I’m at home today—a bit of down-time following minor surgery. All’s well, thanks to professional, caring service from Eastern Health. Normally I would be listening, offhandedly, to the radio while going about my business but today it’s off. The ensuing silence is so much better than the steady drone of complaints from the political types not on the government side regarding the provincial budget followed by the defensive tones that ensure from those that are.
It’s too much.
I found the “estimates” file from the government website and skimmed through it for myself.
Here’s what I got from that excursion: A series of decisions that took root back in 1979 with the discovery of oil on the Grand Banks has brought us to a place where our economy is heavily dependent on the revenues we are now realizing from the subsequent development. We all had a part in it. The recent—unexpected—downturn in the price of that commodity has left us in a hard place, financially, and that will continue for the next few years. This budget is one that seeks to balance the decrease in available funds against the need for continued service.
That’s it. It’s far from perfect but with something as complicated as a government budget, what do you expect? Well maybe you might expect something better but I don’t. Instead I will make do with whatever it is and hope for better times ahead after the next election.
What I could do without right now is the one sided so-called conversation that’s playing out on social media and such. It’s all about what’s wrong with it, all about what people feel should NOT happen. You know—complaints about raising the sales tax, raising service fees and such. Oh, and that over-used mock that includes the so-called “war of attrition” against the civil service. Give me a break.
Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing inherently wrong with complaining if it’s done right. How else can you effect change unless you state the problem, right?
Sort of, because that is only the start; just pointing out the problem is the easy part. Frankly, anyone could do that. None of us wants to see job losses, higher fees/taxes. Like the rest of Canada we are all heavily in debt so any change in costs, however small, will have a significant effect on our lives. It’s frustrating, frightening even, and it’s hard not to feel at least a tinge of anger. BUT, no, the harder—but in the end much more useful—thing to do is to suggest what should be done instead. Regardless of how we got here—regardless because we all know how that happened and there’s no need to waste time listing what’s been expounded elsewhere—we now find ourselves in a difficult situation financially and we need to come to a collective understanding of just how we are to address that, at least in the near to medium term ahead.
Sadly, though, there’s not much more than silence on that front. While critics are quick to point out the current problems and point fingers of blame they are stubbornly reluctant to outline just what they would do to rectify it if and when they were given the chance.
That’s problematic, not just for all of us who want to live happy, productive lives here in this province but also for those would aspire to leadership positions within it. Petty complaining may well appeal to masses, to mobs of those who gather at public places—coffee shops, malls, bars and, yes, online on social media—and have some fun and playing at armchair politics. It makes for a great game. In quieter moments, though, people tend to be more reflective and, thanks to the secret ballot, have no need of being ashamed of voting for those they really think will make the right decisions and not just those who know how to pull the public will in any given direction, just for the moment, with the drop of some predictable pithy phrase.
So here’s my bit of advice to all who wish to offer themselves in any of the upcoming elections: balance the complaints regarding the misdeeds and failings of your competitors against the positives that YOU bring to the landscape. Sure, pointing out the faults in others may result in us NOT voting or them but if you want us to vote for YOU instead you need to show clearly just what you stand for and what you will do as a consequence.
Some call politics a game and, in many ways it is. Like any gaming situation it has a stated goal, has agreed-upon limitations that are effected as rules and the play draws heavily on competition. In that light, playing nasty often does offer an advantage, and yes, we all know one should not play a contact sport (which politics in NL surely is) if one is afraid of the scattered bruised knee or bloody nose. That said, beating up on the competition is not always the best strategy for a win (a notable exception being the Broad Street Bullies, of course). Most would agree that more wins come about by figuring how to get the puck in the net more often than the other team does. In this case that means painting a clear picture of how your side will put us all in a better place for the few years you expect to be in office.
As for me, politics, and life in general, is not a game but rather a serious search for betterment in the lives of those with who I share this place. I plan to do my part by working as best I can and continuing to pay my taxes and other bills to the best of my admittedly imperfect ability. It is my wish that those who aspire to lead me will do the same.