28 February 2010

Too close for comfort: Gladiator and Pirates

Close your eyes and just listen to the music.

This is what you get when you hire the same guy  - or his associates - for both movies.  You not only get music that “sounds like” what so-and-so did for that film over there, you get pretty much the same stuff.

And if that wasn’t enough proof of One Thought Zimmer’s penchant for borrowing from himself, about half way through this compilation, you’ll find that Glad and pirates sounds like a chunk of the soundtrack for a Wesley Snipes parachuting movie.

 

Zimmer’s not alone.  James Horner seems to have had one idea and milked it through several movies as well.  The bits from Willow and Enemy at the Gates are laughable. And right at the end, there’s the past master of “homaging”, John Williams with photocopy job in JFK and Jurassic Park.

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The Last Post: Dead Dipper Dale

Tickling Bight  is no more.

It has ceased to be.

Bereft of life, it has run down the curtain and joined the invisible choir of political blogs in this province that vanished without a trace and without warning.

It has hydroqueened, you might say. Where is Hydroqueen these days, any way?

Tickling Bight may not have managed to last for one rideout, the shortest measurement in local politics. One rideout is 43 days, the length of time Tory Premier Tom Rideout held office in 1989. .

Tickling Bight was the partisan outlet for Dale Kirby, a local New Democrat organizer.

There’s no word on why the blog – which started without much fanfare -  slipped quietly into the night.

Deaddipper

Resurrection Update:  And then just as mysteriously as it vanished, Tickling Bight reappears.

Again, just like the hydroqueen.

Someone forget to pay the bill or something?

-srbp-

Kremlinology 18: And that was W.A. Mozart with a little tune called Lacrimosa…

In some countries,  you can tell when the latest Great Helmsman is dead. 

The radio stations bombard listeners with sombre music of a classical bent for a few hours before the formal announcement is made. Brezhnev, Chernenko, Andropov, all got the warning treatment before being propped up for displays of ritual public grief and then stuffed in the Kremlin wall for posterity.

Well, there may not be any depressing music yet but we may already have begun to hear tests of the the eulogy for Danny Williams’ political career.

Tory backbencher Ed Buckingham called voice of the cabinet minister’s morning talk show on Friday to rebut some comments by an earlier caller about the Hibernia South deal. Maurice was out to lunch but Ed went a bit farther than necessary in defending the master’s honour when he got into the great wonderments of the deal just inked.

Ed picked up the thread about all the great knowledge and wisdom which is coming from  not just this deal but others.  Apparently before now, no one knew anything about oil and gas stuff.  But thanks to Glorious and Wondrous Leader’s efforts – according to Ed – we are learning more with each one and getting better and better at deal-making.

Then he tossed in the bit that was way too much.  The thing about WGL – according to Ed – is that he is always looking ahead to make sure that we his doting subjects, his sheep, his idiot children, his precious flock of stooges are looked after, all in preparation for the day when he is not around to lead us all in his usual wondrous and glorious fashion.

Now that line displayed an entirely patronising and belittling attitude toward the people of the province, let alone what it said about Ed and his fellow politicians currently sitting in the legislature.

And we’ve certainly heard the line about gaining knowledge and how that is a big part of these deals. Having an oil company is supposed to help “us” learn about oil stuff, like none of this has ever happened before in the history of the province.

What’s noticeable about this reference is that it is the first time – in light of the most recent unmentionable subject - that one of the truly faithful has dared to make any reference to the prospect that at some point someone else might have to put a hand to the tiller instead of the guy who has been doing it for the past seven years.

Even without reference to that most recent unmentionable subject, as distinct from the unmentionable subject Bob Wakeham mentioned, that seems to be about the only time some local Tories have floated the idea that Wondrous and Glorious Leader might actually not be here for the thousand years foretold in legend, the four terms joked about with VOCM or the one more election he told Fred Hutton about.

But if one of them does start talking about the post-Danny world, then it may not be so very far away after all.

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27 February 2010

Just like the Daily News never died

Yes, folks, never let it be said that sycophancy need be without its inadvertent humour.  For record – and before it disappears – here is a headline that doesn’t really say exactly what was intended even though the article is another vintage bit of knob-polishing from a corner of the Internet that polishes DW’s knob more than a Tory back-bencher on Open Line sucking for a cabinet seat.

roflmao

Punchy?

Well, it could mean sharp and incisive but “punchy” in that sense is usually used in reference to words on a page or in reference to an action. An example of a punchy column would be Bob Wakeham’s latest.

When used to characterise an individual – which is the sense of the headline - “punchy” usually means bewildered, dazed confused. It can be a synonym for punch-drunk which means “showing signs of brain damage”  as a result of receiving too many strong blows to the head.

Heaven knows there is plenty of doublethink going on these days but this headline on a post takes the cake.  Apparently Danny was both unaffected and addled all at the same time.

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Buried Update:  Post still appears, unaltered.  A flurry of overnight posting on everything from phlegm to cartoons drops it down the order so people would have to go looking for it.

Was the Vancouver source named Liz one wonders?

Ink-stained wretches of the world unite!

Telegram editorial page editor Russell Wangersky spreads the ribs on the latest racket and puts all the bits  - and that would be all the bits - where they belong.

One particular bit is rarely expressed these days but it is very true. 

Wangersky tackles the issue of the recent boycott of CBC over comments made by an on-air guest and then offers a suggestion:

If we were less competitive and self-serving, and more committed to the right of free access, the media in this province would stand up to this particular bully.

We’d set up our cameras and digital recorders for some Williams command-performance media event — some event that he felt was of critical importance for him to speak on, and when the premier appeared, all of the media would pack up their gear and leave him standing there. You’d probably only have to do that once, because Williams is no fool. Why do it?

Because every media outlet in this province will eventually feel the same premieral lash, unless they are so hopelessly hero-worshiping and fawning as to never come close to experiencing the same opprobrium.

Will it happen? I don’t know. I’m not sure that the media in this province realizes that today’s gain might be tomorrow’s servitude.

He’s right.

On everything.

-srbp-

26 February 2010

Kremlinology 17: Woof! Woof!

 

“If I collapse up here, please drag me to Seattle – because the Canadian Medical Association won’t have anything to do with me,” the Newfoundland and Labrador Premier said.

In politics, they call it a dog whistle.  That’s the use of coded language that sends a very particular message that can only be heard by those attuned to the code. 

In this case, the key word is “Canadian” and the concept is that the Canadian doctors  - like are just sooking because they couldn’t get to operate on The Other Great One.

It’s a theme that’s been running through Danny Williams’  comments since undergoing major heart surgery in the United States.  The doctors in Newfoundland and Labrador did a bang-up job.  When he had to look at options outside the province he went to another native son for advice.  This guy just happens to be a leading thoracic surgeon in New Jersey and he recommended a fellow in Miami. Williams did say that the option of having this surgery with this method done in Canada was never offered to him, but that, it seems might be nothing more than a lawyer’s careful choice of words.

Now that some Canadian surgeons are pointing out that the same procedure was available in Canada, it isn’t good enough for Danny Williams to rely on the idea that it was simply his choice.  He’s got to take a dig that fits both with his narrative on the surgery and, for those familiar with it, his highly defensive modus operandi.

Now the rather interesting thing is that as Williams slipped that one into his Thursday night speech at a small crowd in Vancouver, it appears that some of his homies have already started howling the same tune.

Telegram comment[ary]s editor Peter Jackson made very similar snide comments a couple of days ago in response to a blog post by Geoff Meeker criticising an [Telegram] editorial that may have been written in largest part by Jackson [Correction via Peter’s comment below:  “And I had no involvement whatsoever in the writing or even proofing of that Telegram editorial.]

Let me see,,, [sic] so it's you guys, some anti-Obamacare propagandists in the U,S,, and insecure mainland surgeons who think there's a big story here…

The Globe seems to have taken a cue from the defensive cardiologists, many of whom they [the Globe] likely hunted out themselves…

You can ramble on for ages about the merits of both systems. It has nothing to do with Danny Williams.

((I'm wearing my private opinionator hat herre, [sic] not that of a Telegram staffer.)

And then in the Friday Globe, there’s a letter to the editor from Marjorie Doyle:

Perhaps Mr. Williams should voluntarily undergo more surgeries and spread his custom among the pouting doctors.

Now maybe this is nothing more than three people who may share similar ideological views purely by chance taking a cue from a misleading headline in the Globe.  Read the story at the end of that link, incidentally, and you’ll notice the huge gap between what the doctors actually said and what the headline says.

Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time dog whistling turned up in local politics during Williams’ time in office.

And what better way to deflect the argument currently centring on him and his own choices than to make it into a fight between “us” and “them”.

-srbp-

25 February 2010

Let the jihad begin anew

Bar the doors and windows and get the small children off the streets.

