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MHAs should reflect their constituents’ views

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Thank you Paul Lane, Liberal MHA for Mount Pearl-Southlands, for voting in the House of Assembly against a Liberal government motion to neuter a non-binding resolution put forward by the NDP calling for the deficit red levy to be eliminated immediately.

Lane objected to the Liberals altering the wording of the resolution by having it read that the levy should be eliminated as soon as possible, instead of immediately. Lane has stated that he will vote against the proposed Liberal budget if there are no major changes, particularly to the deficit reduction plan. 

By dissenting with his party, Lane is exhibiting great political courage and respect for the great majority of the citizens of his district who are against many components of this proposed Liberal budget. Lane’s brave political action promotes a political message to the people that their voices of opposition to government policies can be heard and reverberated within the government. For any politician to dissent with their party on any issue that a great number of the people of their district want them to speak out on is indicative of the democratic principles of dissent and transparency.

Unfortunately, the governing provincial Liberal caucus has expelled Lane for dissenting with their policies. Lane is reflecting the mood of a majority of his constituents and the general public, which is indicative of public polls showing a great decline in provincial Liberal support from 57 per cent in last November’s general election to 37 per cent in an April MQO post-budget public opinion poll. 

The Liberal government has assumed power during an oil price slump induced recession that has increased our deficit to more than $2 billion, and therefore they had to make some tough decisions in their recent budget. However, any government that brings in austere fiscal policies that will increase taxes on low and middle-income citizens, close libraries in many small towns, freeze the wages of public sector employees and cut the jobs of some public sector employees should expect significant public opposition.  

The results of last November’s provincial election gave the Liberals 31 out of 40 legislative seats, which is almost 80 per cent of the legislature, even though the Liberals won 57 per cent of the popular vote. Under these circumstances, the opposition is significantly underrepresented in contrast to how the Newfoundland and Labrador electorate allocated 43 per cent of its vote against the Liberals. Tolerating one or a few members of their caucus to dissent with some of their fiscal policies would be a respectful act of acknowledging the way more than two out of five votes were cast in last November’s provincial election and how a healthy majority of citizens feel about the recent budget.  

When the Liberals were in opposition they criticized the then PC government’s implementation of Bill 29 in 2012, and had PC MHAs voted against Bill 29 it could have been defeated. In October 2013, Dwight Ball responded to PC and NDP floor-crossings to the Liberals by stating “The Liberal camp will welcome those who have found conflict in other parties.” The contemporary Liberal party does not appear to welcome anyone who has conflict over any issue within their party.  

Since their election defeat last November, PC Opposition Leader Paul Davis has called for free legislative votes on the budget and PC MHA Steve Kent has called for voter recall of MHAs. However, they did not advocate those policies when they were in government and in May 2005 the PC provincial government expelled PC MHA Fabian Manning for publicly criticizing government policies pertinent to the unfair treatment of crab fishermen. The NDP is also calling for a legislative free vote on the provincial budget, however in the fall of 2013, then NDP leader Lorraine Michael refused to recognize two former NDP MHAs brief independent status in the house after they previously, as New Democrats, had criticized her leadership.

The opposition PC and NDP parties should confirm their contemporary commitment to free legislative votes by proposing such legislation in the House of Assembly with an attached component that they will tolerate dissent from any of their MHAs who want to vote with the government. The Liberal government should acknowledge that even though they are in a difficult fiscal position, the acceptance of constructive criticism from all individuals, including within their caucus, enhances democracy and the public’s faith that they can have their MHA reflect their views.   

John Ryall

Mount Pearl

 

Lane objected to the Liberals altering the wording of the resolution by having it read that the levy should be eliminated as soon as possible, instead of immediately. Lane has stated that he will vote against the proposed Liberal budget if there are no major changes, particularly to the deficit reduction plan. 

By dissenting with his party, Lane is exhibiting great political courage and respect for the great majority of the citizens of his district who are against many components of this proposed Liberal budget. Lane’s brave political action promotes a political message to the people that their voices of opposition to government policies can be heard and reverberated within the government. For any politician to dissent with their party on any issue that a great number of the people of their district want them to speak out on is indicative of the democratic principles of dissent and transparency.

Unfortunately, the governing provincial Liberal caucus has expelled Lane for dissenting with their policies. Lane is reflecting the mood of a majority of his constituents and the general public, which is indicative of public polls showing a great decline in provincial Liberal support from 57 per cent in last November’s general election to 37 per cent in an April MQO post-budget public opinion poll. 

The Liberal government has assumed power during an oil price slump induced recession that has increased our deficit to more than $2 billion, and therefore they had to make some tough decisions in their recent budget. However, any government that brings in austere fiscal policies that will increase taxes on low and middle-income citizens, close libraries in many small towns, freeze the wages of public sector employees and cut the jobs of some public sector employees should expect significant public opposition.  

The results of last November’s provincial election gave the Liberals 31 out of 40 legislative seats, which is almost 80 per cent of the legislature, even though the Liberals won 57 per cent of the popular vote. Under these circumstances, the opposition is significantly underrepresented in contrast to how the Newfoundland and Labrador electorate allocated 43 per cent of its vote against the Liberals. Tolerating one or a few members of their caucus to dissent with some of their fiscal policies would be a respectful act of acknowledging the way more than two out of five votes were cast in last November’s provincial election and how a healthy majority of citizens feel about the recent budget.  

When the Liberals were in opposition they criticized the then PC government’s implementation of Bill 29 in 2012, and had PC MHAs voted against Bill 29 it could have been defeated. In October 2013, Dwight Ball responded to PC and NDP floor-crossings to the Liberals by stating “The Liberal camp will welcome those who have found conflict in other parties.” The contemporary Liberal party does not appear to welcome anyone who has conflict over any issue within their party.  

Since their election defeat last November, PC Opposition Leader Paul Davis has called for free legislative votes on the budget and PC MHA Steve Kent has called for voter recall of MHAs. However, they did not advocate those policies when they were in government and in May 2005 the PC provincial government expelled PC MHA Fabian Manning for publicly criticizing government policies pertinent to the unfair treatment of crab fishermen. The NDP is also calling for a legislative free vote on the provincial budget, however in the fall of 2013, then NDP leader Lorraine Michael refused to recognize two former NDP MHAs brief independent status in the house after they previously, as New Democrats, had criticized her leadership.

The opposition PC and NDP parties should confirm their contemporary commitment to free legislative votes by proposing such legislation in the House of Assembly with an attached component that they will tolerate dissent from any of their MHAs who want to vote with the government. The Liberal government should acknowledge that even though they are in a difficult fiscal position, the acceptance of constructive criticism from all individuals, including within their caucus, enhances democracy and the public’s faith that they can have their MHA reflect their views.   

John Ryall

Mount Pearl

 

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