At some point you have to feel sorry for the crowd currently running the province or, as some astute political watchers are calling them: the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.
In the rotation of private members’ resolutions, the Tory turn came up this week and Ray Hunter stepped forward to offer a motion on the provincial government’s ongoing war with Quebec over just about everything.
The motion read:
WHEREAS Newfoundland and Labrador is home to one of the best undeveloped, clean, green, renewable energy projects in North America at the Lower Churchill River in Labrador; and
WHEREAS Ontario, the Maritime Provinces, and the Northeastern United States are in need of affordable, clean energy sources; and
WHEREAS last week’s ruling of the Régis [sic] de l’énergie in Quebec on a transmission service request by Nalcor Energy once again demonstrates that province’s arrogance and discriminatory business practices, in particular their determination to see the Lower Churchill proceed only on their terms; and
WHEREAS this ruling is deemed by this Province to be completely contrary to the rules of fair, open and competitive access; and
WHEREAS this government is determined to proceed with this project in the best interest and for the benefit of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador;
BE IT RESOLVED that the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly affirms its full support for the approach of Nalcor Energy and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to continue plans to develop this extraordinary clean, renewable energy project, including two alternative routes to market, including the Labrador-Island Link, the Maritime route, as well as the pursuit of a separate 724 megawatt transmission service request into the Maritimes and New England.
Now the gang has had no luck at all in distracting public attention from their series of shag-ups and controversies so it is only natural that the guy by the back door to the House should come up with an effort to go with an issue the Tories should be able to win on.
Things were going along just fine until the Liberals pointed out the obvious, namely that the honourable members were being asked to vote on an issue - the Quebec energy regulator’s decision last week – which had only been published in French.
Now in the ordinary course that wouldn’t be an insurmountable problem since the Liberals only have a few votes and the motion is worded in such a way that they’d be voting down what has become motherhood and partridgeberry pie if they didn’t run alongside the Tories.
The whole thing seemed to be going along just fine. That is, until Kevin O’Brien, minister responsible for permits and licenses, the guy who doesn’t know what district St. Anthony is in, former president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador and erstwhile Tory leadership candidate decided to make a few public comments of his own on a local call-in radio show.
And that’s when things went horribly wrong, as the hideous television news cliche goes.
According to O’Brien he didn’t need to read anything to know how to vote. Talk show host Randy Simms seemed genuinely surprised at O’Brien’s argument. He also had an easy time ridiculing it as Simms noted that only a few short months ago all 48 of the members in the House had voted for a bill thinking they weren’t expropriating a paper mill.
Incidentally, here’s the shorty version of exchange from the vocm.com website.
The whole thing went completely off the rails as O’Brien insisted that all the province was looking for in Quebec was fairity. He didn’t say “fairity” just once mind you. He kept saying it.
Even a call from Ross Wiseman a couple of seconds after O’Brien hung up couldn’t save O’Brien’s performance and put what should have been a safe Tory motion back on the rails. Shortly after O’Brien hung up, calls started circulating that the Tories were pulling the motion and planned to sub another one in its place.
Now for those who don’t know, pulling motions like that happens about as often as special emergency sessions. So the obvious conclusion any seasoned political watcher would take is that the Tories had basically rogered themselves so hideously that they didn’t want to keep going. Even if they won the vote – as they inevitably would – the news reports would be all about the comparisons to the Abitibi TARFU, not the start of any great rallying to the barricades during polling month.
As it is, Question Period was basically a litany of those sort of comments anyway, all centred on poor hapless Kevin and the missing English translation:
Ms. Jones: I do not put a lot of credence into briefings, I say to the minister opposite. We got briefings from your government on Abitibi as well, and then we find out you expropriated a mill and liabilities around the environment which we were told were not part of the deal, Mr. Speaker. So forgive us if we want to see the information and read it ourselves.
I ask the minister again, Mr. Speaker: When that motion was being tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday I was receiving an e-mail on my BlackBerry from the Premier’s office telling me there was no English version of this available. Why would you even bring a motion to the House of Assembly to be voted on when you had no English copy of the information to be circulated for the debate?
The questioning then carried on to other topics, but the shag-up on what should have been an easy win for the crowd what runs the place was pretty much the front end of Question Period.
The rest of QP didn’t go any better for the gang that apparently can’t shoot straight, but that is another story.