13 October 2016

The politics of Sally Albright #nlpoli

A surprisingly large number of people loved Monday's post about the political impotence of protesting against Muskrat Falls now that the thing is pretty much finished.

As if to confirm their impotence,  some of the protesters turned up on Tuesday at the government's dog and pony show.  The Premier cut out the back door to avoid them but most of the participants went out the main entrance and stepped around the folks laying about at the protest.

There was a bit of cynical joke, of course, because what was going on inside the "consultation" was a display of political irrelevance for all the folks in the building.  The whole idea of these consultations is to make people feel like they are playing some role in making government policy when, in reality, they are just being played for fools.
No one could seriously believe that a great plan to bring the province to a new financial Jerusalem would be built on such stupendous ideas as creating an awareness program for artists. Or a once-yearly cup of coffee and a chat between the premier and aboriginal leaders in the province.

How about boosting the production of turnips and carrots in the province by 20%?  Getting people to lose weight, exercise more, and cut down on the Mary Browns?  Giving the government a website based on ideas that were common-place everywhere else on the planet at the turn of the century?

Nice ideas.  Without a doubt. Long overdue, for sure.  But not the sort of stuff you need to ask around about so you can be sure people don't get violently upset at the idea the government might deliver services people need without wasting money. Really. They canvassed a crowd of 150 highly-paid, and well-heeled folks people and asked them if they thought motherhood was a good idea.

And certainly nothing to do with $2 billion in chronic overspending,  ever-mounting debt, and an energy project that is going to come close to bankrupting us all. The talk of those things will go on somewhere else.  Somewhere very private.  Even the offshore oil and gas policy they chatted about on Tuesday will actually come out of a series of meetings involving a bunch of politicians, a few bureaucrats, and the offshore oil and gas companies.

According to the government consultation people the 150 people who got the invitations were supposed to represent the people of the province. A representative sample. A brief skim over the entire list made it pretty clear the vast majority of them occupied the top 10% of incomes in the province. Tuesday's meeting was about sucking up to the invitees, making 'em feel like the government was connected to them.  Stroking their egos.

Even the artists on the list were folks with international reputations.  They were hardly the crowd who would most benefit from a law that compelled the people sitting around the tables to pay artists a fair price rather than try to cop a freebie on the grounds that their gig was "good exposure."

For all that, there were still some people on Wednesday who felt bad about being left off the list. Townie municipal politicians never got an invitation,  at least not one address to the mayor of the capital city.  Ditto the head of the local status of women council.  Jenny Wright took to Twitter on Wednesday to ask why women's groups weren't invited.

The thing about these group ego-gropes is that a lot of the people in the room know what is going on. The government has been at this so long now the folks who wind up with invitations have been through it at least once before. They know the whole thing is a scam. These savvy players show up,  go through the motions, smile and clap on cue. But they are really just putting on a show. They know how to make like Sally Albright in the diner.

The folks all upset on Wednesday should all consider themselves lucky the government crowd didn't insult their intelligence by inviting them in the first place.  They should look, instead, for a way to have an impact where the government politicians and their bureaucrats aren't controlling the agenda.