The Trouble with Bubbles
With the word “bubble” now so trendy, this seems a good time to critique the bubbles surrounding leadership in our dominant political parties.
The Goliath of our troubled political bubbles belongs, without doubt, to the Conservative Party. We had a Conservative government ensconced in a bubble with a powerful premier at the centre, obedient minions in the civil service, and an entourage of business interests who cared only about immediate profits. No one outside that bubble was listened to. Result: Muskrat Falls.
Then there were the Ball government’s bubbles. Probably the most memorable is that first incredible, 2016 budget attempt that put a levy tax of 1.2% on Newfoundlanders and Labradorians struggling with incomes less than $25,000, but only .45% on those making $200,000 or more. It was quite an amazing demonstration of how those in bubbles of privilege, even when well meaning, can have little understanding of the economic reality of ordinary people.
Already there’s evidence that similar blinkered, bubble trouble may thrive with the new Furey government. An example is the Task Force recently commissioned to spend the $320 million allocated to the province by the Trudeau government. The federal money came with two loosely worded conditions - that it be used to support laid off oil workers and that it reduce carbon emissions. For those of us who thought that meant training and channeling workers into green economy jobs, dream on.
What we got was a Task Force in which 19 of the 21 appointees came with strong links to the offshore industry. We’ve also got leadership in both the Liberal and Conservative parties itching to make sure that as much of that money as possible goes to helping the oil sector stay in the province.
We shouldn’t be surprised. The oil sector is very, very good at getting money out of governments. According to a 2019 International Monetary Fund report, when you include damages done to the environment and atmosphere that the industry doesn’t pay for, the subsidies to oil in 2017 were a staggering $2.13 trillion or 2.7% of world GDP that year. And that was a typical year.
Like other community groups, we do understand that the government is between a rock and a hard place, and that, at this point in time, we need to slowly transition away from our dependence on oil. But that transition may ultimately be necessary, like it or not. Choosing to minimize exposure to other points of view and other directions is what we don’t need.
Prioritizing one “solution” above everything else is exactly the kind of bubble trouble that gave us our Muskrat Falls mess.
Marilyn Reid, on behalf of the Avalon Chapter of the Council of Canadians