Bourque’s Newswatch is likely to set off another round of entirely spontaneous protests that were in no circumstances encouraged on province-wide radio by a cabinet minister.

bourque

That top story is a link to Geoff Meeker’s post on the Premier’s anti-CBC crusade which – as previously noted – is not in any way a partisan attack and bears no connection whatsoever to the entirely spontaneous outpourings of rage and hate aimed at the news media for daring to discuss the fact the Premier was ill.

There are a bunch of comments below the post, including this one from local media bad boy Craig Westcott, a fellow who is more than passingly familiar with being blackballed:

Again though, the real issue is that Danny Williams, Dunderdale and his PR team tried to pull a fast one on the Newfoundland and Labrador public. They didn't get away with it, because NTV broke the story. But by regaining control of the public relations aspect of the issue, they managed to pull off an ever faster one in its wake.

Let me repeat: the local media has treated Danny Williams and his government with kid gloves, CBC included. ELizabeth [sic] Matthews' claim that Bob Wakeham's comments justify a ban on CBC coverage is an excuse. Matthews and Williams have conducted a relentless campaign to silence journalists. This is just another effort in that campaign. It's ironic that having long ignored what the Premier's Office has been doing to intimidate other journalists, the CBC now finds itself in that same uncomfortable and unfair spot.

Our profession, locally, has gone soft.

The second one is to the Globe’s story on the NAFTA challenge Abitibi launched against the provincial government’s seizure of assets belonging to three companies: Abitibi, ENEL and locally-based Fortis.

For the record, NTV ran the Abitibi story toward the front of its major supper hour newscast and included an interview with Abitibi spokesman Seth Kursman.  CBC ran a short script story in the second quarter hour. Just sayin’.

Readers not living in the bizarro world just off Cape Breton will find in Geoff’s post the complete record of what the now infamous Bob Wakeham said to piss off Danny all the down in Sarasota.  That such tame words have been attacked publicly by one local editor as “contemptible” will surely strike such readers as being entirely beyond comprehension.

For some reason the words “nutty, nutty, nutbar” come to mind.

-srbp-

Illegal Dipper campaign donations in NS

Elections Nova Scotia is fining the provincial New Democratic Party over $10,00 in illegal campaign contributions.

Meanwhile, as BP told you this time last year, the Ontario NDP broke that province’s election finance laws in 2003 when they made a donation to Randy Collins’ campaign in Newfoundland and Labrador contrary to s. 29 of the Ontario Election Finances Act.

No word on whether or not the Ontario elections office ever followed up on that tidbit.  The maximum fine under Ontario law is $5,000.

-srbp-

Dead Caterpillar Update

Apparently, Jerome accidentally lopped a bit of it off over Christmas so he took off the rest of it in order to keep everything looking neat.

So now it’s back.

Uh huh.

So by the same token  that would mean all those verbal tics last year just up and run off as if by magic too.

And over the past couple of weeks there was just a spontaneous and totally un-organized outpouring of venom and hatred aimed at certain news media for things they didn’t actually do.  yep.  Totally unprompted by any e-mails or calls people just magically said the same things at the same time which – purely by total coincidence  - happened to match exactly what the Premier’s Office wanted.

R-i-i-i-i-i-i-g--h-t.

Whatever helps you sleep at night, sunshine.

-srbp-

Epic Fail on seizure looms

Back when the provincial government managed to ram an unprecedented bill through the legislature seizing private assets and crushing active legislation without compensation, one argument used to justify the seizure was novel.

Apparently the environmental clean-up costs and the potential penalty under the free trade deal for the seizure would be so close that the whole thing would wind up being a wash after a negotiated settlement.  No money would wind up changing hands but ultimately the mill – carefully excluded from the initial seizure – would come to the provincial government and Abitibi would just walk away.

Officially, the Premier described the idea this way:

So, if, in fact, there is contamination which is located with operations in Botwood or around the mill in Grand Falls or the logging operations or any other rivers or whatever happens to be where they have constructed bridges or have had a presence in Newfoundland and Labrador, then there may be environmental fallout from that and that has to be quantified. If that is quantified, then that would be offset against any responsibility for compensation. If there is an excess of value over liability, then that would be the amount that would be paid.

And if there was any discrepancy, then they’d add in the amount the provincial government paid out voluntarily to settle issues with some of Abitibi’s former employees.

Nice, tidy and wonderfully convenient.

Things haven’t quite worked out that way.

First the provincial government wound up getting the mill unceremoniously dumped in their laps.

Then Ernst and Young valued the environmental remediation at around $50 million and maybe as much as $100 million.

Now Abitibi has filed its NAFTA claim seeking damages of at least $500 million, reputedly a record amount if it is awarded.

It’s also not far off another old record, the cost of the Come by Chance bankruptcy back in the 1970s which was up to that time the largest bankruptcy in Canadian history.

So now having paid out the workers cash and assumed full liability for the environmental clean-up, the provincial government is now facing a history-making lawsuit for damages.

-srbp-

Dunderdate;  Some choice words from natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale that reinforce the notion of the whole thing being a wash, at the end of the day on a go forward basis.  From the Telly, 25 Mar 09:

The company has publicly put the price tag for those assets at $300

million.

 

Dunderdale says the government's figure is lower than that, but would

not say just how far apart the two sides are.

 

She said the province has a clear idea of how much it thinks the

assets are worth and has determined a range of value it would be

willing to pay Abitibi.

But Dunderdale said the province wouldn't go beyond that range just to settle up with the company.

You’re definitely going to hell for that one

labradore redefines the latest officially-sanctioned terms for people who don’t swallow the official line whole.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, he is definitely going to be blackballed for his latest series of posts on how local media have covered The Subject That Must Not Be Discussed.

 

-srbp-

And while everyone was consumed in the latest psychodrama…

Some of you may have missed a couple of stories that highlight the impact  demographics – the aging population – will have on government budgets.

The federal parliamentary budget officer is warning that the federal government is facing a pretty serious “structural” imbalance that won’t be solved by simple budget cuts. As the Toronto Star reported:

Canada's falling birth rate coupled with baby boomers approaching retirement will "fundamentally" change the labour market for decades to come. In the next 10 years alone, the number of people who are retired compared to those still in the workforce will grow by 7 per cent – as much as it grew in the last four decades.

Retired workers pay less tax and draw more on programs like health care and seniors' benefits, driving up government costs.

Page said "permanent fiscal actions – either through increased taxes or reduced program spending, or some combination of both" will be needed to avoid ever-increasing government deficits.

The best line of all has a very familiar ring to it:

"The government's current fiscal structure is not sustainable over the long term," the report said.

Meanwhile, Quebec’s long standing pro-natalist policies won’t really deal with the very same problem in that province:

Bonne nouvelle : le Québec connaît depuis deux ans un petit baby-boom. Mauvaise nouvelle : il survient trop tard et sera donc loin d'être suffisant pour contrer l'effet de l'arrivée à la retraite de la génération du « vrai » baby-boom. Quand les bébés qui sont aujourd'hui dans leurs poussettes intégreront le marché du travail, ils ne seront jamais assez nombreux pour payer les pensions et les soins de santé de ceux qui s'appuieront alors sur une marchette !

Now these same issues will affect Newfoundland and Labrador, just as surely as the province never escaped the ravages of the current recession.

But how they will affect the province and what needs to be done are subjects for another post.

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Size matters

ap-charlestasnadiWell, it used to matter to leaders like Lyndon Johnson, anyway.

Here’s the now-legendary photograph of Johnson showing off the scar from his gall bladder surgery to a gaggle of reporters.

Biographers Irwin and Debi Unger argue that Johnson was merely trying to show that he was healing well. 

It didn’t come across that way.

That story leads off a paper by University of Missouri – Columbia professor Jeffrey Pasley on American presidents and media coverage of presidential health issues.

Unknown to the public and the press, Johnson's doctors had also been concerned about the possibility of more dangerous conditions, such as pancreatic cancer and a recurrence of his earlier heart troubles; true to their fears, the president actually developed a superventricular tachycardia (dangerously accelerated heartbeat) while undergoing anaesthesia. Trying to allay suspicions that Johnson was seriously ill, press secretary Bill Moyers "snowed [the White House press corps] with details," including full-color anatomical slides, and the news media duly carried daily reports of Johnson's convalescence, including such minutiae as how well the president slept on particular nights, Lady Bird planting a tree outside the hospital room window, and his viewing of "Hello, Dolly!" on television. Unfortunately, Moyers had no idea how far the president was willing to take the full disclosure policy. On October 20, [1965] Johnson was holding forth to the press as he sunned himself on the Bethesda Naval Hospital grounds.

