Below is a letter posted in the Telegram on June 29th by Council of Canadian members Helen Forsey and Elizabeth Lee.
For all its high-sounding platitudes about the need for "transparency" in government, the Premier’s Economic Recovery Task Force (PERT)'s "The Big Reset" report was, and is, about as un-transparent as you can get.
Worse, the government's follow-up consultation process is so laden with misrepresentation and spin as to border on the fraudulent.
The report itself actively discourages analysis and criticism. The authors defy standard practice by omitting any listing of submissions received or of groups and individuals consulted, so readers have no idea of where they got the input they claim.
Throughout the team's secretive months-long pre-report process, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians noted the utter lack of transparency and public involvement; now the problem is compounded by the report's opacity.
Equally anti-democratic is the report document's design. The recommendations are not numbered; some of them incorporate a range of sub-recommendations, also un-numbered, and there is no index to track down items buried in the 300-plus pages.
All this makes attempts to refer to any of them time-consuming and potentially confusing. Moreover, a lot of the content and recommendations do not hang together. Questions are raised or implied, then not even reflected on, let alone answered.
The government's current so-called public consultation process adds insult to injury. The main mechanism for citizen input is through Engage NL with two online questionnaires.
Deceptively introduced as requiring "approximately 30 minutes to complete," the questionnaires are also structured in ways that will seriously distort the results.
The choices are presented so as to elicit a disproportionate number of "support" responses — also known as "false positives" — and to make it difficult (and exhausting) for respondents to enter true negative ones.
One of the most effective ways the designers achieve this is by rewording the report's recommendations. "Please note," they say, "some recommendations were edited for clarity."
Far from helping with clarity, the "editing" often makes it impossible to know what you are actually supporting or opposing. As a result, it requires hours of work to properly complete the questionnaire, meticulously going back through the entire report to compare it with the questions, which are jumbled up and put in a different order. Naturally it's much easier to simply click "support" or "neither support nor oppose. Afterall, who would oppose recommendations for improved services or environmentally sound fisheries management?
Poor glossaryThe report kindly provides its own glossary, offering definitions of 36 terms that it apparently deems too esoteric for the general citizenry to understand — such as extreme poverty, hydroelectricity, per capita and "royalties.
Unfortunately, it neglects to include PERT's own unique brave new world terminology, in which, for example, "streamline" means deregulate; "clarity" means duplicity; "green" indicates less damaging than it might be; "improve" may mean sell or privatize and "uplift" can mean anything from eliminating volunteer school boards to slashing university and college budgets.
There is no reason to imagine that the government's "virtual town halls" or "stakeholder roundtables" will be any improvement on the questionnaires. Such "consultations" typically involve lengthy official presentations to which members of the unwashed masses are invited to "respond" — briefly and within strictly prescribed limits. The supposed results are then put forward as support for the predetermined agenda.
All in all, the level of hypocrisy of the entire process is breathtaking.
“The Big Reset" is trying to press the reset button on Newfoundland and Labrador's society, pushing us against our will towards austerity, privatization and catastrophe.
The government is attempting to justify these measures with a bogus consultation process, carefully engineered to disempower public opposition by misrepresenting intentions, twisting facts and playing us all for fools.
Fortunately, however, citizens throughout the province aren't buying it.
We refuse to be herded into the corrals so carefully set up for us by Premier Andrew Furey, Dame Moya Greene and their collaborators.
We are making our voices heard loud and clear, in the papers, on radio and television, in conversations, on social media and wherever we gather, virtually or otherwise.
As the People's Recovery makes clear, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have genuine alternatives. And we need to take them.
Helen Forsey and Elizabeth Lee,
Council of Canadians, Avalon Chapter