The way where?

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Editorial -

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.

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