03 March 2008

"Petty, mean and intimidating"

And those are words from a guy who likes Danny.

Now admittedly, the guy hadn't seen NTV news on Friday night or seen the Telegram coverage, so he was only commenting on Paul Oram's version of the attack on Lorraine Michael.

So when the opposition does its job the Government, or at least one of its ministers throws out the threat of not supporting providing the money needed to offer opposition. I have to say it was not a classy move on Oram’s part. Petty, mean and intimidating. The Premier should put him on a leash.

R'uh R'oh.

'Cause here's where the whole thing started:

“Lorraine Michael is out calling on us to do this and do that, and saying she’ll be annoyed with government if we don’t get this done,” the premier told The Telegram late Friday.

“By way of interest, you should know this — Lorraine Michael now has a request in to the management committee (at the House of Assembly) for a raise. So here is the champion of the people out there, who’s calling on the government to do this and do that, and now, after all the heat over MHA salaries … has come back and looked for a special raise as leader of the New Democratic Party.”

That's gotta hurt something, especially when the piece goes back to the standard government Blackberry line right at the end, even if the excuse of blaming it all on Harper contradicts everything that preceded it:

That said the stepping stone, the $10 Billion carrot dangled in front of us and than cruelly yanked away by Ottawa would repair a lot of hospitals, roads, bridges, schools, sewers, water supplies and allow us to pay down our debt while we are in a positive cash flow position. Spending all of our surpluses to catch up on generations of under funding is going to leave us more reliant on the federal government when our non-renewable resources are depleted than we ever were.

You see, the provincial government has had growing income of its own for the past four years.  The surpluses are not the growth:  they are a sign of how massive the growth has been. They are also a clue has to how the provincial government's spending has grown over the same time period.  There's been more money spent in the past three years than at any time in the province's history ever. Newfoundland and Labrador spends more per capita on government operations than every provincial government in Canada except for Alberta.

And on top of that growth in budgeted spending, the cash surpluses (the money left over on annual operating budgets at the end of the year), have totalled almost $2.0 billion in 2005, 2006 and 2007 combined.

Yes, the cash coming in the door on top of what was forecast has actually been as much as the entire one-shot transfer from Ottawa's coffers in 2005.

So even with all the growth in public spending and with all the surpluses piling up, the provincial government still opted not to repair critical health care infrastructure, even though it clearly had the cash.

Randy Simms made Paul Oram look foolish because Simms wasn't talking about  "[s]pending all our surpluses."  He was talking about budgeting.  And he wasn't talking about chronic under-funding:  that suggests the prior governments had the cash but opted not to spend it.

Dead wrong, and even wronger  - if that's possible - considering that those words came from a former executive assistant to a cabinet minister.  As he should know, until now the provincial government often had to face a drop in revenues every year.  Often, provincial governments didn't have money to meet existing needs and normal inflation.  Having a windfall of almost a billion dollars was unthinkable and having such a bonus on top of huge growth in revenue anyway was the stuff of wild fantasy.  "Underfunded" only works if you understand the word means "didn't have the cash to do things with in the first place."

But that's not what he meant, clearly.

Nope, trotting out the "promise" myth is just like the attack on Lorraine Michael;  it's just a subtle version of the same kind of distraction.  The provincial government doesn't want a discussion in public of spending priorities based on accurate information.  Open, informed public discussion  - like a sitting legislature - gets in the way of government doing whatever it wishes.

What the "promise" fable returned to in that post is actually what Paul Oram was trying to do:  make excuses for why government did what it did.  Oram went on at length trying to explain why there were more demands on government cash than there was cash.

Yada, yada, yada.

Yeah and if Harper...

The attack on Michael is a scurrilous personal attack, but the goal remains the same.

It's all just a distraction.

Pretty fast update:

Well, your humble e-scribbler and two others pointed out the obvious, namely that the Premier actually started the attack.

The response?

Well the Premier needs a better attack dog because Oram never pulled it off very well.