14 June 2013

Ministerial Whimsy #nlpoli

Ever wonder why the provincial government passes laws and then never puts them into force?

Like the Sustainable Development Act that the Conservatives pushed through the House in 2007 and then abandoned.

Or the Court Security Act they passed in 2004, ignored for six years, then brought back with a couple of minor changes to the wording, repealed the old Act they’d never implemented, and passed through the House the new one as…wait for it… the Court Security Act, 2010. <fake dramatic music noise>Dunt…dunt… dah.

And it isn’t just legislation,  some of which from this 2010 list they actually did get around to putting in force.  There are lots of things that have dropped down behind the governmental cushions:

  • The Conservatives promised an economic policy review in 2006 and never did it. 
  • They started a literacy plan and haven’t finished it.
  • A natural gas royalty regime, and,
  • An overhaul of the oil royalty regime are both still untouched since 2007.
  • Whistleblower legislation.

Kinda weird that a government that make a big deal about it when someone else supposedly didn’t keep promises would make promises and not keep them.  Weirder still that they would go through the trouble of writing up new laws, passing them and then ignoring them.

Apparently, the cause is something we should probably call ministerial whimsy.  A story in the Telegram Thursday talked about the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act.  That’s another law that hasn’t been proclaimed and, as it turns out, won’t be.  The story included this paraphrase of comments by  Darin, king of uncommunication:

In an interview with The Telegram in May, Justice Minister Darin King said it’s likely that following the 2007 election, there was a cabinet shuffle and ideas changed. So while it had the support of the House, the act was left to wither on the vine instead of being proclaimed law.

Two things about this missing law.

First, we already knew the law was dead.  The Telegram told us that back in 2010.  The reason that then-justice minister Felix Collins offered back then was that government had spent a bunch of money on other things and didn’t need it. Apparently some groups like the status of women council also criticised the bill. You can find more details in an SRBP post from March 2010.

Second, King’s new version is actually a much better explanation for the chronic administrative problems this government seems to be having.  They can’t get all sorts of things finished.  or they start them and then abandon the promise or the plan in mid-stream.

Ordinarily laws are measures approved by the whole of cabinet.  As such, they are the sorts of things that the entire government has approved and therefore doesn’t want to give up.  In King’s version, one minister can bring something forward, get a nod of approval from his colleagues and then the whole thing could die if there’s a cabinet shuffle. 

There’s probably no other government in Canada that runs this way but King’s comments explain a whole bunch of things that otherwise don;t make sense.  You see, a lot of the abandoned laws and failed promises date from 2007.  In the run-up to the election, the whole Conservative crowd likely through as much stuff into the re-election goodie bag as they could in a wild-eyed effort to win every seat.  In some cases – not all but in some notorious examples like like say the whistleblower bill -  it is pretty obvious that the Conservatives had no intentions of delivering the promises. They just wanted votes so desperately that they did or said anything.

Government run like that would be pretty chaotic.  There’d be all sorts of shifting priorities.  Such a government would be an incredibly expensive thing.  Lots of money would go into starting up some scheme or other, getting it underway, and then dropping it in favour of the next bright, shiny object that caught someone’s eye.  It’s the kind of government where you’d have a helluva time getting your capital works done.  It’s the same kind of government where they could announce a whole raft of cuts one month and then abandon the cuts in favour of new hiring and tons of spending.  And it’s the kind of government where the Premier can announce government policy,  another minister would contradict the Premier, and then a week later the Premier changes her policy to the one the minister announced.

Come to think of it, a government run by that kind of whimsy would probably have crap poll results, too.

It all fits.