26 June 2009

Kremlinology

Years ago, your humble e-scribbler studied Soviet politics.

The tightly controlled, secretive, autocratic society of Bolshevik politics, gave rise to a whole bunch of western academics who tried to figure out the workings inside the seat of power – the Kremlin – by studying all sorts of seemingly insignificant details.

They’d study photographs to see who was standing next to the acknowledged powerful in order to spot either the rise or fall of certain people within the leadership.  They’d study the wording of documents to see how things changed and see if that meant something.

There’s a pattern to regimes and so these Kremlinologists would look for changes in the patterns.  Then they’d try to figure out what the changes meant.

Sometimes it’s fun to play the old games again.

Like say studying a news release of government money for a project to see if there is anything that doesn’t fit the usual pattern.

Lookee here:  a news release announcing that a regional municipal service organization on the Northern Peninsula is getting an $232,000 of provincial money to help it fight fires and look after garbage disposal.

The money is called an “investment.”

Nothing strange there.  The current provincial administration doesn’t spend money.  It invests public cash in all sorts of things.

Taking out the town trash is called “waste management”.

Again, another classic piece of modern bureaucratese.

Given any government’s record of spending public cash on dubious projects, some wags would suggest that the act of government spending is itself really an exercise in “waste management”, but that’s another tale.

Back to the case at hand:

Things are actually looking pretty innocuous so far.

Quotes?

Yep.

Two.

One from the minister responsible for helping towns fight fires and haul away their refuse, the Honourable Diane Whelan, she of the multiple announcements of money she didn’t actually have.

Another one from the guy running the local crowd that are getting the “investment”.

Another couple of checks in the standard boxes.

Wait a second.

Where’s the quote from the member of the House of Assembly for the area?

If there’s one thing any government of any stripe does, it’s give the local boy credit for “investments” especially when said local boy is one of their own team.  Just this week alone, Harry Hunter got a quote added to spending on a school in his district.

Flower’s Cove and environs is in the district represented by Whelan’s cabinet mate ,Trevor Taylor.

Now, Trevor is no ordinary fellow.  He ran once for the New Democrats and then, in 2001, was elected for the provincial Conservatives in one of two by-elections on the Great Northern Peninsula. 

That two-fer was heralded by newly minted Conservative  leader Danny Williams as the first ripples of a Tory tsunami that would sweep the Liberals out and put the Tories back into power.

Trevor’s been in cabinet a while and has carried the can for a number of projects, good and bad.  He’s been a loyal soldier and right now he’s got a few thousand constituents up in arms over everything from the downturn in the forest industry to the downturn in the fishery.

The loggers blocked a road this week trying to get a meeting with Trevor.  The fisherman plan a protest aimed at the provincial government’s lack of help  this week now that they’ve already protested about the federal government’s lack of help.

And it’s not like lesser mortals than cabinet ministers don’t get to hand out the pork.

Tory backbencher Derrick Dalley  - a recently appointed parliamentary secretary to the education minister - turned up in the Lewisporte Pilot back in April handing out a cheque from the provincial government for money from a grant program to support sports initiatives.  The money was described as a “donation”, the new term for government program spending that isn’t an “investment”.

Derrick’s likely not alone, by the by.  Since the spending scandal dried up the slush fund that used to be constituency allowances, the government crowd seem to have discovered the political usefulness of letting the crowd on the back benches do some bacon-doling.  His colleagues are out there with cheques, too;  they just don’t always make the local paper.

Anyways…

No quote from the cabinet minister of some seniority about spending in his own district at a time when the guy could use the good coverage.

And it’s not like Trevor hasn’t had other shared announcements.

Hmmm.

It’s not like he’s Ray Hunter or something, either.

Ray’s the guy who showed up in the legislature this past sitting to find his desk and chair moved right next to the exit door.  He probably had to keep shifting to avoid getting the door in the head every time someone went out for a leak or a smoke.

Ray’s also had to defend himself publicly from accusations by angry constituents that he is not allowed to speak freely within his caucus.  Of course, that pretty much confirmed them.

Hmmm, indeed.

Now the thing about kremlinology is that it is one of the more dismal of dismal sciences.  Think of it as economics but without the accuracy.

This omission could be nothing at all.

Or it could be a sign.

A sign of something very important.

-srbp-

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