DEXTER GOVT: Managing Communications with the Base on a Diet of Austerity Budgets and Tax Cuts

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KenS
DEXTER GOVT: Managing Communications with the Base on a Diet of Austerity Budgets and Tax Cuts

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KenS

When setting out to eliminate the substantial and structural provincial deficit they had inherited on coming to power, Nova Scotia Premier Dexter and Finance Minister Steele came to a fork in the road- one path to the left and one to the right.


Road on the Left Offered:

** Three years of substantial but relatively moderated service delivery cuts to eliminate the inherited, chronic, and accumulating annual budgetary deficit.

** After the last of these corrective budgets is delivered, the Dexter government still has a year within which to choose the time of the election in which they seek their second mandate.


Road on the Right Offered:

** Eliminate the deficit in two years instead of three, with an increase in service delivery stress even greater than the monetary difference. With the greatest amount of cuts implementation downloaded to local boards in a state of perpetual crisis.

** Then take the vastly intensified and downloaded service delivery cuts of two years to eliminate the deficit, and add at least two more years of equivalent service delivery cuts so that the government can offer a tax cut in time for the election.

 

Which road would a social democrat take?

 

Slumberjack

It depends on whether you're asking for an opinion based on our experiences with it, or in a general, idealistic sense.

Doug

More particularly, it depends on what other political parties are offering and on what other nearby jurisdictions are doing.

KenS

I can think of a lot things it would depend on.

For example, is there public pressure for the NDP to be bringing in a tax cut.

But why would it depend on what the other political parties are offering?

KenS

Thats a good question just as it is, but I'll make it more concrete.

Here's what the other political parties are offering.

The NDP when it came in raised the HST the same 2% points the Harper government had cut it.

They had a strong consenus across ideological lines and general wide approval at the time that the need for this was not really debateable.

Opposition parties being the barking dogs they are, of course 3 years later they are reminding everyone that the NDP broke its promise to not raise taxes.

The follow-up questions are: do the opposition parties hae any traction? Do they have any credibility in this beyond their own respective diehard bases who vote for them anyway? Is there any degree of public clamour from anywhere else for cutting the HST?

genstrike

[quote=KenS]

Which road would a social democrat take?

[/quote]

Given the history of postwar social democracy and the modern-day Blairite sub-reformism that passes for social democracy, I'd say it is more likely that a nominally social democratic government would take the latter road.

Slumberjack

[quote=Doug] More particularly, it depends on what other political parties are offering and on what other nearby jurisdictions are doing. [/quote]

The 'nearby jurisdictions' can certainly serve as a barometer in that respect, which is why some of us take pains to bring certain jurisdictions into focus.  However; the inspiration leading toward an answer to a question of 'what would they do' doesn't exactly spring forth from a mere statement consisting of what they or others have on offer.  I'm thinking it's quite clear by now that it can't at any rate.  An answer worth giving then is best is supported by an examination of practice and probability.  Perhaps the suggestions might flow a little easier if the question itself were clarified a little, as in 'what road should they take?'  In our context we have quite a number of reasons to suspect what they would do.

Slumberjack

Practice.  Exactly genstrike.

Fidel

Fact check: Tony the Phony Blair was "New Labour" not social dem.  

Human Poverty Index In case you were asleep for the last couple of decades, your country rates below several social democracies

1springgarden

2011-2012 Budget Year
[img]http://blu.stb.s-msn.com/i/54/79E19DCDFB36A66A2E3C62B437E416.png[/img]

About Dexter NDP: Proposing tax cuts while running a deficit and cutting services is just offensive.  Why propose tax cuts at the same time you're changing school class size cap from 25 students per class to 29?

KenS

 

 

 

[quote]When setting out to eliminate the substantial and structural provincial deficit they had inherited on coming to power....

Road on the Left Offered:

** Three years of substantial but relatively moderated service delivery cuts to eliminate the inherited, chronic, and accumulating annual budgetary deficit.

** After the last of these corrective budgets is delivered, the Dexter government still has a year within which to choose the time of the election in which they seek their second mandate.


Road on the Right Offered:

** Eliminate the deficit in two years instead of three, with an increase in service delivery stress even greater than the monetary difference. With the greatest amount of cuts implementation downloaded to local boards in a state of perpetual crisis.

** Then take the vastly intensified and downloaded service delivery cuts of two years to eliminate the deficit, and add at least two more years of equivalent service delivery cuts so that the government can offer a tax cut in time for the election.

 

Which road would a social democrat take?

.[/quote]

 

Can we agree on this much:

Obviously, the first alternative is the one much preferred by all social democrats. Hugely preffered.

But at least in principle, there could be compelling reasons to choose the second alternative.


