Darrin King has created a chill.
The province's fisheries minister declared, in a fit of anger two weeks ago, that his department would pull funding from the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union - funding that is earmarked specifically for research and development programs that collect scientific information on various fisheries - because he was tired of the constant criticism being levelled at the department by the union.
He later tried to qualify that the department simply wanted to know the funding was worthwhile.
It was a poor attempt at damage control - to try to leave the impression with the public that the funding withdrawal was not an attempt to stop criticism but with a higher altruistic goal of ensuring taxpayer's money was being well spent.
It wasn't about whether the money was being wisely spent. Government does not write cheques to fund research, development or programs unless it receives a very well documented and carefully laid out business plan. That process can take months. And if the plan has merit, it gets funding.
You can be sure the department did not hand the FFAW funding for fisheries science programs without receiving a detailed plan. They decided months ago the work was valid and deserving of funding.
King's decision was simply an attack on the criticism.
Over the years, and under the rule of Danny, the Conservative government developed a very thin skin that evolved into a goal to control.
King's lashing out is evidence of a government that still does not take kindly to a public that dares to speak against it.
Former Premier Williams was known to personally call up those who wrote letters to the editor, or opinion columns, to vent his displeasure and leave a more insidious message that, "We are watching. Be good."
King has taken it one step further. While he may argue he didn't mean to be threatening, while he may say he was just speaking for himself as minister, and in respect to his own department, the minister of fisheries sent a very clear message on behalf of the entire government.
King's lashing out is evidence of a government that still does not take kindly to a public that dares to speak against it. -
Any money that you hope to receive from government, to help your industry, your community or your business, is clearly at stake if you publicly speak ill of government.
In his attempt to shut up the Fisheries Union, Darrin King made a huge mistake. He could have countered their criticism with facts of his own. He could have let logic prevail.
Instead, he chose to use the ploy that has been used by past politicians and governments, a ploy that has never proven to be a good strategy. He chose to threaten.
If this was Darrin King, speaking in haste, and acting alone, we might be able to chalk it up to a renegade minister acting foolishly.
However, the fact that his leader - Kathy Dunderdale - has allowed him to follow through, indicates that her government, and all its ministers, are in full agreement with his mindset.
How many town councils, community leaders and private citizens will choose to remain silent from here on?
That is not a good thing.
Open and honest dialogue, even if it comes in the form of harsh criticism, is necessary for good government.
The famous British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, once said, "I may not agree with what you said, but I will defend to the hilt your right to say it."
A government that attempts to thwart criticism and silence opinion is a government that will ultimately thwart itself due by shutting itself off to the real concerns of its citizens because it chooses not to hear them.