Cheers & Jeers

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Jeers: to gag orders. It was not a pretty sight: St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe telling councillors at this week’s council meeting that, when it comes to the recent provincial budget, they can only speak about the municipal operating grants formula. Sure, maybe it’s  only political posturing for municipal politicians to be critical of the budget, but why shouldn’t a councillor be able to take about the issues that affect their constituents? Is the mayor afraid of a funding-spanking from on high?

 

Cheers: to backbone. Nice to see Mayor O’Keefe take a blunt stand about the über-profitable Newfoundland Liquor Corporation’s decision to stop paying grants in lieu of taxes, a move that will cost the city $110,000. The NLC’s logic is that they’re essentially paying taxes because they lease properties from property owners who already pay tax. That is the case for many properties, but the unilateral change is just another sign about how the provincial government and its agencies take municipal services for granted. Memorial University and provincial government buildings depend on city services, but decide for themselves if and what they will pay the city to cover their costs, and ordinary taxpayers pick up the bill. Here’s an idea: maybe, for a day or so, turn off the water to agencies that are not willing to pay their fair share.

 

Jeers: to secret polls. So, Ron Ellsworth says he’s running for deputy mayor based on the strength of a public opinion poll that’s measured his chances. But then he doesn’t divulge the poll results. The clear implication is that he has some kind of lead in a potential race — something he gets to claim in the complete absence of proof. Here’s a little House of Assembly rule that maybe should apply to all sorts of politicians: if you decide to quote from a document, you have to produce it and table it — just so everyone’s reading the same truth from the same page.

 

Cheers: to fair play. Look across the province’s budgetary estimates and you can see a range of cutbacks pretty much across the entire government. It’s certainly the case for the office expenses of cabinet ministers, which have all pretty much been cut back by 10 per cent or more. The argument being made by government? That everybody is capable of doing more with less and that everyone should share the burden. Even Crown corporations like Newfoundland and Labrador Housing are getting in on the act, facing a $10-million cut in its budget. But what about the special child? Will Nalcor be seeing layoffs and cutbacks? Is it doom and gloom in those hallways, too? Are its executives facing a wage freeze or rollback? Are Nalcor support staff being cut? And if they were, would we ever know?

Organizations: Newfoundland Liquor, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing

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  • Mark
    April 08, 2013 - 18:45

    Why is it a jeer that a publicly owned crown corporation is no longer spending my money for "taxes" on property it doesn't own? The bigger question is why they were handing this graft off to the municipalities in the first place. Taxes in lieu are, by definition, in lieu of something. This appears to have been an instance of taxes in lieu of nothing.

  • Jay
    April 08, 2013 - 17:01

    Matthew, Well said. It's common knowledge that the media can play an extremely influential role in the results of an election. If the Telegram expects everybody else to play fair, maybe it should also. In the future, when I see individuals talking about polls,should I expect the Telegram take the same negative, critical role?

  • Matthew
    April 08, 2013 - 11:40

    There are 3 major flaws with your criticism of Ellsworth. Firstly, when was the last time a privately commissioned poll was released publicly? I certainly can't remember one. Nor should any candidate be required to divulge that information. Doc conducted a poll in the last election but never released the results and was never asked to. Why is this any different? You can compare House of Assembly regulations to regulations of the Council Chambers, but not to the regulations guiding a candidate for municipal office. A candidate can't table a document when they have no presence in the chamber. He never quoted anything from the poll, so what exactly would you want to verify? Which brings me to my final point. Finally, so what if you don't get the supporting documentation. He never mentioned any numbers, he never even claimed to be in the lead, so what exactly would you want to verify? He didn't make any claims about it. How about you release the names of any anonymous sources so that the public can go and verify the information independently?

  • Political Spending Limits
    April 08, 2013 - 09:18

    There are established spending limits, requirements for accountability and transaparency and financial donor limits in the federal and provincial election systems (just ask Peter Penashue). But the rules are much less clear for municipal elections, particularly in the capital city. If you have enough money, you can try to buy yourself a seat on council.