It is a perfectly valid and defensible position if you think the second option should NEVER be chosen by a social democrat... or if you think as genstrike that you can expect when governing that social democrats will need little push to choose the second option. But if that is your assessment, frankly I don't know why you want to be part of this particular discussion. There doesnt appear to be anything to it than the kicks of 'making a point' [again].

At any rate, I at least in principle except that there might be compelling reasons for a social democrat to choose the second 'road' / option.

Then the question is whether the Dexter government, and by extension Nova Scotia New Democrats as a group, had compelling reasons to choose the second option.

kathleen

The Dexter government and NS New Democrats had no compelling reasons to choose the second option except to make the business community happy. Lots of payroll subsidies for industry, including some pretty rich financial services. Lots of support for aquaculture at the expense of fishing communities. And the promise of puny tax reductions while education goes begging. I get a constant stream of their good news in response to my messages of oppostition to their austerity policies.

I'm not sure there has ever been many, if any, social democrats in the NS New Democratic Party. So I guess they didn't need any compelling reasons to act like social democrats.

KenS

'There arent and maybe never have been many social democrats in the NS NDP.'

I guess that puts you in this realm:

[quote]

It is a perfectly valid and defensible position if you think the second option should NEVER be chosen by a social democrat... or if you think as genstrike that you can expect when governing that social democrats will need little push to choose the second option. But if that is your assessment, frankly I don't know why you want to be part of this particular discussion. There doesnt appear to be anything to it than the kicks of 'making a point' [again]. [/quote]

 

 

Beg to differ with you, but I've been a social democrat since decades before I was involved with the NDP, and I am a member. And I think that includes a lot of people who defend this government.

Now, Dexter and Steele themselves. That's another matter. I don't know....

 

Not to mention that you are overlooking for what people see as a compelling reason for choosing the second option the little thing of wanting to be re-elected.

 

Count me as among the many who would never sneer at people for the fact of wanting to be re-elected... as if that in itself proves some fundamental moral or ethical shortcoming.

But I will always question, and be questioned, on whether just because I or somelse thinks something is necessary for being re-elected, that it is as true as thought. And if at least true to a degree, that still leaves whether a sacrifice is being made that is not worth it.

Sean in Ottawa

What tax cut?

Please correct me if I am missing something:

The NS government has stated that it wants to get books in order in two years -- in part to avoid a downgrade that would make it harder to do later. As a part of that it hiked the provincial portion of the HST for 2 years taking it back to where it was once the books were in better shape. The reduction of the provincial portion of the HST to the previous level would come over two years.

I am not endorsing everything the NS government is doing because I don't have all the facts but calling the planned removal of a temporary increase in taxes a tax reduction does not sound right to me.

So is there some other tax reduction you are talking about?

Sean in Ottawa

[quote=kathleen]

The Dexter government and NS New Democrats had no compelling reasons to choose the second option except to make the business community happy. Lots of payroll subsidies for industry, including some pretty rich financial services. Lots of support for aquaculture at the expense of fishing communities. And the promise of puny tax reductions while education goes begging. I get a constant stream of their good news in response to my messages of oppostition to their austerity policies.

I'm not sure there has ever been many, if any, social democrats in the NS New Democratic Party. So I guess they didn't need any compelling reasons to act like social democrats.

[/quote]

Well they had three reasons at least-- you can decide if they are compelling:

1) the obvious one people are talking about-- being re-elected. If you do not believe you are better than the opposition and that electing the opposition would be bad for the province then you should not stand for election in the first place.

2) Bond holder rating decide on the interest a government pays and while it is unfair that they have the power they do, you cannot dismiss that as a reason to get the finances balanced a little quicker.

3) The Dexter government is the first NDP government in NS. It has a greater responsibility than any other NDP government to come in the future to establish that it can be trusted with the finances. While you can argue that it has been overzealous in this, it is fair to observe that this is an important motivation if you want to avoid a return to Liberal-Conservative dynasties. (I am concerned by some of the direction the government is following but am willing to judge them over a longer period given this political reality.

They were elected on a mandate of getting the provinces books back in order-- whether they are doing that in a prudent manner consistent with social democratic principles is of course worthy of debate but saying they are doing something for no reason may not be the best starting point.

It is not a betrayal to govern amid political realities. In fact it could be called a betrayal to squander a historic opportunity by refusing to acknowledge those. The NDP in NS, I hope are trying to change the political culture there rather than impose a new one that will only be rejected. They have so far maintained the confidence of the public but they have in so doing hurt their closest allies and friends in labour.

 

 

KenS

There have been a bunch of other tax cuts as well. But the HST is the biggest one by far.

