Cheers and Jeers

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Jeers: to bad ideas.

For a normally astute and populist politician, Liberal Tom Osborne sure put his foot in one this time. The issue? Photo radar. Osborne was suggesting last week that, given speeding concerns in the capital city, the provincial government should give the City of St. John’s permission to start using photo radar. Here’s a blunt message, Tom: if there’s one thing a politician would not want to be remembered for, it’s being the guy to put photo radar in place. Why? Because it’s been a political nightmare — and often an operational one — in many places where it’s been introduced. In Ontario, highway photo radar became a lightning rod for political discontent. And cities like Winnipeg have found the equipment doesn’t fix bad habits; it just moves them and makes new ones. Drivers race down streets until they reach areas with speeding and red-light cameras, and then slow to a crawl before racing away again in areas without cameras. It moves the speeding problem around — and worse — revenues from the cameras have plunged, so the city has had to keep raising ticket penalties to cover their own costs. Since it doesn’t solve speeding problems, you get no political cred for bringing it in. But everyone who gets a ticket sure will remember your name.

Jeers: to the politics of us and them. Here’s Premier Kathy Dunderdale, speaking in the House of Assembly about the province’s access to information legislation: “Mr. Speaker, I do not believe the members opposite understand anything about the ATIPP legislation. Fifty per cent of the requests, by the way, that we get at the ATIPP office come from the opposition parties; 24 per cent come from the media. There is only one-quarter of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians looking for information, Mr. Speaker.” Only one-quarter are from this province? So, if you’re in the media or the opposition, there’s no way you could be a Newfoundlander or Labradorian? Interesting use of language.

Cheers: to repetition. If you cover the House of Assembly, you can be forgiven for developing “Mr. Speaker” fatigue. That’s because politicians of all stripes seem to lard up their questions and answers with as many “Mr. Speakers” as they can as they dig for words. Just one random day? By the end of question period on Tuesday, only an hour or so in, the words “Mr. Speaker” had been uttered 142 times. One of the worst offenders? Premier Kathy Dunderdale answered 11 questions that day, with 31 “Mr. Speakers,” including lines like “Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has a terrible time with facts. He really does, Mr. Speaker, because I certainly do not mind at any time in this House or anywhere else having a debate upon the facts.” In other repeated words? Last week, we told you about the strange and sudden appearance of the word “vibrant” in many government press releases. Well, the vibrancy is continuing. This week, we got releases saying “Renewed aquaculture strategy to strengthen province’s vibrant economy” and “Engaging young people helps build a vibrant province,” while the lease of a much-refurbished former provincial ferry (built in 1968) was headlined, “Responsible decisions support strong communities and a vibrant economy.” Anyone smell a branding campaign?

Geographic location: Ontario, Winnipeg

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  • Dolf
    November 25, 2013 - 13:49

    Vibrant? Beats "piece", or "Mr. Speaker".

  • Virginia Waters
    November 25, 2013 - 10:06

    Good hat trick of jeers today Mr. Editor. Osborne needs to stop and think a little more before charging off in all directions. We have way more traffic in the city and a lot more congestion - especially with all the construction - but has the rate of accidents increased dramatically? In any event, most of us aren't looking for more government intrusion. Nor can cameras use judgement or interpret context when they accuse you of a traffic violation. Find another hobby horse Tom. And yes Dunderdale is annoying when she talks - period. She has such a condescending tone. And as for Smith or Kent, we don't care who initiates these requests (indeed I though government was supposed to stop asking). The opposition and the media are both representing our interests when seeking information that should be public. We can probe less because they are probing more. But that's O.K. there's a fix coming for that problem - and for you - in 2015.

  • John Smith
    November 25, 2013 - 07:12

    I'm sure the message the Premier was trying to convey was that 75% of ATIPP requests come from the opposition and the media, and 25% from citizens. The Privacy comissioner, and the federal watchdog has no issues with Bill 29...it's just the oppositon and the media who constantly bleat about it.

    • W McLean
      November 25, 2013 - 11:59

      The Privacy Commissioner was appointed by the government that brought in Bill 29. And the "federal watchdog" has no jurisdiction in the matter, and has said nothing about Bill 29.