Timing is everything
Reporters love seeing government news releases come into their email inboxes.
Usually, it means there is something significant to tell our readers about. They herald the development of new projects and programs, noteworthy achievements of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and often share information on new government spending.
Lately, most of the releases coming from government departments have to do with funding. Any funding at all.
With a provincial election around the corner, who can blame government for wanting to toot their own horn?
Some of these announcements are pretty significant.
Take the $4 million in capital works funding coming to Grand Falls-Windsor, Millertown, Badger, Botwood and Point Leamington.
If you are one of the 10 families in Millertown who will benefit from the money that will update the malfunctioning sewer system they presently have, it is the best news all year.
But we have to remember that this funding is for maintenance of what we already have - something any government would do.
New fire trucks, updates to sections of pavement, renovations to school gyms - these are all projects that are required every year in various parts of the province.
There is nothing wrong with making announcements about the spending. If government did not make them public, then we would be whining about a lack of transparency.
The problem here, of course, is the well-executed timing of the delivery.
A cursory investigation of news releases from the provincial government on their website from July 25-July 29 of this year, shows various departments sent out a total of 59 notices to media. Twenty-nine of them, or roughly 49 per cent, have to do with a funding announcement of some kind.
In the same week last year, from July 26-July 30, 2010, government issued 41 news releases. Only a dozen were funding announcements, which equals roughly 29 per cent.
That is a pretty big jump.
It certainly is all in the timing.
And it is beginning to be comical.
It seems as though every day another announcement comes from government about a community getting a new fire truck.
This staple of modern municipal safety is urgently needed by some towns and, by golly, they are going to have them.
Now, the physical vehicle might not arrive until the fall, or next spring, but it is being announced now.
Why not issue a big, giant list of the communities slated to receive shiny new rigs and let the townspeople know. Would that not be more impressive than stretching the announcements out over weeks?
Apparently not, especially if your party might not have a lock on the win in a particular district on Oct. 11.
In Springdale last week, Innovation, Trade and Rural Development Minister Susan Sullivan announced a $500,000 loan to Anaconda Mines.
That is a fair chunk of change, and certainly significant enough to warrant a news conference, handshakes and pats on backs. After all, that company has brought new jobs to an area that needs them.
The problem is, Anaconda Mines had already drawn down $437,000 of that loan in August 2010.
The Liberal critic for that portfolio, Marshall Dean, criticized the timing and called it an effort to shore up a district for a weak candidate.
Would his party do it differently if the tables were turned, though?
It is up to voters, who are much smarter than we are given credit for sometimes, to see the forest for the trees and not be swayed by convenient announcements for money to be spent in our backyards.
Funny thing, as this editorial was being written, two government news releases came in.
One was telling media that Premier Kathy Dunderdale would attend the opening of Margaret Bowater Park and the new city hall in Corner Brook.
Rose Blanche is getting $15,000 for new playground equipment.
How many votes does a new swing set earn?
We’ll see in 64 days.
(Dave Newell is editor of the Advertiser, the community
newspaper serving the Grand Falls-Windsor area)