Thursday, July 11, 2013

Revising Expectations of Politicians

One of the things that people love to complain about is how politicians let them down, either not delivering on what they promised, not delivering on what we expected of them or not delivering on what we thought they had promised.

It was for this reason that I was struck by the naked (perhaps accidental) honesty of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Finance Minister, Jerome Kennedy, in a recent interview.

James McLeod recently interviewed the Honorable Minister on how well the Progressive Conservative government in Newfoundland and Labrador was delivering on the promises it had laid out in its Blue Book prior to the last provincial election.  During the interview, Mr. Kennedy said something stunningly transparent when it came to meeting the “promises” laid out in the Blue Book while at the same time contradicting his leader, Premier Dunderdale.

Leading up to the provincial election in 2011, Premier Dunderdale referred to the material in the Blue Book as “promises” to the citizens of the Province as noted in this CBC report.

But in this recent interview between Mr. McLeod and Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Kennedy made these curious remarks (see the link for the full conversation):


McLeod: Do you think that the government can, with its fiscal situation being what it is, make good on all those promises before 2015?

Kennedy: Well, I’m not aware of the all of the promises or, excuse me, all of the commitments that were in the Blue Book


McLeod: Can we afford to do the things that your party promised to do in 2011?

Kennedy: You used the word promise. I’m not sure that the Blue Book can be described as a promise. It outlines a platform of initiatives ….…… It’s a blueprint or a platform, as opposed to an absolute promise that we will do things.


And with those interesting comments, we must come to a couple of conclusions.

1. Senior ministers and politicians in general, once in power, can toss out their “promises”, forgetting them altogether as the Honorable Minster professes to not even know what’s in the platform documents used by his party to win the last election.

2. The word “promise” as used by many (not all) politicians is merely a suggestion and not a “promise” as we interpret it.  Many people have known this for years but it is refreshing to hear a senior politician admit it. :-)

And with the open admission that a politician’s interpretation of the word “promise” differs drastically than our own (shocking, yes I know), we need to change our approach when it comes to our expectations of politicians.

We need to forget about what we can expect from elected officials since once we have two dictionaries in places, all bets are off.

And in the meantime, we need to raise our expectations of ourselves, apply better levels of scrutiny of the candidates before us and raise the bar in how we select our representatives.

For if we don’t, we might think we are disappointed in the people we elect when in fact, we are merely disappointed in ourselves.

We just don’t recognize the subtle difference.

In service and servanthood,



Will Rogers once said “A fool and his money are soon elected”.  When people are elected because of the gullibility, apathy or indifference of the electorate, I wonder who the real fool is. :-)

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