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It’s time to get our political house in order

By: Katherine Walters | April 29, 2016

“I respectfully request you use your authority to halt the present course towards disaster and dissolve the current government. Call together experts in governance and crisis management from educational and other public institutions to develop a plan for moving forward in a new direction, one that ensures input from the people of the province.”

The following letter was sent by the author to the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Honourable Frank F. Fagan, and was subsequently shared with The Independent.

Your Honor,

As a citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador, I am writing today to express my deep concern about our province’s current situation which is unique in my lifetime.

Right now, working people in Newfoundland and Labrador are having cars and ATVs re-possessed and mortgages foreclosed as the impact of the Alberta recession sinks in. Kijiji and the Buy and Sell are doing a brisk business as people begin to off-load anything not deemed a necessity as they brace for the hard times ahead. Thanks to the 2016 budget, some citizens will now have further to travel to access some services, and the cost of traveling that distance is also going up.

Libraries are closing, class sizes in schools will rise and books will now be taxed. This is an absurd measure given this province lags behind the rest of the nation in literacy rates. And the savings and revenue all these measures are intended to generate will be a drop in the bucket, if they actually play out as projected. Given government’s recent history around projecting costs and balancing budgets, you can understand why the public is skeptical.

An HST increase during hard times such as these will only curtail consumer spending and hurt small business the most as they do not have the deep pockets and resources of big business. And “the levy” that has been imposed weighs most heavily on those who earn the least. There is nothing in this measure that demonstrates fairness or empathy.

And to make matters worse, our government seems determined to continue pouring money into the province’s latest mega project. The largest hole in the boat is left gaping while life jackets are being taken from the crew.

How did the current situation arise? Our political system is inherently flawed. It enables demagogues to be elected and our history continues to show what happens when we do: debate is stifled, oversight bodies are silenced, decisions get made on the basis of belief rather than best practice and the public is left in the dark. The party system is at the root of this problem and I believe this is the single biggest flaw in our political system. Instead of being able to select the best person to represent your community, the focus is on getting a party elected. And if the best person doesn’t have a party affiliation, his or her chances of getting elected are very slim. This does nothing to attract the most qualified candidates and makes it far too easy for sociopathic personalities to rise to the top.

Parties make platforms based on what they believe will get them elected and then abandon that platform citing they did not know how bad things truly were. So why isn’t there full arbitrary disclosure on major performance indicators for the province on a regular basis so the public can truly judge the effectiveness of its government and crown corporations? This is not an unreasonable expectation. Then politicians would have no excuse for making promises they could not keep and elected officials could be held accountable for performance. Government has already implemented legislation that makes it possible for the CEO and Boards of regional health authorities to be dismissed for poor financial stewardship. There should be similar mechanisms in place for elected officials and CEOs of Crown corporations. Our current system rewards longevity instead of competency — two terms in office and your pension is secured regardless of whether the province is in better or worse shape than when you took office.

So what do we do? It is time to get our political house in order which is why I’m writing to you, Your Honor. The government has lost the confidence of the electorate. This doesn’t make them bad people, just the latest victims of a system that no longer works. It is time to fix the system. There are other countries in the world who have taken similar unconventional approaches to crisis (e.g. Iceland) from whom we can learn.

I respectfully request you use your authority to halt the present course towards disaster and dissolve the current government. Call together experts in governance and crisis management from educational and other public institutions to develop a plan for moving forward in a new direction, one that ensures input from the people of the province.

You are the only one who can, Your Honor, and there is no time to waste.

Yours sincerely,

Katherine Walters / Bell Island

Read The Independent’s ongoing coverage of austerity and Budget 2016:

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