It would be an understatement to say public interest in the Humber Valley Paving (HVP) affair is building fast. Just look at the column to the left. Monday's Post "Disturbing Questions Raised By Frank Coleman's Disclosure" became the most read spot in just two days.
One of the greatest public concerns, now, is that Frank Coleman will take over the Office of Premier without the benefit of the opinion of the Auditor General. Some believe the issue requires an investigation by the RCMP, too.
I don’t think the public is solely troubled by HVP, though it is the biggest issue and is top of mind.
It seems Coleman is not ready and the public are not ready for him.Coleman is relatively unknown, possesses no history as a policy wonk or politician and sports none of the virtues one would look for in a political leader. He might have arrived, as incoming Premier, only because Danny Williams has hijacked the Progressive Conservative Party.
Winston Churchill once said democracy is the worse system, except for all the others. We may have come to realize that a key to its success is the public’s willingness not just to exercise its vote, but its patience as well. Coleman is certainly trying that virtue.
After all, he has arrived without election and absent any process of screening, even one that suggests minimal acceptance by the body politic. Evidently, Williams’ blessing is enough.
When you consider the seriousness and the ramifications of the Humber Valley Paving affair, it is not difficult to understand people’s bewilderment over his easy presumption to the 8th Floor.
Likely, the electorate could care less that the P.C. Party has been hijacked but, it does care that their Government has been hijacked, too.
If Frank Coleman, Danny Williams, the Tory Caucus, the media or anyone else cannot understand that the public is alarmed because a stranger may become Premier, one under an immense cloud right now, they truly are detached.
The issue of Coleman’s suitability is compressed, like tectonic plates, against the HVP issue.
The co-incidence of having Bonds worth $19 million released with the collapse of the Leadership Contest is far too great to contemplate. Little wonder it is being investigated. Indeed, there may well be a role here for the RCMP.
This is not a matter contrived by the Opposition or by some vexed third party. It has arisen because the Minister conferred on Coleman an unprecedented benefit. Both have been disingenuous.
Inconsistencies and contradictions abound.
First, the Minister said he cancelled the Contract due to forest fires in the area of HVP’s work. He moved off that rationale when it was shown him the forest fires had affected roadwork for only 2 or 3 days.
Then, McGrath says it was to save HVP from bankruptcy, but Frank Coleman told CBC On Point the work could be sold and that HVP had other alternatives.
It was the most the economical thing to do for taxpayers, according to McGrath, yet the Canadian Surety Association says that is preposterous; the most efficient way to deal with any delay, it said, is to call the Bonds.
When the story first broke Frank Coleman told us he did not benefit personally from the release of the Bonds. Weeks later he admits he was on the hook for the security and that he benefited personally.
To these and other inconsistencies we add the fact that, in respect of both Minister McGrath and Mr. Coleman, any information had to be literally squeezed out of them.
In the beginning McGrath made reference to only one Bond of $9.5 million. This scribe tweeted that two Bonds worth $19 million amount were released, not one. It should have been Frank Coleman who corrected the Minister and the media.
It should have been Frank Coleman who demanded a thorough investigation and offered his participation in the kind of transparency needed when political leaders fall under suspicion, unwarranted or otherwise.
In place of Frank Coleman’s intercession it took a week of tying up Question Period in the House of Assembly and widespread anger, on social media, before the Premier broke down.
Now, we are informed that the cancellation of a second contract associated with HVP is under active consideration.
The credibility of Minister Nick McGrath is shot. Can anyone say Frank Coleman’s is not shot right along with him?
It ought to be said, if HVP was in as poor financial shape as Minister McGrath would have us believe, Mr. Coleman cannot even make claim to the status of business titan for which reason, we are led to believe, he is thrust onto the public stage.
While no one wants to see an untested, unproven, unknown person ascend to the Office of First Minister, Coleman can walk right in. In effect, Mr. Coleman has executed a coup d’etat. The Premier's Office is wide open to him. Even his Swearing-In, by the Lieutenant Governor, has none except ceremonial value in respect of that Office.
Mr. Coleman may be entirely innocent of any allegations of conflict or of being the recipient of multi-million dollar political favouritism. The controversy may be related to nothing more than to the incompetence of a single Minister and to a Premier too weak to fire him.
Whatever the case, the Office of Premier demands that no one take occupancy under a cloud.
It would constitute the ultimate disrespect, to that Office and to the institution of Government.
In short, the “in-coming” Premier should not be directing staff changes in the Premier’s Office, as a private citizen. Rather, he should only be preoccupied with sharing every single detail of the HVP affair with a waiting public; he should be awaiting the results of the A-G’s investigation and encouraging the Premier to include the RCMP.
The public should rightly expect that the person who takes occupancy of that Office is beyond reproach and enjoys that perception, too.
It is interesting to listen to the troubles in Ukraine these days. Some of us seem to think just because we haven’t raised our guns, all is just fine.
We have no reason to be smug.