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Dey took de-bate

in Featured/View From The Mainland by

We’re not going to hear a proper debate about Muskrat Falls in the House of Assembly? Did I read that correctly? There’s either a REALLY clever plan in place by the governing PCs or they’ve just made an extremely uncalculated error. I mean, I’d love to give the Liberals or NDP some credit for painting them into a corner on this one, but I don’t think they thought of the long term consequences for the PCs – like the history book stuff.

Maybe, just maybe I’ll give them credit for thinking of the next election and how not having a debate on what will amount to a doubling of the public debt would play out. But I think this is going to blow back on all of them. What on earth was the harm for capitulating to the demands of the opposition? You can call them a minority of the public opinion, maybe, but they were elected to represent their constituents (and possibly those others who are not constituents, but voted for their parties in other districts) and to hold government to account. (In theory: I’m sure very few actually voted for the MHA to be in opposition, but rather voted for a candidate, party and platform)

What harm could a debate cause?

All of these parties support the development of the falls. They all ran campaigns with support for the development in their platforms. And all you who voted, voted to develop this project. So in theory the vast, vast, vast majority of you support this project. So the end result was still going to be a dam(m)(n)ed river. Each of the political parties that ran in the last election simply had a different list of perks they wanted.

On top of all of that obviousness, if the government were so confident about the merits of this project, what harm could it possibly do to drag some more experts in to verify what they’ve been saying all along? What possible harm? (Unless they’re not confident) Perhaps they just didn’t want to waste a lot of time in the House with their other steaming hot pieces of legislation – they obviously ignored the fact that not agreeing on a template is going to gobble up some committee time, or lead to another filibuster.

Why do we bother electing MHAs?

If we can’t use our speaking House to, say, actually have the people’s voice voiced, what’s the point of sitting and debating at all? We should just have one central governing committee, and elect different policy/program/(who-gets-their-road-paved-this time-around) platforms every 2-4 years and have the Lieutenant Governor pass omnibus legislation.

That’s essentially what we get now anyway. I see little difference between the parties, or which specific region of the province determines policy within them. It would save the tax payers a wad of cash on MHAs. Alternately we could keep our MHAs but only pay them for the days they actually do something (did you know they only sit, on average, 14% of the year? Yeah, you knew that).

It wouldn’t be me

I wouldn’t attach my name to this mega project, or any other, or to this decision making process if we couldn’t have a debate about it. It’s a mega risky decision to allow future history writers determine how you will be remembered. How sketchy does it sound to a historian when someone says something along the lines of, “This is a good project, we need it, we can afford it (probably), all the experts agree, and it can withstand any kind of scrutiny. Well, except the scrutiny of the opposition, which we’ve stated publicly has no idea what they’re talking about, and can’t engage in a good debate (also we cut their funding – shhh!).”

All three of these parties are playing politics just to see who can get the other to blink first publicly. I, for one, have serious issues with this approach. This project, the ramifications for the province as a whole, and what it’s going to do to my backyard deserves having the fullest of debates in the House that was built to do just that sort of thing.

Here’s a dire warning

Every single time in the history of mega projects, major developments (or the lack thereof), the ignoring of, and refusal to provide space for public discourse in this province has caused political upheaval and the ouster of the culprit(s). It also breeds Labrador nationalistic sentiments.

Mind you, it’s always there, always been there, just below the surface, bubbling and boiling away like a stream under the ice.

Every couple of decades or so a government reaches the end of its life, gets arrogant with the people of the province, and completely alienates Labradorians. This is usually exacerbated by some mega project (or the lack of major development like the trans Labrador) without any meaningful public discourse.

It happened in the mid ‘60s and ‘70s

The then-arrogant, end-of-terming Smallwood Liberals pushed to develop Churchill Falls and Labrador Iron mines – both with minimal local input, participation, representation, or local benefits. What happened? The river swelled and burst through the ice – a separatist New Labrador Party was formed in Labrador West, ran and won, in a town of mostly immigrated Newfoundlanders. (This also resulted in our first Labrador-born MHA by the way, in the mid 70s in a second district.)

Royal Commissions, Labrador flags, and some capitulations later, the sentiment calmed down and the ice froze over the surface again, flaring only every so often when governments got a little testy with us. It happened again in the 90’s briefly with the growing arrogance of the government tinkering with programs and services, and waning of support for infrastructure development despite a relatively good economy.

By the time the Liberals were on the way out again in the early 2000s, Voisey’s Bay had kicked off, and the promised Trans Labrador Highway, hospitals, schools, and other basics (that others in the province enjoyed) were still being ignored, and the nationalistic sentiment broke through the ice again. The difference between this latest iteration and the previous ones (aside from the fact it wasn’t expressed through a separatist party this time) was the economic circumstances of the province and the fact that their ability to address the concerns had vastly improved.

It’s now been another three terms of a increasingly arrogant government

And now here’s another mega project with yet again minimal (short or long term) benefits for the region. More natural resource revenues leave Labrador than any point in history, and even more revenues are coming to government from oil. And the “investments” in Labrador have not risen in proportion to the growth in the provincial treasury.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that nationalistic fervor flares up again.

Why should you care on the Island? It’s not like Labrador can unilaterally leave this arranged marriage. That’s true.

But we can talk to the neighbours about it I guess, and show up with our bruised faces asking for assistance from Canada again.

Or we could debate this project, and our future together. Because that’s really all most people want – to know their voices have been heard. It just might keep the ice frozen.

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