1.] It was never called temporary in the first place. In some of the communications with the base- such as that survey [which I will link to again], it is implied that it was temporary. But you have to read carefully to even catch the implication. It was not and never has been offered as temporary.

At the very least, it IS strictly speaking a tax cut they are announcing. And they are billing it to the public as a tax cut- NOT as 'keeping our promise to you'. That latter was the pitching to the base in that survey. For the public, tax cut is a good thing. Not so for the base. So the two get different messages.

Public = "we bring you tax cut."

NDP base = "we need to keep [restore] our promise not to raise taxes."

 

2.] The HST tax cut will complete the overall effect of the NDP having presided over the reduction of government revenues. And steeply cutting the delivery of services to match the reduction of revenues.

Most of the reduction of revenues was not a result of actions by this government. But we did preside over and manager it happening. But more to the point, we had a choice not to preside over the reduction of revenues.

The HST increase was not pitched as temporary, and it has been accepted. Had we left the increase in place, as was our option and I always thought was going to be the case, the overall long term effect would have been to manage the flat-lining rather than the declining of government revenues.  [Decline in equalization payments and gas royalties compensated by HST increase.] Because previous governments had allowed increases in spending to become built-in, even with flat lined revenues we would still have needed some significant cuts in service delivery spending... but obviously, a lot more cutting with declining governments as ooposed to flat-lined revenues. And our government with the HST cuts CHOSE for declining government revenues.

Does that explain, and/or do you still think I might be mis-characterizing this?

 

KenS

So thats the background that brings us from 3 years ago to March. The NDP Caucus sent out a survey to members that asked if we thought cutting the HST back the 2% points was required, and if there should be wide consultations on this. You can see the "Your Ideas Matter" survey here. There had been no prior discussion of this in the party, let alone in any public media.

Within 2 weeks- before replies to the survey could have been compiled, let alone providing us as promised with the results... Dexter and Steele started musing that given how well balancing the books was going, 'maybe' it was time for a tax cut.

And just days later, there was the 2% tax cut pegged for the second mandate, in the Budget.

Keep in mind that this is after the books have been balanced, the deficit is gone, and the Schhol Baords have been told at least as far back as November, with continuous reminders, that in planning for this years' budgets, Board members need to keep top of mind that there will be funding cuts next year of the same order as last year and this year. Which means that the cuts in funding that were required to balance the provinces books would go on.... unbeknownst to Board members that there would be no deficit to balance next year, but that there would be tax cuts creating just as big a fiscal hole as was caused by eliminating the deficit.

 

KenS

[quote=Sean in Ottawa]

3) The Dexter government is the first NDP government in NS. It has a greater responsibility than any other NDP government to come in the future to establish that it can be trusted with the finances. It is fair to observe that this is an important motivation if you want to avoid a return to Liberal-Conservative dynasties.  [/quote]

Agreed.

Consider this:

** In 2009 there was a very broad consensus that the need for the HST tax increase was not really debateable. This included media commentariat and economists typically critical of the NDP. There was a bare minimum of finger pointing despite how typical and predictable was the NDP's protestations around breaking the promise of no tax cuts: that they just had no idea how bad things were.

** For the last 3 years the honeymoon with the media has never stopped. And absolutely around anything to do with fiscal management and economic competence.

** The government's polling numbers have remained consistently high. This is not grounds for complacency, or even having a sense you are insulated from negative trust issues that can bite hard once an election campaign starts. But the consistent numbers definitely confirm the generally observable consensus that this is a competent government that does what it says and meets the goals it sets.

 

KenS

[quote=Sean in Ottawa]

3) The Dexter government is the first NDP government in NS. It has a greater responsibility than any other NDP government to come in the future to establish that it can be trusted with the finances. While you can argue that it has been overzealous in this, it is fair to observe that this is an important motivation if you want to avoid a return to Liberal-Conservative dynasties. (I am concerned by some of the direction the government is following but am willing to judge them over a longer period given this political reality.)

They were elected on a mandate of getting the provinces books back in order-- whether they are doing that in a prudent manner consistent with social democratic principles is of course worthy of debate...

It is not a betrayal to govern amid political realities. In fact it could be called a betrayal to squander a historic opportunity by refusing to acknowledge those. The NDP in NS, I hope are trying to change the political culture there rather than impose a new one that will only be rejected. They have so far maintained the confidence of the public but they have in so doing hurt their closest allies and friends in labour. [/quote]

Taking all that into account is both wise, and to be expected if you are going to have a sustainable participation in electoral politics.

This discipline and patience in the trust of the NDP base gives this government a lot of breathing room. Which it must have.

 

I am suggesting that this government seriously abuses that trust.

And engages in manipulation of communication with the base that goes way beyond the spinning we all have come to expect.

The inner circle of this government consistently practices structured obfuscation in managing communications with the base.

