De­layed re­ac­tion

The Compass - - Editorial - — This ed­i­to­rial orig­i­nally ap­peared in The Tele­gram

The old say­ing is “a stitch in time, saves nine.” What it refers to, of course, is the idea that you can stop a whole seam from un­rav­el­ing by tak­ing early pre­ven­ta­tive ac­tion with a nee­dle and thread.

Maybe it’s an adage that sev­eral pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments should have taken to heart when deal­ing with the Muskrat Falls fi­asco - es­pe­cially, the “in time” part.

The hy­dro­elec­tric project, as we all know, is well over bud­get and far be­yond sched­ule, and the in­creased costs will come back to bite ratepay­ers and tax­pay­ers for years to come.

Yet it wasn’t un­til last Mon­day that the pro­vin­cial government fi­nally ap­pointed any­one other than pro­vin­cial bu­reau­crats to the three-year-old over­sight com­mit­tee. The com­mit­tee de­scribes it­self as: “Chaired by the Clerk of the Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil, the com­mit­tee com­prises se­nior of­fi­cials from Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil and the De­part­ments of Fi­nance, Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Jus­tice.”

In other words, pub­lic ser­vants re­port­ing to their po­lit­i­cal masters.

Un­til now, the com­mit­tee has been un­sat­is­fy­ing in the ex­treme. Its last oc­ca­sional report was filed in De­cem­ber 2015, and its min­utes are a study in brevity. A De­cem­ber 2016 meet­ing, an hour and a half long, gen­er­ated just 55 words, seven of which were “The meet­ing was ad­journed at ap­prox­i­mately 6:15 p.m.”

What was ac­com­plished? They briefed the chair on an ear­lier meet­ing and planned a site visit.

Now, the com­mit­tee is go­ing to in­clude four new mem­bers - Jason Muise, Jim Fee­han, Ster­ling Pey­ton and Vanessa Ne­whook. Musie and Fee­han are par­tic­u­larly good choices. Muise is an en­gi­neer with ex­pe­ri­ence in project de­liv­ery, while Fee­han, a Me­mo­rial Univer­sity econ­o­mist, has had a keen and crit­i­cal eye on the project since its in­cep­tion.

Pey­ton and Ne­whook have ex­pe­ri­ence in the bu­reau­cracy.

But all four bring the crit­i­cal re­quire­ment of not hav­ing to re­main in any­one’s po­lit­i­cal good graces.

The only real prob­lem? Ef­fec­tive in­de­pen­dent over­sight hasn’t ar­rived un­til long af­ter the project has be­come bogged down in se­ri­ous and ex­pen­sive trou­ble.

That’s some­thing that is too of­ten the case in this prov­ince; no stitches in time here. Our gov­ern­ments seem to pre­fer the great and lengthy un­rav­el­ing.

And that raises a par­tic­u­lar con­cern.

Why do suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments feel it nec­es­sary to en­trench them­selves in their de­ci­sions, no mat­ter how badly those ac­tions are go­ing?

Why is it that pro­vin­cial ad­min­is­tra­tions in this prov­ince seem in­ca­pable of say­ing, “We made a mis­take”?

Why is it that gov­ern­ments, Lib­eral or Tory, pre­fer to keep dig­ging when they find them­selves in a hole?

It’s got to change. We need a government that solves prob­lems, rather than ones that let mat­ters fes­ter un­til there is no way out - fol­lowed in­evitably by com­mis­sions of in­quiry de­signed to teach us where we went wrong, and that seem to prove, re­peat­edly, we seem in­ca­pable of learn­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.