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

3 comments:

Wm. Murphy said...

What is this letter suggesting or offering to the Premier? It is an extension of what one would near around a water cooler.....no firm suggestions or alternatives on how we could move forward. The Premier's eyes would glaze over if he actually read it. I wish people would stop the endless preambles and history lessons and offer up real suggestions on what to do next

Cyril Rogers said...

Peter,

It has been quite a long time since I last posted a comment on your site.

The reality is that Mr. Ball backed himself into a corner by refusing to put the Muskrat Falls project on hold, pending a thorough review. It was never viable and you, along with many others, were not vocal enough to back those of us that Kathy Dunderdale labelled as "naysayers". I do recall you had some misgivings but more opposition from yourself and others may have turned the tide before too much damage was done.

Alas, we now face a Hobson's choice. No matter which way we go, the consequences will be painful. I am fully on the record, even now, as one who believes it must be stopped. Maybe the transmission link will be a minor win for the province but the fact is that we still don't know the final cost of the whole project. Mr. Marshall is saying it will cost over 11 billion but there is no way of knowing and it could easily top 15 billion. Sunk costs or not, the province can ill afford that and bankruptcy will be the inevitable outcome, Mr. Ball's assurances to the contrary.

Many of his problems can be traced back to his abdication of true leadership on MF, so the other issues are moot. The province is sinking into ever more debt and there is no end in sight. That is my big concern and the issue that our citizens should be demanding answers to. A public inquiry and a halt to that project would give Mr. Ball time to assess the long term damage and possibly get us out of this horrible situation. the current course will destroy any hope for the future.

Peter L. Whittle said...

Murphy:

Thanks for the comment, I hear yea. Just keep in my mind that this was really geared at one aspect of current affairs. Leaders not only create the vision, they have sell it and implement it.

I suppose, the lens by which you view the letter determines how one reacts. My purpose was not to provide a detailed, line-by-line list of expenditure reductions or savings. The point was to say, look people realize that these are very tough times and in tough times people need to have faith in their leadership, which was the focus of the piece. There is no shortage of posts on P&P that speak to measures the government could take.

Perhaps the water cooler talk needs to be spoken to the Premier, who is insulated at times by arrogant politicos that seem determined to forge ahead without discussion and without a real plan.

Integrity and trust are fundamental values that the premier needs to demonstrate to effectively lead. Buy-in for the tough measures to come is critical not just to the politcal success of this mission but to the success of uprighting this colossal mess which the Liberals certainly did not create but seem to be wearing as if they did.

The days of blind trust are long gone, we are all skeptical and pissed with the hypocrisy of saying one thing and doing another. The communication errors on Muskrat Falls, Ed Martin, Failing to listen to feedback, ignoring alternative viewpoints and not active listening undermines the mission and his leadership effectiveness - and trust.

The ability to communicate appropriately is an essential component of good leadership. Taking appropriate direction and having the appropriate support around you are critical. Ball is not going to survive if he is unable to be perceived as empathetic, able to build a rapport with he public and rescue his integrity,

In short, he needs a strong foundation based on trust and integrity. The path to that is what I wanted to discuss.

Cheers