Wednesday, June 29, 2016

HYPOCRISY MAKES THE POLITICAL WHEEL SPIN

Conservative pundit and pollster, Tim Power's latest article for The Hill Times takes aim at the discourse and hypocritical positions espoused by the front leaders for the Conservative Party Leadership regarding the divisive Brexit vote.

The former cabinet ministers have been exposed for abandoning the free trading ideology of the Mulroney and Harper eras in favour of pandering for a few votes.

Power says " Hypocrisy is often the bed-mate of a politician in search of opportunity to advance his or her own ambition. But putting your finger in the wind to find out where it is blowing and knowing it represents a storm of no good is an altogether different type of shallow—Tony Clement and Jason Kenney, I am talking about you."

The lack of ideological consistency in our public officials is disheartening but even more dramatic, it is so pervasive that we seemingly accept it as part of the process.

Politicians lie, promises are just snapshots in time and circumstances. It is a cancer, corruption and arrogance that serves harm democracy and trust, further eroding our democratic institutions. A flip-flop is part of doing business today. 

The official hypocrisy of the new premier, much of his cabinet and the Liberal caucus who were elected on a misleading platform, which has been all but abandoned, is only eclipsed by the hypocrisy of the now opposition Progressive Conservatives who created the fiscal crisis we are facing. 

Where does it all leave the voter who gets to vote once every four years but is saddled with sticker shock and buyers remorse with no recourse?

Before we start lighting torches and marching with pitchforks in hand, we should consider our individual roles, do voters  act just like the representatives they elect? Who is to blame - look in the mirror  Until we challenge this approach, stand united against it or reform our electoral process , we will continue to get hypocritical governance.

We have the ability to eradicate poverty, to end our reliance on fossil fuels, to share our wealth, to forget about national interests and pursue global solutions to the environment nightmare that we are punting to future generations so we can preserve our quality of living today. 

We should not bury our heads in the sand but seek to understand the role hypocrisy plays in the bigger picture of our robust federal democracy that demands flexibility, horse trading and party solidarity for the big picture. 

Politicians are pulled in all kinds of contrasting directions by public opinion, donors, party lines, personal leanings and local politics - all of which are often temporal - changing with time and the tide.

What ideological  lines would you refuse to cross, no matter the dealmaking, partisanship, or personal incentives involved? 

At would point is the active political agenda just a distraction from the big picture? 






Wednesday, June 15, 2016

OPEN LETTER TO PREMIER BALL

Dwight,

I do not envy your position at all. We had a number of conversations leading into the Fall with regards to provincial expenditures.  I know that I am not an economist, but just following the quarterly charted banks quarterly reports, budget estimates and oil prices clearly indicated that the deficit was going to exceed $2 Billion. It was obvious that the next administration was going to have to make tough choices because the last one failed too.

The province really has limited choices - raise funds, borrow funds or reduce spending. Our current debt load severely impacts our borrowing. It is not rocket science but there is no real understanding in the public domain and the fact that spending was permitted to increase has created confusion.

While I have been vocally opposed to cuts in education - preferring a consultative approach - I agree that there is no alternative but to make decisions that may not be liked by all. It would be impossible to find a consensus option that would please everyone.

I have always been impressed by your listening and engagement skills, which is why I am confounded by the communication SNAFUs that plaque your administration. I believe you are truly empathetic to people but living in the bubble of political partisans who treat every bit of constructive criticism as treachery, resulting in a reactive bunker mentality.   I am not one of those who think you should throw in the towel. I believe that you have an uphill battle to regain the credibility needed to wage this battle to reform government spending and deflate people’s expectations on how and where government services are provided.

I believe that frank conversations offering a clear vision of the light at the end of the austerity tunnel, picking one or two social  sectors  (i.e.. education, mental health) that you ensure are the best in Canada, despite financial situation will help clear the way. People need to know their personal sacrifices are worth it to the collective good. They also need to know that those they elect are making sacrifices as well.