They are good at it. I regularly watch the effects here on people who generally tend to be anything but Kool Aid drinkers.

KenS

It is perfectly understandable that NDP members are unaware of all these backroom machinations. Its not like the Dexter government is doing this out in the open. Most Caucus members do not know the half of it, the same as the rest of us, until some of it has to come to light as the done deal it has been for a while.

But all of us in Nova Scotia can see for ourselves how the public is in general appraising this government for its fiscal management.

And suddenly, with no prior discussion in the party, as soon as Dexter and Steele announce the tax cuts, Ministers, MLAs, and members that one talks to repond when questioned that 'we had to do the tax cuts.'

It seemlessly moved from we had to Balance the Books, to that being accomplished; but, oh, now we 'have to' do the tax cuts. [Except that the shift is not acknowledged- the service delivery cuts on into the indefinite future are still called the lofty Back to Balance.]

 

So where was the discussion that made all this necessity to do the tax cuts suddenly so apparenobvious?

 

Unionist Unionist's picture

[quote=Sean in Ottawa]If you do not believe you are better than the opposition and that electing the opposition would be bad for the province then you should not stand for election in the first place. [/quote]

[ irony ]And if you believe you are the best party, you must therefore, once in power, do whatever the spinsters and pollsters tell you that it takes to stay in power. Because you're the best, after all, so to lose power would be a betrayal. [ irony off, for now]

That's the excuse I've heard all my life for a party coming to power on the support and aspirations of working people, and then attacking its base once it gets there. It's weak logic.

[quote] Bond holder rating decide on the interest a government pays and while it is unfair that they have the power they do, you cannot dismiss that as a reason to get the finances balanced a little quicker. [/quote]

[ irony on ] Why not just set up a consultative committee of bondholders, and give them veto power over each annual budget. That way, we can be sure to get it right. [ irony off ]

Really? "They have the power"? So until we have a worldwide socialist revolution (or something), don't expect the NDP to do anything in power to upset the bondholders? Mind you, when in opposition, it's a whole different story, right?

[quote] The Dexter government is the first NDP government in NS. It has a greater responsibility than any other NDP government to come in the future to establish that it can be trusted with the finances.

[/quote]

Do they have a responsibility to show that they are fearless champions of workers, poor and marginalized people, youth and students, women, Indigenous people, minorities - the 99%?

In fact, being the first NDP government, had they not better prove their partisanship fast, and furiously, so that they don't end up (as in Ontario) as the [b]LAST EVER[/b] NDP government?

Or do you believe (as the Media of the 1% would have it) that Bob Rae had his ass kicked in Ontario, not because he attacked the people, but because he couldn't "be trusted with the finances"?

I respect your opinions always, Sean, but I have problems with this apologia for a government which (like almost all other NDP governments in history) feels that its first responsibility is to prove itself to the wealthy and powerful.

KenS

If you have any doubts whether this really is a tax cut....

If you are in Nova Scotia you regularly here reference in the media to the NDP's tax cut. Only very occasionaly in some columnists punditry piece do you hear the original HST tax increase mentioned at the same time.

And calling it a tax cut is not just spin for public consumption. If Dexter Crew had said in 2009 that the tax increase was only temporary, they would never get away with calling it a tax cut now for going back to the old HST level.

They can call it a tax cut precisely because people assumed 15% was just what the HST is now.

It is only with the base that there is a potential challenge in justifying what the government is doing. So we're the ones that get the muddled bafflegab.... not that they have bothered saying much to us yet. So far, you'll probably only hear the spin ['we had to do it'] if you personally ask questions.

KenS

I'd like to point out that there are two distinctly different discussions/arguments going on here.

There is whether the justifications that Sean is suggesting, can never be valid. [As Unionist for example is saying.]

Then there is what you could characterize as criticism from within the party [plus those outside who do not typically reject 95% of the NDP's actual positions taken].

My criticism is in the spirit of the latter- where Sean's reasons the NSNDP government should be given qualified trust are accepted as valid considerations.

But especially writing from Ontario, even paying attention to whatever information comes along, Sean and others could not possibly know all the requisite context and events that bear on these questions.

That said, a lot of this is not visible to most people in Nova Scotia. As noted above, everyone here can see for themselves the almost universally high rating this govt gets on fiscal and economic management, that what the opposition parties criticisms are utterly ignored, and that the public has never been told nor seen the HST increase as temporary.

But the machinations of this government that prove the cynism in continuing this "Back to Balance" charade... that is all very much opaque and kept well out of sight of everyone except those who have to make it their business.

KenS

What Sean was saying is that if the NDP is to practice 'sustainable government' them some austerity budgeting does sometimes have to be part of the picture.

