Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bullying is Completely Fine ….

…. as long as the bullies are on your side …. or so it seems.

I saw this story on the website of radio station VOCM this morning.

Premier Danny Williams says he's pleased the feds did what had to be done to settle with Abitibi Bowater. Williams calls it a good end to the battle. Ottawa will pay Abitibi Bowater $130 million to settle the company's claim that Newfoundland and Labrador illegally seized its assets in the province. Ottawa says it wanted to head off a long legal fight and maintain its commitment to NAFTA. Williams says the Prime Minister has made it clear to him that money will come entirely from Canadian taxpayers without any contribution from the provincial government. The Premier says it had to be done, and calls it fair pointing out our contribution to the country. Interim Opposition leader Kelvin Parsons and NDP leader Lorraine Michael agreed. Michael says the settlement is all part of being a federation.

I found this story to be interesting on many levels.

First of all, Abitibi was expropriated illegally by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador …. which led to the Government taking ownership of cleaning up the ecological mess left behind … which led to Abitibi suing whoever it could get its hands on that the Government had broken a number of laws …. which led to the Government of Canada paying out $130 million of Canadian taxpayer dollars so that there would be no downstream ramifications in regards to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Act).  I left out a few steps here for brevity, including who would be on the hook for pensions, etc.

So Premier Williams applauds the federal government action as a good end to the battle.  It is a great end - he broke a number of laws (including international trade laws)  through application of excessive hubris and the Canadian tax payer foots the bill.  The opposition parties agree with him, saying that this is what it is to be in a federation.  Of course they will agree – they voted in favor of the illegal action also and so they need this to “go away”.

Since when is acting without thinking, breaking the law and laying it on the backs of Canadians who had nothing to do with it “all part of being a federation”. 

Meanwhile, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador bow down and pay homage once again to the savior who has brought them to the promised land.

It seems that when bullies and ego-filled individuals run rampant over others, doing as they choose at anyone’s expense, it’s ok as long as the bully is on your side.

When the bully is against you, that’s another story.  But for now, the bullies are on the side of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and therefore don’t get scrutinized.  The bullies can do no wrong, so why bother with an examination of what is really going on in the province?

There are numerous examples in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador (and elsewhere) where the ruling elite work to create greater opportunity for themselves and spin it to the general public to make the general public believe that this is all being done for the greater good.  Meanwhile, they work hard to make sure that the gap between them and their minions stays significant.

Statistics are often waved around to make sure that everyone understands the incredible benefits being brought to them.

After all – statistics don’t lie.

True – but they can be manipulated to illustrate any fact that needs to be established.

Ask people in rural communities of Newfoundland and Labrador how well the government’s policies are doing for them and you will hear a different story from many of them.

But as long as the bully is for them and not openly against them, people will complain in private and laud the bully in public.

But ……. what if the bullies are puppets themselves?

What if the bullies are fulfilling their purpose perfectly for a greater cause that even they are unaware of?

The bureaucrats inside the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador wield the real power.  Don’t believe me?  Read the incredible book “Against the Tide” by Dr. Doug House (if you can still find a copy).

The bureaucrats, connected with the upper echelons in the province, drive domestic and national policy for the benefit of a few. 

However, in order to accomplish this, they need a few people who are easily manipulated, are good in front of the camera and can take the heat when things explode.  We call these people politicians.  The electorate enables the process by voting those people in.

Politicians who are publicly weak are of no value to bureaucrats because they don’t carry out the deeds they are called to carry out. However, independent thinkers are not welcome either because they resist what they are being told.  Ask Senators Beth Marshall or Fabian Manning how much independent thinkers are welcome in the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

What are needed are people with insufficient egos who can be manipulated to steam roll over others and who are offered rewards at the end of their service. 

What are needed are people who don’t understand business but will force-feed the electorate with useful statistics given to them by bureaucrats to establish a position that looks inarguable.

What are needed are people who don’t understand that they are being used to promote an agenda that they can be convinced is their own.  Ask former Premier Clyde Wells what happens when the elected official discovers the agenda he hoped to bring in is irrelevant.

What are needed are people who take things personally and make every disagreement a personal issue, to keep everyone off balance and to prevent people from asking too many penetrating questions.  Someone should ask Premier Williams or Deputy Premier Dunderdale why every issue is a personal issue; where the primary objective in any disagreement is to personally humiliate people who object to their style or ideas, using language like “pessimist” or “anti-Newfoundland” to publicly embarrass their opponent in the eyes of the people of the Province.

What is also needed is a group of people with insufficient leadership experience so that they can be easily directed.  The leadership void within the ruling party is obvious but they are riding so high in the polls that this doesn’t seem to matter.

These are the people the bureaucrats need to run for office. 

They are good people in many ways – good family people, well-intentioned, backgrounds that bring a lot of different ideas to the table, etc.  But they also have the perfect mix of attributes of value to the true ruling party in Newfoundland and Labrador – they are a group of people easily manipulated to carry out an agenda that is not their own.

The only other thing needed is an electorate that is blissfully content to elect whatever the bureaucrats spin.

And when this happens repeatedly, the great people of Newfoundland and Labrador miss out.

Sure there are a few victories here and there.  People cite the oil and gas revenue, the current financial growth numbers, etc. as reasons why things are great.  But there are a lot of things not great as well – the dying rural communities, the rapidly disappearing culture, health care concerns and other areas.

When one tries to ask questions about what is not great in the province, the response reminds me of the “dead parrot sketch” in Monty Python where a man buys a parrot from a pet shop and it’s dead.  As he describes how it’s been dead all along and he wants his money back, the shop owner keeps saying “yes .. but look at the beautiful plumage”

If the electorate examined the personal growth of these individuals against the average personal growth of many people in the province, they would discover that the gap is growing exponentially and they would ask more questions about who these politicians really serve.

Questions that need to be asked and require real answers.

I’m not saying that the politicians are intentionally doing it for personal growth.  Many are doing it for the right reasons (so they believe) but if you need someone to do something for you, you will feed them what they need such that they will come along willingly.

So neither the electorate nor the elected examine what is going on – they are too busy eating what they are being fed by the bureaucrats.

And for the true ruling elite in the province, this works out just fine.

For everyone else?

Well .. that all depends on what you want and whose side you’re on, doesn’t it?

In service and servanthood.


(There is no Musings-in-a-Minute version of this blog entry).


  1. Interesting, Harry. I agree with almost everything here. One thing has changed since the days of "Against the Tide", and that is the supreme power that Williams thinks he exerts over the public service, including the DMs and ADMs you refer to. In his early days, Williams made it clear that he would tolerate no dissidence from the underlings, and some people were fired to make this point. His power was total; no one could question or undermine it. The result, I think, is a senior civil service that has abandoned government to its own devices, and has stopped giving advice. This is just a theory, but situations like the botched Abitibi expropriation may be attributable to this rot from within. Were the underlings working to rule, to make a point?

    Great blog! Loved every word...

  2. Hey Geoff,

    Thanks for the comments.

    You raise a VERY interesting point that has VERY deep ramifications if true.

    Your theory is worthy of deeper analysis, I believe because if it is true, it would REALLY spell trouble for the people of the province.

    What do you think?

    Thanks for weighing in, Geoff!

    Take care and create a great day!


  3. I see by my stats today that a large contingent of readers within the Newfoundland and Labrador government network were reading my blog. I wonder what they thought ... now .. who are the people in camo paint in the vehicle parked outside. ;-)