30 April 2015

The little things will get you #nlpoli

Maybe someone can point to this information somewhere please.  Maybe your humble e-scribbler missed it.

But  in the past couple of days, there’s been a simple number missing from the discussion of long-term care beds in Newfoundland and Labrador.

How many do we need?

Seems like a fairly obvious question.

Both Premier Paul Davis and health minister Steve Kent pointed to the current problem with chronic care patients taking up acute care beds.  That’s been happening for decades. They used a number of 237 as the number of beds being occupied in acute care facilities by patients needing long-term care.

But that isn’t all the demand.  That’s just the stuff that they actually have right at the moment.

So how many long-term beds do we need?

Apparently, that’s a detail that no one thinks is important.

On the government side, the Conservatives are giving themselves high fives for a single announcement that will eventually see the province get 360 new beds for patients needing long-term care.  But they didn’t say this was part of a long-term plan,  a strategy if you will.

The announcement should have run something like this:

  • We need more beds for our rapidly-aging population.
  • We figure we will need [insert number here]
  • Here’s our plan to deliver [the needed number]  by [insert date needed]


Job done.

But that isn’t what the Conservatives did.

The public sector unions have been on an ideological crusade against the idea of having the private sector involved in delivering long-term care.

But they have been completely uninterested in telling us how many beds we need,  how much money we have, and therefore how they plan to deliver the beds within the public’s financial means.

It’s not as tough as you might think, but apparently it is too tough for the province’s public sector unions.  They are just promising a noisy but ultimately useless jihad against anyone who doesn’t conform to their particular set of beliefs. 

As for the Liberals, Dwight Ball has been asking an awful lot of questions in the House but he seems unable to make any specific point. That is because he simply does not have one.

Ball is fixated on minor details. The government is using a British Columbia Crown corporation as its external consultant.  The BC government agency has extensive experience in delivering government services using private sector companies. 

Ball started Question Period on Wednesday by asking why the government used them. The answer was simple:  they have the expertise.  D’uh.  Then he wanted to know why the government didn’t use a competitive bidding process.  Ball didn’t seem to have any point to asking this:  he just seemed to have a need to ask questions.

Both Davis and Kent were able to deflect Ball’s questions because Ball simply asked questions with no purpose. If Ball had a point,  he would have structured his questions to expose weaknesses in the government argument. 

There are lots.

Ball just couldn’t find any of  them. 

Pro-tip:  one obvious one was “how many beds do we need?”

What has been clear over the past couple of days is that neither of the political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador is actually thinking about the public interest here. The Dippers are just doing what their union owners want them to do. The Conservatives are trying to score some points so that the polls go up. At least those two seem to have a focus, even if it is entirely on themselves  Dwight Ball…well…  it’s hard to figure out what Ball is doing, frankly, let alone why he is doing it. 

This afternoon, the provincial government will release its budget for the current fiscal year.  It will be an election budget with lots of happy news.  The Conservatives’ political strategy this week has been building up to the budget.  They calmed a whole bunch of people down at the start. Then they made two positive announcements.  Wednesday’s deal with the province’s municipalities takes away one huge irritant.  They will finish the week with a bang.

Then it will into the budget debate in May. There’s no accident that debate on the election budget will happen in May.  That’s when Corporate Research Associates is in the field.  The Conservatives seem to hope that if they keep going the way they’ve been going,  the polls will turn in May. People will be happy that news is good.  The NDP are playing their predictable part.  And so far Dwight Ball has been playing along with the Tory script as well.  Maybe it will produce a little shift in direction for Tory polling fortunes.

Little things count.