Were part of the solution

Pam
Pam Frampton
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"I think we too often make choices based on the safety of cynicism. … Cynicism is fear, and it's worse than fear - it's active disengagement." - Ken Burns, documentary filmmaker

There's a couple of dates coming up that are worth noting on your calendar - Monday, Aug. 31 if you live in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and Thursday, Sept. 17 if you live in St. John's.
That's when the roving committee seeking public opinion on MHA compensation will roll into those communities, and that committee needs to hear from you.
The first four consultation sessions drew just one or two people apiece, which is baffling in a province recently shaken by an explosive political scandal involving improper spending by elected officials and, subsequently, criminal charges.
Or is it baffling?
I'm no political scientist, but I disagree with Michael Temelini, who is one. He was quoted in The Telegram Aug. 19 as saying, "Crazy as it sounds, some people believe when citizens do nothing, they're generally content."
I don't think what's happening here has anything to do with contentment.
I'd say it's just the opposite.
Because, ruined reputations and criminal charges aside, I fear the true legacy of the scandal is public cynicism and apathy.
"My cynicism of politics and politicians, particularly at the provincial level, has reached the point that all junk mail I receive from politicians is deposited, unopened, into the garbage can," one visitor to The Telegram website commented recently.
"Our MHAs have the face to look for an increase to their already bloated salaries of $100,000 a year, while the average pension of a retired public servant is $13,000 and an MHA's is $50,000? … We have a former cabinet minister now in jail, a former cabinet minister now on trial, and trials upcoming of a few former MHAs. … It's the nature of the beast, i.e., self-serving politicians who can't wait to get at the trough. There are honest politicians, but, sadly, they're as scarce as hens' teeth."
I suspect there are plenty of people who share that view.
And why wouldn't they? A group of elected officials charged with looking after the best interests of the citizens of this province, knowingly spent more taxpayers' money than they were entitled to and tried to cover that up.
And, in the wake of that, the administration that vowed to clean up the House of Assembly and usher in a new era of transparency and accountability regularly goes out of its way to keep information out of the public eye, whether by having cabinet ministers eschew written briefing notes, having the Executive Council vet every single access request made to every government department, or by changing the rules to broaden the scope of what can be considered top-secret information.
Who wouldn't be cynical?
But unlike some self-serving politicians, we shouldn't expect to have our cake and eat it, too.
Someone has to take the high road, here - God knows the low road's congested enough - and we can't expect the system to work the way we want it to if we're not willing to pitch in.
In the executive summary of his 2007 report - commissioned in the wake of the scandal - Chief Justice Derek Green wrote that he detected "an undeniable public desire, approaching a sense of urgency, to rebuild confidence in our political institutions."
If that's truly how we feel, then why aren't we out there actively working to make the system better?
We've all heard the arguments about how the Members' Compensation Review Committee was struck in the summer so that no one would show up, and that MHAs will pay themselves whatever the heck they like anyway, so why should we bother to participate.
But the fact is if we don't participate, politicians could be forgiven for thinking that we're happy with the status quo, and that politics should carry on - business as usual.
Heck, if a political scientist with no vested interest can jump to that conclusion, why shouldn't MHAs, who stand to benefit if no one says they're opposed to their current salary scheme?
If you are happy with the status quo, then get yourself out to a meeting and say so.
If you think MHAs make too much and should have their pay cut, or at least curtailed in future, tell the review committee that, too.
Even if you believe the politicians aren't really listening and that the review committee is only so much window dressing, remember that the media is listening and will get your opinions out into the public domain.
Stay home and say nothing, and we'll get just what we deserve, and what we've always had - a bunch of MHAs left to their own devices to determine what it is they're worth.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram's story editor. She can be reached by e-mail at pframpton@thetelegram.com.

Web/link
For the schedule of committee hearings and information on how to submit written comments, visit website www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2009/hoa/0721n05.htm


Organizations: Executive Council, Compensation Review Committee

Geographic location: Happy Valley, Goose Bay, St. John's

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Recent comments

  • john
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    dont worry be happy king danny will save the day the rest are just minnows thats people dont listen to them anymore he ha

  • Lloyd
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Im no political scientist, but I disagree with Michael Temelini, who is one. He was quoted in The Telegram Aug. 19 as saying, Crazy as it sounds, some people believe when citizens do nothing, theyre generally content.

    Well, Pam, I agree with you and disagree with Temelini.

    Also, as per your title We're part of the solution - in this case, regarding a so-called democracy, the 'new' old saying that if we're not part of the solution then we're part of the solution is true, too.

    Anyone can be fooled one time around and elect a bunch of promise breaking followers but if we do it a second and third time we ARE the problem and no solution!

    For the money those MHAs get I expect them to speak up and stand up for their constituents instead of just parroting the voice from the top. We could get civil servants to do that for half the money and way less than half the bull.

  • john
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    dont worry be happy king danny will save the day the rest are just minnows thats people dont listen to them anymore he ha

  • Lloyd
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    Im no political scientist, but I disagree with Michael Temelini, who is one. He was quoted in The Telegram Aug. 19 as saying, Crazy as it sounds, some people believe when citizens do nothing, theyre generally content.

    Well, Pam, I agree with you and disagree with Temelini.

    Also, as per your title We're part of the solution - in this case, regarding a so-called democracy, the 'new' old saying that if we're not part of the solution then we're part of the solution is true, too.

    Anyone can be fooled one time around and elect a bunch of promise breaking followers but if we do it a second and third time we ARE the problem and no solution!

    For the money those MHAs get I expect them to speak up and stand up for their constituents instead of just parroting the voice from the top. We could get civil servants to do that for half the money and way less than half the bull.