"Apparently feeling words to be inadequate" in describing how he felt, the Baltimore Sun's Muriel Dobbin reported, "the President whipped up his blue knit sport shirt," and, as Time put it, "let the whole world inspect the ugly twelve-inch seam under his right rib cage" where the surgeons had done their work. Many newspapers and both major newsmagazines carried a photo that week of a squatting, squinting LBJ exposing his flesh for the press.

Moyers’ efforts are typical of what politicians and their staff try to do in order to dispel rumours about a politician’s health.  . Moyers pushed out bags of detail at a time when that volume of information was unheard of.  He might have been on safe ground too, if his boss hadn’t opted for the more earthy approach.

Pasley summarises a number of episodes that demonstrate just exactly how some episodes of presidential illness have been handled and mishandled. Take a minute and read the article. You won’t be disappointed.

There is a lesson in the American experience with illness and transparency, one that would be useful for any politician to heed.

Just as daylight is the best disinfectant for political corruption so too is factual information the curative for the diseases that fester in the often incestuous world of politics.  As with physical disease, moralising and ex poste facto rationalisations are seldom useful for preventing or curing a partisan pox.

-srbp-

24 February 2010

Paths of Glory

Geoff Meeker does a bang-up job, as always documenting an episode in the local media world, in this case, the bizarro blacklisting of CBC locally for something an on-air guest said.

A few quibbles/observations:

Pull the other one, Geoff:  If Liz Matthews actually had any say over government comms policy or if she actually disagreed with anything asinine the government has done since 2003 – like blackballing reporters -  then she wouldn’t be carrying out the policy so regularly on behalf of the person who really directs government comms policy.

Politically correct?  Try Politically Safe.  The Premier’s martial status was covered first by mainland media and then repeated by only a couple of locals.  There are certain types of stories that will only get covered by mainlanders first. As with the MUN presidential fiasco, someone on the mainland had to run that one first. it still hasn’t been touched by any locals and never will be.  There are some other stories in the same category, ones that fly against the current official narrative.

Reality?  What a concept!    What makes the CBC blackballing in this case so bizarre is that CBC  - collectively or individually - hasn’t really done anything to deserve it.  If you look at the totality of CBC political coverage it has been fair, accurate and generally along the lines of other local outlets. It should be as trusted an outlet for fair and accurate coverage – and certainly not for any sort of anti-government bias – as all the other local media outlets. 

Mind you, CBC cannot hope to match the shameless sycophancy of Danny-vision, d.b.a. “Out of the Fog” where one suspects they ship questions over to Danny for approval before they interview either government or opposition members.  Nor could CBC ever hope to compete with a radio station run by a guy who gets a patronage appointment to the Premier’s pet offshore oil company.  That fellow even calls his own station on air to run down the media in exactly the fashion of a planted partisan caller. 

But not being able to press ones nose to the political nether-cheeks with that sort of Olympian enthusiasm doesn’t mean that Ryan’s been slipping subversive messages into the nightly weather hits.

The best theory to explain the current spat with CBC seems to be that they are being shot pour encourager les autres, as the French generals used to say.

If nothing else, blackballing the entire corporation might play on any internal policy divisions within the Corp’s local crowd.  In the process, the potential might be there so that any future bits of CBC coverage that resembled the Ceeb of Wakeham’s day might be finally eliminated.

So while NTV actually did the dirty deed a couple of weeks ago, they have the one thing that no other media outlet has in Newfoundland and Labrador:  the biggest audience.  The Premier’s Office can’t afford to blackball them.

But overall, the relationship between the media and the current Premier is fundamentally different from the one Meeker describes at the end of his post.  There used to be a balance.  There used to be the potential that the media would resume its job of revealing government “mishaps and mistakes.” 

These days when one outlet is set upon as irrationally and incomprehensibly as in this case, there’s more likely to be talk of hair styles and how there was never much of anything to talk about anyway.

-srbp-

What Wakeham said

Every tool in the Tory tool shed may be manning the phones in yet another  campaign of partisan intimidation, but more than a few of the rest of us have wondered what Bob Wakeham said to get all the tools in a prudish tizzy.

Those of us who haven’t been practicing the two minute hate required of Party members might wonder what could possibly have caused Danny Williams to tell the Ceeb he won’t be talking to them because of:
"very unfortunate and unnecessary comments made about the premier on the CBC" that [Elizabeth] Matthews [notionally Williams’ director of communication] said were irrelevant and hurtful to his family, and for that reason the premier won't do interviews with the CBC about his health care.
You see, the plain truth is that Bob Wakeham didn’t really say much of anything on February 3 that normal human beings would find the least bit problematic.  In the context of a discussion about what the media ought to cover about politicians and their private lives, Wakeham mentioned a subject which – until now – the local news media had completely ignored.

After acknowledging that the local media hadn’t “done a Tiger Woods” and had covered some other issues like the Premier’s back surgery in 2003, Wakeham said:
I always found it kinda passing strange that we’ve…the media…has never dealt with the fact… never reported on his martial problems. To me that was kind of something that we should have reported on not in a real intimate way in trying to find out why his marriage went belly up but just as a matter of fact.  This was a woman who had been with him on the podium on election night, had been with him on election campaigns and all of a sudden she disappears…
That’s it.

There’s a few more words as the idea trails off but that’s the sum and substance of Wakeham/Goldstein’s evil words.

Those are the remarks that Wakeham’s fellow panellist that day has now described as “contemptible.”  The Telegram commentary editor also said that Wakeham’s remarks were “ill-timed”, a phrase that is rather curiously but surely coincidentally similar to the official view that the words were “completely irrelevant.”

Now Wakeham did bring the whole thing up again a couple of weeks later when his co-panellist on the Morning Show was none other than former Tory candidate, notorious Tory apologist and biographer Janice Wells. He went over the same ground again in much the same way.

But again, that was the sum of it:  report as fact matters of fact involving a prominent public official.
Only in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2003 could anyone find that the least bit radical  - let alone objectionable - as an idea.

Then again only in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2003 would you find reporters who agree that it is unconscionable to report facts as facts.

Not all of them have actually said that out loud or typed it, mind you.  Nonetheless, some one of them have actually censored themselves both on this health story, aspects related to it and on other stories where the potential would be high that the callers and their political associates would be less than pleased.

And that would be exactly what the callers, the e-mailers and their partisan friends wanted all along.

What Bob Wakeham said was nothing at all.

What others said in response to his remarks, though, is yet more evidence of just how dysfunctional the political society of Newfoundland and Labrador is.

-srbp-

Experience counts…again

A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.

Someone who plays at being their own public relations counsel?

Same thing.

In light of recent events, it seems appropriate to remind people of that fairly simple and, one might have thought, obvious proposition.

For those who missed it, here’s an old collection of scribbles from the original version of the Independent that your humble e-scribbler wrote after seeing the published transcript of Danny Williams’ first major national editorial board interview as Premier.  There are a few paragraphing changes to improve readability.  It first appeared in this space in January 2005.

_______________________________________________

Experience Counts

For those who don’t know, I have been in the public relations business for the past 15 years. That includes seven years in politics and another eight in the public and private sectors. It’s an interesting field, if for no other reason than you keep running into people who think that because they read the papers, listen to the radio and watch television, they can do a PR job easily.

Sadly for those people, the news is filled each day with stories a buddy of mine used to call Homer Simpson moments – you see the story and the only thing to say is “D’Oh!” because the gaffs are easy to spot.

They were predictable.

They are damaging.

They were avoidable.

Danny Williams’ interview with Macleans this week was a big Homer Simpson moment. The drunk comment came in response to a leading question from someone who hasn’t worked in the province since the scotch-soaked salad days of Frank Moores. The premier fell into an old trap and joked that now the House is completely drunk. D’oh!

Understand that the editor’s question came after the Premier volunteered the opinion that the House of Assembly was “unproductive” and joked that if he had his way he would probably never call it in session. D’oh! That question came after the Macleans crowd asked the Premier why the provincial deficit was so big. His response was mismanagement over the past 10 years. There was a lengthy bit about the Stunnel; two sentences on the fishery. D’oh! The last question had the Premier calling for a seal cull. D’oh! The Premier made some misstatements of fact, for good measure (D’oh!) and a couple of big ideas got a handful of words, without explanation. D’oh! Take the whole interview and you have a bunch of poor, laughing drunks, complaining about having no money, who apparently can’t manage their own affairs, and yet who want to build grandiose megaprojects and kill seals.

That interpretation is a bit facetious, but it fits rather nicely with the condescending view some central Canadian editors hold of Newfoundland and Labrador. What was missing from the interview? Overall, the premier needed to put our issues into terms that would be meaningful to his audience. There could have been a frank explanation of how developing the Lower Churchill benefits the whole country. The Premier could have talked at length about the local companies competing successfully around the globe in the energy, manufacturing and high tech sectors. For another, he could talk about how diversifying the provincial economy gets us off the equalization rolls. The Premier could have showed how offshore oil and gas can provide Canadians with a secure supply of vital energy and give Newfoundland and Labrador economic benefits like those in Alberta. That’s the Blue Book, Danny’s supposed plan.

