Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

After a zombie budget and the stink of Muskrat Falls, we need a new job description for premier

The first requirement: must be willing not to relocate. A new column from Edward Riche

The first requirement: must be willing not to relocate

Election? Or job interview? On May 16, Newfoundland and Labrador voters will effectively hire their top employee. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

People, particularly those in the running, like to say "the job of premier."

That's a good thing. We have things that urgently need doing. We're not looking for a friend or a cheerleader; we want a heavy-lifter. 

It's a big gig for which we do the hiring so we should consider the professional qualifications of the candidates.

Dwight Ball's background in pharmacy makes him well suited to deliver the chill pills an anxious electorate craves. 

We're up nights fretting about the future or, dwelling on our demographics, whether we have one. We could use something to take the edge off, to forget for a few hours that an entirely unqualified Kathy Dunderdale might have blown the most important fiscal decision in the province's history and left us with the bill.  

Or that we still harvest fish stocks past sustainability. 

Or that most of us live on an island and we cannot comprehend how ferries work.  

Come live these bags of nerves

Newfoundland and Labrador desperately needs immigrants. Who is going to move in with us if we are so many bags of nerves? 

Dwight's latest prescription, applying Atlantic Accord money to some of the affected areas, might not be the cure but it will ease symptoms.

NDP Leader Alison Coffin teaches economics at Memorial University. (CBC)

In his past life, Ches Crosbie was an accomplished litigator, in possession of the skills we need to settle scores, to expel the bamboozlers from Nalcor, to pursue the Muskrat Falls project's pirates.  

He could represent us as he has his clients. We could be akin to the class in an action seeking (admittedly symbolic) compensation for negligence.  

Compensation at least equal to the generous severance awarded the gang bosses would do it. Our case is complex and Ches has the brains for the brief.

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball is hoping to get rehired by the electorate. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

Contrary to the common knock they are naïve about the realities of business, New Democratic governments across Canada have the distinction of being the best money managers. 

Alison Coffin is an economist and a democratic socialist so if she's cruel, it's to be kind. She's also a MUN professor.  

We are the promising student from around the bay who, having abused their newfound first-year freedom, ended up dropping physics, failing three courses and getting a pity pass in folklore because of our accent. 

And we did it on student loans. 

Maybe Allison Coffin will get us.

Whimsical plans, rehashed ideas

Though looking at Dwight's zombie budget, his whimsical plans, at the rehashed ideas in the McKinsey report, it's easy to imagine his panacea might be a placebo.

Our anxiety is earned, and its causes probably need to be confronted if we are going to stop making the same mistakes. Maybe it's time we emerged from our narcotic haze and went cold turkey.

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie has the smarts, Edward Riche says; will he represent citizens as he did with his legal clients. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Crosbie might have the ability to play the new marshal in town but does he have the will? 

In the case of Muskrat Falls there isn't a living member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative Party who doesn't have the stink of the fiasco about them.

Does Ches have the stomach to go shooting rats at the Tory dump?  Sure, he's smart, but how will that be received in such an anti-intellectual place as Newfoundland and Labrador?

Lawyers in private practice are billing machines in fancy clothes whereas the province is a giant spending contraption in rags. Is he a fit?

The Muskrat Falls megaproject in Labrador is bound to be a key election issue. (Nalcor)

Ms. Coffin is a theorist in a non-paradigmatic branch of psychology. Economics does a brilliant job of accounting for the past, but on the future it's essentially augury. 

Anyone can offer advice on whether to place that last quarter Ottawa gave us on Crown or Anchor. And given the New Democrats' long odds, her run might only be role playing, as much a fantasy as a chart by Wade Locke.

Let's do this. Let's write a job description

The responsibility to put the right person in the position lies with us. Our first step should be laying out what we need in the job description.

Here goes:

Wanted: Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Must be willing not to relocate. Ideally the candidate will have the courage and political capital to revolutionize provincial health care and education systems to improve outcomes while radically curtailing budgets. Will introduce regional government. Can humanely wind up dying rural communities. Experience in financing and actually building prisons and hospitals an asset. Cannot owe favours to anyone in heavy civil or construction. Sense of gallows humour and little need to be liked mandatory. Owing to the nature of the work required this contract is unlikely to be renewed after four years. 

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About the Author

Edward Riche


Edward Riche writes for the page, stage and screen. He lives in St. John's.


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