The way where?
he Way Forward’s got a few backwards steps, at least where public involvement is concerned. Dwight Ball’s Liberal government launched its The Way Forward plan for digging our way out of near-fiscal-calamity. The idea? That the government would gather together 150 or so prominent Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and that group would chew over ideas meant to improve life here, and improve our financial position. The public could get involved, too, by signing on to the webcast, watching the public presentations and adding their own comments online.
But that online commenting process is where things got a little, well, bizarre.
First of all, commenters had a long list of rules to abide by, and a moderator would review and post their comments. Roughly six people posted a total of 12 comments before the moderator abruptly disabled the comments at around 4 p.m. last Tuesday.
By mid-morning last Wednesday, the comments were not only disabled, but the web page they had been on had been reformatted, with all of the comments deleted. The Twitter feed was also gone, leaving only government presentations and a video by Premier Ball.
TC Media had already screen-captured the web page and all of the comments – most of them seemed to be reasonable suggestions, though at least one referred to “this gathering of ‘elites’” being used to represent the views of the rest of the people in the province.
When we asked why the comments had disappeared, we were told the comments space was only meant to be available during the one-day event. So, if you just heard about the event and want to have some input, that window is now firmly shut.
Strange, then, that shortly after we called and asked about the change, the comments reappeared on the website, albeit still disabled, so that the only comments will be those 12, primarily marked by four comments from Peter Lane.
And that leads us to a fish or fowl question — just what exactly is The Way Forward supposed to be? If it’s a public consultation process, why would the public window be so small that literally no more than a handful of comments could squeeze through? If it is meant to be a government advisory process using invited attendees as representatives of the province, how were they chosen and how will their input be represented and used?
And most of all, if you can’t handle more than eight hours of public comment, how on Earth do you plan to handle full public consultations on the government’s plan for the future?
The provincial government says it plans to use The Way Forward to guide the 2017 provincial budget. All we can say is congratulations to Peter Lane: apparently, at this point he represents onethird of the input from the other 500,000 people not at the Oct. 11 event.