You don’t have confidence in us

One of the worst things someone in a position of authority can do is to show a lack of confidence in those people for whom they’re responsible. A parent who doesn’t encourage a child, a teacher who has low expectations for students, a boss who doesn’t trust an employee.

And politicians who don’t believe in the citizens they represent.

Our provincial politicians often give the impression they don’t have confidence, in us, in the province, in themselves.

The first time I remember thinking that was that morning when we learnt that Shawn Graham wanted to sell NB Power to another province. Part of the strong citizen reaction was brought on by a feeling of insult. That our government thought we could not manage our own resources and our own institutions, that it was best not to consult us before carving up the province, and that we wouldn’t react when such tricks were played on us.

At times, Premier David Alward certainly has given us the same impression – that we aren’t worth much. You’re concerned about your water source because of fracking? What are you talking about, that has nothing to do with it, says the current government. So citizens produced stickers now seen around the province saying “You don’t have a social licence to frack”.

What about those “public consultations” – the anonymous, internet or by invitation only ones – or those consultations that are hardly ended when a document is published – a document that evidently has been in the hands of translation service for a while – that sets out what had originally been the government’s known or likely stand. Citizens who participated in good faith feel like chumps and say never again.

Why don’t they value what we have, what we already do? Why, given our highly rural and low population province, don’t we encourage more cooperatives, social enterprises, development that is really, actually, community-based. Those are solutions made to succeed here. But rarely do governments speak of – or invest in – cooperatives for example, even though it is known that they are a profitable model for marginalized regions.

What if, instead of giving tax breaks to the Walmarts, Costcos and Irvings of this province, the current government had invested in initiatives by us? But our governments, and the handlers they surround themselves with, want to play with the big boys, to play a part in globalization, to make a big play. And in their mind, we aren’t players.

The sale of our best blueberry fields under the nose of our local producers was another affront. Columnist Bernard Richard, a former politician and former Ombudsman, said that “the current government seems to have an absolute trust in the idea that our salvation will come from big companies… That it will come from transferring public resources to the private sector, tax policies that favour the wealthy, regulations that give them free rein, and from major cuts in public spending. The new forestry strategy, the gift of our best blueberry fields to Oxford and the plan to go ahead with shale gas exploration and exploitation are perfect examples.”

The current government certainly was not the first to look to external consultants and big companies for ideas. They’ve only continued that wasteful, insulting practice. Giving confidence to consultants, big companies and handlers, and contempt for citizens, civil servants and workers contribute to the province’s continuing problems.

Not that citizens are always right. But when we are in error, make information available, create discussion areas, have real debates. We can think these things through. We’re not stupid. We’re just treated that way.

Why don’t you have confidence in us? Why are we only extras in government decisions and policies? If we are so useless, why do you want to govern this province?


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