I agree, and have said so whenever I launch into a critique of this government.

But I also suggest that this government has used and manipulated the patience and tolerance of it's support base to get it's acquiescence for an agenda that slashes jobs and delivery of services well beyond what is required to balance the books.

Sean in Ottawa

Unionist -- with respect-- I am referring to considerations in balance. These are not black and white and it would be as bad to make a decision on these alone as it woudl be to exclude them entirely.

 

Caissa

From where I sit next door in NB, it appears that Dexter is a s much of a sell-out as Rae was when he was in power. I don't see the grey.

KenS

The comparison to Rae though becomes a distracting red herring. Both sell-outs: fine, as far as it goes. At best, what does that tell you?

At worst, intentional or not, it becomes another smoke screen the Dexter government can use to prey upon that tolerance in the support base.

"Careful, or we'll end up like the Rae government."

NOBODY has ever seen this government like either the critics of the left OR the right saw the Rae government. And now 3 years down the road, not a chance.

The pissed off crtics here in Nova Scotia are NOT re-hashing the questions of 3 years ago whether we should have gone down the path of austerity cuts at all. We're questioning the later backroom decision to put into play the sneaky shift of continuing and deepening austerity budgeting so we can have tax cuts, and doing it under the cover of continuing the "Back to Balance."

Sean in Ottawa

The not black and white comment I made was with respect to what ought to be considered-- I am not judging the NS government's ability to balance these things properly. I merely entered the discussion to say these are things that I believe ought to be legitimately considered. It is how you weight that consideration and what things you don't account for that decides if you are a sell-out or not.

The NDP in Ontario had a more mixed record than some want to remember as well by the way. Their first two actions were to settle a pay equity dispute and a land claims dispute that had gone on a long time. The government in spite of the difficult economic times decided to bite the bullet rather than leave people suffering longer. Both situations could have been dragged out for a longer time and the NDP resolved them quickly.

KenS

There is one major propaganda obfuscation element from the government that is dished out the same for both the base as it is for general population: that the education cuts are all about matching spending with declining school enrollments.

What puts the lie to that is when the school boards announce their budget cuts, the classroom teacher cuts are 3 or 4 times greater than what is accounted for by enrollment declines. And that is on top of even larger cuts to non classroom functions, like typically 20% cuts in administration spending, substantial cuts to maintenance and busing, whole support programs axed....

The Halifax Board has not announced its budget yet. But they will be announcing some classroom teacher cuts as well- with no enrollment decline.

Sean in Ottawa

This is sad -- I hope people are fighting this

KenS

One would hope Dippers would respond to this is soon as what is going becomes apparent. And to my mind, as soon as the tax cuts were announced along with continuing deep austerity cuts- the same ones we had just barely been asked our opinion whether they should happen- people should have started smelling a rat.

On the other hand, if you are not a parent with kids in school, you likely would not have heard how bad the education cuts were going to be.... and therefore might have no reason to challenge the government's propaganda that it is just cuts in line with the year's enrollment declines.

The last week or two the various school boards have been coming out with the cuts. With at least some of the media reports relaying how much more the cuts are than enrollment declines, the reality gets harder to avoid.

But it is not just NDP members who have an easy time denying if that is what they want. All media reports that make general reference to the cuts just dutifully repeat the obfuscation that it is the reasonable sounding goal of cuts keeping up with enrollment declines.

KenS

As for fighting back, we'll see. I know a lot of angry people- but virtually all of them had given up on active involvement with the provincial party before the 2009 victory. And for the formerly most active, like myself, that has been 7 to 9 years now. [FWIW, among my similarly oriented and active peers, I was the last to bail out.]

Convention is early June. Convinced dissidents don't go to Converntion. That by no means leaves just Orange Kool Aid drinkers... but the brain trust has no problem containing people who ask polite questions and table questioning resolutions that are sidelined or voted down.

It is still a time for people to talk. Unfortunately that works both ways. The government has months to gear up the more detailed obfuscations, and now lots of salaried people to oozw out the party line in small conversations. Ironically, with loyal help from NSGEU staff- whose members are the most threatened.

KenS

I shouldn't have to do this, but I hate leaving denialists too easy an out.

And there it is: the malcontents who bailed on the Dexter crowd years ago, and have been out to get them ever since.

For one thing, when people bail, that's it. It does nibble away or eat away at you how well this works for them. You are helping them get away with what you find unacceptable, and they don't own the party. But neither do you, you're definitely in the minority, and most of all: life is too short for battles like this.

Despite all that, I was happy when they won. I could feel a part of it even if I wasn't included and was self-banished. The swearing in ceremony in June 2009 was a joyous occassion. I had a lot of fun talking to people, as did my similarly self-banished friends.

