Setting priorities

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The fallout from last week’s provincial budget is continuing to show up as the exact cuts to positions find their way to the public eye. And as they do, you can begin to see the things that the government considers to be high-priority issues, and those that apparently aren’t enough of a priority to keep.

Equally worth considering is an area where there aren’t any cuts. Apparently, while the cuts are spread from the Justice Department to Health to Environment and Conservation, some areas have been spared the axe.

Like political staff, for example.

CBC reporter David Cochrane asked Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy about that issue on “On Point” over the weekend.

“I’m not aware of political staff being laid off,” Kennedy responded. “I don’t think it’s a matter of being exempt. … They’re quite busy.”

Indeed, Mr. Minister. There are media polls to be repeatedly voted on and comments to be planted, for example.

But while we’re talking about people who are busy, so are Crown prosecutors, their support staff, the 50 per cent of the province’s sheriff’s officers who lost their jobs — and the list goes on.

Other jobs that are less important than keeping political staff in place?

• The job of overseeing security at the Whitbourne youth corrections facility.

• The job of managing bird sanctuaries at Baccalieu and Witless Bay. (The puffin may be our provincial bird, but protecting it? Maybe not.)

• The job of managing one of the province’s largest tourist attractions, the bird sanctuary at Cape St. Mary’s.

• Adult basic education instructors at the College of the North Atlantic.

• Wildlife division workers who handle everything from species at risk to environmental protection on inland fisheries.

And the list goes on and on, with each one defining what counts to this government, and what does not.

Too bad those people weren’t all “quite busy,” too.

It’s impossible for a government to cut costs without cutting people, and the cash-strapped provincial government clearly had to make cuts. But where the cuts are made goes a long way towards showing what the government thinks is important.

And think about this — while the province is going from 25 Crown prosecutors to 15 in St. John’s, Premier Kathy Dunderdale was refusing to reveal just what her government intended to do with $90 million in new business funding. Here’s what she said, shortly after Kennedy said in the House of Assembly that he wasn’t aware of what the spending was for.

“Mr. Speaker, we know exactly what the $90 million is for and we will be making that announcement very shortly.” How can you even have a debate on a budget, if a chunk as big as $90 million remains a secret, especially when the government just cut 935 apparently not-very-busy jobs? Imagine this: $90 million would equal $96,256.68 for pay and benefits for every single job they said they had to cut.

Priorities indeed.

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic., Justice Department, CBC On Point

Geographic location: Witless Bay

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Recent comments

  • Not a PC
    April 02, 2013 - 21:31

    Political staff are "quite busy"? I'm sure they are busy with their blackberries, working hard so their supporters participate in all of those polls - but the polls don't really matter, do they? So what are they so busy doing? The problem with these cuts is something will go have to go wrong before it gets any better. Shame on you.

  • Willie J.
    April 02, 2013 - 15:59

    E.P. Good observations. I agree with all....except that I suspect that Darin King would have loved to make a move for Premier but knew he didn't have a chance. He's done some hatchet work since then in his Education portfolio and now in the Justice one. That should ingratiate him with the party. So look for him to make his move next opportunity.

  • coco
    April 02, 2013 - 11:29

    Great editorial. W.B., not to mention that the acting or stand-in or associate premier or whoever that person is at the helm, is also very involved in poll padding; and E.P., it is indeed very interesting why/how she came to be in that position. She doesn't seem able to answer any questions about Muskrat Falls except to say that the experts told her bla bla bla. Given the choice between knowledge and blind faith, her decisions appear to be based on the latter.

  • EDfromRED
    April 02, 2013 - 11:12

    Under the PC's: Justice, Health, Education, Libraries and Culture gets cut...the number of Drug Dens and Massage Parlours erupts!

  • Cyril Rogers
    April 02, 2013 - 10:43

    Their priorities are NOT those of the people of this province, except for the small handful who financially support this party in clinging to power. Only those who have a vested interest in projects like Muskrat Falls truly support it, despite the latest CRA poll. It is hard to argue with the idea of "clean" energy despite the fact that hydro is not as clean as you may have believed. It is also hard to argue with propaganda, despite the fact that we have an Island population in decline and there is ample power, if distribution and transmission facilities were properly maintained and upgraded. In every respect, this government is pandering to its own supporters and making a mockery of good governance.

  • Ed Power
    April 02, 2013 - 09:19

    One could see there was something "off" about the PC government when Danny quit, and not a single person - other than Brad Cabana - showed any interest in the top job. A political party at the top of it's game, with polling numbers in 70% range, a healthy economy, fat Treasury, no viable "government in waiting" in opposition and two more majority governments virtually assured.......and not one member of the caucus, or the party at large, wanted to be Premier. Very, very strange. The lack of a leadership campaign and contest of competing visions might, however, explain the bizarre performance of Premier "Default" Dunderdale's government. An economic plan based on a shaky hydroelectric development, budget estimates based on little more than wishful thinking and amendments to the Access to Information Act that make access a dirty four-letter word. Job cuts in the Environment Department that will enhance environmental protection. Job cuts in Justice that will "create efficiencies" and "streamline" the performance of the Justice system. It almost looks like one of those "quite busy" political staffers took time out from poll padding and access denying to read George Orwell's 1946 essay "Politics and The English Language". They certainly have learned to craft their message so as "to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind".

  • W Bagg
    April 02, 2013 - 07:37

    Who would you rather have serve the province, one crown prosecutor or Paul Lane. Not to pick on Mr. Lane (and the staff associated with his office) but there are several other MHAs in the same boat.

    • Eli
      April 02, 2013 - 12:10

      Stop it Bagg! You're making too much sense.

    • SD Redgrave
      SD Redgrave
      April 04, 2013 - 10:37

      How about my Mum for premier? . She's an awesome accountant, has 80 years life experience and she'll wash the other MHS's mouths out with soap if they get out of line. First point of order will be a spanking for Kathy and a long Time Out!!

  • too funny
    April 02, 2013 - 07:34

    Now that's hitting the nail on the head.