"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pomises, pomises

My goodness, but Telegram James has opened up an interesting can of stewed worms.
Last week, Telegramreported on the slowth in the government’s fulfillment of one particular 2011 PC “Blue Book” promise commitment concerning student loans.
Ever-touchy about criticism or questions, Dundergov reacted, in the person of Jerome Kennedy, who gave Mr. James a delightful follow-up:
“You use the word ‘promise.’ I’m not sure the Blue Book can be described as a promise,” he said. “It’s a blueprint or a platform as opposed to an absolute promise.”
Well, that got the commentariat, the twitterati, and the VOCM crowd going. By Thursday morning, Kennedy had taken to the airwaves to whine that his words had been taken out of context, and that people should read the full transcript.
The “full transcript”, of course, would be the one that Telegram himself had already produced and posted the previous afternoon.
Later in the day, Kennedy’s totally non-partisan communications shop issued an epic, if obviously rushed press release, weighing in at over 5,000 words, the vast majority of which were cribbed, verbatim, from the 30,000-word 2011 PC Party Blue Book. The release professes to outline the 228 of 534 Blue Book promises commitments which have already been acted on.
And no, Kennedy wasn’t finished there, and probably isn’t finished yet, having written a stern letter to the Telegram, which the paper ran on Friday morning.
The whole episode has provided the politics-watching public with the entertaining spectacle of seeing a minister douse himself and his government in isopropyl alcohol, put a lit match to it, then try and put out the ensuing flames with more ispropyl alcohol.

It’s a liquid, right?
Moreover, it has offered as good an excuse as any to go back over the 2011 Blue Book, a document which, with the benefit of hindsight and closer scrutiny, is much thinner than its 30,000 words and 80 pages might otherwise imply.
Take, for example, the promise commitment which the press release claims to have been acted on: 
We will move forward to build upon the achievements to date of the Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador, mapping others on the horizon, building on the initiatives already taken, consulting on emerging needs and adjusting our work according to evolving circumstances.
At best, this means “we will continue to make things up as we go along, and re-package them as part of a ‘Northern Strategic Plan’, whatever that is.”
At least – and it’s closer to the least end of the spectrum – it means nothing.
There are the promises commitments along this line: 
We will maintain the fleet of new waterbombers the province recently purchased to better protect us from forest fires.
Well, that’s a relief. The government will actually maintain the waterbombers, and not, dunno, use them for target practice like all those other parties proposed doing in their platforms. One notorious traitor summarized this class of promise commitment as "we will turn the lights on. We will heat buildings and answer the phone."
There are others which are especially vague: 
We will ensure our legislation, regulations and permitting process for mineral exploration, mine development and quarry development are modern, balanced and reflective of the needs of the industry and the province.
How on earth would anyone know, objectively, whether or not this promise commitment had or had not been kept? Similarly: 
We will pursue every opportunity to see Labrador recognized nationally and internationally as a Gateway to the North and positioned to take a lead role in providing goods, services and a base of expertise for all other regions of Canada’s North.
“Recognized” by whom? What is the practical consequence of such “recognition”?
Numerous other promises commitments are laden with the type of bureaucratic-bingo buzzwords – “advanced”, “examine”, “best practices”, “broad spectrum”, “consider strategies”, “bring forward”, “facilitate” – which draw a body to the almost-inevitable conclusion that bureaucrats themselves were engaged in drafting this 80-page partisal document full of promises commitments.
Finally, there’s at least one intriguing case of a promise commitment actually kept, yet not highlighted in the press release for some reason: 
We recently received the recommendations of the 2011 statutory review of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. We will introduce appropriate reforms to the legislation. We will continue to protect personal information, commercially sensitive information and cabinet documents.
This, of course, is the promise commitment which begat Bill 29, which begat the Conservative government’s accelerated collapse in popular support.
It would be a fun exercise, then, to cross-reference the 5,000-word totally-non-partisan press release cribbed from the governing party’s 2011 election platform, with the 30,000-word election platform itself.
The promises commitments highlighted in the press release are emphasized in this version of the 2011 PC platform in blue with double-underlining. Where a promise commitment was truncated for the purpose of brevity in the release, the entire text of the promise has been highlighted here. Note, however, there are cases where the press release version of the promise commitment includes a conspicuous ellipsis, such as here: 
As we announced on July 6, 2011, we are launching a suite of initiatives to reduce the number of moose-vehicle collisions on Newfoundland and Labrador roadways. These initiatives include a wildlife fencing pilot project, a wildlife detection system pilot project, a Collision Data Management System (which will record the precise locations of all collisions, including those involving moose), an increased number of moose hunting licences, additional brush clearing, vegetation control and measures to improve driver awareness. We will explore options to enable people receiving moose hunting licences to designate surrogates to hunt a moose for them. We will work with the province’s outfitters on ways to provide more moose-hunting opportunities for non- resident hunters.
Or here:  
We will review the tax regime – the Revenue Administration Act, the Mineral Act and the Mineral Holdings Impost Act to ensure it strikes the right balance between providing appropriate revenue to the province while remaining competitive in the global mining industry.
In those cases, the words or phrases glossed over in the press release have not been highlighted as a promise commitment kept. Presumably, the totally non-partisan communications staff at Finance glossed them over for a substantive reason.
Note that the conversion of file formats from the source PDF to an editable version, and back to PDF, has resulted in some format wonkiness which is not present in the original document. Graphics quality has been deliberately degraded.

If you spot any errors or omissions in the comparison of the press release and the platform, feel free to report it in the comments section.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home