Monday, January 22, 2007

Third disappointment

Though one could often fault the Lord Tories for doing too much consultation when tough decisions needed to be made soon, I am disappointed by what I read today about the Liberal consultations for the budget.

From the Telegraph-Journal:

The Liberal government has denied New Brunswickers an opportunity to question and advise the finance minister on his pre-budget tour, the Opposition contends.

Finance Minister Victor Boudreau has made four speeches over the last week - from Shediac to Fredericton, outlining what he says are significant financial challenges in New Brunswick's near future.

(...)

But Jeannot Volpé, the interim Conservative leader, says the tour violates the Fiscal Responsibility and Balanced Budget Act. It states the finance minister must allow the public to participate in pre-budget consultations and issue a document outlining the key issues.

Volpé says the speeches have not been advertised or fully open to the public. Thursday night's speech at the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce required those in attendance to purchase tickets.

(...)

Boudreau admits the speech wasn't open to all.

(...)

According to Boudreau, the recent election campaign served as the ultimate interaction and consultation with the public.

(...)

Volpé, finance minster from 2003 until the fall of the Bernard Lord government, says his first budget tour gave New Brunswickers an opportunity to give their opinion.

He said thanks to radio and newspaper ads, crowds of up to 1,000 attended the events.

They also printed more than 320,000 documents, he said.

"It was very public," he said. "It looks like they're scared

"That's not the way you do a public meeting."
Boudreau is right that an election is an ultimate consultation process and I have defended him and the government on the idea of delaying the budget past the legally required date of March 31 if it means they can properly account for revenues from federal transfers. However, the law requires consultations and consultations are a good thing. A group of 18 in a cabinet meeting or of 29 in a caucus meeting is all well and good, but it is easy to miss things when confined to a group of like minded individuals. Moreover, at the very least, the consultation process makes the people feel empowered and will make tough decisions easier to accept.

3 comments:

jajakoom said...

While Volpe may have toured around the province on his "consultations" it was common knowledge that the decisions were made ahead of the "consultations" and those were essentially a sham. I had a chance to attend a number of those "consultations" and there were great ideas expressed by the people in attendance; none made it into the budget documents and none were ever mentioned again by Volpe and his gang. It was purely a public relations exercise that wasted a lot of paper.

nbpolitico said...

jaka you probably make a very fair point. However, the Liberals did vote in favour of legislation making these sorts of consulations the law and ought to honour it.

Even if the Liberals were to make these a sham again, as you say the Tories did and I suspect they did, on a political level it makes sense because, as I said:

at the very least, the consultation process makes the people feel empowered and will make tough decisions easier to accept.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, what a choice in your government:

- a government that breaks its laws and doesn't allow the pretense of participation

or

- a government that has pretense of participation but ignores the comments



Somebody want to explain 'canadian democracy' to me?