Talk that way and you get a feature article, at least, not a cheesy question and answer session following a reporter’s agenda. You might even get the cover. Instead, readers got a piece that Michael Benedict, the 70s cub reporter and now Macleans executive editor, could have written from his old notes. Danny made the front page of the National Post, alright, but only because someone took offence at his jokes. D’oh!

Since the interview was so far off the Blue Book, this all happened for one of two reasons. Either Danny Williams’ advisors, the people he derisively referred to as handlers, are not doing their jobs or, taking his own advice, Danny is ignoring them because he feels they are trying to turn him into something he is not. If they aren’t doing their jobs or giving dumb advice, then Danny needs new advisors ASAP. If Danny is ignoring their good advice, then he needs to take a look in the mirror.
Public relations is not a job anyone can do. It takes skill and experience. Good advisors don’t change people into flavourless mush. They knock off the rough edges and help focus thinking so someone like the premier gets his point across. They are crucial to success. In PR, like in law, the guy who acts as his own counsel has a fool for a client.

By the way, who made the cover of Macleans last week? Rick Mercer – a Newfoundlander who gets paid to be funny.

-srbp-

23 February 2010

Danny’s political future

The Premier, who had already indicated plans to seek another term, says that's the plan. And Williams quips, he's in politics for the long haul.

That courtesy of the radio station known derisively as voice of the cabinet minister who even supplied the audio version:

“Nothing has changed for me… so I am looking at possibly another four terms.”

Translation:  apply the rule of opposites. Now there’s a concept people should be very familiar with.

And if by some chance he did stay at it for another four terms – 16 years – then Danny Williams would be both the oldest person sworn in as Premier since 1949 and the oldest person to leave the office.

Williams turns 61 this year and would be pretty close to 80 if he actually won four more general elections.

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The Saga thus far

1.  NTV’s Fred Hutton reports that Danny Williams had his mitral valve replaced  - note the word - at a Miami hospital. Bear in mind this is the guy who got it straight from the horse’s mouth.  He used the word “replaced”, not the more vague term “repaired”.

In an exclusive interview with NTV NEWS from his condo in Sarasota Florida, Premier Danny Williams said, "it's my health, my heart, and my decision." The Premier was responding to criticism that he snubbed the Canadiabn [sic] health care system for treatment in The United States. The Premier told NTV NEWS, "my doctors told me to leave the province for the surgery." Danny Williams had minimally invasive mitral valve surgery to replace a leaky valve. He discovered the problem a year ago, but just before Christmas was told it had gone from moderate damage to severe. Doctors have now told him that since the operation he "has the heart of a 40 year old." The Premier is expected to be back on the job in early March.

For the record, anyone who thinks NTV and Fred are easy doesn’t have the slightest clue what he or she is talking about. They may not be as flashy as some nor do they push their own angles on a story.

But they can go right for the heart of a story as solidly as anyone out there, get it and bring it back.

The fact remains is that NTV was the medium of choice both for DW and for the person or persons who broke his cone of silence.

2.  Globe political gossip columnist Jane Taber adds huge levels of new detail, based on an interview with Hutton:

The procedure was not offered in Newfoundland but it is available in other parts of the country. The doctor who was recommended to him in Canada would only do the procedure involving have his chest cracked open.

Hoping to avoid that, the Premier called on a fellow Newfoundlander and leading cardiologist in New York, Dr. Lynn McGrath. And he recommended the Premier go to Miami.

Taber’s headline picked up on a now familiar talking point:

“I was warned by my staff that this could be an issue,” he told Mr. Hutton. “But from my own perspective I said look, here’s our communications plan. It’s quite simple. This is my heart. It’s my health and it’s my choice,” he said.

It’s vintage but it isn’t a plan.  It’s really a talking point and – as it seems – one they hit on only after someone dropped a dime on his surgery.  That idea – that it is his business only – may have been the rationale or the driver for the cone of silence but make no mistake about it;  that ain’t a plan by any stretch of anyone’s imagination.

And any concerns about huge, spontaneous outpourings of grief at the airport?  Well that’s an ex poste facto rationalisation.  Since he likely took a chartered private jet, people would have to know when he was leaving in order to hold one  of those Joey-esque outpourings of spontaneous love and affection.

And that could only happen if someone in DW’s posse dropped a dime on the departure.

Think about it for a second.

Other people already did long before any posts around these parts.

Too bad, because if DW had taken the same care with managing the story around his health care as he justifiably did with his health care he and everyone else would have been a lot better off today. he wouldn’t be facing any of the troublesome coverage and he wouldn’t have had to interrupt his recovery from valve replacement to entertain Fred Hutton.

Sounds like he is much like one of his predecessors, as described by someone who worked closely with him:  doesn’t get good advice. doesn’t take good advice.

Note as well, the language consistently used to describe heading south for the surgery and picked up in a CBC story on the NTV story:

“…what was ultimately done to me, the surgery that I eventually got ... was not offered to me in Canada."

That does not mean the surgery is not available in Canada.

3.  And that brings us neatly and lastly to macleans.ca and John Geddes.

This saga is far from over for the oldest Premier to be sworn into office in Newfoundland and Labrador since Confederation.

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When doublethink is the norm

Orchestrated partisan campaigns of venom are genuine outpourings of sincere, spontaneous feeling.

A person who rarely smiles cannot be surrounded by sycophants and worshippers in a cult of personality despite the historical evidence to the contrary (let alone the fact the guy in question smiles a lot).

And a former editor/producer who offers the opinion that a simple matter of fact ought to be reported as a simple matter of fact?

Well…

His live-to-air remarks were off-track and contemptible, but he doesn't represent the "media." He represented one person's ill-timed opinion.

Something is going on with public discourse in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Some of us have been raising alarm bells about it for some time, about seven years or so if memory serves.

But it doesn’t need to be evaluated as if it were a great mystery.

After all, how much thought does it take to to see that when a simple opinion can be viewed as both “ill-timed” and “contemptible” then we are already up to our necks in a “miasma of poison and hatred” that is so pervasive it can seem to be normal.

The only thing missing these past few weeks have been the shouts of “Goldstein”.

It’s amazing anyone could have missed it, especially when one referred to that editor  - essentially – as just one, misguided soul, not all souls.

A Goldstein, if you will.

Doublethink is the new normal in Oceania.

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A plan versus not-a-plan

Rhode Island just unveiled its green energy plan.

You can tell it is a plan because there are clearly defined targets with measureable goals to be achieved in order to reach the goals. The plan centres on four subjects:

  1. advanced manufacturing,
  2. energy efficiency,
  3. innovation, and,
  4. wind power.

The plan maps out activities in two phases within each of the four areas. There’s also a reference to a state energy strategy. Notice that the strategy has some defined policy goals:

  • increase energy supply
  • reduce demand, and
  • stabilize prices.

These are goals that relate to environmental sustainability as well as affordability (for consumers). 

Compare that – if you dare -- to the local provincial energy “plan”.  There are no clearly defined goals or targets. There are simply vague statements like “environmental leadership”  or “effective governance” that are labelled as goals.

No one can tell where the province is going in this plan.  That’s just as well because not only won’t we know where we are when we get there, there really isn’t any set of signposts or milestones that can be used along the journey so that people can tell if we are headed in the right direction in the first place.

Rather, you can find vague platitudes like this one:

Ensure that any future fiscal regimes provide maximum returns to the people of this province and are designed to respond to changing
circumstances.

In places, actions become ends in and of themselves.  The equity stakes and development of the energy corporation are set as actions goals but there is no clear description of how they relate to what the plan refers to as goals. One can wander through the pages and never understand how having a state-owned energy company with a merely 10% of a particular project gives “environmental leadership”, for example.

Plans -- properly laid plans – are a key part of making government effective, accountable and transparent.

The Rhode Island plan contains all the necessary elements of a plan.  Look at it five years from now and you’ll be able to tell quickly and easily if the state is making progress to actually reach the targets set.

The Newfoundland and Labrador has lots of words in it but there is no way of knowing if the targets are being met. What’s worse, the goals aren’t really goals.  if owning a 10% equity stake was a major objective, the provincial government would not, at the same time, also look to sell the stakes for a quick buck.