And even before winning, I was always hopeful. "Maybe we are wrong. Maybe they will do close enough to the right thing." And the swearing in amplified that feeling.

I defended the government against the predictable out of hand Babble rejection. Even with the benefit of hindsight how things have turned out, I still think that a social democratic government needed that space.

KenS

Here is a cynical dynamic going on that would be funny if it wasn't so close to home.

It turns out that one of the things going in the background was that back in Febrauary when it gave the school boards their funding allocation numbers, it also told them that it wanted cuts in positions handled as much as possible by attrition.

Perfectly reasonable. And even obvious- Boards are no different than other governments, they will tilt heavily towards attrition anyway. But the Boards were not told and did not figure out that they were meant to be religious about the attrition only business.

They found this out when my school board axed all the librarians. The government fumed and placed a bureauceat to review the budget and 'advise' the Board. His report made repeated reference to the Board not paying sufficient attention to this instruction about attrition.

Here is what the Board's did not 'get'.

The Boards know there are lots of baby boomer teachers retiring. They were already making big use of this to mitigate the pain, even though this impacts the classroom most.

But coming down on my school board brought down the government's message: you are not using ALL the teacher retirements. If not replaced those salaries can account for most of the cuts. If you do not use all those teacher retirements, it is going to mean bodies left in the hallways.

And the Dexter government does not want bodies left in the hallways. Least of all when for every teacher position not cut, that inevitably means an NSGEU member body in the hallway.

Can't have that. (Yet.) Not until after the election.

Just last year Premeir Dexter said that the cuts will not impact the classroom. Not only is that a lie, with class size caps rising. But the government has chosen FURTHER classroom cuts over non-classroom layoffs, so that they can say next year: "The school board is being alarmist again. Look what they said would happen, yet there were no layoffs."

 

Sean in Ottawa

Without getting into specifics about any particular government or policy- I think it is important to remember what kind of betrayal it is for a party to ignore its philosophical constituency.

A party states a position and a political philosophy and takes up room on the political continuum. When they fail to act from that area they are not only not doing what should be done from the perspective of their supporters, it is worse than a government that does not have the same constituency.

When the Conservatives muck up social policy, they at least are not occupying the space or creating the expectation that they will deal with it well. Other parties form, gather support and present an alternative. When a party betrays their own constituency, there is no room on the spectrum because they are still occupying it, there is no opposition on the topic because the force that would have created that opposition was used to elect them.

The opposition is important because a right wing government afraid of a left opposition will be somewhat careful to avoid losing power to it but one that lacks that opposition can do what they want on those files with impunity. One of the best examples would be the Martin budget of 1995. The Liberals ran on a progressive agenda, the NDP was shut out of party status. The opposition Reform party was happy to see the cuts and the BQ at the time was playing a sovereigntist rather than social democratic direction (led at the time by a Conservative, Bouchard). Martin produced the most right wing budget the country had ever seen.

One reason why NDPers tend to hate Liberals often more than Conservatives is exactly this point. The Liberals run to our base, compete with us for votes and efforts from people who share our outlook and philosophy and then let them down in government. At least the Conservatives are not looking for potential supporters of ours and usually represent at election time who they are if people care to listen. (At least when it comes to political philosophy.) I have never liked the so-called mushy middle for its lack of honesty and the inability to hold it to account as it skates around matters of principle.

So this applies to the NDP as well - when it campaigns on a certain outlook - it has a moral obligation to govern from that perspective.

This does not mean other things do not get taken into account but the government has to account for those things rather than simply ignore the base. For example, when an NDP government comes to power and does not deliver, it has a responsibility at least to recognize what is right, say what it wants to do and explain why it is doing something different. Then I, as I argued earlier in the thread, feel they should be given patience. So I would accept an NDP government to say -- well this is the right policy, however we can't do it because a) the population is not ready and we will continue the conversation and hope to build the consensus, here is a first step or b) the finances are not there but we will make them there by doing this and here is a first step or c) this is a specific policy that we were wrong about and this is how we will create social justice in this alternative way.

In all cases you see, I am saying the party must acknowledge when it is doing something that is not right and what it ought to be doing if it wants some slack and take some partial measure at least. This way at least the government is humbly admitting a failure and committing to find a way. By doing so the government is allowing a discussion about what should be done and is educating people moving them in that direction. It is fair to say that the argument that the population is not ready is false if the government is ignoring the topic and not doing anything to get the population ready.

Of course there is the additional damage of a betrayal as a party occupies a political space and then does not deliver as it forces people into fighting their allies as others want to be loyal and sympathetic. It leaves people without what they have built and shut out of their own movement.

