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Ball celebrates small successes

Premier Dwight Ball, flanked by Government Renewal Secretariat executive director John Cowan and the secretariat's senior policy advisor Katie Nornan, releases the Liberal government's report card at  Confederation Building media centre Monday.
Premier Dwight Ball, flanked by Government Renewal Secretariat executive director John Cowan and the secretariat's senior policy advisor Katie Nornan, releases the Liberal government's report card at Confederation Building media centre Monday.

Premier Dwight Ball gave himself a glowing report card Monday for how things have gone during the 4 1/2 months since he unveiled his signature government program “The Way Forward.”

And Ball set out some new detail for the next year’s worth of Way Forward ambitions, which his government will grade itself on a year from now.

But the actual meat of the announcement was a bit hollow, with the government touting small actions as big successes, and setting targets for future action as late as 2025 — well past the next provincial election.

“If we’re serious about securing a future for our province, these are targets that’ll help us get there,” Ball said.

“This is a path to get us where we need to be.”

Monday’s “report card” on the government’s performance was filled with red checkmarks denoting successfully completed goals, but closer scrutiny revealed fairly dubious progress.

For example, the government touted a saving $1.6 million by reducing the amount of leased office space. But digging down into the details, it counted the move by the English School District from Atlantic Place in downtown St. John’s to cheaper office space.

In actual fact, the school board announced the move back in April 2016 — six months before the Way Forward strategy was even published.

Ball said that counts, because the English School District actually physically moved offices in the last few months.

Similarly, Ball touted the fact that the government passed public procurement reform — new legislation that will change the way public tendering and requests for proposals work.

But the new Public Procurement Act isn’t actually the law of the land today; even though it’s been passed by the House of Assembly, it still needs to be formally proclaimed by the government to come into force, which can’t happen until all the nitty-gritty regulations underpinning the law are written.

Ball wouldn’t say when the government plans to proclaim the law.

“Getting it done right is more important,” he said.

“When it’s done, it’s done, and it’ll be done right.”

One notable facet of the next-year goals is a focus on jobs.

The government will establish a cabinet committee on jobs, and require women’s employment plans for infrastructure projects, along with some industry moves meant to help create jobs.

This comes as the government is forecasting a rise in unemployment to nearly 20 per cent as three megaprojects all clew up.

The government says that all together, the goals over the next year “will support an average of 9,300 person years of employment annually.”

The government was also celebrating Monday the fact that it has developed a logo that tourism operators can use to promote public Wi Fi. The government won’t actually provide Wi Fi, it will just let tourism operators use the logo if they have Wi Fi.

On some other successfully completed items, very little actual work was done.

The government touted that it has adopted a “health-in-all-policies approach” to government. Officials couldn’t actually name any healthy policies that have been adopted. They’re only celebrating the fact that they’ve adopted the approach, which presumably will result in policies sometime later.

Another notable facet of the Way Forward plan was that many of the goals are set for 2022 or even 2025.

In order to hold the premier accountable for meeting those goals, Ball would have to win the 2019 election, serve a full second term and then run and win in the 2023 election, too.

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Ball touts government success, amid criticism

With quite a bit of hoopla, Premier Dwight Ball unveiled the update for his government’s signature government management strategy: “The Way Forward.”Premier Dwight Ball says the next phase of his The Way Forward plan will focus on job creation and economic growth.

But the actual meat of the announcement was a bit hollow, with government touting small actions as big success, and setting targets for future action as late as 2025 — well past the next provincial election.

Ball released a “report card” on how things have gone since the original Way Forward strategy was published back in November.

But a bunch of the red checkmarks denoting success on the report card were actually suspiciously thin.

For example, the government touted a savings of $1.6 million by reducing the footprint of leased office space, but digging down into the details, they counted the move by the English School District from Atlantic Place in downtown St. John’s to cheaper office space.

But in actual fact, the school board announced the move back in April 2016 — six months before the Way Forward strategy was even published.

Similarly, Ball touted the fact that the government passed public procurement reform — new legislation that will change the way public tendering and requests for proposals work.

But the new Public Procurement Act isn’t actually the law of the land today; even though it’s been passed by the House of Assembly, it still needs to be formally proclaimed by government to come into force.

Ball wouldn’t say when the government plans to actually proclaim the law.

On some other successfully completed items, very little actual work was done.

The government touted that it has adopted a “health-in-all-policies approach” to government. Of course, officials couldn’t actually name any healthy policies which have actually been adopted; they’re only celebrating the fact that they’ve adopted the approach, which presumably will result in policies sometime later.

Another notable facet of the Way Forward plan was the fact that a lot of the actual goals are set for 2022 or even 2025.

In order to hold Ball accountable for actually meeting those goals, he would have to win the 2019 election, serve a full second term and then run and win in the 2023 election too.

All of this received a tepid response from the business groups who were in attendance at Monday’s news conference, and a predictably negative response from the opposition parties.

Mostly they were all focused on the provincial budget, which is scheduled to be delivered next week.

(This story has been amended with an updated version).

 

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