At the end of October, Labrador MHA Yvonne Jones became the longest-sitting female MHA in the province’s history. And last week, she showed just how much of an old-school politician she actually is.
Jones has been a relatively steadfast opponent of the multi-billion-dollar Muskrat Falls project — in fact, her dogged opposition led to some of the more bitter and offensive interplay in the last session of the House of Assembly over the project.
The slanging between Jones and Premier Kathy Dunderdale certainly showed that Jones had a number of serious complaints about the way Muskrat Falls was being handled, and, in the process, showed how little professional respect the two have for each other.
Whether you like her style or not, Jones has been remarkably effective at delivering her point of view — and she hasn’t been a supporter in any way, shape or form of the project, its public review or the government’s role in the process.
Despite that, last week, Jones suggested she might be willing to support the project, if her own political district in particular — and Labrador in general — got enough out of the project to make it worth their while.
Paved roads. Permanent jobs. Long-term
benefits. The message from Jones was pretty darned clear, and the message was “you scratch my political back, and I’ll scratch yours.”
You can call it lots of things: the pragmatism of poverty, the politics of greed, the leftovers of the political system that spawned the tawdry little saying “Me and the premier brought you this cheque.”
What can’t you call it?
Well, you can’t in any way call it an ethical use of your vote as an MHA.
If, as an MHA, you support the Muskrat Falls project, then support it, and when the time comes after the abbreviated little debate the government currently has planned, cast your vote in favour.
If, as an MHA, you don’t even really understand the project and support it only because your political masters are ordering you to, then be prepared to cast your vote and live with your conscience over whether or not you fulfilled the duties you promised to do when you took your oath of office.
But let’s not turn a debate about the value of what is now a $7.4-billion project into something as tawdry as offering your support to the highest bidder, or holding back support until you get the necessary cash commitment for your area. Not to put too fine a point on it — that’s simply support bought and paid for with taxpayers’ dollars. There’s something different between what’s best for the province and, “what’s best for me.”
This province has already lived through — and suffered through — far too much in the way of porkbarrel politics.
And if there are politicians who don’t understand that, perhaps they belong to an era whose time has clearly passed.