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Monday 27 January 2014


After two years of non-stop acrimony, the arrogance and incompetence of a seriously battered Government is exposed following Premier Dunderdale’s banishment.

The concern, now, is that her departure has deflected blame that should be accorded her uninspired cabinet, particularly the two most senior cabinet ministers, Tom Marshall (now Premier) and the recently retired Jerome Kennedy. 

The truth is that not just the leader, but the whole Government, suffered a malady whose symptoms span spinelessness and unbridled pigheadedness. 

An isolated electorate, mad as hell, understands it has the last laugh.  They will have their say in a year’s time; but if this Government wishes to survive the ignominy of history’s dustbin, it will acknowledge that it is ship-wrecked.  It ought to claim salvage while there is still something to save.

The electorate is not laughing, at least not now.  It knows that the Dunderdale Government has unleashed an agenda whose worst parts may be irreversible. 
Admittedly, many do not recognize the Muskrat Falls Project as containing huge risk.  But many of these same people claim it was a just problem of perception that brought the Premier down. 

At 20% in the Polls, it might occur to some Ministers that the other 80% of voters were turned off well before Nalcor’s Black-Out 2014.   Some are appalled by the huge budgetary deficits in a time of prosperity, many by Bill 29, still others by the failure to deal with the mounting pension crises, the politicisation of Nalcor and the Government’s endeavour to hold its own ‘independent’ inquiry into the power fiasco.

Every member of Cabinet supported these policies.   

The new Leader will have a year to restore public confidence; the work needs to begin now.

A beleaguered public will not be an easy sell.

Some recognition of the current state of affairs was elicited from Cabinet Ministers Susan Sullivan and Kevin O’Brien on CBC last Friday.  Yet, their admission that the Government’s communications has been poor, hardly registers on the spectral analysis of entrenched public opinion. 
The public demands far more revealing confessions of public policy failures.  It seeks an acknowledgement of guilt; it wants immediate change.

Unfortunately the new temporary Premier, Tom Marshall, exemplifies the Government’s state of denial.  What does he say after taking the Oath of Office: “If we’re doing something wrong and need to do better tell us."   We have been telling you for more than two years, Sir.  You have not been listening.

Let’s be jack-blunt.                             

How is it possible that an entire Cabinet and most of the backbench, for a period of 27 months, could outwardly support or quietly play along as the Premier pursued a ruinous agenda?

Though Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy quit, even he feigned support for the Premier and the Muskrat Falls initiative as he went through the door. 

None were prepared to put their Cabinet positions on the line or go public as a warning signal that parts of the Government’s program had not passed scrutiny, needed further assessment or should not proceed at all.

In a Cabinet of 15 Ministers, not a single person raised a hand to publicly signify a need for more sober judgment. 

Now, as a shallow media engages in the prattle of speculation, we too, are expected to play along. We are asked to consider which of that diminished group might become the new Premier!

Little wonder some see politics as facile and temporary as a magazine cover. 

How can one muster respect for an elected Government that succumbed to arbitrariness; that mistook overbearing arrogance for a concept of leadership; that saw pillorying legitimate critics an acceptable tactic to suffocate citizen involvement? 

I am sceptical that a group entrusted with the mantle of leadership, one that saw excessive public spending, speculation and unbridled risk as portals for progressive policy, can ever be reformed.

I am dubious that Nalcor can be reined in after it has been handed public policy roles that ought to be the purview of the Department of Natural Resources.

But, we are compelled to be optimists.

Premier Marshall stated his will not be just a caretaker government.  

If he is as good as his word he can begin, immediately, with this short list of changes:

The Premier can call the House of Assembly together tomorrow and repeal Bill 29 as a signal the Government is listening and is ready to respond.

He can declare that Muskrat Falls is put “ON HOLD” pending a thorough public review; one that gives special emphasis to current information as to its cost and the prospect of huge cost overruns. 

He can ask the Legislature to Repeal Bill 61, which provided a monopoly for Nalcor, contrary to the path taken by jurisdictions in the US and the rest of Canada. 

He can set up a financial and technical committee inside the Department of Finance, answering to a Cabinet committee, to monitor Nalcor’s expenditures on Muskrat Falls and other investments, particularly offshore investments, should the Project proceed.

He must insist that the Auditor General audit the books of Nalcor.

The new premier must let the Public Utilities Board (PUB) proceed with its enquiry into the recent blackouts and do nothing to impede this investigation.  If the PUB enquiry finds that poor management at Nalcor was the cause of the problem, heads should roll.

The Government should scrap its own ‘independent’ inquiry, which would not be independent at all, unless it is prepared to ask a Justice of the Supreme Court to head it up.

It should be prepared to compensate individuals and businesses that lost considerable money during the blackouts of 2014.

The Government may be a ship wreck but the forthcoming Budget should not look like it has been prepared by drunken sailors.

There are a plethora of additional issues which deserve attention but let’s not be too hopeful that Marshall will act on even one.

Though Dunderdale’s departure will lower our collective blood pressure, no one should feel safe that the arteriosclerosis of this Administration is at an end.

A shell-shocked electorate seeks reassurance.  It demands analysis and reflection.  It needs to know not just what went wrong but more importantly, confirmation that the ship of state is being righted, that it will not have to wait another full year to see it sunk.

If there are legitimate leadership contenders in the Cabinet, eager to win the mantle of Premier, we will know soon if the cleansing has started. 

Who among them is bold enough to push Tom Marshall along?

Can the Tory ship-wreck be salvaged?  Don't get your hopes up.