Wonder how your elected representatives are spending their valuable time and your tax dollars in the House of Assembly? Well, look no further than the comedic Punch-and-Judy show of Wednesday afternoon, an afternoon spent by the blind trying to lead the blind.
Wednesday was taken up with the following government private member’s motion: “Be it resolved that this honourable House acknowledges the tremendous importance to Newfoundland and Labrador of the terms of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement-in-principle, CETA, between Canada and the European Union, for which the provincial government successfully advocated; and supports the decision of the federal and provincial governments to establish a $400-million fund to improve our fishing industry's global competitiveness to capitalize more fully on the phenomenal opportunities that CETA will generate for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”
Brave support for a deal that no one voting in the House of Assembly has ever seen (the CETA deal won’t be put to paper for another two years) and that the provincial government has so far — despite commitments from Premier Kathy Dunderdale — completely refused to release any information on.
It was the legislative equivalent of a debate over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
Glen Little, the Tory member for Bonavista South, lauded the unseen deal: “The industry will definitely move forward and succeed because of the elimination of tariffs, Mr. Speaker. This will be a positive for all fishing industry workers, such as plant workers, harvesters and processors, a win-win situation for all those people involved in the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Liberal Jim Bennett came back with, “They want us to vote in support of a feel-good private member's resolution to try to have us all, as it were, sit around a campfire and sing ‘Kumbaya,’ and say what a wonderful deal they are doing with CETA. In fact, they are not doing any deal with CETA. The federal government is doing the CETA deal. The federal government operated by and controlled by the prime minister, probably the least-regarded prime minister, certainly in recent history in this province, the prime minister who people in this province have voted against, and the same prime minister this government launched an ABC campaign against only a couple of elections ago. Now all of a sudden they trust him absolutely.”
Truth is, none of it matters a whit.
To be blunt, asking the opposition to vote in favour of an agreement they’re not even allowed to see is like asking someone to sign a contract they haven’t read.
As petty political strategy, OK. You can see how the Tories might rub their hands together and say, “see, we forced the Liberals to vote against a $400-million fisheries fund, giggledy-giggle.”
But what does it actually say about how the administration views the value of the House of Assembly?
Simple. It says they do not value the House at all — that it is, at best, political playtime.
The end result?
As a province, we now officially support something we’re not allowed to see.
As a game, it’s one thing. As governance, it leaves a lot to be desired.