28 July 2010

Kremlinology 23: a little something for everyone

Newbie member of the House of Assembly Paul Davis picked up a rather conspicuous new job on Tuesday.

He is the new legislative assistant for the municipal affairs department. 

Now this stands out for a bunch of reasons. 

First of all, this job doesn’t really exist, as such.  It’s one of those made-up jobs.  There are parliamentary secretaries as set down by the Parliamentary Secretaries Act. These people help ministers of large departments in what are effectively training positions for future cabinet ministers.

But legislative assistants?  They aren’t really mentioned.

That’s the second thing that makes this noticeable.  This appointment got a news release praising Davis to the hilt.  There’s no reference at all to what the job entails.

You might be surprised to find that Tracy Perry is the legislative assistant in InTRD.  She’s actually on the departmental website.  But there doesn’t seem to be a news release on her.

But what about Ed Buckingham, the guy representing St. John’s East?  Well, there is a single passing reference to him – by district, not name – as the legislative assistant for environment. Maybe he got punted from the job:  he isn’t on the departmental website any more.

Thirdly, this one stands out because of all the departments needing help, municipal affairs ain’t it. The department doesn’t generate much in the way of legislation so it’s pretty hard to imagine what Davis is going to be doing. Charlene could use Ed Buckingham to help her find where the boundary on her responsibilities are.  And if Ed had his turn at the assistant’s gig, then Davis’ police experience in finding things could come in handy for Charlene.

Fourthly, Davis’ appointment stands out because it is in a department where the minister is on the mend from a rather serious illness. Might that be the reason he is on the job now? If Whalen is still on the mend, then Davis might be able to take on some extra duties as a proto-minister without actually forcing a cabinet shuffle.

After all, a cabinet shuffle would be rather noticeable at this point.  Someone already pointed out that we are overdue for a Williams cabinet shuffle. Is this an effort to skate by?

Fifthly, Davis is rather junior to be getting a nice little plum.  He’s the last man in. Others – like say, political rainbow man Steve Kent -  have been around the House since 2007 doing little more than nursing their frustrated ambition.

Sixthly and perhaps most tellingly, Davis’ appointment draws attention to the number of people in Danny Williams’ caucus who are drawing extra pay.

There are 19 people in cabinet, four parliamentary secretaries (the maximum under the statute), one parliamentary assistant and at least two and maybe three of these strange birds called legislative assistants.*

Then there is the speaker, deputy speaker, chair of committees, deputy chair of committees, whip, caucus chair and the vice chair of the public accounts committee.

Altogether, that’s 33 people out of a 44 member caucus in a 48 seat legislature. In any normal legislature, that would be just about all the Tory caucus.  That’s about the same number of people drawing extras as we saw in the last days of Roger Grimes’ crowd and in the late 1980s as first Brian Peckford and then Tom Rideout staggered toward the end of the 1985 mandate.

In both instances, the parties had been in power for more than a decade. The extra pay helps to placate people who might never get a shot at cabinet in a caucus that might not get re-elected to government again.

In other cases, the extra pay is a way of keeping the peace among a restless and ambitious crew.  Politicians without much to do – and that would be most of the Tory caucus these days – have a disquieting tendency to spend their time brooding and plotting.  A few bucks can go a long way to distracting the potential revolutionaries from their course or co-opting a perceived rival.

But does any of that fit?

Maybe yes. 

Maybe no.

There’s more to the Davis announcement than the couple of paragraphs in the release. Sometimes with these things it takes a while for the story to emerge.


- srbp -

*  There could be another one, by the by.  There’s also a passing reference to one for Joan Burke.  It's hard to tell if this is an elected member or – as would normally be the case – a reference to a political staffer called the legislative assistant.  The staffer is the one who helps the minister or house leader manage the administrative aspects of the House.


Wm. Murphy said...

Sixthly and perhaps most tellingly, Davis’ appointment draws attention to the number of people in Danny Williams’ caucus who are drawing extra pay

It would be good to check your facts Eddie...facts are good. facts are important.

Paul Davis will not be recieving any extra pay for this appointment

Ursula said...

It appears that while our government is busy keeping our MHAs happy , Premier Wall of Saskatchewan , is preparing to pitch MS trial to other provinces . The province also signed an MOU with The China National Petroleum Corp .
New Brunswick ranks 4th in Canada in terms of installed wind capacity while NL. ranks last .
Our premier has ratings in the 80%,
Wall , somewhere around 56% , Graham should be so lucky . I guess "saviour status" means we don't expect much from our premier .

PoscStudent said...

I believe Minister Whalen is off once again, she was off several weeks ago, so this appointment was probably made to help ease her workload as well as the workload of Hedderson who seems to be the one who takes over for her.

Ed Hollett said...

That could be it, POSC.

Forestall a cabinet shuffle and create even more uneasiness.

Interesting too to see Ed Buckingham subbing for Charlene today, even though his title wasn't mentioned at the front end.

WJM said...

Interesting too to see Ed Buckingham subbing for Charlene today

Wasn't Terry French doing that job last month?

Wm. Murphy said...

Forestall a cabinet shuffle and create even more uneasiness.

Nonense Ed..nobody but you is uneasy by this.
By the way, I find it interesting that there was no comment on the fact that Mr. Davis is not taking an additional salary....contrary to your claim. How come no retraction that your "facts" were bullshit??

Ed Hollett said...

Show a fact and I'll deal with it.

Wm. Murphy said...

check Wednesday's Telegram...it clearly states that this position is not a paid position.

Shits to be you Eddie!!

By the way...why don't you show us where you got the information in the first place. Wondering why you were shooting off about this in the first place? What else are you spouting off about before you check your facts??

Ed Hollett said...

Well, sucks to be you actually.

The Telegram article does not say that "this is not a paid position."

Read the thing again.

Wm. Murphy said...

No little man..the Telegram says the promotion does not come with a raise.

In most people's book this will mean that Mr. Davis is not receiving any additional money as the Legislative Assistant for Municipal Affairs.

So what you are saying is that Mr. Davis is receiving extra money every second Wednesday because of this appointment?

Wm. Murphy said...

over to you Eddie!

Ed Hollett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed Hollett said...

Oh dear. The frustration sets in early when you realise you've been buggered up by your own comments again.

The story said it didn't come with a raise. It didn't say he did not collect a salary, stipend, honorarium, or other form of remuneration associated with his new job.

The salary DW collects consists of at least a couple of separate payments for different jobs. Ditto Silent Bob, his assistant.

When an MHA becomes a parl sec, for example, he or she doesn't get a raise in their pay. They get extra pay for the extra job of being a parl sec.

BTW, since you seem to know so much about this, did Ed Buckingham expense his costs for going to Burgeo to sub for Charlene?