A fine pile of public questions

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On Monday The Indy began an interactive series (Public Question Period), calling on readers to leave questions for Premier Kathy Dunderdale. Four days and nearly 20 questions later, the Premier’s office has received them and we’ve been promised answers.

All queries were outstanding. Thanks to everyone who played along — we hope to have answers for some, if not all of you, by early next week.

A new Public Question Period will open up on Monday, directed at yet another member of our government.

Here are the questions we received for our premier, in no particular order:

1. If you had to pick one thing you would like to accomplish in your time as premier, what would it be?

2. What are your thoughts on the Fisheries minister outright dismissing the MOU document on the very day it was released? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to actually let the department and public absorb the advice of EXPERTS before categorically dismissing its content?

3. Will your Government begin an open and honest discussion on the future of rural NL? Issues of regionalization, local economic development, the fishery, forestry, agriculture, healthcare and crumbling infrastructure are at the forefront, but the discussion must be comprehensive. When will Government stop talking about investing in rural NL and actually show vision and make some real change to help build sustainable communities?

4. Why are so many children in care of Child Youth and Family services placed in precarious living situations (e.g.: staffed hotel/apartments contracted out to private companies by Eastern Health)? The very children and youth (often very young infants) who need the most nurturing and care after being taken out of their family of origin for reasons pertaining to risk are placed in unstable living situations. It doesn’t make sense. The government pays millions of dollars per year to fund these precarious living arrangements while putting much less funding into the foster family program or programs that allow children to remain in their homes with increased monitoring.

5. According to Statistics Canada Newfoundland is the province with the most obese adults – as much as 35%. Premier, can you speculate as to why this is, and what can be done about it?

6. In light of the new social media tools available to our society, the willingness of citizens to do more with OUR government than simply voting once every four years, and the criticisms that your party attempts to exclude voices of opposition and constructive criticism from the public domain; Do you think participatory democratic methods have a place in addressing the democratic deficit our province faces? Furthermore does your government have any plans for increasing citizen engagement in government decision-making?

7. When will the government stop raping our greatest resource and stop the constant brain drain affecting our province? As St. John’s continues to do a piss poor job of attracting new industries to open shop, does your government have any plans to start attracting new companies to this city/province?

8. Which, if any, communities in Labrador get their hydro-power from Churchill Falls?

9. Which, if any, communities in Labrador will get Muskrat Falls power as a replacement for diesel-generated power?

10. How do you feel about the change of the province’s official name from Newfoundland to Newfoundland & Labrador?

11. Regarding Muskrat Falls, why isn’t the government looking at other, cheaper alternatives (i.e. small hydro, wind, natural gas)?

Muskrat Falls will cost at least $7.5 million a MW comparied to $3-5 million per MW for small hydro and $2-3 million per MW for wind. The government has based the need for the muskrat falls project on having to replace Holyrood. They have over exaggerated how much energy Holyrood actually produces (20% of island needs) and how much it will cost to clean it up. Their own cost estimates have ranged from $450 million to $3 billion… all within the last 8 months! Talk about a moving target!

The truth is, this government has had its Lower Churchill “blinders” on for far too long and are trying to force through a bad deal. They are letting other opportunities get away (they currently have moratoriums on small hydro and wind developments in the province!) The Lower Churchill was always going to be about making money, we’re not hearing that now. The only identified markets for the power are the Island and Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia gets it free for 35 years, so who do you think is left to pay the bill? Us! That’s why our rates will be going up at least double. This is not good enough.

12. Why has the tendering process around the Lower Churchill been allowed to kept out of public view? IF we follow the Williams administrations legislative history we can see a straight line to more corporate control over our energy resources and the concentration of those assets to one door, that of the premier.

When will the current administration allow the AG full access to the books of that public entity and lift the reporting constrictions over any mis-dealings to someone other than John Crosbie?

The two pieces of legislation (the Energy Corporation Act http://assembly.nl.ca/Legislation/sr/statutes/e11-01.htm and BILL 63: An Act To Amend The Management of Information Act http://www.assembly.nl.ca/business/bills/Bill0863.htm) need to be amended and we need accountability and full disclosure on this deal before another ‘big hydro’ financial disaster for the future generations of this province occurs.

13. What is your vision for Newfoundland & Labrador in the next 4 years? Why do you think nobody else wanted to be the premier of Newfoundland after Danny Williams stepped down?

14. We have major problems with our democracy. Many people do not know the difference between a federal and provincial representative, and many more who do know the difference do not feel it is worth their time to vote in elections. Will your government re-introduce a civics class in our public education system so that every student learns the basics about our democratic system?

15. Corporate money still has a large impact on our democratic system. While other jurisdictions have made it illegal for corporations to donate to political parties and candidates, this province continues the potentially corrupting practice. Will your government change the Elections Act so that only individual human beings can donate to political parties and candidates? Furthermore will you set limits as to how much an individual can donate?

16. Using three different lenses of analysis – Culture and Heritage, Urban GDP and Rural GDP – in your opinion which industry is more important to our province – the renewable, potentially sustainable fishing industry or the non-renewable, environmentally damaging oil industry? Furthermore, how much money and human resources does your government invest in each of these two industries?