You could say Darrell Dexter had an OK decade.
From winning the NDP leadership to becoming premier of a majority government, he’s a long way from his one-time after-high school job of digging trenches.
Then again, there have been better times to be premier of Nova Scotia. Hundreds of millions of deficit dollars, flat-lining revenues and rising costs tend to take the wind out of one’s sails.
Metro sat down with Dexter yesterday to discuss some of the big issues and cultural quirks of the last year — and decade.
Some answers have been edited for length.
Q. Between 9-11, Hurricane Katrina, wars, tsunamis, the economic collapse, etc., a lot of people think it’s been a pretty rotten decade. How do you think history is going to size up the aughts?
A. Well, that’s a good question. It certainly has been a tumultuous decade … I think there was this sense that there was an economic wave without end. Of course, we found out in October of ’08 … the economic underpinnings of the financial system were not sustainable. I would think that given it’s the most severe economic correction since the Great Depression, that if anything comes out of this decade, that will likely be remembered. I mean, you saw right-wing governments stepping in to nationalize banks. That’s unheard of.
Q. You just got back from Copenhagen. A lot of environmental advocates are not happy with the final result. Was the summit a success or a failure?
A. It was frustrating to get up every day and see that the focus seemed to be on China and the United States, when what we saw on the ground was a high level of agreement on the road forward, particularly among the sub-nationals, among the provincial and regional governments who were saying it doesn’t really matter what the nationals decide, because we are charged with the responsibility of implementing 50 to 80 per cent of the mitigation and adaption strategies anyway … From my perspective, I wish there could have been a more universally adopted solution at the national level, but I think that there were lots of positive things that happened in Copenhagen.
Q. You’ve already announced you will have to go back on your election promise to balance next year’s budget. Was it ever responsible to promise that and insist it was possible?
A. You do everything you do based on the information you have at the time. As (economist) Tim O’Neill pointed out, you had professional economists that didn’t anticipate the unsustainable financial path that Nova Scotia was on. We knew there was going to be a gap that the former government had papered over. We certainly had no idea that gap was going to be in the vicinity of $1.2 billion, and I don’t think anybody did.
Q. With unions looking for raises and the province in deep deficit, is 2010 going to be another rough year?
A. I think that next year’s going to be a tougher year than this year. Financial decisions relating to the budget are not going to be easy. The Cat is an example, Starlink was another one. We can’t continue to be in the subsidy business for commercial enterprise.
Q. The media landscape has shrunk significantly over the last decade. As a politician and former journalist yourself, what do you think the impact has been?
A. There are limitations in the press corps these days. I think there is a real crisis in media. The so-called convergence model took a lot of people out of the world of journalism who added great value to the debate. I think we’re suffering because of it.
Q. Over the last decade, things like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace exploded onto the scene. Did you get sucked into the social media vortex?
A. I don’t have Facebook, I’ve never twittered, or tweeted, or whatever they call it.
Q. Which was more annoying this decade: Reality TV or emo music?
A. Boy, do you have to choose? Because they’re both pretty annoying.
Q. Right now, the hottest thing going is Twilight. Any predictions on the next big fad?
A. I haven’t seen any of the Twilight movies, so I don’t know. This is the vampire youth teen love stories, is that what they are? No, I don’t really know.
Q. With non-stop texting and always being plugged in, do you think we’ve become too addicted to technology?
A. Everything happens in real time now … When you (hold a press conference), somebody is with the other leader and they’re texting back and forth. So all of the sudden it’s become a real-time world — instead of day by day or hour by hour, it’s literally minute by minute.
Q. This year, Liberals accused Conservative MP Rick Dykstra of texting during a Remembrance Day ceremony. Dykstra said he was only live-blogging the ceremony. Have we become addicted to technology to the point of absurdity?
A. I think so. I have a BlackBerry, I obviously have to use it for business, but I find it really overwhelming. One of the best experiences I had happened last February when I travelled to Panama … The phone didn’t work, the BlackBerry didn’t work. It was like a godsend … It was just great and refreshing to be away from the white noise, which is constant communication.