Thursday, 3 October 2013


Jerome Kennedy tendered his resignation, from the House of Assembly and from Cabinet, yesterday.  We should thank him for his services and wish him well. 

But, in his case, we ought to first wag a bony finger in his general direction, and give him a good scolding.

That is unfortunate after six years of public service and four senior Cabinet positions.  Still, Mr. Kennedy has little to show for his hiatus from the practice of law.

That his departure ranked second, Wednesday, on the CBC 6 O’clock News to a bed bug infestation, was a most unkind cut; one Dunderdale’s new PR man could never have thought devising.

Perhaps, the CBC, too, barely thought the announcement news. Mr. Kennedy’s preference to leave politics was the talk of garden parties in his District, this past summer.  His early return, from the Premier’s China junket, spoke to a none-too-private disagreement with her.  An earlier dust-up in Caucus, following his irreverent comments on the sanctity (or otherwise) of the Tory Blue Book, did little to endear him to his colleagues. 
All are tired of his missteps, though they feign unity in the face of an uninspiring boss and a tired Administration. 

Tory Members are suffering fatigue from the public backlash of budget flip-flops, poor communications, an unyielding arrogance, a secrecy exemplified by Bill 29 and an Alice in Wonderland style of thinking.  As this Government enters mid-term, the Dunderdale Government has neither imagination nor energy; it is a spent force.

Hence, Mr. Kennedy’s desire to leave Government was a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’.  His former colleagues will shed no tears; his pit-bull demeanor having done little to enhance his or their public image. At first, he was protected by Danny but Dunderdale seems to have had the same empathy for sooks, as she displays for everyone else.

It must be said that Mr. Kennedy came to the Williams’ Government having had some distinguishing moments in the practice of law.  Much was expected of him in a Cabinet that never earned a reputation for being over-qualified. 

Similarly, in the Dunderdale Cabinet, it was thought he might punch above his weight, along with his lawyer colleague, Tom Marshall.  Though the Premier thought them the best of the lot, and endowed them with the senior Portfolios, their inability to manage demanding issues, especially Muskrat Falls, deficit spending and the fall-out from over-spending repair, disappointed even their most ardent partisans.

Years of listening to clients and giving them legal counsel failed to translate into a willingness to give the public its right to demand respect, communication, leadership and articulation of their worst fears, all of which represent the best trademarks of political life. Kennedy might have been expected to compensate for an ill-prepared Premier, help her devise strategy and bring much needed wisdom to key public policies.  But, he showed little interest in the minutiae that underpins both the art and the science of Government.  Then, too, like his insecure boss he had little patience for detractors. 

As it is, the most expensive and potentially injurious megaproject, in the history of the Province, is being fed from the public trough, as those responsible for paying the bill are ignorant of its purpose and its final cost.

Hence, the problem of the Dunderdale Administration is not just about the Premier. Kennedy’s own shortcomings have helped define the most incompetent Government in decades.

Yet, his decision to depart now leaves one with a sense of bafflement and incredulity. He has abandoned his cabinet colleagues at a time when the Government’s satisfaction rating is at its lowest.  The timing of his resignation, not just from Cabinet but from the House of Assembly, too, risks further embarrassing the Premier in a legally required by-election.

In severing his ties completely, Kennedy confirmed that the sweetness and light, which characterized their appearance in front of the media, was just for the cameras.      

I submit there is more to this story than a Minister bored.

The Government is immersed in an unwise, hugely expensive and risk laden Muskrat Falls Project.  It was prematurely sanctioned.  It appears ready to go off the rails any day.  Financing for the Project is not secured, neither is the Federal Loan Guarantee; serious law suits threaten.  Emera is a reluctant partner, too, and its price for participating is extremely high. The NS UARB has upped the ante even further, to a level one lawyer described as “extortionist”.

A billion dollars has already been spent, another billion committed and a million or more is added each day the sun sets.  The Minister’s resignation has all the hallmarks of one leaving a sinking ship.

The Premier has no one in Cabinet who possesses either knowledge of the issues or the intellectual depth to get up to speed on a matter very complex.  Which of them will fence with Ed Martin after only forty eight hours on the file?  The only person a new Finance Minister can trust, his Deputy, is as divorced from the subject as the night janitor.  It is a worrisome affair. 

Only eight months ago, Tom Marshall asked to be moved out of Finance; not having possessed the character and decisiveness demanded by that portfolio. The Premier can hardly force the man to go back.

It is a fine mess that Jerome Kennedy leaves, even if it is partly his own creation. 

One might suggest that he owed it to the Government, to his constituents and to the people of the Province, to have helped clean it up before leaving.    

The ability to change course, to recognize a more sensible, less risky path may simply not have been within the skill-set of one so dogmatic.

Having abandoned what he helped begin, if he is wrong on Muskrat Falls, he has only a lifetime of enmity to which to look forward.