So in conclusion I'll say that while I stand by my earlier statements and agree that a government should take into account all the practical issues I raised above, the government has a responsibility to explain any deviation from its program or principles. It must maintain the discussion about what ought to be done and provide credible reasons for a delay, a plan to get there and ongoing public education as to why we should go in that direction. 

What we are hearing from Ken is the government of Nova Scotia has failed on all three and has not gone as far as it could have and in fact has gone in the opposite direction. This is a tragedy and as I outlined above-- the statements I have made do not excuse that behavior as there are alternatives to delivering everything if you really can't or ought not to.

I'll leave it to Ken and others from Nova Scotia to interpret these general statements in their own contexts and with respect to specific policies. I also hope that this will be remembered if the NDP forms a national government in the future. We must be accountable for when we do not faithfully deliver and, when we are, the people will understand.

I know it is long but I wanted to lay this out carefully.

KenS

Or like my wife said to a friend who is now a Minister- "I feel like I lost my political home." And that was before she paid the unexpected personal price of losing her own job in the cuts.

She's more representative of the base than me: barely even volunteered for the NDP, but the only party she ever did or would vote for, or care anything about.

I like how Sean puts it.

I'd be interested to hear some other Nova Scotians weigh in.

KenS

There are at least several babblers who are Nova Scotia Dippers.

If you don't feel up to commenting, you might think of sharing this with someone(s) and discussing.

 

Update.

[quote]

Or like my wife said to a friend who is now a Minister- "I feel like I lost my political home." [/quote]

She said that in an email.

The answer, taking into account hee criticisms, was that it sounds like she never an NDPer.

Choice.

Among other hoary nuggets, Tommy Douglas and the reality of debt was invoked.

I didn't know that the Douglas CCF was also slaying the deficit by offering tax cuts 2-3 years into balancing the books.

KenS
KenS

This came up in the general NS thread. It is apropos here, and the titling seems to guarantee that fewer people check in to look at the thread.

 

Slumberjack wrote:

Dexter's Midnight Runners to the Health Sector Unions:   Raises = Pink Slips

[quote=Darrell Dexter] Unions, when they're negotiating, know or should know that increases in wages sometimes lead to reductions in staff. [/quote]

[quote=Joan Jessome, NSGEU] We didn't negotiate a raise at the cost of people being put on the unemployment line," she told CBC News on Tuesday. To now put on to the shoulders of workers that if they get a raise it's going to be at the cost of others losing their jobs? I think that's actually shameful. [/quote]

 

 

KenS

This is funny.

Ha. Ha.

I was planning on at some point introducing into the thread on austerity budgeting, that health care and health care workers are next. [But not until after the election.]

But the Premeir beat me to it, and said it himself.

Of course, if you want to just take his words literally, then he isn't threatening anyone... he's just saying there are certain realities.

And there are.

But as to whether what he says is the whole truth, this is the same guy who last year when there was a shocked initial reaction to the outline of the austerity future in schools, said unequiovacally "classroom teaching will not be impacted." Repeated many times by Ministers and MLAs speaking to concerned parents.

Not a hint of that promise this year. It obvioulsly flies in the face of reality. And they had the 3 year plan- including more cuts next year to pay for that tax cut- when Dexter made that promise last year.

 

KenS

I do think the plan was, still is, to leave the serious attacks on health care and health care workers until after the election.

Same recipe as with the schools: the government gets to keep some distance from the cutting process because the budget "choices" are leaft to the boards.

Lots of opportunities for blame shifting and obfuscation.

"It's the only responsible thing to do." Blah. Blah. Etc.

They could not afford politically to go after schools and health care at the same time. And there are fewer voting parents than there are people actively in health care needs, or able to picture themselves there soon.

So schools first. Health care in the second mandate.

But the amount of the collective bargaining settlements was not planned for. As if 2% per year is rich.

It isnt just the dollar amount. Allowing this to get in without protest from the government would make it look like an absolute 180 degree reversal if they waited to get vicious until after the election.

So they thought about it for a couple days after the settlement, and decided that in the context of the changes they would have the cake and eat it too:

Let the settlement go ahead, because they dont want the bad PR of an avoidable strike in the hospitals.

But tell the workers and unions now that you'll pay for this. Take with the other hand what they let the workers have in the settlement.

[Leave the full attack on the health boards and their budgeting until next year.]

David Young

Since the Dexter government had a 45% level of support in the last public opinion poll taken, far ahead of the Liberals and Conservatives, I'd say that the public thinks the NDP is doing a good job.

'Nuff said!

 

Slumberjack

I know, they're doing such a great job aren't they?  No one could have imagined such things being attempted under the Liberals and Conservatives.  If they had tried similar antics in office to that extent, we'd have many more voices speaking out against them, but since it's the NDP doing it, the traditional objections that we'd normally hear from in the public domain during times like these appear to have taken the vow of omerta.  It's like a neoliberal PR dream come true.

