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Pam Frampton: N.L. politicians noticeably absent from PUB hearing

Free NL concerned citizens members (from left) Keith Fillier, James Murphy and Lori Moore, made a presentation to the Public Utilities Board (PUB) hearings
Free NL concerned citizens members (from left) Keith Fillier, James Murphy and Lori Moore made a presentation to the Public Utilities Board hearings in St. John’s on Thursday. — Telegram file photo

If the juvenile meme brought to you by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Party this week is any indication of where the party’s head is, God help us all.

In typical attack ad fashion, it took a picture of Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie and paired it with a quote from him — no context provided, of course — and ridiculed him for showing a lack of leadership.

Talk about amateur hour.

Talk about being out of touch with public sentiment.

The meme, shared in a tweet, attracted a brief flurry of reaction, mostly negative.
Lorna Yard replied to Liberal Party of NL, “Last year amid the harassment scandal the government heard loud and clear from the people of NL that we want decorum and respect from our political leaders. I guess you weren’t really listening at all.”

Seriously, if this sort of sophomoric slamming of one’s political opponent is what the Liberals think will win them the upcoming byelection in Windsor Lake, it says far more about them than Ches Crosbie.

If I’m getting any vibe from the electorate at all it’s that we are sick to death of petty partisan politics and want our elected representatives — or those vying for election — to listen to our concerns and tackle the issues that are fundamental to our daily lives.

When you think that ordinary citizens took time on Thursday to make an impassioned plea in front of the Public Utilities Board to reject further electricity rate hike requests, and not one politician was there to listen, it speaks volumes, even if they have made appearances at the protests outside.

In an earlier column, I suggested the political parties in this province put aside their differences and paltry rivalries and work together to come up with a plan to ease the blow to ratepayers once Muskrat Falls comes into play in 2020.

Instead, they’re still stuck inside their silos, where it’s every party for itself and the main goal is to hang onto power, or else snatch it from another party’s hands. It’s what’s wrong with politics here and always has been.

Do you know how many days provincial politicians have actually spent in the legislature this calendar year? A whopping 29 days. You’d get more time out of a guarantee for a toaster.

Twenty-nine days, as the province grapples with the biggest financial crisis it has faced in recent history and as taxpayers are literally worrying themselves sick over how they’re supposed to shoulder the crushing debt of Muskrat Falls.

Twenty-nine days, some of it spent on asinine blather and rhetoric.

Of course, critics will say the real work of politics gets done in the constituencies, not on the floor of the chamber.

Do you know how many days provincial politicians have actually spent in the legislature this calendar year? A whopping 29 days. You’d get more time out of a guarantee for a toaster.

Fair enough. So, are our politicians out in their communities holding town halls and listening sessions to actually pay more than lip service to people’s very real financial fears?

I’m seeing picture postcards on Twitter from MHAs enjoying the icebergs and the whales and the scenery and the sun, but I’ve seen precious few tweets offering solutions or real plans to tackle a gargantuan financial problem that will drive some people out of their homes and into abject poverty.

That’s a different kind of picture, eh?

Here’s a suggestion: if you see a politician out on the barbecue/festival/kitchen party self-promotion circuit this summer, while there’s still time to grip and grin with potential voters on a sunny day and post the photo-ops to Facebook and Twitter, why not ask them why they did not bother to attend a hearing of the Public Utilities Board where ordinary citizens told the stories of people so overburdened by the cost of electricity and other necessities of life that they had to close off most rooms in their house during the winter and just heat a space big enough to exist in.

And ask why they did not bother to reconvene the House of Assembly to work together to solve this most crushing and pressing of problems.

I’d love to hear the answer to that.

Pam Frampton is a columnist whose work is published in The Western Star and The Telegram. Email pamela.frampton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton

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