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Thursday 26 May 2016


Incredulous. Unprecedented. Absurd. All of those superlatives, and others, fit a Liberal Government coming apart at the seams. Premier Ball’s 17% approval rating, according to the latest Angus Reid Poll, confirms a public bewildered by his refusal to do anything but stumble.

Monday’s Uncle Gnarley Blog post, confirming Nalcor was not contractually obligated to pay Ed Martin severance, contradicting the Premier's earlier assertions, now seems just a warm-up for an even larger charade.

Still, the post claimed a direct hit forcing Ball to reveal a scheme whereby the former Nalcor Board of Directors had fired Ed Martin after he had resigned. 

Some third world countries are run better than this place thanks, in part, to the people on the former Nalcor Board.

Ken Marshall and his cohorts are gone; the problem is the Premier appears complicit in their decision.

Both Martin’s retirement and the Nalcor Board firing occurred on April 20th. Premier Ball says he was told of the scheme that day, but not about the severance payment until May 5th.

Would any reasonable person, especially one who is the Premier, not want to correct Martin’s “retirement” story, having been an unwitting party to the charade?

Ball could inform us on May 24th he had referred the issue to the Department of Justice officials. But he could not tell us on May 5th

It never occurred to him we might think the later timing suspect?  

Suddenly, the Budget crisis and Paul Lane, a flea on the body politic, are mere sideshows amidst what may be a larger and more disturbing drama; one with immense political, financial, and possibly legal implications.

The idea that a Board of Directors would ignore its own fiduciary obligations by awarding public money it had no business parting with seems almost too tawdry and bizarre to be believed. 

Ball's tepid condemnation of the affair neither elevates its incredulousness nor underscores the sense of entitlement and presumption around which decisions, like this one, arise. The weakness of the man is manifest. He refers it to the Department of Justice. Nineteen days later the Premier is still cooling his heels! 

Please, never send this man to war!

That said, was there not a single senior official of Nalcor – not even the V-P of Finance – capable or responsible enough to inform the Minister of Natural Resources?

Did the Premier not appoint two Deputy Ministers to the new Nalcor Board; one from Finance and the other the Department of Justice? Did either read the Minutes of the prior Board Meeting and not tell the Premier? 

Ball’s new Board Chairman, John Green, is a veteran lawyer. Did he not advise of a rat’s odor in the building or attempt to put Ball onto the scent?

Stan Marshall became CEO of Nalcor one day after Martin’s demise. Was he not advised?

Why aren’t a bunch of heads rolling down the Cross-Town Arterial?

This Premier is stretching incredulity too far.

I don’t believe him because he has failed to justify the ignorance he feigns.

Is it not reminiscent of, and just as smelly, as the putrid mess that surrounded the Humber Valley Paving affair? Didn’t Ball also promise he would call a full judicial Inquiry to ferret out those dirty secrets?

When the Premier doesn’t possess the fortitude to expose Tory shenanigans, there is little hope he will allow the light to shine on his own bad judgement.

In a world in which public confidence in politicians is at its worse, how is it that this newly minted Premier, one that replaced some of the worst bunglers in our history, can have so many missteps?

Having won the Government, he still begs to be defeated. Six months into his term, he allows the Nalcor appointments of former Premier Danny Williams, including his former business associate Ken Marshall, to trip him up. Meanwhile Tory Leader Paul Davis pounds Ball mercilessly in the House of Assembly. .

This is still a place where stupidity reigns; where you still play by Danny’s rules. Even a new Premier can't be his own man.

Two final points:

Did Ball really say, as CBC’s Peter Cowan reported that he “agreed with a reporter's suggestion that the Board's move was morally iffy”?

What is “morally iffy” about an unwarranted $1.4 million expenditure of public money? What is “iffy” about an abuse of the public trust? Did the Premier not chastise the “iffy” reporter who asked the question about his or her moral standards?

What did the Premier say?

"I think that if someone steps aside and therefore they quit a job under the contract that's there, I would question the right of anyone getting a severance based on that", he said.

Is that all you would do, Premier?

Wouldn’t you not condemn the perpetrators? Would you not state, categorically, that the Board’s action is an offense to public decency, to the public trust, and possibly illegal and that you have referred the matter, not to the Department of Justice but to the Attorney General, who is responsible for public prosecutions? Would you not say you intend to get that money back?

Is there no sense of outrage in this Premier, even when the public trust is fragrantly violated?

A great stench overhangs the Muskrat Falls project. It has been there from the beginning, since news broke of criminal charges laid against top officials with SNC Lavalin.

Now, questionable contracts, private corporations used as tax havens for overpaid project managers, and a litany of construction problems beyond most people’s comprehension, are submerged under a cash grab at Nalcor's Board Room table. When all should be exposed, the Premier chooses to make announcements about a public appointments and a change in the application of the "levy" to help obscure deception even further.

And while that is playing out, Ed Martin, a guy worshiped by politicians, the public, and by the media for a decade could not muster the modicum of shame necessary to correct the public record.

A small, sleepy society can't deal with its own witlessness, manifested by a Premier whose instinct is to hide when the truth is ugly. 

He likes to pretend there is no problem, always hoping the few good things over which he has influence will carry him through. Those instincts might let him survive in a benign political environment; in the current one the Premier is road kill.

Perhaps, like Ed Martin, but for a very different reason he is a man who needs to spend more time with his family.