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Letter: The value of public opinion

The people of the United Kingdom voted in 2016 to leave the European Union.  The day after the vote, a cartoon appeared in a British newspaper showing two members of Parliament walking past the House of Commons. The caption read as follows: “that’s the last time we will ask the people for their opinion.” Obviously, a little British humour in the face of what many consider to be a devastating decision.

A few weeks ago, the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council submitted to Premier Dwight Ball a report containing the views of its members as to how the government could proceed with solving our monumental deficit problem. I realize that the Employers’ Council exists to further the interests of its members, but they had apparently given some thought to the matter of the deficit and believed that the premier should know their opinions. Instead of accepting their report and offering to at least consider it, the premier, in an interview with reporters, dismissed the report out-of-hand as a “paper exercise.” I am bewildered as to why, apart from some petty political reason, he would have reacted in this way.  As premier and political leader of our province, he has a profound duty to listen to all of the people on critical issues.

I think that it is high time for the premier, now completing his second full year in office, to broaden his thinking and welcome any and all serious input that might just lead to a more robust reaction to the crisis.

We have in our province a deep pool of expertise in environmental matters, business, academia, labour and the social sciences that have helped create a significant level of prosperity. I am aware from listening to some of them in various settings that there is a willingness to come forward and participate, under the leadership of the government, in the lengthy discussions that would be critical and necessary if a serious roadmap is to be created to guide us out of this mess.  It is very disheartening therefore to hear our premier dismiss, in such a cavalier manner, reasoned and vital input, and to imply that it is of little or no value.

I think that it is high time for the premier, now completing his second full year in office, to broaden his thinking and welcome any and all serious input that might just lead to a more robust reaction to the crisis. Such a continuing exercise would lead to concrete solutions and indeed a raising of hope among our citizens.  Continued inaction would suggest that perhaps the premier shares the view as expressed in the cartoon, that outside input will not be welcome.

I attended the Muskrat Falls panel presentation on the evening of Dec. 11. The panelists — Sister Elizabeth Davis, David Vardy, Steve Tomlbin and James Learning — presented their well-informed opinions as to how the terms of reference for the pending Muskrat Falls inquiry should be altered to enable the commissioner to shed light on the covert decision-making process which led to the sanctioning of the project. There was overwhelming consensus that the terms of reference as written are glaringly inadequate and that environmental, social and many other issues must be specifically included. The evening concluded with a collective view that the people must be heard.

My concern, based on the premier’s reaction to public opinion so far, is that he will dismiss out-of-hand the excellent work of the panel and its specific suggestions for expanding the terms of reference. If we ever needed strong and informed leadership it is now as we become more aware of the potentially catastrophic future that awaits us. 

Such leadership and trust in public opinion could result in his being re-elected.

 

Andrew Grant

St. Johns

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