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h/t renewnewengland.com

The Elizabeth Towers Fire Inquiry - Recommendations

Continued from Part 4 The Question of Justification

When a fire occurs certain options are open to investigating and law enforcement bodies in the Province.  Under Section 8 of The Fire Prevention Act [link is to the RSN 1990 version of the Act] an investigation must be carried out by local or special assistants to the Fire Commissioner where property has been destroyed or damaged by fire.  That investigation is made "for the purpose of ascertaining whether the fire was the result of negligence, carelessness, accident or design".  That, presumably, was the form of investigation which was begun promptly after the fire in Elizabeth Towers took place.  An investigation can lead to the filing of a formal complaint under the Criminal Code, and to a prosecution for arson.  That was what did happen in this case.

Two other methods of enquiry are available for the investigation of the cause of a fire.  One method is in accordance with Section 126 of The Summary Jurisdiction Act, as amended by The Summary Jurisdiction (Amendment) Act, 1971.[See note below]  Subsections (1), (2) and (4) read:
(1) Subject to this section, whenever any property is damaged or destroyed by fire, the magistrate exercising jurisdiction in the district where the fire occurred or any other magistrate or any justice designated by the Minister of Justice may conduct an enquiry to ascertain the cause or origin of the fire, and shall conduct such enquiry if directed to do so by the Director of Public Prosecutions. 
(2) A magistrate or justice conducting an enquiry under this section has and may exercise all of the powers conferred on a Commissioner by Section 3 of The Public Enquiries Act.
(4) Every magistrate or justice conducting an enquiry under this section shall, as soon as practicable after the completing of the enquiry, send a report to the Attorney General stating in particular his opinion as to the cause of the fire and whether it appears to have been of incendiary origin and shall forward with the report all of the evidence taken by him at the enquiry.
The other method available is under Section 22 of The Fire Prevention Act.  Subsections (1), (2), (3) and (7) read:
(1) Subject to the approval of the Minister, the Fire Commissioner, or any other person designated by the Minister, may hold an enquiry into the cause, origin, extent and circumstances of any fire, and the approval of the. Minister required by this subsection may be given generally in respect of all fires occurring in a prescribed area or particularly in respect of a specified fire. 
(2) For the purposes of an enquiry under this section, the Fire Commissioner or person directed to hold the enquiry may with the approval of the Minister employ such legal, technical, scientific, clerical or other assistance as he may deem necessary. 
(3) When holding an enquiry under this section, the Fire Commissioner or the person directed to hold the enquiry shall have all of the powers conferred on a Commissioner by Section 3 of The Public Enquiries Act
(7) Every person who holds an enquiry under this section shall, ,as soon as practicable after the completion of the enquiry, send a report to the Attorney General stating in particular his opinion as to the cause of the fire and whether it appears to have been of incendiary origin and shall forward with the report all of the evidence taken by him at the enquiry.
In considering the procedure followed in the investigation of the Elizabeth Towers fire we must do so in the light of evidence available at the time, not from the vantage point of the hindsight which this Enquiry has.  As the police investigation proceeded it appeared that the fire had been deliberately set, that is, that the offence of arson had been committed. Under those circumstances, the procedure followed was a quite proper one for it would likely lead to the laying of charges under the Criminal Code of Canada and, ultimately, to a trial.  Quite understandably, it would appear at that time that any other form of enquiry would not be necessary. 

Indeed, while an enquiry could have been carried on, it would have been of doubtful propriety, for it could have been prejudicial to a fair trial, particularly if an accused elected trial by jury.  It is a matter of record that a charge was brought against Dr. Farrell, that he elected trial by judge and jury and that at the conclusion of a preliminary enquiry the charge was dismissed.  There is now no reason why an enquiry should not be held under The Summary Jurisdiction Act or under The Fire Prevention Act. An enquiry under either of those Acts could be more comprehensive than the preliminary enquiry because evidence which could not be called at the preliminary enquiry could be called at an enquiry under The Summary Jurisdiction Act or The Fire Prevention Act.

I therefore recommend that the Honourable the Minister of Justice take such initiative as may be open to him to cause an enquiry to be held under either The Summary Jurisdiction Act or The Fire Prevention Act.
Dated at Corner Brook in the Province of Newfoundland the 16th day of August, 1979

//signed//
P. LLOYD SOPER, D.C.J.
COMMISSIONER
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NOTE:  The Summary Jurisdiction Act was replaced in 1979 by the Summary Proceedings Act.
Section 22 of the Summary Proceedings Act states:
Fire inquiry

22. Where property is damaged or destroyed by fire, a judge may hold an inquiry to ascertain the cause or origin of the fire, and shall hold that inquiry on direction of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Section 25 confers on a judge in such an inquiry the powers of a commissioner under the Public Inquiries Act. This continues the powers under the section of the former Act cited by Soper. Likewise section 30 details the report to be made to the Attorney general at the conclusion of an inquiry.

22 February 2010

The joy of headlines…or not

Seen at voice of the cabinet minister:  “Dawe pulls out of Topsail by-election”.

For those old enough to remember, that’s just a shade of a Saturday Night Live news bit from the mid 1970s.

“This just in:  Fidel Castro has pulled out of Angola.  A frustrated Angola could not be reached for comment.”

Ba-dum check.

The difference is that one of those was intended to be a joke.

The other was real news.

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Dawe bails

Peter Dawe is out of the race in Topsail district.

Regular readers may recall that the surprise in this corner was that Dawe was running in the first place given that he’d apparently already plighted his troth elsewhere.

No word yet on who might carry the Liberal banner in Dawe’s stead.  The New Democrats still haven’t named a candidate but are expected to find one later on Monday. [Update:  The NDP is running Brian Nolan.]

Meanwhile, the campaign is on and voting day is March 16.

Expect Paul Davis to win by a landslide.

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Offshore board completes strategic environmental assessment

From a news release issued earlier today:

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) has completed the “Southern Newfoundland Strategic Environmental Assessment”.

The strategic environmental assessment (SEA) was conducted with the assistance of a working group chaired by the C-NLOPB and with members from provincial and federal government departments, non-governmental agencies, the Fish Food and Allied Workers Union and local community organizations. The SEA provides an overview of the physical and biological environment, highlights sensitive areas and describes data gaps for the SEA area.

The Southern Newfoundland Strategic Environmental Assessment final report is available at the offshore board website

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Time lag

The Guido and Gordon version.

There's even a supporting chart, of sorts and the international evidence the story has spread.

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This will beat out the Olympics

…at least in Newfoundland and Labrador.

From NTV News’ website:

February 19, 2010

All eyes in the province will be on The NTV Evening Newshour on Monday as Premier Danny Williams will speak for the first time about both his recent surgery and his political future.  The Premier is recovering at his condo in a Sarasota ,Florida after a heart operation in the same state that took more than six hours to perform. That surgery had been scheduled for two and a half hours but the damage to the Premier's heart was greater than expected. NTV News Director Fred Hutton is in Sarasota Florida with a camera crew for what is an exclusive interview with the Premier. It was NTV News that first reported on the Premier Williams' health problem. There has been public discussion on the decision to leave the country for the surgery. That and other questions will be put to the Premier in the interview that will air Monday evening on the NTV Evening Newshour.

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The Elizabeth Towers Fire Inquiry – The Question of Justification


Paragraph (1) (b) of the Terms of Reference of this Commission of Enquiry requires me to consider and report upon the justification, if any, for the release, transmission, duplication, delivery and publication of the two reports.

According to the evidence it appears that Pike concluded [not a quote in original]
(a) that the investigation into the cause of the fire at Elizabeth Towers had provided enough evidence to justify the laying of a charge of arson against the Honourable Dr. Thomas Farrell, but 
(b) that the charge would not be laid because Farrell was a member of the Cabinet of the Province of Newfoundland.
Pike's conclusions appear to have a certain emotional basis.  He had been taken off the investigation because of his indiscretion in discussing it with the Premier's secretary and he was upset on that account.  He appeared, too, to have the idea that he was being persecuted, as shown in his allegation to William Rowe that "Alec Hickman (the Minister of Justice) was out to get him".  It appears to me that at the time Pike was not in that emotional state which would enable him to take a completely objective view of the investigation.  Indeed, his approach brings into question his usefulness as an investigating officer.

The conclusions which Pike arrived at were not of such substance as to justify his releasing the reports.  Pike based his action on two reports.  He knew that the investigation was continuing.  He also knew or expected that charges were going to be laid against Dr. Farrell.  After all, that was the message which he apparently wanted to pass to the Premier.

Throughout the period leading up to the laying of charges against Dr. Farrell on October 16th, 1978 there was emphasis placed on what appeared to be unwarranted delay in the laying of the charges. In any given case, the answer to the question of whether there is delay depends upon that particular case and upon such variable factors as the nature of the alleged offence, the existence and extent of the evidence which shows that an offence was committed, the existence and extent of the evidence which indicates the perpetrator. The law officers of the Crown who are responsible for conducting a prosecution must go beyond the question of whether they can establish a prime facie case.  They must consider whether they can show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  Belief in the guilt of an accused is one thing.  Proving it beyond a reasonable doubt' is another.  Therein lies a difference between the attitudes which police investigators and crown prosecutors may adopt.

