It is bad enough, having served four years as opposition leader, that Dwight Ball arrived on the eighth floor unaware the province is in a fiscal crisis!
Now, he has awakened a sleepy public and a media normally preoccupied at this time of year with the circumference and depth of pot holes and whether they are swimmable.
The media’s rapturous embrace of the mundane took a turn these past few weeks and it is damn good to see.
Their special access to the Nalcor leadership, accommodating for the most compliant reporters, likely won’t have the same currency, now. All will be on point, at least for a while.
Perhaps they sense a change in what consumers of news are interested; whatever the reason the travails of Dwight Ball, and public knowledge of them, are connected to this new focus.
The public are angry and they should be, even if they and their petit business, municipal, and institutional leadership must share the blame for the mess we are in.
It is high time manifest corruption and a government in disarray and going broke should occupy a persistent presence on the front pages.
The Premier is rightfully in everyone’s crosshairs.
|Premier Dwight Ball|
Having waged a campaign based on ignorance, denial of irreplaceable revenues, and an economy grounded more in fairy tales than hard won progress, he is now embroiled in a scheme to deny the public their legitimate right to know how Ed Martin got moneyed up.
No one should think the legal status of the decision by the former Nalcor Board a slam-dunk. The question is whether prosecution of the Board Members is unwarranted due to advice or authority the Premier gave them, which he has failed to disclose.
Of course, the legal question is merely subtext for a greater political crisis anyway; a nearly bankrupt province has a politically wounded Premier in charge.
The Premier’s evasions, inconsistencies, together with his failure to take decisive and timely steps to stop the cash grab have left him with even less moral authority than he had when everyone realized his policy arsenal was empty.
Politics is as much about timing as it is about sound judgement. Ball failed as a politician when he recoiled from planting his boot up Ed Martin’s metaphorical posterior the moment severance was mentioned. A savvy Premier would have placed the surgical removal of his foot on public display and received commensurate popular approval.
It is one thing for a Premier to assist his Finance Minister in taking unpopular budgetary decisions or even wrong-headed ones. But no matter how disliked, naïve, or half-baked any of them may be, in order to function the Premier must be perceived as a person of integrity. There is no compromise here. The Premier cannot operate under a cloud.
The province has neither a trustworthy government nor a credible Opposition to guide us through what may be a lengthy difficult period. The Tories were the architects not just of Muskrat Falls, but of odious mismanagement. The NDP, occasionally if ever relevant, have skewered a limited cache. They are attempting to make virtue out of more spending as the bankers come knocking.
Regretfully, when the Government is getting ready to stare down the public sector unions, and trim public services, it won’t be able to boast the moral authority to convince a wary public those actions are necessary.
How does a Premier under a cloud, one that possibly helped enrich a former Nalcor CEO deserving only of the public lash, face down people with mortgages and a multitude of other bills?
How is any perception of culpability resolved? Certainly not by sending the matter to a lawyer in the Department of Justice. As if some poor sod with a law degree is going to put his/her career on the line by running a sword through the eighth floor.
The mere suggestion is “silly and stupid” a phrase belonging to a former Premier and former Chief Justice now heading another silly, stupid, and expensive contrivance, the independent appointments commission. But I digress.
The Auditor General has never been a favourite on this Blog. But the weaknesses of the incumbent are separate from the validity and importance of the Office. It retains its impartiality and independence.
The Premier's move, on Sunday, to engage the A-G in a review of the $1.4 severance payment was slow coming but it was a necessary decision. Hopefully the investigation will be conducted within a far tighter time frame than it took to examine the Humber Valley Paving affair.
Until the Premier is cleared of any role in Martin’s unjustified and possibly illegal gain, this Premier remains a politically wounded politician.
Still, Ball's decision to refer the matter to the A-G does not lessen the incomprehensibility of his predicament.
That he would afford a bunch of Danny Williams’ cronies, including Ed Martin, such power over his own political future, giving himself no protection via a paper trail and having failed to disclose the firing on the heels of Martin’s ostensible retirement, constitutes one of the worst acts of political stupidity since Dunderdale declared DARKNL ‘not a crisis’.
For that reason, whatever the Auditor General decides about him his status is temporary.