Please don’t take us for fools

in Politically Speaking by

The three main federal and provincial political parties are solidly in campaign mode right now, even though the provincial election has not been officially called.

On a daily basis, we are seeing the typical barrage of pledges and promises from party leaders to voters.

But that is not all we are seeing.

On the hustings

Federally, election commitments are being made to Canadians, such as the NDP’s $15 a day childcare plan and the Liberals’ promise, unveiled by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on Monday, to spend $300 million more a year for veterans’ benefits and programs. The incumbent Conservatives, despite being hammered by the recent Mike Duffy trial revelations, have also been making promises, like a permanent home renovation tax credit and an increase in RCMP funding, especially in the national police force’s crackdown on drugs.

On the provincial scene, as part of his “Road Ahead” tour Liberal leader Dwight Ball announced last month his “Priority Commitment to build Waterford Hospital Replacement”. Where the money will come from for this woefully overdue facility remains to be seen, as Ball was characteristically scanty on concrete details.

Meanwhile, NDP leader Earle McCurdy has come out strongly against the Progressive Conservative Government’s use of public-private partnerships (P3s) to build new long-term care facilities. The former union leader has vowed that his party will be clear in its opposition to P3s when the election campaign officially gets underway. Unlike Ball, McCurdy has not yet made any sweeping “priority commitments”.

Then there’s Premier Paul Davis, who travelled to Labrador this week to splash money around in the Big Land, claiming that it has nothing to do with the imminent election.

The “capacity agreement” money Davis gave to Happy Valley-Goose Bay—some $250 000 over three years to “assist town with effects of Muskrat (Falls)”, according to town Mayor Jamie Snook—appears to come with no strings attached.

And on Tuesday, the spending extravaganza continued, with over $850,000 announced in the government’s efforts to “stimulate economic growth through regional economic development.”

Again, at face value this is not a negative. However, for Davis to say that these investments and announcements have nothing to do with the impending trip to the polls is simply disingenuous.

Meanwhile, as the premier doled out the money in Labrador, global oil prices continued to tank, meaning the provincial treasury continues on its downward spiral. 

Memorial University economist Wade Locke (who has done much work for this government over the years) told the CBC earlier this week that low oil prices spelled out a “two to two-and-a-half year problem” for the province, but that now “it looks longer” and is “hard to know.”

And let us not forget that our finances are in shambles thanks to our current government’s dozen years of mismanagement and overspending.

You expect us to believe that?

As reported by CBC, the premier had this to say about his Labrador largesse:

If you don’t do announcements, they’ll question, ‘Well, what are you doing for the people of the province?’ And if you do announcements, then the critics or the opposition or the people that want our jobs will criticise us for making those announcements so you can’t win with them.’

How obtuse does this premier take us all to be? We cannot see the correlation between spending announcements (and re-announcements) and electioneering, even if unofficial at this stage?

His deputy premier made a similar observation earlier this month — that these funding announcements have nothing to do with the impending election and are simply “business as usual”.

“I’ll be in central Newfoundland later this week, I plan to go to Labrador next week. That’s the normal course of business for a health minister in the summer months, just like it was last year, just like it was the year before,” said Steve Kent. 

“This is business as usual.” 

Anyone believing Davis and Kent on this matter of our government throwing our tax dollars around in the lead up to an election must still be a devout believer in Santa Claus. What they are claiming about these funding announcements and their relation to November’s election is as real as that beloved figment of the childhood imagination.

Far more serious

On the federal front, in recent days we have seen some evident disingenuousness—to say the least—-coming from none other than the prime minister.

The foolishness Davis and Kent have been getting on with about their spending of our money just before an election is utterly laughable when compared to the evasiveness and lack of candor displayed by Stephen Harper on the campaign trail.

Benjamin Perrin, Harper’s former legal counsel, gave testimony in court last week that was a clear contradiction of the Conservative Party position that Harper’s current Chief of Staff, Ray Novak, knew nothing about the deal which saw his predecessor, Nigel Wright, pay off embattled Senator Mike Duffy’s ineligible expense claims.

But Harper stood by his man and told Canadians he has been “very clear” (without elaborating, of course) about Novak and his confidence in him, just as he said in a statement the previous day that Novak was “very clear” with him about the Wright-Duffy affair (again, without elaboration).

As the Toronto Star reported last week, Harper had this to say when pressed on the scandal:

I would point out that there have been a large range of senators appointed by a large range of prime ministers who have these kinds of difficulties…We have every right to expect better. I have a right to expect better. The entire party and the country does, and we have made sure there is accountability for those kinds of inappropriate actions.

If one reads Harper’s words with the belief that the prime minister was honestly in the dark about the Wright-Duffy deal, then one might regard the comments as reasonable.

But, as a recent Forum poll indicates, more than two thirds of Canadians think Harper knew about the scandal.

When you consider that Conservative spokesman Kory Teneycke is on record saying it was “unfathomable” that Novak knew anything about it, and that Harper’s former lawyer has stated under oath that he did — well, that certainly casts much doubt on Harper’s truthfulness in this whole debacle.

And it is what effectively renders such statements disingenuous.

What, and who, are we to believe here?

 Both of these instances are insulting to the electorate, however, and indicate that these folks seemingly know more than they are letting on.

Given this is now before a judge and that it reaches the highest echelons of power in the country, this example of duplicitous political speak is indeed more flagrant and serious than two flailing politicians—Davis and Kent—in this province, who find themselves third place in the polls, smugly and laughably telling the electorate that their spending announcements are in no way election-related.

Both of these instances are insulting to the electorate, however, and indicate that these folks seemingly know more than they are letting on. How they can utter these things with a straight face is truly beyond me.

We must ask ourselves, upon consideration of such public statements, if we really should re-elect any of these people. Why would they deserve to keep their jobs after such mismanagement and after they make such disingenuous remarks that offend our collective intelligence?

If we do, we would be the fools they take us for.

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