced my share of complaints about the current government over the last number of years but on a couple rare occasions they have been willing to try something new. The highway moose detection system was actually an idea worth exploring. It should have been only a trial in one location and all additional costs should have been borne by the company who completed the installation, but it was worth exploring. We must be willing to explore and attempt new things if we hope to improve our society.

In the vein of sharing ideas in an attempt to improve our province I thought I'd post a couple of thoughts here over the next few days and see where they go.

1. Provincial Government Help Line.
Those who live in St. John's would be familiar with the 311 phone number as a first point of contact with the City. Its not always perfect but at least its a starting point for contact. Having worked with the Provincial Government and having dealt with various departments I can easily say that the key to getting proper help is knowing who to talk to. For many residents their first point of contact is their MHA's office, and while that can work it's adding an extra step that shouldn't be required. Having one contact number for the Province where you could reach an office dedicated to helping you reach the proper person or office could provide a simple direct link between residents and their government.

2. Idea Warehouse.
Even when I was a manager with the Provincial Government I found it very difficult to find any real interest in new ideas and approaches. In fact it was the continued resistance to ideas for change that eventually led me to resign. Even understanding the politicized nature of government there should always be a sincere and open forum for people to bring forward new ideas. We need every opportunity to explore every idea that could benefit us as a province. We should have a public repository where everyone is invited to submit and comment on ideas that could improve services, save money, or benefit any part of society.

3. Substitute Teachers on Retainer.
Currently substitute teachers are all tossed into a pool and schools develop a call list of teachers that the use on a semi-regular basis depending on their availability. For a few lucky teachers this can lead to good relationships with one school that can develop into replacement or even full time work eventually. Unfortunately for most substitutes it simply leads to years of jumping from school to school without any real ability to develop a proper relationship with students. What if substitutes were hired on a retainer basis with a school? They would make a base amount for being on retainer and then extra money for days when they were called into work. They would consistently be dealing with the same staff, school and more importantly the same students. It would help reduce the disruptive nature of bringing in a new substitute and help develop the teacher - student bond.

Those are the first three that I'm throwing out there for discussion. Of course they need to be developed more fully but they are a starting point of looking at some things a little differently. Could they work? I certainly think so, and I'm open to discussing any thoughts any of you might have.

Note: If you have any interesting and unique ideas you'd like to share please feel free to post them in the comments section or send them along in an email and I'll post them if you'd like.  

    

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Piss-a-bed?

Every so often I hear a word and wonder about the origins. Did it start as a slang term? Did it come from another language? Is it something truly unique to Newfoundland and Labrador?

One of the earliest I can remember wondering about was coleslaw. I could see someone eating this tasty but unusual side and commenting on how it was basically cold slop and it could have evolved from there! Of course that's not where the name comes from. It actually originated with the Dutch word for a cabbage salad: koolsla. Now you know.

Another word I often wondered about was dandelion. It always seemed to me that it could be a French word meaning lion's tooth, based on the shape of the pointy jagged leaf. Turns out I actually got that one right. Not that it's a stretch to see that dandelion could come from dent de lion. This is really only where the interesting notes about dandelions in NL gets started.

I was lucky enough to grow up with my grandparents and as such they provided me with a link to a more traditional side to NL culture and language that I would have otherwise missed out on. When it came to dandelions my grandmother would often say her mother called them "piss-a-beds." This just sent me in a burst of laughter as a boy. How could it not? A while ago I was thinking about my nan and dandelions came into my head and how that always made me laugh. Then I started to wonder about where piss-a-bed could have come from?     

I'm not sure if I actually looked it up in french or if I happened to see it written but I was pretty surprised when I found that the french word for dandelion is not dandelion but is actually pissenlit. So not only is the regular english name derived from french but so is the Newfoundland word! To make it even better the Newfoundland word is a mix between french and english. The beginning is similar as pissen becomes piss-a but the funny part is how the end of the word gets translated into english as lit translates to bed. 

We are incredibly lucky in Newfoundland and Labrador to have such a mix of traditional culture and language. From english to french to aboriginal, we must to continue to explore and celebrate our cultures. They help us understand where we came from and indeed can help shape our unique future in a world of homogeneity. Isn't it more fun to call them piss-a-beds then boring dandelions!  


Friday, 22 August 2014

More Bill 29 Fallout

The latest opportunity for the current Government to show its lack of ability to get anything right was taken full advantage of by Minister Sandy Collins and his senior staff this week. He firmly establish this Government's lack of ability to take responsibility, and their complete lack of reasoning for moving ahead with Bill-29. Or perhaps it shows that they are willing to allow a public bloodletting from a guy who in all likely hood have nothing to do with the original bill but now shoulders the responsibility. It's the continuing saga of a Government/Party that has passed its expiration date. 

Check out more over here at The Sir Robert Bond Papers

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Mea Culpa

In case you haven't heard about this recent news story take a moment and head over to CBC and read this. Does it make you angry? Upset? Frustrated? Why? Have you had a similar experience with Marine Atlantic or some other Government service provider?

 Throughout the private sector business' have their own customer service struggles, but they generally can't hold a candle to government offices or crown corporations when it comes to bad customer service. Generally speaking government offices like Motor Registration don't care if you leave happy or frustrated just as long as you leave. Don't misunderstand my comments as an attack on government employees. I have been served by some very pleasant government staff in various departments and crown corporations at both Provincial and Federal levels, including Motor Registration. Their focus is very rarely on customer service and Marine Atlantic is often the epitome of this unfortunate missed opportunity.

Crown Corporations seem to see their objective as providing basic service for minimal cost, period. Marine Atlantic is a tough sell to folks even when they make positive news cycles for any number of reasons usually related to lack of funding, but the funny thing is that good customer service generally doesn't cost money and yet they still repeatedly screw it up.

To get back to this most recent fiasco Marine Atlantic has managed to once again piss off a huge number of people for something that could have easily been avoided. A certified service dog traveling with a veteran was almost denied entry to the ferry and then harassed continuously for the duration of the voyage. Once the story broke this was bad news for the PR folks at MA but bless their hearts they went and made it worse.

After hearing of the incident MA senior staff should have immediately contacted the gentleman in question and profusely apologized and then went to the media with their mea culpa. Take the blame and the responsibility for what happened, say that policy will change and it will never happen again. End of story. Right? Wrong.

Instead of begging for forgiveness the MA VP for "customer experience" (whatever that's supposed to mean) spoke to CBC to say things like "
"At its root, we do not have a clear definition of what a service animal is," said Barnes. 
"We talked a lot about the need for a better understanding of the issues involved and the struggles and challenges faced by people with PTSD and this whole new emerging area of service animals for atypical or non-traditional kinds of support."
He said that while most people are familiar with service dogs working in the role of a seeing eye dog, some people are still learning about service animals providing other types of support.
Barnes said that Marine Atlantic front-line employees receive training every two years on how to support passengers with disabilities.
His comments should have been heavy with apology in every fashion possible, but they were not.

The public can be fooled by slick campaigns and fast talkers for sure, but most of the time a genuine apology will take care of all but the most egregious customer service problems. It costs nothing but honesty and sincerity. Unfortunately it appears that those are a couple of things Marine Atlantic just can't afford.