This is an easy one. A slam dunk, a gaping net, a hanging curve ball, arguably one of the bigger bonehead plays in recent Newfoundland political history.
And, yes, I’ll bring the sports metaphors to a close, but it should be duly noted: the Dunderdale administration deserves the enormous crap-knocking it’s getting over its deplorable decision to dramatically curtail the flow of information to its very own citizens, its own constituents, the very people who brought it to power, whose trust it has now betrayed.
Hyperbolic language on my part, some might suggest, a bit melodramatic, a dose of heavy handed moralizing.
Well, in this case, it’s impossible, in my estimation, not to play the condemnation card.
The news of the legislation was so shocking, in fact, that the headlines alone said it all.
“Clamp down” on access to information, the CBC website shouted. “Cabinet secrecy extended,” legislation “bars” auditor general from access to more records.
And on the front page of The Telegram: “Justice minister limits access to information,” on page four, “Cabinet ministers will be able to ignore requests for information,” while an editorial on page six was headlined “Blackout” and a Russell Wangersky column was bitterly entitled: “You’ll know only what they want you to know.”
Ironically, you may have noticed in that same edition on page three a picture of the architect of this Stephen-Harper-like, backward legislation (if not the architect, certainly the person to whom the plans were delivered for final approval), Premier Kathy Dunderdale herself, reading to a group of school children, introducing democracy to the youth of our province even as her ministers were trying to defend the indefensible.
I don’t know what Dunderdale was reading to those impressionable youngsters.
But here’s what she might have been saying:
“Now, boys and girls, I should let you in a little secret, secrets being a big part of my government,” she might have said. “We’ve decided that your mommies and daddies are not capable of handling all the information we, as the governors of this province, have at our disposal.”
There may have even been a brief shout: “They can’t handle the truth.” And then a brief apology: “Sorry, boys and girls, you’re not old enough for a Jack Nicholson bit.
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“But what I’m trying to say to you is that we’re going to treat the adults of this province as if they were your age, gullible and naïve, unable to decide what’s important and what’s not important, unable to think for themselves.
“We’ll handle everything from now on,” she might have said. “Just call me Grandma Josephine Smallwood.”
There’s been so much said and written about what NDP Leader Lorraine Michael accurately described as the “most regressive” piece of legislation she had ever seen that words almost escape me.
Yes, I can scrounge up those few sports clichés off the top of this piece, and have some sarcastic fun at the expense of the premier’s little sit down with the youngsters.
But it’s still not enough.
It would almost be funny, an absolute joke, if the new access to information legislation didn’t have such long lasting, serious implications.
And mark my words: it’ll have repercussions for Dunderdale the politician, as well.
Those latest polling numbers for the premier weren’t exactly impressive. Some of her supporters continued to argue that her decreasing popularity had to be put in perspective, that she couldn’t possibly maintain the stratospheric standing of her predecessor.
But any diminution of her polling numbers in the future will be of her own doing. This stomping on the rights of private citizens, this egregious slap in the face to all Newfoundlanders, of all political stripes, is her baby. Danny Boy is out of the picture, developing land, chasing pucks, making more money. There’s no excuse anymore for Dunderdale. This is her thing. And it could very well help to bring her down.
I sometimes mock politicians who throw the word “shame” around so loosely that it loses its impact.
But, in this case, I’ll use it myself, as would just about any normal-thinking person in the province.
Shame, Ms. Dunderdale. Shame.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.