I keep hearing from my political contacts, inside and outside of caucus, that one of the major issues you are facing is communications people left over from the last administration.  While there is no doubt many of them were hired by the tories, I do not think replacing them with partisans solves anything. I do not share the opinion that you are being sabotaged from inside the bureaucracy  rather I think you need to rethink those who helped you win the party leaderships ability to help you govern in these perilous times. You require a much different skill set. Governing does not have to be a zero-sum game.

In the dying days of the Grimes Government, we could not do anything right, despite the many positive initiatives brought forward on social and economic fronts. Without Voisey’s Bay or the Liberal offshore Development Agreements,  I can not image where we would be today. For my part, I will never forget struggling to assist in getting candidates nominated, knowing in my heart that public opinion was not going to swing, as needed.

The real challenge is winning the respect of a public that are confused, scared and angry. That can only be accomplished by being more strategic in purpose and approach. The long term play is crucial to our very survival. You can not let the opposition and other groups define you, or capitalize on amateur, undisciplined and unnecessary mistakes.

I would suggest you need to pick the right tool for the job at hand. Choose the wrong one and the result may not be pretty. What is the core competency you need? All good intentions may not be good enough to overcome a lack of skill or ability.

You must be seen to be consistent, humble, in-touch, in-control and responsive. It is too easy for any group to vilify motives and actions when they do not have to defend their positions or face the scrutiny that government does. That is why it is so important to have people around you that are not only loyal, but honest,  who can express opinions outside of the groupthink bubble without fear of being labelled as enemies or of not being team players.

This does not mean governing by the polls, it just means being smarter and reigning in the arrogance of political neophytes who have neither the political insight or ability to assist you with the delicate task ahead. They fail to see that this is not a game. Great leaders are not born, they are created by exceptional circumstances. I sincerely hope that you can turn this province around and earn the confidence of the 60% of the public that are not pure partisans.

I am very disappointed that we are not working together as partners in education but what unites is much greater than what divides us.

Peter Whittle

PREMIER NEEDS TO CLEAR THIS UP

A while back the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils agreed that we would continue to take the Minister of Education to task for broken commitments and negative impacts contained in the 2016 budget. We had a few disagreements about approach, but moved forward.

Yesterday morning, the federation executive met with Minister Kirby to discuss our concerns.

In response to a diplomatic question about funding cuts to the NLFSC and the possibility of a reconsideration, the minister referenced a conversation that I had with Pete Soucey (VOCM BACKTALK)  the day prior, regarding the mess in Services and Works related to tenders, project management, road conditions and ferries. The conversation was not related to the Federation of School Councils in any way, shape or form. It was a personal opinion reflecting my frustration with the tendering process related to Virginia Park Elementary.

He made it very clear that my advocacy work and critique of the government is impacting support for funding the NLFSC around the cabinet table.

As an outspoken advocate for quality education and good government, such a threat could only be interpreted one way, shut up. My principles – my charter rights to free expression and assemblies were directly challenged when the Minister explained that the budget process is not based on merit but how politicians feel about the organization in question, or in this case the individual leading the organization.

Think for a second, this is the same Minister who has risen in the house in the Spring Session to read names of those who gave their lives for our freedoms nearly 100 years ago. Does he value democracy?

It is very obvious that this government has absolutely no tolerance for criticism, and that this organization will suffer if I remain at the helm or do not get with the program. It was a ridiculous and dishonourable link to make. I told the minister as much and opted to leave the meeting.
Which leads to where I go from here. Do I resign and tell the media why? Do we just wave the white flag and accept the government’s draconian measures? I am perplexed.

This volunteer role has become very stressful. I have tried to discharge my responsibilities and follow the objectives set out in our constitution: particularly to advocate for parent/community involvement as a significant component of school development planning, supported by adequate financial supports; and to provide assistance to any Member Association representing the best educational interests of the school.