There is no doubt that criminal investigations should be concluded as quickly as possible and charges should be laid without delay, but the prosecutor must be concerned with proof that will meet the tests applied under the rules of evidence and of criminal procedure.  In the investigation of the Elizabeth Towers fire, the Crown officers, who had a better perspective than Pike could have, who were more competent professionally to assess the evidence from the point of view of laying charges, considered that there were matters not dealt with adequately in the first two reports.  They sought and received two further reports and then laid a charge against Dr. Farrell.

Pike had no real grounds for concluding that charges would not be laid against Dr. Farrell,  He did not produce any evidence of substance that would support his conclusion beyond the casual conversation which he had with Kelly.  In reality, Macaulay, as I have already shown, indicated on or about July 3lst that he wanted to lay charges against Dr. Farrell.  That suggests to me that in the Department of Justice there was a wish to get on with the matter rather than to procrastinate. In this regard I must note that in answer to a direct question Macaulay stated at the Enquiry that the Minister of Justice had not interfered with the work of the Departmental officers dealing with the investigation, that there had not been any political interference.

There was no evidence that any attempt was made to protect Dr. Farrell from prosecution.  Pike's allegation that there was a "cover-up" was a product of his own imagination and suspicions.  There was no justification for his releasing the police reports to William Rowe or to any other person.

If there was no justification for Pike's actions there was still less for those of William Rowe.  He was dissatisfied with what appeared to be delays in the completion of the investigation and with the absence of any prosecutions.  He had concluded that the investigation might go on and on but that nothing would ever develop from it, that there would never be any prosecution.  He had no solid foundation for that conclusion and no substantive evidence.  As in the case of Pike's conclusions, they did not coincide with what was actually happening behind the scenes, that is, that the Deputy Minister of Justice had been pressing to bring the investigation to the point where charges might be laid,  Rowe seems to have allowed himself to become the victim of rumour or speculation, For example, at one point in his evidence he said:
"... Talking to people casually around, the impression that I arrived at was that there was going to be an on-going investigation forever and ever and ever in the case."
As a person in public life, he should have been sensitive to the fact that others will exaggerate descriptions of what public figures do, that there is a popular belief that prominant [sic] citizens are above the law.  Added to that, he recognized that Pike, who alleged that a "cover-up" was going on, was visibly disturbed when they met.  From his description of Pike's condition, which I have already related, he should certainly have been put on his caution and should not have jeopardized his own reputation by dealing with Pike as he did.  No matter how William Rowe may attempt to justify his conduct in accepting and releasing the reports he did not provide any grounds on which to justify his conduct.

I am not ignoring the concern which Rowe expressed about the safety of tenants in the Elizabeth Towers Apartments.  I would not for one moment doubt that concern.  Indeed, I would go beyond expressing concern about the origin of one fire and I would want to go further than simply wanting to know who, if anybody, caused it.

A fire in any building occupied by a large number of tenants raises many questions which can go to such basic considerations as design and materials used. To what extent have fire resistant materials been used?
Can the spread of fire or smoke or both be controlled or diminished?  What alarm systems exist?  What emergency exits are there?  What fire fighting equipment is on the premises?  Do residents know what to do in the event of fire or an alarm of fire?  What security is maintained on the building? How efficiently can municipal fire fighters work in dealing with a fire?  I am not suggesting that the answers to these and other possible questions would reflect poorly on the operation of the Elizabeth Towers but I do say that anxiety arising out of the fire on April 26th, 1978 should extend to those concerns if any investigation is to be of greatest benefit to the residents.  Indeed, a complete investigation directed at such questions as those I have raised may result in improvements in safety features in the building in question and in the construction and use of other buildings as well.

Related to the question of justification is one other direction given to me by paragraph (l)(c) of my Terms of Reference.  It requires me to enquire into and report upon what should have been done with copies of the reports by those into whose possession they came and what action, if any, should be taken against them.
When the reports were released the investigation into the fire had not been completed, notwithstanding any opinion which Pike may have had to the contrary. At the same time, it was likely that a criminal charge would be laid against Dr. Farrell.

While a suspected crime is being investigated the information which the police have gathered should be treated as confidential in the interest of the investigation itself and in the interest of suspects. Improper release of information could alert a suspect, enabling him to tamper with evidence or to provide himself with a defence or otherwise frustrate the investigation.  Conversely, release of information from an incompleted investigation could implicate a suspect who might later in the investigation be shown to be innocent.  As a matter of fact, in the investigation of the Elisabeth Towers fire it appears that there was one person who was suspected of some involvement but who was cleared of suspicion during the investigation.

When a role is changed, so that a suspect becomes an accused, he should then know what case he has to answer at his trial.  If he has an election and elects to be tried by a judge sitting with a jury, his right to a fair trial should not be prejudiced by the release of information which might not be admissible as evidence at his trial.  In other words, he should not be pre-judged by public opinion.  He is entitled to a trial by a jury whose members have not already been influenced by what they have heard or read in news reports.  There is today a great deal of emphasis on "the right to know" but the right to a fair trial is equally great, if not greater, for it deals with liberty of the subject.  Insofar as a trial is concerned, the "right to know" is recognized in the requirements that trials be public.

In the release of the reports of the Elizabeth Towers investigation, Pike conducted himself in a manner unbecoming to a member of a police force. He was reduced in rank from a detective sergeant to a patrol sergeant, with a consequent reduction in the rate of salary.  He considered that he was "severely punished", to use his own description of the consequences of his actions, but in my view he was treated leniently. His conduct would have justified dismissal.

Only one factor would influence my view as to the action which should have been taken against Pike, and that is the fact that at the present time no penalties appear to exist which could be imposed on William Rowe who caused the reports to be distributed. Pike's conduct was inexcusable but Rowe's conduct was equally inexcusable.  When he received the reports from Pike he should have turned them over to the Chief of Police, as some of the news editors did. If he was not prepared to do that, the least he might have done was point out to Pike the impropriety of what he was doing and refuse to accept the reports.

I refrain from commenting further on what action, if any, might be taken insofar as publication of the reports or any portion of them is concerned because I understand that civil actions may be pending in respect of some of those to whom information was given.

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21 February 2010

The Elizabeth Towers Fire Inquiry – the Release of the Reports of the Investigation

Continued from Part 2 – The Elizabeth Towers Fire and its Investigation

I must now turn to the evidence relating directly to the release of the reports of June 7th and July 12th to the news media.  That evidence was given by Sergeant Pike and Mr. William Rowe who, at that time, was the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the House of Assembly of the Province.  This part of the enquiry deals also with the question of whether there was justification for the release of the reports.

Pike said that on the basis of the reports of June 7th and July 12th he "felt that there was reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a criminal act had been committed".

Pike was removed from the investigation because of a conversation which he had with Mrs. Nugent who was then the private secretary to the Premier-of the Province.  The conversation took place when he was flying to St. Anthony after he had been recalled from his vacation on or about August 1st in order to give Inspector Randell whatever information he had about the investigation.  Pike was asked what he was supposed to have said to Mrs. Nugent that resulted in his.being removed from the investigation.  He said:
"I was accused by Inspector Randell when I came back off my annual leave of telling her that Dr. Farrell was going to be charged and accused me of asking to see the Premier".
He said that it was alleged that ho had disclosed part of the contents of the report,  lie war; ached whether the charge was accurate and gave the following somewhat enlightening reply:
"Not completely.  Partially, I suppose.  I did speak to Mrs. Nugent and Dr. Farrell's name did come up briefly at the airport before we left. I attempted to explain this to Inspector Randall.  However, I think his mind had already been made up to transfer me or somebody made it up for him.  He didn't ask me what happened.  I tried to explain to him but he didn't appear to want to listen."
The one thing which appears from this evidence is Pike's apparent tendency to indiscretion in discussing police matters with unauthorized persons - an undesirable trait in a police officer.  Understandably, Pike was upset because he was taken off the Elizabeth Towers fire investigation, even though it was through his own fault.
 
Pike was asked what his mental and physical state was at that time.  He said:
"... I was concerned about this investigation and because of remarks made to me and I was at times nervous - or probably "frightened" would be the word - during the investigation."
Pike said that he had been upset by several remarks which the Director of Public Prosecutions had made to him.  He said that the first occasion on which Kelly made remarks to him was approximately two weeks after the investigation started. 

At that time, Randell told him that Kelly wanted to see him alone and unofficially about the Elizabeth' Towers fire. As a result, he saw Kelly who told him that he wanted to be brought up to date because the Minister of Justice was going out of town and might want to be brought up to date.  He brought Kelly up to date, telling him that the police suspected arson.

