06 July 2006

Yes but what about responsible?

Harvey Hodder carried on his act as the Scarlet Pumpernickel crusading in defence of members of the House of Assembly on Thursday.

He did an interview with the CBC Radio St. John's Morning Show about the brewing controversy between the Scarlet Pumpernickel and his nemesis Ryan Cleary of the Indy over the Indy's publication last week of accurate information inaccurately presented. Harvey took offense because it appeared - according to some - that most members of the House were overspending their allowances.

Anyway, in the course of said interview with Jeff Gilhooley, Hodder blathered and flopped around trying to explain the allowances members get.

Gilhooley asked him a simple question: is it right that members use public money to make donations to charitable or non-charitable groups?

Harvey clearly had not been briefed or skipped that part of the Official Briefing Note from the Ministry of Truth - otherwise known as The Tenth. He flopped even more than on the stuff he thought he knew. His answer was something to the effect that the rules said it was okay and besides I give my donations to educational and youth groups.

At no point did he explain why it would be okay for Harvey Hodder - Speaker, not Pumpernickel - to give public money to a group and collect a personal tax receipt for it, for example. He never tried to justify the rules he just said he followed them. The rules were apparently handed down on tablets from a mountain somewhere or otherwise appeared magically from some authority that cannot be identified or questioned.

(By the way, you'll notice a few things in the answers MHAs past and present have been giving on this scandal:

1. I wasn't responsible; it was someone else. I don't recall who it was exactly but I do know it was someone else. The Sullivan variation is: I merely represented the will of caucus.

2. I don't recall. Perhaps the most common answer, especially offered by members of the group responsible for overseeing House operations. This is usually followed quickly by, but I do remember I was not there for that meeting. If the records show I was there, I don't recall that coming up for a vote and I voted against it. This was Tom Rideout's answer to reporters one day; other's have uttered similar lines.

3. I only followed the rules. This one is a favourite since it never explains what the rules were, who set them - the MHAs themselves - or attempts to justify them. It's the local equivalent of "I vuss only folloving ooorders".)

I digress.

At least Hodder finished with a flourish that was vaguely reminiscent of the Ming's Bight amateur dramatic society production of A Few Good Men featuring the late Don Knotts in the role of Colonel Nathan Jessep.

"We are not afraid of the truth" sputtered Hodder.

Uh huh.

But if I want to review allowance claims of members to see how public money is being spent, will Harvey show them to me as he promised he would during the interview?

Don't hold your breath. Under the Access to Information Act, the House is exempt from any disclosure. Now of course, the MHAs can decide what records to release - if they want to. Something tells me though, that we'll be hearing a lot of one of the stock House answers when the request gets turned down:

"I am only following the rules."

And then MHAs will sputter on about how unfair it is that people distrust politicians and that politicians are getting smeared. They need only look in the mirror to understand why the public is so intensely cynical of people who make the rules and talk about accountability and then deny anything and everything all the time, as convenient.

Accountability is not without responsibility and that's the word our elected members seem to forget.