13 July 2006

Another piece of the puzzle

Answering a question from Night Line host Linda Swain on Thursday, Health minister Tom Osborne let slip another little bit of the House of Assembly spending scandal.

He didn't mean to do so obviously, but he did it just the same.

Just like Speaker Harvey Hodder gave away something significant when he told the Telegram last week that he had not received reports from the Auditor General and therefore the AG was supposedly still working.

I digress.

AFter repeating that he had been cautioned to let the police conduct their investigation, Osborne said something to the effect that as we now know, the rings were purchased to mark the 50th anniversary of Confederation.

Actually, Tom we didn't know that at all.

Then Tom added that he had been offered a ring by the former financial director of the House as a gift but for some unexp0lained reason Osborne claims he offered Bill Murray $100 for the ring.

There's a bunch of stuff that doesn't add up here.

First of all, no one had mentioned previously that the rings were purchased in 1999 to mark the Confederation anniversary.

Second, if they were anniversary rings, then ever member of the House likely received one, with new members receiving them as they were elected. Osborne was elected in 1996 and re-elected in 1999 so he ought to have known about the whole project from the beginning. The Auditor General indicated rings were purchased between April 1998 and December 2005 which would suggest an on-going purchase program and it is hard to imagine a member of the legislature since 1996 wouldn't have asked his colleagues - like his own mom, f'rinstance - where they got the lovely rings.

Third, Osborne's story of accepting the ring as a gift and then offering $100 doesn't make sense. Right off the bat, people aren't usually in the habit of accepting gifts and then offering to pay for the gift. If that wasn't enough, the House of Assembly is too small a place for members not to be aware of a ring purchase program or to be unable to find out about one if it occured.

Heck, if he had a problem, Tom could have just asked his mom Sheila about it. She's one of the most wired-in politicos in the House let alone the Progressive Conservative party.

Yessirree, Tommy Osborne has added some curious new information to the little saga of House mis-spending.

He's also given us a half-baked little story that isn't likely to stand up to much scrutiny, especially if there is an allowance claim form or other document authorizing the deduction from his House of Assembly budget.

If the Premier would just be as open, accountable and transparent as he claims he is, we would not have the sorry spectacle of ministers sheepishly telling little stories. The whole sordid mess would be in public. We would all know what happened and who knew what, when.

Disclosure of what the member saw might even speed up the police investigation. The cops wouldn't have wade through the mounds of bafflegab some people are likely going to throw up to avoid being connected to one of the most embarrassing and serious scandals in our political history.

Osborne sounded a tad uncomfortable answering questions tonight.

Almost like he was wishing he could pick a fight with ExxonMobil.