10 March 2008

A green throne speech by e.e. cummings

The bright new realities awaiting Newfoundland and Labrador demand the new way of thinking that My Government has boldly embraced. No longer can we afford to listen to those who try to impose on us their own outdated way of thinking. The time has come for us to chart our own course, to determine our own destiny, to think outside the box that others have tried to confine us within. New realities require new approaches. As the world continues to change, we must continue to adjust our game plan to ensure the approach we take is working.

2008 Speech from the Throne

The latest throne speech from the Williams Administration is a masterpiece of environmental policy.  It recycles everything from policies to themes to specific phrases.

It begins with the now cliche praise for someone else's accomplishments.

There is the obligatory mention of the 2005 federal handout agreement in a phrase which includes claims for things which the administration did not do:

As a result of our collective efforts to wrestle down the deficit, to ratchet up growth and to reach an agreement that fulfilled the promise of the Atlantic Accord, we are – for the first time in our history – poised to come off equalization very soon.

The annual deficits were slain and economic growth achieved due entirely to high oil prices and to oil and mineral development agreements negotiated before October 2003. The provincial government will achieve "have" status because of the achievements of people other than the ones currently sitting at the cabinet table.

Claiming credit for other people's money is not a new theme for this administration and the throne speech adds to the litany:

My Government has made significant investments in new health infrastructure and capital repairs and maintenance in health facilities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador over the last four years, totalling $128 million.


Our health care system has been further strengthened by an injection of $76 million over the last four years in capital equipment, which included such major investments as the addition of five new CT scanners throughout the province, an MRI machine in Corner Brook, a third MRI for the Janeway Children’s Hospital, and funding for two new radiation bunkers and radiation treatment machines for the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre.

The capital purchases were made with federal cash and, by the provincial governments own calculations, its repair and maintenance budget has been less than 414 million per year.  To do the math, simply deduct the $76 million from the $128 million.  The remainder works out to the four year total. In light of recent revelations about secret reports on the state of health care facilities in the province, such self-praise is surprising even for an administration that has never been afraid to polish its own knob.

Above all, this speech continues the administration's annual homage to e.e. cummings, a practice established with the Premier's first province-wide address.  There is no cliche too shop-worn, no phrase stripped of meaning from overuse to be trotted out yet again.

Ultimately, though, this throne speech proves to be riddled with the internally contradictory claims which beset the administration's policies.  In the same speech that proclaims a goal of self-reliance, there is the bitter moaning about hand-outs not delivered as promised. 

There is reference to strong government, but nothing on fixing the evident problems in an administration that have kept secret reports on hospitals, that have seen bridges used by thousands go without a proper engineering inspection, and that has seen some of the most serious breaches of personal privacy in the country.  The promise of whistle-blower protection laws will have to stand the test of experience.  After all, this is an administration which holds itself to be accountable and transparent, yet which took four years to proclaim its own accountability law and whose lobbyist registration legislation is honoured more in the breach than by the observance.

"quite frankly

on a go forward basis

we cannot be a die-ing race,

proud, strong and determined

net importer of people

masters of our own destiny

energy warehouse

my First Minister will oversee

my First Minister will

keep us whole

wrestle and ratchet and reach self-reliance

to chart our own course

our day is now beginning to dawn

to determine our own destiny

to think outside the box

with pride, hope and self-assurance

under the leadership of My First Minister

continue the journey we have started together

nothing could be further from the truth"

He spoke angrily.  And drank a glass of water.