Jerry Dean and the Out of Touch Liberals
By: Ryan Young
“Let’s talk about blame.” That’s what Exploits MHA Jerry Dean said during his statement last night at the late sitting of the House of Assembly. After proceeding to blame everyone from Joey Smallwood to Brian Peckford to Clyde Wells to Danny Williams, Dean delivered the jaw dropping bombshell that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are to blame for this budget. To quote Jerry Dean directly: “Everybody here tonight and everybody throughout this province, it’s time for all of us to take the blame.” He went on to say “we collectively, the current population and previous populations are to blame.”
Now granted, politicians say plenty of stupid things, it is kind of their forte, but the level of arrogance and contempt in Mr. Dean’s statement is absolutely unacceptable. How dare an elected member of the people’s house stand up and blame those same people for the mess that has been created. Does he not understand why people are rising up and taking action all around the province? If there is any blame to be taken by the people it is that we did not start standing up against this type of arrogance and contempt sooner. But here we are, better late than never. Mr. Dean can stand up in the house and blame the people all he wants because the tables have turned and the people are no longer willing to be the victims. His time in government will be as short lived as the amount of thought that went into the preparation of his statement. Just as fast as the red tide rose, it is now receding and the Liberals should be reminded that we have long political memories. That is the reason they were stuck in opposition for twelve long years. By the time the dust settles next time, they will be lucky not to be the third party or worse.
If Jerry and his blame game tirade was an isolated incident, then maybe we could move past it and write it off as the frustrations of one weak MHA who is cracking under the pressure. Sadly, however, this is not the case. Every day the Liberals step up to the microphone and add more ammo to the cause due to their utter inability to connect with the common folk. Take Cathy Bennett and her comments about the junk food tax. Her excuse was that nobody else in Canada was doing it and that it would be too complicated to administer. What happened to all of that outside the box thinking the Liberals promised us during the election campaign? By saying we can’t try it because nobody else has tried it is the ultimate cop out. We need more funding for health care and here is a great idea of how to get it, but Minister Bennett refuses to even entertain the idea. We already have specialized taxation like the deposit we pay on bottles. The implementation of that program went smoothly, and it soon started adding millions of dollars in revenues for the province. Does it have anything to do with the fact that Minister Bennett makes her money from the very products that will be taxed? Some people seem to think so. It is unlikely, however, that people would eat less junk if it was taxed. It would just be a straight up money grab, which is why I find it very hard to understand why we don’t give it a whirl in our time of need.
Oh and then there is Education Minister Dale Kirby telling us that cutting teachers and combining classrooms will have no effect on outcomes or that closing more than half of our libraries will help to improve literacy rates in the province. His latest attempt at defending Liberal incompetence was shaming parents for setting a bad example to their children by protesting. Yes, we are talking about the same former protester Dale Kirby, who dedicated most of his adult his life to standing up for education and literacy, until he was given the opportunity to actually do something about it and make real change. I guess Mr. Kirby would rather us teach our children that it is better to get through life by living a lie and saying what you need to say to get where you want to be, than to stand up for what is right, even when it means making real tough choices. For a bunch that talk about “tough choices” like it is the ultimate buzzword, they don’t seem to have any real grasp on what the term actually means.
Siobhan Coady says that the people just don’t understand the budget, and Neil King feels that it is not fair that he has to lower himself to listening to the criticism of his constituents. In each and every district, people are asking their MHAs for changes to this budget and they are being treated with pure political platitudes and disdain. They seem to have the idea that the people just don’t know what is good for them. The arrogance they are showing is not just to outsiders though. It is also being directed at the people who supported them and helped them get elected. These are the people who organized events and got people out to them. These are the ones who made phone calls and drove voters to the polls. These are the people that the Liberals need to keep close and instead they are treating them like lowly peasants and dismissing their concerns out of hand. To see how much tensions are really rising within the party, just look at the dissension in Bay of Islands where the president of the district association resigned in disgust. From everything I have heard from long-time Liberal supporters, they are disappointed and angry with the communication thus far from government. Like the rest of us they want to be taken seriously and have their concerns heard. Instead their MHAs are turning a blind eye and a deaf ear.
The continued lack of communication and outright arrogance on display from this government is adding fuel to the fire and I fear that if we have to hear any other announcements such as wealthy judges getting a pay raise that the anger will boil over into something negative. Just yesterday, in two separate incidents in the House of Assembly, visitors to the gallery were unable to hold back their disgust and spoke out in opposition to the blatant disrespect shown by our government. I was able to speak with one of the visitors, Adam Pitcher, who spoke out and left the gallery yesterday, to try and report the true story of the events as they happened since the mainstream media reports seem to have differed in their versions of what actually happened.On 10 May, around 2pm in the afternoon session, MHA Lorraine Michael was presenting a petition about library closures, and was talking about how the government is attacking residents of the province with this budget. Members of the Liberal party either walked away or were milling about on their phones and iPads, and having conversations with each other. Cathy Bennett and the Speaker, Tom Osborne, were having their own conversation. Nobody was listening to the speaking MHA at all. This is standard behavior, though it is rarely, if ever, shown on the public television feed. You can hear it though.
Mr. Pitcher said:
Mr. Pitcher said:
One visitor in the gallery, after the MHA finished speaking, spoke up and told the Liberal MHAs that they “should be listening,”, and that they’re being paid over $90,000 and “should be listening to her.”
The Speaker of the House advised, “Visitors to the gallery are welcome to observe the proceedings of the House, ah, but they are not to-”
“They should be listening!” called the visitor again.
“Visitors to the gallery are permitted to observe the proceedings of the House, but are not to demonstrate or to participate in the proceedings on the floor,” said the Speaker. “I ask visitors to the gallery to be respectful of the proceedings in the House of Assembly.”
“Do you think their behavior is respectful?” I called out.
“These are petitions that we are signing,” said the first visitor.
“These people are trying to destroy our province and they’re not even listening,” I said.
“Over $90,000 is a waste of our money, for each of you,” the first visitor finally called out.
“I would ask that the visitors in the gallery that are disrupting the proceedings to leave,” replied the Speaker.
At this point the first visitor was on his way out, and I was leaving behind him when a security guard put his hand on my shoulder, when I unexpectedly said more loudly than I wish I had, “This is f***ing bullshit anyway.” I also called out “shame” as I was leaving.
I’m fully aware of the potential negative public reaction to profanity. It was certainly never my intention to say anything at all in the House that day, and I certainly do not condone the use of profanity in protest - however I do not apologize for what was said. Perhaps, as one person said, there has never been a more appropriate use for the word “bullshit.”
If this government was in tune with the people who elected them, they would realize that the anti-government movement that has been sparked by this budget is growing and not fizzling out as many predicted. With members like Dale Kirby and Jerry Dean continuing to fan the flames with outrageous comments and statements, the mood of the people continues to swing against them. They may feel comfortable in their four year majority mandate, but perhaps while they are ignoring petitions in question period, they can get on the line with Kathy Dunderdale and ask her how quickly things can fall apart. If they continue to treat the people like children acting out of turn, they may quickly find that the will of the people united is stronger than electoral law. If any of these members, especially backbenchers with no pension, want to have some real job security in their future, they might want to think about listening to some of what their constituents have to say. The people have had their fill of arrogance and they are not going to stand idle and watch this new government act exactly like the old government after waiting so long for change. They should open the windows at Confederation Building for the next rally. Not only will they be able to better hear what the people are saying, but they may catch that new smell that is in the air in Newfoundland and Labrador, the smell of change.