Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A Year to Forget

A Year to Forget

By: Ryan Young

It’s hard to imagine that it has only been a year since Dwight Ball’s Liberal Party took the reigns of government in this province. After more than a decade of Tory rule, people were eager for a change. The Liberal 5-Point Plan that served as their 2015 election platform was very specific, as were the promises that Ball repeated day after day on the campaign trail. Unfortunately, it quickly became evident that things would be par for the course under Ball’s leadership, and he wasted little time in beginning to break his promises. As far as the residents of the province are concerned it is just Liberal, Tory, same old story.

One of Ball’s most enthusiastic campaign promises was to repeal the 2% increase to the HST. Ball crossed the province telling people that the HST was a job killer and that a Liberal government would eliminate the unfair Tory tax increase. Ball did in fact keep his promise to repeal the increase shortly after taking office, but that only lasted until the budget speech, when the 2% increase was reinstated, making the whole effort to repeal it in the first place a colossal waste of time, money, and resources. The premier and finance minister claimed that they had no idea how bad the financial situation of the problem really was. Many people are skeptical of that answer, but it has started to make more sense when you consider the many other decisions they have made since. Maybe they really are that stun’d that they couldn’t see the forest for the trees, even if every engaged citizen in the province knew that we were in a tougher spot than the PC’s were letting on. When you consider everything that has happened over the past year, stun’d certainly seems to fit.

There was absolutely no need for the Liberal’s to make so many outstanding promises that they knew they would not be able to keep. The electorate was so fed-up with the PC Party that the Liberal’s could have ran on a very thin platform and still would have cruised to an easy majority. Somehow, Ball and the campaign team thought that it would be a good idea to promise the province the moon, knowing all well that they would have to make tough decisions in the days ahead. I’m sure that Dwight thought that he could follow the Clyde Wells model and get the tough stuff out of the way early on and hope that people will forget by the end of four years. What I don’t think he or anyone else in government realized is that the political landscape has changed since the 1990’s. The internet and social media have changed the way we talk about politics, and leaders are no longer able to hide behind the mainstream media. People are more engaged than ever before and they want real change and not just more platitudes with no action.

That brings us up to the disaster that was Budget 2016. With all of the promises in the 5-Point Plan, there was very little to prepare people for the extreme measures that were presented by Cathy Bennett during her first budget speech. We all knew that the government would need to take some action, but for most people, Budget 2016 was just too much too fast. People reacted, and the government was caught off guard by unprecedented protests against the budget all across the province. The public pressure caused the Liberal’s to backtrack on several decisions, and people are still actively protesting the government and demanding that they listen to the concerns of the people.

Things got really heated over the #MakeMuskratRight protests, and the government again found themselves mired in controversy. With the premier out of the country, emotions raged and the camp at the Muskrat Falls camp was ultimately occupied by fed-up Labrador residents who wanted their voices heard. After a marathon twelve hour meeting with indigenous leaders, Ball went out of his way to say that the protests played no part in the agreement that they had reached. Many saw this as another kick in the face and an example of how foolish Ball can be when he opens his mouth. The Muskrat Falls issue is far from over, and Ball, as the minister responsible for Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs, would be wise to make more than the four trips that he made to Labrador last year to talk about the issues.

As the old saying goes, the proof is in the pudding and we are seeing the effects of Budget 2016 all around us. Long-established businesses are closing, bankruptcies are up, housing starts are down, and unemployment is expected to hit a staggering 20% by the end of the current governing term. The biggest problem of all is that this government has not given us any indication that they have the slightest clue of how to get things under control. The Way Forward document is big on expectations but very thin on the details on how we will reach the very lofty targets that are outlined in its pages. There is no solid plan to address government spending and people have lost confidence that this government has what it takes to get the job done.

It has certainly been an eventful year and I am sure that Ball and Company are hoping that the next year will be a little smoother. Unfortunately for them, there is a large segment of the population that will be working hard to make sure that does not happen.The government has backed away from many of their controversial policy decisions and seem to be willing to fly through the next three years by the seat of their collective pants. When asked about what they are going to do, the best they can muster is a weak blaming of the Tories, but sooner or later they are going to have to stop blaming and start governing. 

You can be sure that the people of the province will continue to hold the Liberal's feet to the fire and it will be interesting to see how they will address the issues in the coming year. They don’t seem interested in listening to what stakeholders have to say, and they have proven repeatedly that they are not capable of making sound, long-sighted decisions, despite having had to repeal several of the decisions they made without adequate foresight or consultation. Just look to the levy and the library closures to prove that point.My advice for the future is to buckle up for the ride and get ready for another wild year of back-steps and misfires. I wish I could be more positive, but this rogue has to call it as he sees it. I just hope I will be here writing this time next year, instead of living up-along like so many others who are being forced to leave. Maybe Dwight is getting the Clyde Wells blueprint right after all...


  1. I never see any comments to your blogs but numerous comments on Des Sullivan blog posts. Do people read your insightful and well written blog posts?

    Wayne R Bennett

  2. Thanks Wayne. Des has been running the Uncle Gnarley blog for quite a bit longer than the Rogue Bayman has been around, and he is certainly more well known in political circles than myself. Not to mention his blog is very good! I find the majority of comments on my posts come on Facebook and not here, but it varies depending on the topic. All I can do is write the truth as I see it and hope that people enjoy my posts and feel that they can take something away from the discussion. Thanks for reading!