Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pancake politicians

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.

And did.

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.

5 comments:

NL-ExPatriate said...

Toe the national party line of doing what is in the best interest of the majority of the population to win as required by our system.

Who defends the best interest of the majority of the provinces when our system dictates that any and all must cater to the majority of the population which so happens to live in Ontario and Quebec 66% or 75% in the urban centers of Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver?

Our only chance of getting heard in Ottawa is to send an Independent who doesn't have to toe the national party line but rather can use his her one vote one voice to make our concerns heard and use his her vote to better our province in this so called federation.

Chuck Cadman, William Coaker http://www.heritage.nf.ca/law/fpu_politics.html

Coady would sell us all out for genetic experiments if it would further her own interests.

Frank Monk said...

Kudos to Ryan and Mr.Etchegary for asking tough questions of our MPs, something that is all too rare here in NL.

I live in Judy Foote's district and a few times a year I can look forward to her "newsletter". It doesn't contain any real information on her work on parliamentary committees, or on her stand on any contraversial issues, or on the way she voted on any bills. It is practically void of any info on what she is doing in Ottawa. Instead it is filled, front to back, with pictures of a smiling Judy along side individuals for their birthdays/anniversaries, at festivals/banquets, or at breafasts with some group/club. I don't know if she is a productive MP but she sure is skilled at using tax dollars to fund her cheerleading career. The sad part is it works, she keeps getting re-elected. Do people vote for her because she produces results for the distict, or because she attends a bunch of photo-ops?

Until people demand more serious priorities for our MPs I fear there will be little change in the federal policies that negatively impact NL.

I wish I could find out how much Judy spends on these publically funded photo-ops, how much she spends on travel, and the purpose of each trip she takes. However she has not seen it fit to provide such info in her newletters or on her webpage. It sickens me that a sitting MP can use public money to run a perpetual PR campaign, send out useless propaganda to households, and take out self- serving ads in newspapers.

The only hope we have is if enough people start looking at the bigger picture for the future of NL. We need to demand real action from MPs that brings benefits to the province and changes to fishery regulations. Making you feel important by showing up to get her picture taken at your birthday party should not be enough to buy your vote. Until more people get serious about what we expect NL MPs should be doing we will get more of the same from federal politics. Most of the current NL MPs are just in Ottawa to toe the party line. When they visit NL they seem to be nothing more than highly paid cheerleaders that whore out their celebrity at local photo-ops for votes.

WRB said...

Monk,

You can get all the info you need by submitting an Access to Information (ATI). While you are at it, submit a request to the NL govt for her spending accounts while she was a MHA. I would say it may surprise all of us.

On another note, I was in the Coast of Bays this past May. They and the folks on the South West Coast (Stephenville and PAB) never see her. I am told she spends most her time on the Burin Pennisula.

If you research all of this photos, it should tell you where they were taken.

Judy only got elected because of ABC. With a good NL Nationalist MP, the people of Radom - Burin - St. Georges would have a Real Voice in Ottawa who would not hold back to debate the issues so important to the future survival of this province, not their survival as an MP.

Wayne Bennett
NL Independent Candidate
Humber - St. Barbe - Baie Verte

WRB said...

Ryan,

If you asked this same question to a Conservative, NDP or Green MP, what would you expect would be their response?

Madonna said...

Damn, I'm sorry I missed it. Was planning on attending but didn't make it. Loved your article!