The by-laws clearly state that we are to be non-partisan, non-sectarian and non racial. We have not been partisan, but the minister told the remaining members of the executive today that he felt the Federation was the Opposition. We have consistently praised government for positive measures and equally been critical of them for policy measures that negative impact measures through administrations of different stripes.

I have never heard of a minister suggesting that funding for the organization would not be based on need, the role we play or the merit of providing, both proactively and reactively, supports for School Councils in the discharge of their duties as stated in the Education Act. We were told those things are not the key determinant but whether we march in step to the tune played by government.

My wife is an unemployed elementary teacher who stands a decent chance of earning a full-time job with Full-Day Kindergarten, yet our membership has formed a pretty clear consensus that it should be deferred. I have only put voice and action to concerns of the membership, above my own personal best interest. That is the honorable thing to do. We serve to represent the best interest of our organization as defined by our constitution.

Yesterday was a dark moment for organizations like ours. Our right to question, to criticize, to advocate for and against policies in the best interests of our members organizations was challenged.

To add insult to injury, the Minister tweeted that he had a productive meeting with the Executive Committee despite the divisive nature of the meeting and no progress on the issues of contention related to the budget.

I was instructed to be critical of the Minister and his broken commitments, and I did so. It would appear that I have been a little too successful. If given the choice between being a true advocate for education as the role demands or being a restrained president, than I have to go with my heart and my conscious.

To my detractors in the Liberal Party, I wanted this resolved quietly. Immediately after leaving the meeting with Kirby, I called the Premier's Office and expressed my disbelief feeling the Premier would not condone such outlandish and anti-democratic behavior. 

I would like the Premier to confirm that the review process under this zero base budgeting practice is indeed partisan and not merit based and if he thinks intimidation is acceptable and honorable behaviour for a minister of his government?

I feel compelled to speak out on behalf of the many other nameless groups and organizations that have been intimidated into silence. I will not be bullied or cower in the face of the arrogant intoxication of the corruption of absolute power.

Neither should you!




Tuesday, May 24, 2016

THE STAKES ARE TOO HIGH

Those of you that know me personally will appreciate that I am passionate about education and public policy. 

I have never hesitated to step up to advocate for individuals, groups or policies. 

I have given of my time, my talent and my treasure to support causes I believe in because our society demands that we give as well as take.

Many of you have asked why I have not run for provincial politics, the answer is unravelling in the the House of Assembly today.

I am under no illusions about the financial mess facing this little province and our mere population of 526,000 spread out over 405,212 KM. No matter how we got to this current situation, we simply can not continue to spend as we have.

Tough choices have to be made, priorities have to be agreed on and we must all accept the inconveniences and burdens that this entails. 

There will be disagreements but we should not accept wrong choices, hypocrisy or lazy public policy that robs of us a better future.

Together we can weather the storm but in order to accept the sacrifices being demanded of us by government we must have faith and confidence in our political leadership. 

We have to believe that the sacrifices are equitable and fair. That those that can best carry the burden are doing so to protect the sick, the elderly, the poor.

The 2016 budget does not offer hope. It does not inspire me to accept short term pain for long term gain. It exposes the government as uncaring, arrogant, uncommunicative and mean spirited.

As a student of history, politics, communications and pubic policy - the recklessness of the current approach has created an unparalleled crisis in confidence.

We must do better as a society but government must to better to listen to society. They must abandon the arrogance, the right-wing language, the blaming, the stubbornness and tell us what their priorities are and what the new normal will look like after austerity. 

We do not have faith that they alone know what is best because we have no confidence that they have now, or ever had a plan.

No Liberal was elected on a platform of austerity, no Liberal was given a mandate to shove bad medicine down our throats. 

However they were given a mandate to lead, to listen, to be accountable.

No one party, no one group has a monopoly on the elixir for what ails us.

I pray politicians will stop playing partisan games and act with transparency, passion and integrity. Than, and only than can those that govern us earn our respect, our trust and our confidence.

The stakes are too high for politics as normal. 

STAND WITH YOUR FEET