26 July 2007

Summer of Love Day 30: Carrying on business

Flanked by two Progressive Conservative candidates in Bay Roberts, Premier Danny Williams told reporters on Wednesday that what government has been doing over the past couple of weeks is just government "carrying on business."

The optics were pretty clear about what really happened.

The local Tories were in Bay Roberts for what was described as a caucus meeting, that is a meeting of elected members of the House of Assembly. But, it was really a meeting of Progressive Conservative candidates in the undeclared election campaign. Normally, unelected people, like Tory-come-lately Steve Kent, don't get to sit in a meeting of elected members of the legislature from a particular political party.

It was also fairly clear the Tories were having an election meeting since the Premier arrived in his most obvious visual campaign symbol: the Winnebago, or as it some wags have started to call it in this, the Summer of Love, the mobile Love Shack.

So what has been going on over the past few weeks? Let's look at the numbers of news releases issued by the provincial government for 2004 to 2007. For our purposes, we'll exclude offshore board routine announcements and environmental bulletins since these are routine, statutory announcements. What's left is revealing.

Total News Releases, July, By Year

2004: 93
2005: 91
2006: 76
2007: 98 (to 25 July)

The drop in 2006 can be attributed to disruption caused by the House of Assembly spending scandal which broke in late June.

Media advisories/Notices of ministers attending local festivals. July, By Year

2004: 13/1
2005: 16/0
2006: 28/0
2007: 28/5 (to 25 July)

Money announcements, July, By Year

2004: 37
2005: 22
2006: 10
2007: 37 (to 25 July)

The year of the first Williams budget, money flowed or appeared to flow. The disastrous January 5 announcement of wage freezes affected public opinion and government responded with a series of positive announcements to blunt the fall in popular support. The drop in the polls continued up to October when the Premier's war against Ottawa contributed to a dramatic upturn in voter support.

Note, however, that cash announcement in the 25 days of July 2007 already done are already at the same level of 2004 and they are double those of 2005 and almost quadruple those of 2006.