12 May 2006

This is Ottawa, Loyola

For months now Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have witnessed the provincial fish minister, Tom Rideout, effectively working without a political net. The guy has been screwing up the Fisheries Products file at every juncture and just in the past couple of days has decided he will interfere in any successful fisheries business out there with no greater objective than flexing his political power regardless of the consequences.

Rideout, like his boss Danny Williams, is definitely not seen as being business friendly, especially after he revealed confidential business dealings that he was only advised of as a courtesy.

Now it seems federal fish minister Loyola Hearn is practicing the same sort of bullshit politics of his former boss Rideout.

Yesterday, Loyola Hearn's office tossed out a news release claiming that his office had been instrumental in getting Air Canada to restore a flight from St. John's to London. They had details of the aircraft type and frequency of the flight.

What Hearn got instead was embarrassed when Air Canada denied any such deal. They said they were looking at possibilities but no final decisions had been made. Seems there were discussions, but Hearn's office got information in confidence, i.e. not for public disclosure.

You see, companies don't like having confidential information - sensitive information - that is theirs to release bandied about by every trumped up, pumped up petty pol for his or her own ego stroking. Air Canada put Hearn exactly in the place where he belonged and late yesterday afternoon we had the pathetic spectacle of a federal cabinet minister on local CBC Radio explaining, very unconvincingly, how what he and his staff had done was actually correct.

It was a needless embarrassment and, to be frank, a surprising one from a cunning old political fox like Hearn. He might be a political hypocrite of the old school in saying one thing to get elected and doing another once in the job, but Hearn is a wiley guy.

For their part, businesses will be touchy about dealing with Hearn - just like they are shying away from Williams' local crew - for fear that their confidential business will be splashed across Open Line if it suits the politician's purpose of the moment. If Hearn suddenly dons a toque for speeches, then he will be blacklisted right along with Williams and his crew; if Hearn keeps his nose clean, then they will go back to talking with him in full.

Meanwhile over at Langevin, for their part, the Prime Minister's media control Gestapo will be tightening up the reigns on even Loyola. He's been treated like an experienced pol so far and had a bit of a free reign in a world where some of Hearn's colleagues have to get Harper's gang to "ok" notes home to the spouse that said minister will be late for dinner.

Still other cabinet ministers apparently have to ask to go to the head, for fear they'll blurt something out to the guy in the next stall. But Loyola has been given credit for his experience at the provincial level.

Until yesterday, that is, when Loyola and his staff showed they are still an amateur operation too closely tied to provincial politics.

You can almost hear the call from the PMO: "This is Ottawa, Loyola. No one here gives a shit about what people say about you or Danny to Bill Rowe."