Oh! The buffoonity!


It’s been suggested Turpin Laboratories over-reacted by using the word “buffoons” with respect to the Liberal government’s decision to override four recommendations by the civil service on where to build new schools.

But we’re right. Here’s why.

Many years ago we worked in the education department and accompanied members of cabinet to communities that were getting new schools (many of them P3) either to open the school or update the community on construction progress.

The state of some existing schools, especially outside Halifax, was appalling. There were 38 kids in our graduating class in, uh, the very late 1960s, and that was heaven compared to what we saw circa 2005 in Nova Scotia. In one case the classrooms, hallways, and washrooms all resembled sets from a low-budget dystopian movie. You’d learn more taking classes in the janitor’s room. (If it turns out we paid too much for P3 schools, it was worth it because they got built fast.)

How could this happen? Well, it wasn’t the fault of civil servants. Their recommendations on where and when to build were based on a host of measurable factors, and the intent was to put new schools where they would do the most good at the time and in the future (crazy, eh?) If schools were being left to rot, it was because the political leadership thought it had better ideas than education department bureaucrats.

I don’t know what those ideas were. I suspect they related to winning votes, or enriching “friends of the party” whose nearby land holdings would skyrocket once a new school was announced. So, if you were taking classes in a dump back then, or today, too bad. Your government has votes to gather and friends to please.

Wednesday’s news that Stephen McNeil’s government had ignored civil service recommendations for four schools is no different.

Politicians lack the time and expertise to make good decisions about schools. Why? Because the decisions are intricate and far-reaching. That’s why we have a civil service — it’s paid to HAVE the time and the expertise. If the politicians want to dick with whose fish plant gets a subsidy, fine. The damage they can do is limited. No so with schools.

McNeil’s crowd should know this by now, but they don’t. By now they should have put on their grown-up pants and started to govern.

But they haven’t.

That makes them buffoons.

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