26 October 2016

The Mustafa Principle #nlpoli

Go back to Friday's post about false choices.

That's where you will find the explanation for the 11 hour marathon meeting.  The final agreement is more about the Premier's need to appear to be in control than it is about the substance of the decision.  That's because the government had already agreed to the major demand for clearing.

This was always a simple choice between clearing or not clearing the Muskrat Falls reservoir area of soil and trees before the final flooding.  In the meantime, Nalcor needed to hold back water to avoid an accidental, uncontrolled flood that would damage the work site.

The government accepted the major demand last week when they accepted the notion of some clearing of soil and vegetation.  Some morphed to all in the final version and, in the meantime, Nalcor gets to carry out its planned hold-back of water.

So what changed?
The Mustafa Principle 

Nothing actually.

More than anything else, this crisis showed how to deal with the current government. Protest. Make noise. Challenge them. They will back off. Guaranteed.

That message applies to everyone outside the Premier's Office. The Liberal cabinet, the Liberal caucus, the opposition parties and everyone else in the province.  Government currently runs on the Mustafa Principle, named after Will Farrell's character from the Austin Powers movies.  Ask a question three times and on the third time, you will get what you want.

In this case, you just have to protest.  If you want to understand how things work, go back to the list of completed access to information requests and look for the ones about those posters on the parkway. The Premier's Office spent way more time obsessing about those posters than they were actually worth. Even the Premier got into the exchange.  It's pretty clear he was upset by them and wanted them gone. Everything that happened afterward was about people trying to meet his demand for action.

If you need more evidence, look at the budget.  Government has caved on most things and on Thursday you will probably find how much more they are going to cave on because of public resistance to the budget.

Kicking the Bucket Can 

The experience of the past couple of weeks is confirmation of what we've been saying around these parts for weeks.  That does not bode well for the financial mess.  We have seen the extent of government action.  They won't be doing anything further unless the bankers demand it.

The Liberals, like the Conservatives before them, will kick the budget can down the road until, as in this case, it becomes a crisis.

That effectively seals Dwight Ball's political fate.  He will either dunderdale or barry before 2019. Ball will cruise along until he finally leaves,  as Kathy Dunderdale did, or he will get turfed by his party or caucus,  as happened to Leo Barry.  Kathy might have seen the writing on the wall but she gets credit for leaving on her own terms.

In the meantime, though,  local politics will get a lot noisier and lot more uncertain.  None of that is good for economic development or for the overall financial state.

It isn't good for Muskrat Falls, either.  There's now a whole new committee comprising a hockey-sock of people all united in one quality.  They have a vested interested in - among other things - the make-work of the biggest make-work project in history.  This project just got a lot costlier because the final agreement put the future ction of the project in the hands of a large and unwieldy committee made up of a gaggle of cats.

That goes back to the post on the political dynamics of this crisis. No one seems to realise that the communities in Labrador are not monolithic. They are diverse and complex. They do not agree and when they agree, the agreement may not stay in place for long.  In other words,  people of Labrador are like people everywhere.  What the provincial government has now done is a typical bureaucratic solution - form a committee  - but the committee has no direction, no imperative and no real purpose other than to appear like there is a resolution to the crisis over methylmercury.

As for the comment that any decision will be "supported by science" that is just a sop to this illusory idea that decisions can be reduced down to simple answers that appear, by magic.  The notion of "evidence-based decision-making is the illusion that science is actually magical.

But the only thing magical here is the thinking.  Real solutions never appear in a poof of smoke generated by "science" or by, in this case, an Italian parliament of a committee.