Dwight Ball looks for more active, open government
Ball discusses transparency, committees and reforms with David Cochrane
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball plans to focus on the province's economic and fiscal challenges in the new year, however he is also looking to make his government more accessible and accountable.
"My number one priority right now in this province is the economy, because the most important thing that I need to do right now is making sure that we lay a good foundation for the future," he said.
The premier laid out some of his other expectations for his government when he spoke with CBC's David Cochrane.
More open and transparent government
Ball said that he wants his government to be more open and transparent than previous governments and cited the comprehensive external review of Muskrat Falls as one example.
He also said that the ministers and himself will be more active and accessible, both in public and in the House of Assembly.
"You'll see our ministers, you'll see me, out there more often. You'll see us in the communities, more engaged. You'll also see more active committees within our legislature," he said.
Ball said he will convene an all-party committee to change how the legislature sits and functions.
The premier added that an Independent Appointments Commission would "take the politics out of appointments" and keep government accountable.
Committees in the House
Ball said that one of the biggest current problems in the House of Assembly is that numerous permanent standing committees are not active and their members are not being held accountable.
"I think we really need a strong committee structure within the House of Assembly ... we need more active committees around the new legislation that we bring to the floor of the House of Assembly," he said.
Ball said that these committees can effectively introduce and enact amendments to legislation that would not have otherwise been considered. In addition, he said people on the committees who are not active could be fired.
"People are elected, and they're paid to do a job. If people are not doing their job, well, then they lose their job," he said.
People in Newfoundland and Labrador, they demand and deserve their politicians to be open and honest- Premier Dwight Ball
He also set the same standards for ministers, and said part of his job is to hold ministers accountable when changes need to be made.
"If we get a minister that's not doing his or her job, well, then we've got some people that are in the back benches that are more than willing and prepared to do that," Ball said.
He plans to raise the ethical standards for government as well, and if a cabinet member or MHA doesn't follow the rules for voting or fundraising, they too could lose their job.
"People in Newfoundland and Labrador, they demand and deserve their politicians to be open and honest with them," he said.
Ball said that he is still committed to electoral reform in the province, but the economy remains his top priority, making reform an important but less immediate concern.
The premier said the first step in electoral reform is making voting easier and more accessible for voters, and suggested moving to an electronic voting system in the future.
He said that he still expects the next election in Newfoundland and Labrador to follow the current first-past-the-post system, however government is still considering changes down the road and will be closely following reforms at the federal level.