11 November 2005

Why government "consultations" are self-serving nonsense

Province's energy "plan" discussion document.

Basically, a summary of oil and gas issues that gives the ones convenient to the provincial government. More on that to come.

Doesn't give any real indication of suggested policy directions.

Two years to write a precis.

That's one reason why government "consultation" is a waste of time.

But here's a more pointed one:

PetroNewf, the province's hydro corporation cum eightth sister.

It's already underway.

The Premier is committed to it. Three people got fired to make room for the new staff. The rest of us couldn't stop this little juggernaut short of shooting people and that ain't gonna happen.

so what does the consultation document say?

"Expanding Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro

Another potential way to increase benefits from the provinceÂ’s offshore oil and natural gas sector is a direct or indirect investment in one or more of the industry sectors by Government, alone or with partners. Expanding Newfoundland and Labrador HydroÂ’s (NLH) role in energy development is a priority of this Government with the strategic objective to increase the benefits we receive from all our energy resources. This Government will work with NLH as it expands its business operations to become a broader-based energy corporation in electricity, wind-power, other renewable energy sources, and in oil and gas. This might include partnering with other oil and gas operators.

The challenge for any petroleum-producing jurisdiction, especially one in the early stages like Newfoundland and Labrador, is to decide on policies that balance fiscal and economic benefits while limiting risks to the province and its citizens. These can involve difficult choices, between policies that foster more employment and local business activities, or those that provide direct revenue to support public programs like health care and education." Newfoundland and Labrador Energy Plan Discussion Paper Page 28.

That reads like the Blue Book section: "This Government will work with..." as if it already isn't doing it. That's misleading in the extreme.

"That might include partnering with other oil and gas operators". Another vague pos statement. Don't tell me what it might mean. Tell me what you have decided already, since the decisions are already made.

The second paragraph merely repeats bland observations - typical government pap - about the theoretical and difficult policy choices.

What was needed here was two things:

1. The business case on which Dan the Man built his Plan that's already out of the can. Let's see the actual details of what is underway at PetroNewf.

which will therefore lead us to ...

2. A detailed examination of the "difficult policy choices" that are left to be made. Let's see the options before we chose. In this case it seems we ought to "discuss" the deficiencies of the discussion document rather than the "difficult policy choices".

The first one - to follow the course of a state-owned enterprise entering the private sector in an area in which it has no expertise - that one has already been made. And we can't suck that one back.

The best we can hope for at this point is damage control.

If by some miracle we could get our hands on the internal government documents, I'd lay money the bureaucrats noted somewhere that this isn't a consultation process at all.

It is a "confirmation process".

People are expected to show up and give their blessing to whatever vague things they are asked to approve.

We needn't worry our pretty heads about things.

Dissent - to use the Premier's curious term for people who don't agreement with him completely and unreservedly - is not required, and heck, may not even be permissible soon.

And from some far-off farm we can still hear the lowly animals singing...

"Say what you think
But the best thing to think
Is nothing -
That's excellent thinking."

Followed by a rousing chorus of Beasts of England.