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Tuesday 26 July 2011

Williams' Legacy = Dunderdale's Nightmare

Imagine that you're the Premier of NL. And not just any Premier but perhaps the most popular one NL has ever seen. You've served a couple of terms and you're ready to move on but you want to leave a legacy that will cary on after you have moved on and since you've spent your career picking fights with Ottawa and Quebec it should be something that would stick it to both of them. You have the advantage of your popularity and the fact tat you're headed out the door. What to do...

Premier Williams decided to work up the current Muskrat Falls term sheet with Emera that will cost this province billions and sell power for less then residents will pay for it. My suspicion is that Williams knew from the get go that this was not a good deal and was likely to fall apart before it came to fruition. However he wanted, or needed a project to crown his exit from the Premier's chair. Remember, word at the time was that Williams' departure shocked all but the inner circle, so this deal was drafted quickly and quietly and was never intended to be successful.

Now imagine you're the new Premier of NL. You were hand picked by the most popular Premier to be his successor (wether you wanted it or not), following a mess of people who wanted the job and then changed their minds... Along with this new job comes a mega project that will cost tax payers billions and is very difficult to justify and rationalize. The questions come fast and hard about the justification but you just don't have the answers. Maybe you don't have the answers because you were not properly prepared, or perhaps it's because the real answers would show just how silly and unnecessary it really is. You're now stuck backing a deal that doesn't make sense. But you can't let the deal fail because it's the legacy project of "the greatest premier ever" and you can't screw it up or it'll be your hide. So you are stuck backing a project that will require billions of dollars and incredible increases in electrical costs. People can see the foolishness and they aren't buying it. Especially not for $6.2 billion. What do you do?

I feel bad for you Kathy, I really do.

Saturday 23 July 2011

A Basic Need

What is it about this place that makes it so special? People who are native to NL obviously love it, and this summer I have heard a great deal about folks who have decided to live out their retirement in some remote little rural community. So what makes it so special, so attractive?

Our tourism commercials would have you believe it is our pace of life, our unique culture and history, and in part it is those things. It could also be our general attitude of self-reliance, despite current conversations around EI abuses and such. The size of some communities is certainly an attractive feature for some, rural and small works for some folks, while the more urban centers are just big enough to have amenities but not so large as to get lost in, and they're usually just a few minutes from a rural getaway. I happen to think that all of these things are important factors but there is one other that we only rarely talk about; safety.

When I was still in high school the only time the door to our house was locked was when we went on an extended trip. You can imagine my shock when I moved to St. John's to attend MUN and I went over to a friends house in the middle of the day and they were at home with the door locked! I was at a loss for words. Why would you ever lock your door while you were at home? As it turned out they had previous incidents where people from a local mental health facility had wandered into their home out of confusion and the locked door was a simple way to avoid future incidents. Luckily I found out that most folks, even in the big City of St. John's were still pretty trusting of their neighbours.

While we may not explicitly talk about or appreciate the importance of our perception of safety it is an incredibly important part of a happy life. If you have ever studied psychology you may remember Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. It describes a theory of the basic needs for life, and the foundation is food, shelter and such, the next level is safety. Is it any wonder why people will flee dangerous areas to live lives in poverty as seen recently in Africa? Safety is a subconscious drive to remain alive, and hungry and alive is better then full and dead. Here in NL we don't have to make that choice and it's part of what makes this place so great.

So when the media start running stories about the "soaring increase in severe crime", I recognize that while it may be true for the larger centers it is still such a rare occurrence that it makes the news every time. And if you look closely you will almost always see that the people involved already knew each other, and the incident was over money, or drugs, or both. Random violent crime is not a facet of life in NL.

So while we may still struggle with a vast number of issues in an attempt to make NL even better, we should always remember just how good we really have it. And just how great it is to live in safe and wonderful communities.

Thursday 14 July 2011

Have I lost My Mind?

For those who may not follow me on Twitter, or be friends with me on Facebook, you may not yet know, but I have announced my intention to seek the Liberal nomination for the District of Bonavista South. For some, that fact alone will be enough to confirm that Yes indeed, I have lost my mind.

After all politics as a profession can be a nasty and messy affair. The downfalls of a political life are well documented throughout all of history in every country and area where democracy exists. First off I get to say goodbye to being nameless and faceless and give up a certain portion of my privacy. There are the electorate, who can occasionally jump to conclusions faster then you can blink. There’s the party system that forces an Us vs Them scenario that is not always conducive to getting work done. I could be asked to “toe the line” on an issue that I happen to disagree with, but it might be in the best interest of the party to support. Then there’s the never-ending responsibility of being a decision maker, a mover and shaker, a person whose main accountability and responsibility will always be to others.

You might ask “Who would want such a crazy job”? I would.

I have been following the Current PC Government and their track record since a close friend was on strike, and then legislated back to work for less then the Williams Government was offering at the bargaining table. That was a bad sign and it hasn’t gotten any better since. The PC party has campaigned on issues of openness and transparency but has done everything in their power to stifle the very thing they campaigned for. Just ask any public servant, or any member of the media. This has been an incredibly secretive Government.

