If you want to know the true State of the Province of Rodney MacDonald, you could do worse than to read the premier’s "State of the Province" speech last week.
Forget for the moment MacDonald’s unchanging confection of over-baked, under-done puffball platitudes: "The notion of leaving our province a little better for those that follow us is not simply a cliché," he began by way of cliché, and then pressed on, piling one upon the other upon the last. "I believe we live in the best province in the country and the best country in the world. I am proud of our history and culture, our ties to the land and to the sea, our belief in hard work and our entrepreneurial spirit…"
Let’s start instead with the few scraps of apparently real meat MacDonald tossed out at the Westin.
"Expanding our broadband Internet access is as important to our society in 2006 as electrification was in 1936," the premier informed his audience of Chamber of Commerce movers and shakers, then added this pledge: " I am committing to you today that by the end of 2009 all Nova Scotians, no matter where they live, will have 100 per cent coverage."
Ah ha, finally. Something specific.
Ooops. Not so fast, bunky.
When reporters asked him later how much all this would cost, MacDonald… er, wouldn’t say. Because? Well because there might be competition to do the work, and he didn’t want to give anybody ideas. (In case anyone cares to know which ballpark they’d be batting in, New Brunswick is already spending $12.5 million to do much the same in what is a geographically larger province.) The premier wouldn’t even tell us the details of a pilot project for Cumberland County. That’s next week’s surprise.
Later in his speech, the premier convened a civics class on the virtues of voting.
Perhaps not surprisingly, he didn’t cite his government’s election in June as an example of what can happen when too few of us exercise our democratic franchise.
But he did, of course, manage to connect the dots between voting — "The right to vote is something so many people throughout history have fought and died for" — and his own ongoing, never-ending — we have an office of military affairs — support for our troops. "My friends, these young men and women deserve our thanks for putting their lives on the line, each and every day, for us and for freedom throughout the world."
All of which led, in its inevitable, interminably predictable way, to the premier’s announcement of a new legislative committee on — wait for it — Participation in the Democratic Process. Over the next six months, this committee will tour thither and yon "to gather public input. We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation," the premier solemnly declared, "to reverse the current trend."
Uh, if Rodney’s so interested in democracy, why is he suddenly in such a hurry to ram through new election financing rules (ones that — happy coincidence! — will benefit his party) that he’s called a special session of the legislature in January especially for that purpose?
A full six month’s before the committee we owe it to ourselves to send out fact-finding is even due to report?
As Rodney himself said near the end of his speech: "One of the great characteristics of our democracy is that commentators and critics will have their own interpretation of what I’ve just said."
We will, Rodney, we will.
Dr. Gabrielle Horne’s 80-paragraph statement of claim this week against Capital Health, the QEII Health Sciences Centre and various officials in connection within her four-year battle to win back her hospital privileges makes for fascinating reading.
Although the allegations — as we say in the trade — have not been proven in court, they raise troubling questions.
Most importantly, why did Capital Health make what should have been at most a few-week process a four-year marathon that led to September’s predictable decision that it should never have messed with her privileges in the first place.
If its ongoing decisions were based on poor legal advice — by some estimates, legal fees have sucked more than a million badly needed dollars out of the health care system since 2002 — whose responsibility should those fees be?
Stephen Kimber, the Maclean Hunter Professor of Journalism at the University of King’s College, is the author of five nonfiction books and a novel.