I must observe that I do not see that there was anything sinister about Kelly's enquiry.  The investigation was still going on and Pike was not conducting it himself, so he would not be in a position to make a full, official report.  On the other hand, he could be expected to have some idea of how it was progressing.  It would not be unusual for the Director of Public Prosecutions to look for some advance information such as he sought.

Then, too, he might well expect the Minister to show some interest in the investigation under all the circumstances. On the other hand, the mere possibility of the Minister's asking a question should not be interpreted as indicating some ulterior motive on his part or on Kelly's part. Pike's reaction suggests a somewhat exaggerated interpretation of Kelly's enquiry.

Pike related another conversation which he suggested upset him and, I should think, was intended to reflect on Kelly but which, in my view, reflects on Pike instead. Here is his evidence verbatim:
"Yes, there was another conversation with Mr. Kelly.  I don't recall the exact time but I mentioned to him during the conversation about the fire ... 'You know, John, your name was mentioned during the investigation’… and he said: 'In what way?', and I said: 'Do you know anybody by the name of Doucette?' and he said: 'Jerry Doucette? Yes, I do.  He is a very good friend of mine .. . The, Farrell family are also good friends of mine and I have been to Dr. Farrell's apartment on a number of occasions ... For that reason … I am not going to get involved in this investigation’ ".
There was nothing unusual in Kelly's decision not to be involved in the investigation if he was a friend of Dr. Farrell or of members of his family.  That is the kind of conflict which arises on occasion and a person who must remain objective follows the discreet course of dissociating himself from some activity in which his participation might be questioned because of social or business associations.

Pike said that he found it unusual that Kelly then did not discontinue his involvement in the matter, even though he admitted that as Director of Public Prosecutions Kelly would have to have some involvement.  The answer to Pike's concern, though, is found in the fact that the responsibility for the handling of the file for the Department of Justice was given to Robert Hyslop, Senior Crown Prosecutor in St. John's.  The significant aspect about this part of Pike's evidence is that it provides one more example of some form of obsession which he seems to have developed.

Pike related another episode which he alleged caused him concern.  He said that before the first report was made he was talking to Kelly when they were on route to Harbour Grace in connection with another matter. Pike said:
"... He asked me when he was going to get the report on it and I said to him jokingly 'I don't know, John boy.  Probably we may make an arrest first and give you a report afterwards'.  It was a joke as far as I was concerned.  But he said 'Don't arrest Dr. Farrell.  If you do, I'll ask for a stay of prosecution. The Minister has to be notified first before any charges are laid’."
Pike said that he was being facetious but he did not think that Kelly was being facetious as well, that Kelly appeared quite serious.  Kelly did not recollect details of that conversation.  It seems to me that Pike was in a mental state which caused him to exaggerate to himself the implications of anything said or done in connection with the Elizabeth Towers fire investigation. Even if the conversation was as he said it was, it must be remembered that the Minister of Justice, as Attorney General of the Province, had the ultimate responsibility for the administration of justice, and would be within the bounds of his responsibility if he wanted to be,kept advised about the investigation, charges arising out if it and so on.  As a senior police officer, Pike would be expected to appreciate that.  I shall refer again to the role of the Minister of Justice in this matter.

I have no doubt that Pike was upset when he felt that lie had been removed from the investigation because he had spoken to Mrs. Nugent about the investigation.

Pike had access to the reports which had been filed and at some point made a copy of the report of June 7th and the one of July 12th,  When he made them he did so because he might need to refer to them in the course of his work and it would be more convenient to have them at hand.  He put them in his filing cabinet, where he left them for a while.  Then he took them home one night to read them and left them there.  I come now to the release of those reports by Pike.

Pike said that he "felt that there was the possibility of a cover-up going on at the time ... because of the remarks by Mr. Kelly ... and also the fact that the investigation was being dragged out so long".  That was his opinion and he felt that he was not alone in holding that opinion.  He also felt that there was a cover-up going on because "other investigative reports where action was recommended had gone to the proper channels to the Department of Justice where no action was taken".  When he was asked who made the final decision as to whether charges were laid, Pike said that as far as he was concerned it was the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Pike was asked to be specific about the other investigations to which he referred and he provided details of them.  The Director of Public Prosecutions" was, in turn,asked to state what, action had been taken in each case. He did so.  In each instance he was able to give an acceptable reason for not prosecuting.  The only possible criticism that may be made was the failure of the Department to ensure that the police knew why the prosecutions had not been proceeded with.

At some point Pike decided that he was going to reveal information about the fire investigation and what he described as the cover-up.  On September 16th, 1978 he telephoned James Thorns, Editor [sic] of the Daily News, a newspaper published in St. John's, and said that he had some information for Thorns.  He asked Thorns if he would come to his house and Thorns went.  He showed Thorns the copies of the June 7th and July 12th reports. Thorns read them, made notes of them and left.  Thorns consulted with William Callahan, the publisher of the Daily News.  Callahan telephoned Macaulay and indicated that the Daily News had the two reports.  He asked Macaulay if charges had been laid and, if not, when they would be laid,  Macaulay said that he told Callahan that he did not know.  Indeed, he did not know whether charges would ever be laid.  Macaulay told the enquiry that at that point the investigation was still going on, that he was awaiting a final report, and that a firm decision had not been made about whether charges would be laid.
Thoms said that the Daily News published a story about the investigation on Thursday, September 21st. The paper did not use the name of Dr. Farrell in the story because, initially, the publishers were influenced by the fact that the conclusions in the report were police opinions.

Thorns said that Pike gave him the information on condition that he would not divulge the source. (Incidentally, at the enquiry Thorns gave his evidence after Pike admitted that he showed the reports to Thorns.) There was no mention of any prohibition on publication. That is significant in assessing Pike's evidence in which he said that when he gave the reports to William Rowe he "had no idea that the reports would be leaked to the news media".

A week after his meeting with Thorns Pike went a step further in disclosing the reports of June 7th and July 12th.  He decided that he was going to give information to a member of the House of Assembly.  He admitted that he did not go to anybody in the Newfoundland Constabulary senior to Inspector Randell.  When pressed on the point he further admitted that when he decided that he was going to go through political channels he had not exhausted all of the resources within the Constabulary to bring pressure to bear to have a prosecution go ahead.

He intended at first to speak to Edward Roberts, a solicitor and member of the House of Assembly. On Saturday, September 23rd, 1978, he telephoned William Rowe, the leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly and asked him for Roberts' private telephone number.  Rowe could not provide the number. Then Pike asked Rowe if he could come to Pike's home because he would like to talk to Rowe about a cover-up involved in regard to the investigation of the Elizabeth Towers fire.  The first thing that is quite clear in respect of the communication with Rowe, as well as with Thorns, is that Pike took the initiative, that nobody sought him out or tried to get information from him.

Rowe went to Pike's house and picked him up. They drove around St. John's while Pike talked. In reporting the conversation Rowe said:
"... he was talking to me about a cover-up, about the fact that the investigation into the Elizabeth Towers fire ... because he knew there was a cover-up and footdragging [sic] going on.  He indicated ... to use his own words ... that 'Alec Hickman was out to get him' and he had been removed from the case.  He indicated that there were a couple of incidents ... early in August ... whereby he may have divulged some information and that this may have also led to his dismissal from the case as an investigator ... I asked Sergeant Pike ...Do you have copies of the report?'  He indicated that he did ... I said: 'May I have a look at them’ and he said 'No.'  I said to him 'Well, you obviously must have leaked it to the Daily News … He vehemently denied having leaked it ... We talked generally and it had to do generally with the cover-up, with the fact that nothing is going to happen on this particular report and this investigation ... I then … dropped him off at his home again."
Rowe was asked to describe Pike's condition at the time of the meeting.  He said Pike gave the appearance of being intoxicated and yet he did not smell any liquor off his breath.  Pike in his own evidence said that he had had a couple of drinks before he met Rowe but that he was not under the influence of alcohol.  Rowe said that Pike could have been under medication, that he was "somewhat incoherent". There may be significance in the rest of Rowe's description of Pike's behaviour.  It could provide an insight into his emotional state and into the reason for his conduct. Rowe said that Pike
"... was alternately aggressive and unaggressive ... in his actions and attitudes".
Rowe said that he asked Pike why he was in that condition at that time.  Rowe went on:
"... he told me that he was under a considerable amount of stress and strain, that he had been removed from the case, that Alex Hickman was out to get him, that there was a cover-up going on and that he was under severe strain.  He indicated obliquely that he was under a doctor's care as well at the time ... He appeared to be very upset... It was an aggressive attitude and also, concerning the Department of Justice  concerning the authorities,  and also on occasion he would become almost self-pitying in his attitudes, he would, you know, say 'They're out to get me', that kind of an attitude".
It must have been quite apparent to Rowe that he was dealing with a person who was in such a disturbed state that it should have been questionable whether he should deal with him at all, let alone give him any encouragement to go any further.  And yet, that was what happened.  Later on that same Saturday Pike telephoned Rowe again and said he had something to show him. Rowe suspected that Pike wanted to show him the report, so he picked up Pike again.  Rowe said that at this second meeting, Pike's condition was similar to what it had been at the time of the first meeting.  They drove to the Kenmount Road area and parked.  Pike showed Rowe a letter which apparently had nothing to do with the investigation.  Then, Rowe said, Pike told him that he had the reports but that he was not going to show them to Rowe.  After 15 or 20 minutes' discussion, Pike showed the reports to Rowe.  At this point I must turn my attention to conflicting evidence as to whether Pike gave Rowe the reports on Saturday night.

