There are various ways to gage the performance of a NL politician.
Some constituents are impressed by the sheer number of pancake breakfasts, community barbeques, seniors’ visits, family-fun days, and Town Hall meetings held over a term in office — as evidenced by the steady stream of advertisements publicizing each and every event in the front section of the weekend paper.
Other constituents are awed by the tabloid-size newsletter mailed to their homes every few months to extol the virtues of their representative.
That’s even though the politician or their staffers wrote the newsletter.
I look for a little more in a politician.
To that end, I attended a Town Hall on the Economy last week hosted by Siobhan Coady, Liberal Member of Parliament for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.
That, and I’m a shit disturber.
I ran against Coady in the 2008 federal election, and, despite the fact I’ve since severed political ties with the New Democrats, I can still turn a few heads at a Liberal Town Hall.
I learned of the Town Hall (with special guest star, “the Hon. Scott Brison, MP and Liberal Finance critic”) from an advertisement in the front section of the Saturday, Jan. 15, Weekend Telegram.
No doubt, the Town Hall ad (page A5) was paid for with taxpayers’ money, as was the generic Coady contact-info advertisement 10 pages deeper (page A15).
Score for Coady — two hits in the front section of a Saturday Telegram.
You can’t buy that publicity.
Oh wait — of course she can.
There was another ad for the Town Hall on the back page of Coady’s newspaper.
It’s fair to call it Coady’s paper when all 15 of the published photographs are of her, either smiling or concerned, but lovely images every one.
No wonder incumbents are so darn hard to beat.
Their propaganda is so professional.
The Liberal Town Hall was well planned, right down to the Newfoundland tartan cloth covering the refreshment table and the COADY sign hanging above the speakers’ heads.
Twenty-five of the 36 seats were filled, mostly with paid staffers and long-time Liberal soldiers.
Which was to be expected.
Coady quickly introduced Brison, a minister in the Paul Martin government and heavyweight in the Michael Ignatieff Opposition.
The two condemned the Stephen Harper government for its $16-billion fighter jet contract and plan to spend billions more on prisons.
The MPs touched on topics such as student debt, home heating, and retirement income, before opening the floor to the audience.
There was little talk of NL-specific issues until Gus Etchegary was recognized.
He questioned the federal Liberal stand on an inquiry into the NL fisheries, similar to the inquiry called last year by the Harper government into the disappearance of salmon from British Columbia’s Fraser River.
B.C. salmon later reappeared in record numbers.
Our codfish have been gone these 20 years, with no sign of a return.
Etchegary also raised the issue of ongoing Canada/EU free trade talks and warnings of possible negative impacts on East Coast fish stocks.
Neither Coady nor Brison responded to Etchegary’s questions and commentary, moving quickly to the next speaker.
The MPs were there for input more than output.
I tried to pin down the two MPs with the last question of the evening.
In regards to the call for an inquiry into the fisheries, Coady said it was the first she heard of it. “I need more details,” she said.
As for a warning about the possible negative impact of Canada/EU trade talks on East Coast fish stocks — a warning issued recently by Maude Barlow and the Council of Canadians — Brison said the council often makes controversial statements to attract new “subscriptions.”
But he said he would look into the concerns.
Which was something.
Federal election buzz sweeps the country.
There’s more concern than ever for NL’s future in light of Danny Williams’ resignation, and warnings about fiscal life after record-high oil revenues start falling off in as little as 7 years.
Without oil this place would be destitute.
Our politicians (incumbents and challengers) must be constantly confronted on their vision (and their party’s vision) for Newfoundland and Labrador.
MPs must be measured by their mettle, not their pancake mix.