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LETTER: Let’s look before we leap to leadership and elections

The Confederation Building in St. John’s. Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
The Confederation Building in St. John’s. Joe Gibbons/The Telegram - Saltwire

It wasn’t until noon Monday, March 23, that the Liberal leadership convention chairs finally came to their senses and postponed their leadership race. Finally, they put public health ahead of political expediency.

Just a few days ago, these same Liberals were just clever rhetoricians showing little regard for the vulnerable state of this province’s people.

I could not believe the news last week that the Liberal campaign would roll on amid the worst public health emergency that this province and the entire planet has ever faced.

Convention co-chair, John Samms stated at the time, “We have arranged that the entire process … will be such that there is an elimination of personal contact.” Last week, candidate Dr. Andrew Furey said that the virtual “process has the potential to offer democracy at home.”

The good doctor and his insiders and handlers, by their mad dash to the finish line, were really showing a disdain for democracy. By rushing headlong with this coronation, what was really being eliminated was democratic scrutiny, political dialogue, thorough questioning, discussion and debate of the serious issues currently facing this province.

Leadership candidate, John Abbott, and a few other party members, asked unsuccessfully for a postponement of the leadership sprint to give families time to deal with the current health care and economic crisis.

Not only leadership conventions but any elections in this province should be delayed to allow some soul-searching, some problem solving, some sober second thought on the economy.

Both local and national media in recent months have highlighted the staggering amount of our provincial debt ($1.4 billion in debt charges alone this fiscal year). The province desperately needs a plan to deal with rate mitigation from Muskrat Falls; we need to examine the recent economic fallout of the severe winter storms, the sudden drop in world oil prices and the current health and financial ramifications from the Covid-19 emergency.

In short, we are being warned from many sources to make some tough decisions ourselves before Ottawa and/or lenders outside the province force choices on us.

Since 2016, Edsel Bonnell, has been writing letters to The Telegram (his latest was Feb. 29, 2020) calling on the Dwight Ball government to establish “An Investigative Body”, “A Task Force” to study our economy and come up with some hard-nosed decisions to address an economic crisis which leaves us teetering on bankruptcy and default. This task force would be comprised of our “best and brightest” from our civil service, university ,etc. This study’s mandate would be to outline a strategy to restructure our province without influence from interest groups and parochial concerns.

Whether we take Bonnell’s suggestion or some other variation of it, we must realize that the time for action is running out.

This province cannot simply wait for a Liberal coronation to fast track us to our next premier. We cannot wait for some young knight to ride in on his steed, saddle bags bursting with election goodies, hype and false hope. As a province, we have had enough merchant princes and saviours and false messiahs with their misguided mega visions devoid of real economics, planning, oversight and constraint.

We need a learned task force to analyze fully our high electricity costs. We need to plan and prepare for the renewed Upper Churchill Agreement before 2041. The Task Force needs to examine also the big public policy issues (ie election financing, wiser spending in health and education, prudent planning to protect our most vulnerable).

The release of this think tank report to politicians would hopefully restore real public discourse and debate in this province without fear of retribution.

Only after we as citizens have stared painful truths in the face would we be ready to choose a leader, a decisive premier and a new government pledged to enact the findings of the task force.

Only then, would we as citizens be ready to demand public accountability from elected officials on all sides of the house.

The basis of democratic leadership is when well-informed citizens desire to take their province back from the power brokers and from the hands of political elites who currently pull the strings in the back rooms.

I write this letter amid social distancing in very perilous times.

The sages say that adversity introduces us to ourselves. Hopefully, that is true for our province as well.

Robert Dawe


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