25 March 2005

Speaking of nailing people to trees...

It seems to be going around. My headline today is intended to be ironic rather than blasphemous.

On this Good Friday, take a little flip over to see Paul Wells, if you haven't been doing it lately.

Therein, you will find two stories on one Reuben John Efford under the head "Big defeat for the small preliminary emitter".

The first reference is to a story that a major environmental project that should be in John's department is being handed to Environment Minister Stephane Dion. The reason is simple, according to Paul: Dion can get the job done. The story is from Canadian Press, incidentally - not famous for spin - and describes a realignment of projects between two departments. The interpretation here is Paul's.

Is it an unreasonable interpretation? Not from my perspective. The original CP story rightly points out a conflict-of-interest problem with having a department represent both the energy industry and working on stuff related to Kyoto, which the industry opposes.

There is a rationale to the CP story. But if Paul is taking another tack, then expect that there are other voices on the hill - including within the Liberal Party - who are telling a slightly different version behind the scenes. I am speculating here but Efford still hasn't recovered from the Accord schlamozzle.

What became clear during the entire Accord fiasco (from the federal Liberal politico standpoint) is that from the beginning John never understood either the politics of it (Danny sandbagged him - John helped pile the bags up) or the substance of the file (Equalization, oil revenues or royalties not interchangeable terms etc. etc. etc.) It was also pretty obvious that Efford fancied himself more "the Premier who should have been the Fighting Newfoundlander" rather than "the much more powerful guy in Ottawa fighting for Newfoundland for real".

While everyone else may point to his supposed take-it or leave-it ultimatum, federales will point to a whole bunch of other stuff. Certainly they weren't any more impressed with his "owe poor me crap" after February 14. They really resented finding themselves in a situation where there was no cabinet representative from Newfoundland able to tell the federal side of things.

If John takes a hit on anything, they won't be crying. Payback, as Gus Hasford once wrote, is a mother.

Therefore, in the second Efford story that won't go away, there are likely Liberal staffers who are smiling at Paul Wells' links to a CBC Radio story on the incomprehensible case of one Rodney Mercer. Mercer is a former political staffer for Efford who was dumped unceremoniously, Mercer alleges, once he was diagnosed with epilepsy. Some of the evidence Mercer offers to back up the story are "termination letters" he received that differ widely from one another. The generous one dates from the initial termination; the less generous one dates from after a human rights case was filed.

Personally, I don't know Mercer from a hole in the ground. I do know Efford. This story hasn't looked right from the beginning on a whole bunch of levels. If nothing else, the termination letters as CBC describes them are merely internal memoranda in which the minister orders severance.

Maybe things are different with the feds, but in my experience in these situations, there is usually a nice letter. The one thing the minister would definitely do is leave the administrative details to his staff. The letter confirming severance would come from someone like say the political chief of staff.

First of all, it isn't Efford's job - why should a guy focused on mega-billion dollar oil plays spend time confirming that severance at two weeks per annum works out to 2.7 weeks for Mercer - and secondly, it prevents even the appearance of just exactly the sort of political mess in which Efford finds himself.

It takes a lot for a political staffer to go public with a complaint like this. That Mercer has persisted suggests there is something here he feels genuinely aggrieved about. That he can offer evidence that seems to support his case- changes, timing and Efford's signatures - is troubling.

The story now gets uglier, since Mercer is alleging that Efford has arranged to have his campaign co-chair appointed to the human rights commission before it hears Mercer's complaint.

And once again, the public response from Efford and his office isn't even close to the standard. If there is more to the story than meets the eye there are ways of getting it out there. If Efford and his people screwed up, then they should know when to stop with the nonsense that isn't working

Like I said to Danny Williams the other day John via this blog, politics is a funny business.

You can only shoot yourself in the foot so many times before someone takes the gun away from you.

Same thing goes for a hammer and nails and a tree. You can only nail yourself on so many times...