KenS

If you want to see a discussion get going among Bluenose Dippers- or at least have people be aware there is something to talk about- maybe you could post to social media the links to this thread and Obfuscating the NDP's Cuts to Schools: what is going on in Nova Scotia

KenS

[quote=David Young]

I'd say that the public thinks the NDP is doing a good job.

'Nuff said!  [/quote]

And fuck the NDP membership, eh?

KenS

And if you think we are talking about the opinions and perspectives of a few cranks in the membership, take a look around the room at your next meeting of the South Shore Riding Association.

Sean in Ottawa

Is there a convention that this can be raised at?

Sorry I am not up on NSNDP calendars etc.

KenS

Convention is June 9, on the South Shore no less.

 

I've mentioned this before- it will be a good time for people to talk. But...

A lot of members are just waking up to the reality that something is going on, and the spinmeisters of Orange Tower still have the advantage.

Containing the formal discussions should be pretty easy. And even the talk in the hallways... there are an army of paid staffers totally versed on all the talking points. The material in question is ripe for snow jobs.

All that said, they are on the defensive. So the relevance of what develops is not just what percolates to the surface then and there.

 

And by the way, it is less than 20 years since a Premeir with high public approval ratings chose to retire before the term was out, dogged even after a succesful leadership review vote by a disgruntled membership.

[We dont have one of them there review things.]

 

Not that I think Darrell will be deterred by the opinions of some peasants. He doesn't have the class of his old buddy, John Savage.

KenS

Apropos of Dexter whining about the new health care union contract, and saying it will "inevitably" lead to job losses for union members:

Health care job cuts were already an inevitable consequence of the continuing wave of austerity cuts. First it was schools. Next is health care- but no blood until after the election, and Dexter has the free hand of being early in the second mandate.

The contract just negotiated for 2% instead of the 1% the government has been demanding and getting, comes to a grand total of around $2million in extra costs. Spread across a good size system, not the kind of costs that set layoffs in motion.

Dexter is just using this as an opportunity to scapegoat unions and their 'fat contracts' as the cause of the layoffs next year that will be required by the continuation of austerity budgeting so the government can do the tax cuts.

 

KenS

Dexter's layoff talk threatens bargaining, nurses head says

[quote]

Hearing Premier Darrell Dexter say raises could lead to layoffs at Capital Health threatens good-faith bargaining for another group of health care workers, says their union president.

Janet Hazelton, who heads the Nova Scotia Nurses Union, said Tuesday that the union shouldn't be threatened with consequences before going to the bargaining table.

"Is the message that the nurses represented in this union should take less? Is that the message?" said Hazelton.

Dexter said Monday that the pending raises for health-care workers could lead to layoffs and put pressure on programming.

The nurses union has bargaining talks tentatively scheduled for late this month and early June. Their contract expired Oct. 31.

"I can't have nurses at the IWK making less than the nurses across the street at the QEII. Why should they?" she said. "Why should nurses in New Waterford make less than the nurses at the QE II? Why should they? What message does that send, that their work is less valuable? I'm sure that's not the message this government intends to send."

Dexter stood by his comments.

.....

NSGEU president Joan Jessome said she was surprised at Dexter's comments about the raises.

"I think they were shameful and unnecessary," she said. "We're all professionals on both sides of the table, and to threaten that there would be layoffs just because people are asking (for a raise) is a bit demoralizing."

Dexter declined to respond to Jessome's criticism.

"I'm not going to comment on what Joan Jessome has to say. She's got an audience and a membership that she has to serve, and I'm sure that's what she believes she's doing."

Jessome said it was the employer who suggested arbitration, not the union.

She said union members have called the premier's comments a shot across the bow, but she doesn't expect it will discourage other locals from seeking the same kind of increases.

"It'll more entrench them in their position rather than dampen their expectations," she said. They see it as interfering with collective bargaining."  [/quote]

 

A little background:

The Nurses Union president quoted has run for the NDP, and continued her participation after that.

To say that Joan Jessome and the NSGEU are close to Dexter and the NDP is an enormous understatement.

Dexter's right hand man Matt Hebb was NDP to NSGEU senior staff [still running all federal and provincial campaigns] to government. Same cycle for another senior staff in the government. Matt Hebb's wife is the communications person for the union.

The relationship is so close that it raised eyebrows among NSGEU librarians facing the axe, seeing Jessome and the union going after the Board that made that cuts, while not criticising the government whose funding meant there had to be big job cuts.

If Jessome was disinclined to criticise the government then, I guess Dexter's unprovoked attack and scapegoating of health care workers ends that.

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