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BAKE DOYLE: Fragile decorum

These are photos of the Coles Building
What can Islanders expect from a minority government? Ultimately, functionality and progress, writes Blake Doyle. - SaltWire file photo

Our legislature resumed sitting this week, the first real sitting where government members had ample time to prepare and organize portfolios. This will be businesses first assessment of the new legislative dynamic and a chance to size up if their issues are important to legislators. 

What can Islanders expect from a minority government? Ultimately, functionality and progress. The premier is impassioned – he expects that too, but is this realistic? The political pendulum has swayed, and traditional inertia cannot deny the centripetal force of our political environment. 

It is appropriate our microcosm stretch for an ideal of constructive governance in minority; but we are factors of our environment influenced by the times in which we live. Fractures around the globe are creating special-interested silos, echoes of the loudest voice. British ripples are resulting in friction within the EU, the United States has never been more polarized or mobilized and Canada has regional factions flexing their interests by voting bloc.

Our Island is not in isolation. Our political map is architected by communities of interest and absent common purpose. There is risk of battleground policy formation. This may be evident from the opening forays of question period.

The political arena is not one where courtesy or congeniality can be imposed. Superficially, everyone in agreement feels this is a nice way to approach collective interest, but politics is not operated in collective interests by its nature. There is a singular focus, success/victory/power/entitlement. Collaboration will move the needle for a short time, but every stakeholder wants their way. (My money is on ultimate friction, conflict, horse-trading and gasping survival until a firm footing is gained to spring from the ‘blocs’ to the polls.)

Business is a bloc. In the opening session of the legislature, business interests received deserved attention. What should business anticipate in this short session? For one, a capital budget – the first opportunity for the King government to stamp their course and infrastructure investment. Aside from election promises, I would look to excessive asphalt in the Kings County base and a possible devolution from urban to rural infrastructure and services.

Fortunately for government, business is strong. Successively, finance ministers cannot budget (a forecasting concern) as the magnitude of surpluses has been unprecedented. Leadership will be measured in how these windfalls are administered: through government services, investment in continued economic drivers or application to growing future debt.

If ever business needed to lend a voice in how government spends, it should be when government is investing its tax surplus. Listening to surplus architects would be appropriate and ideally keep momentum progressing. (Partnership for Growth is one entity afforded government attention; are there other socially responsible counterbalances required?)

The success of the current government and length of the tenure will be cast this session of the legislature. Will collaborative decorum continue or will self-interests crack to predictable political motivations, we will bear witness as the coming weeks unfold.

Blake Doyle is The Guardian's small business columnist.

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