Rowe said that Pike did not give him the reports, that on the following Monday morning he found them in an envelope in his mail box.  Pike said that he gave them to Rowe on Saturday night.  Pike gave his evidence first.  In view of Rowe's evidence which was given later, Pike was re-called and given the opportunity to give further evidence but he was definite in his assertion that he gave Rowe the reports on Saturday night.  I shall look first at Pike's evidence.  The following exchange took place between Counsel and Pike.
A. ... I showed him the reports and he glanced over the reports. And up to this point I never had made any decision to give him the reports and then he said 'Well, can I have the report1 and I said 'Yes, take them'.
Q. Did he make any comment after he read the report?
A. He did say something to the effect that these reports are dynamite.
Q. So you then decided to give him copies of the report?
A. Yes.  I gave him two copies.
Q. Now, then, what happened after you had given Mr. Rowe the copies of the report?
A. He dropped me off.
Q. Were there any conditions placed on your passing these reports to Mr. Rowe?
A. Well, I told Mr. Rowe not to have these reports hanging around. I told him to destroy these copies and he said he would copy them and destroy them.
Q. Why did you ask him that?
A. Because I felt there was a possibility that it could be traced back to the copying machine.
Q. And hence to you?
A.  Yes.
Q. Were you anxious at this time to conceal the .1 act that you had given these reports to Mr. Rowe?
A, Well, I didn't ... My concern was that of a cover-up and I didn't want to be ... have it traced back to me.  No.

Q. Did you ask him to keep the documents in confidence?
A.  I don't remember asking him that but I told him that it was for his information only.

Q. Did you suspect that the reports might go further?
A. I had no idea that the reports would be leaked to the news media. None whatsoever.
Q. Were you aware that that was a risk?
A. Yes, I suppose you could say that.
Q. And you elected to take that risk?
A. Yes.
The following relevant questions and answers are extracted from the record of Rowe's evidence:
Q. ... Did you feel you had any rights to the reports at that time?
A.  In the circumstances of this particular case I felt, yes, that I had a right ... to examine the reports and find out what the investigation had concluded ... I considered it to be part of my duty as the Leader of the Opposition, as Member of the House of Assembly ... I was given the documents as a politician and a Leader of the Opposition.

Q. Did  I occur to you that Sergeant Pike might have been doing something illegal or contrary to the Constabulary Rules in passing out these documents?
A. Yes, that did occur to me.
Q. And regardless of that you elected to accept the documents?
A. I did.

Q. Were these documents given to you in confidence or with any conditions attached?
A.  No. they were not.
Q. Did not Sergeant Pike say to you that these were given to you as an officer of the Court?
A, No. ... What was in fact said to me was that these documents indicate a cover-up and that he wanted me to have them and that was the sum and substance of the conversation.
Q. Were you asked not to give copies to anybody, keep them in confidence?
A. No.
Q. They were for your personal use?
A. No.
Q. Did you agree to destroy the copies he gave you?
A. No.
Q. Did you tell him that you would do so and make copies on your own copier?
A. No.
Q. What did you do with copies of Exhibits 1 and 2  (the reports) after you left Sergeant Pike?
A. I studied the reports ... and  I had to make up my mind what action I should take, if any, concerning them.
In later testimony Rowe was asked about an interview he had with members of the Newfoundland Constabulary who were investigating the release of the reports.  At that time he told the police that the reports had appeared in his mail box in a brown envelope on the following Monday morning.  Rowe said that that was how the reports came to him and that he had no idea of how they came to be in his mail box.  He denied strongly that Pike gave him the reports at their meeting.  That was the substance of lengthy questioning on the matter. Pike was questioned again and repeated his evidence that he gave Rowe the reports when they met on Saturday night. On the basis of the evidence which I have reproduced at length I am satisfied that Pike did give the reports to Rowe on Saturday night.

Rowe made several copies of the two reports and on Tuesday, September 26th, 1978 he telephoned what he described as "the most senior newsmen and editors that I was aware of in St. John's".  He listed them as Steve Herder, publisher of the Evening Telegram, Basil Jamieson, vice-president of news with CJYQ Radio, James Furlong, news editor of NTV News, Paddy Gregg, the CBC national television news representative in Newfoundland and Carl Cooper, news director at Radio Station VOCM.  He told each of them that he had a copy of the two police reports and asked them whether they wished to have a copy for their own perusal.  He said that there were "no strings attached, no conditions attached, no stipulations as to what, if anything, they were to do with the report". He considered that there was a cover-up going on and what he "wanted to do was to leave it entirely in the hands of these senior editors and news directors and newsmen as to what, if anything, they wanted to do with the reports".

Each of the people whom Rowe contacted said that he would like to receive the report.  Rowe, himself, then put a copy of each report in an envelope and addressed an envelope to each of the persons named. He then gave the envelopes to his executive assistant, Brian Tobin, with instructions to deliver the envelopes as addressed,  Tobin did that.  Rowe did not tell Tobin what the envelopes contained, so Tobin had no direct knowledge of their contents.  He may have speculated on the contents because Rowe had let him know about the reports.  However, he did not really know what was in the envelopes.  He had no responsibility for releasing the contents of the reports.  That responsibility rested entirely with Sergeant Arthur Pike of the Newfoundland Constabulary, who released the copies of the reports to Mr. William Rowe, and with Mr. Rowe who copied the reports and then sent copies to representatives of the news media.

The Evening Telegram published a story on the front page of its edition of September 27th, the day following delivery of the copies of the report. Basil Jamieson said that he looked over the reports and decided not to use the material because its 'use would be contrary to the policy of CJYQ Radio.  He said that he exercised editorial judgment in reaching a decision.  That was in line with the station's policy against reporting of names of persons charged in certain types of cases, suicide victims, and others.  He said that the policy would extend to not using the name of a person who was under investigation for a serious crime but against whom charges had not been laid.  He considered that publication of a name under those circumstances might prejudice the right of that person to a fair trial.

James Furlong, news editor of NTV News reported to the Chief of Police of the Newfoundland Constabulary that he had the copies of the reports because that morning the Daily News carried a story that the police were conducting an internal investigation concerning the story which had been published earlier in that paper. Furlong told the Chief of Police that he was not going to use the name of any person mentioned in the report. He said that was because he had been "schooled in journalism to not use a. name unless the person has been formally charged".  That was the way the story was written and published in a newscast that night.  He said that he took the earlier Daily News story and used the bulk of the information from that as the bulk of his story.  In fact, he said, no new information was presented in the story that his station carried.  The only thing added was that he had physical possession of the reports.

There was no evidence before the enquiry as to whether the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation used the reports because Paddy Gregg, to whom the reports had been sent, had been transferred out of the Province and was not available as a witness.

Carl Cooper, the news director of Radio Station VOCM and Elmer Harris, vice-president of news at the station, gave evidence of how they handled the reports when they received them.  When they opened the envelope which contained the reports and saw the provincial crest on some of the paper they concluded that they had received confidential reports and they decided to contact the police.  The station did not use the reports as a basis for any news stories.

In conclusion and in formally answering the first question set out in the Terms of Reference, Sergeant Arthur Pike was responsible for releasing the reports of June 7th and July 12th, 1978 to William Rowe and for the release of information to the Daily News.  William Rowe was responsible for the copying of the reports and for their transmission to the news media.  Brian Tobin delivered the copies of the reports to the news media but he did so as an employee and under the direction of William Rowe without knowledge of what was in the envelopes which he had been ordered to deliver in the course of his employment.  He, therefore, must be absolved of responsibility for any acts connected with the release, delivery or publication of the reports.
The Daily News was responsible for the publication of a story on September 21st which I have already referred to.  The Evening Telegram was responsible for the publication of a story on September 27th,  NTV News published a story but not based on the reports which were received from William Rowe.

-srbp-
Next – The Question of Justification