They have been a Government who has broken many simple promises they easily could have kept. Documents not released anywhere near the 30 days they once promised, legislation that has been passed but not proclaimed, and the House is sitting fewer and fewer days. How exactly is the business of Government supposed to get done when the decision making body doesn’t meet? Their current approach seems to be that of ignoring problem issues and hoping they go away. Issues like the fishery, rural NL, and municipal funding have been all but forgotten. Even if they once knew what they wanted to do they have since seriously lost their way.

I have spoken to folks who once supported this PC administration and even they admit that the time has come for a change. Even the PC Party must sense the change as every week another member announces that they will not be seeking re-election. Get while the getting’s good, as they say. The timing is certainly right for a positive change for my home District of Bonavista South. Roger Fitzgerald has been a successful member for the district for many years but he has now decided to move on and retire from political life. I have a great deal of respect for Roger, as do many in the District, but it is important to note that the respect people feel is for Roger, and not necessarily for the PC Party he just happened to be a member of. The District is now in need of a new person to pick up where Roger left off and I plan to be that person under the Liberal banner.

When I examine my working career over the past 10 years I see experience in the fields of education, environment, tourism, communications, community and municipal development, and government in general. If this were a job interview I would say that my entire career has prepared me for this job like no other. Having worked in various fields, including for the Provincial Government, I know people across many sectors including politicians and bureaucrats. And while I also know how the gears of Government work, it certainly expedites the process when you know who to talk to to make those gears move both faster, and easier.

I have had a keen interest in contributing to the decision making structure in this province for many years now. In part, that was one of the reasons I took a position with the Provincial Government when I was given the opportunity. I wanted to be part of the system that pioneered innovative solutions, and made a positive difference in the lives of people in NL. I think I did make some positive steps during my time as a civil servant, but I became painfully aware that without the political will the best of ideas can die in a heartbeat. It was during that time when I began to realize that if I wanted to make a real difference then I would have to become one of those decision makers to give the new ideas the political will they required. To put it bluntly, I want this job for what I consider to be all the right reasons.

So back to my original question: Have I lost my mind? Not at all.

In fact, I would argue that I’ve finally come to my senses!

Monday 11 July 2011

Vacationing in NL

Wow is this province beautiful. It has been such an amazing 2 weeks traveling around the Island portion of NL for Tidy Towns judging and then capping the whole trip with a fantastic wedding in Main Brook. I have met some fantastic new friends, and as always I am left in awe of this amazing place that we have chosen to call home.

My journey included stops in Terrenceville, Port Blandford, Dover, Gander, Appleton, Corner Brook, Ramea, Piccadilly, Cox's Cove, St. Pauls, Norris Point, Trout River, and Main Brook. With over 4000kms of driving it was a lot to fit into 12 days and I know we only scratched the surface. A special thanks to the municipal staff and councillors who took the time to show us around as part of the Tidy Towns program, it was a great pleasure and honnor to get such a hands on introduction to such great places.

While we sometimes tend to focus on the struggles and issues we face in rural NL, this trip has reaffirmed in me the hope that we are a strong and innovative people who care greatly about our communities and there's very little we can't do. To see the efforts that people are investing into volunteer initiatives around the province is impressive to say the least. At least 2 of the communities we visited had Wellness Committees who raised funding specifically for medical travel, and in one case every household and business had an annual contribution amount and then they would fundraise for any additional required. So many places are taking such great pride in their heritage and there are literally too many festivals and events to list.

In case it isn't already obvious I have had a great 2 weeks and yet only experienced a very small portion of the many great and wonderful things to do in NL. I would encourage everyone to get out and see what NL really looks like. Despite what you may think the various regions of the Island are very different and there are so many breathtaking views that it's no wonder why visitors return here year after year. And while this trip unfortunately did not include Labrador I personally encourage everyone to make at least one trip to the Big Land in their lives. Trust me when I say it is worth it.

So for at least one brief moment amongst all the political wrangling and concerns of the day I want to take a few paragraphs to say that we live in the best place on earth, and I wouldn't have it any other way. A huge pat on the back to us all.

Friday 1 July 2011

Rural NL: Evolution in Action.

It's only been a few days of Judging for the Tidy Towns competition but the communities are keeping us very busy with tours of their fantastic gardens, green spaces and local heritage sites. The visiting and the evaluating is quite time consuming but so very rewarding.

Have only visited the municipalities of Port Blandford and Dover so far, but the success stories of those communities are astounding. The communities are not just surviving, but they are thriving in their own ways. They may look and behave a little different, but the sole of the people and the place that they occupy is alive and strong. I do hope to have an entry dedicated to those communities that we get to visit this year. Perhaps a slide-show and a couple special stories will provide a small taste of just how wonderful life in rural NL can be.

There is a time to point out issues and concerns but I expect to hear more positive stories of communities continuing to develop their new identities in the face of those ongoing challenges. Canada Day will be spent mostly in the beautiful town of Appleton, followed by a continuation of our journey westward and then down to Ramea.

I will update when possible, but to be honest I'm having far too good a time meeting the people of rural NL to be distracted by something as silly as the internet! lol