28 August 2006

Better late than never

There's something about Danny Williams' trip to Iceland and Norway that doesn't add up.

First, there's the suddenness of it. No one has talked publicly about the need for a fact-finding trip, so one is naturally suspicious of the timing.

Second, it seems passing strange that the provincial government would be heading off to Iceland three years into the mandate to learn lessons from the small fishing nation. Surely someone could have taken a trip a couple of years ago before the situation got as bad as it is today.

Third, the trip to Norway ostensibly to learn about the Norwegian energy industry comes after the provincial government has made changes to organizations like Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. The time to learn from the Norwegian model was a year or two ago. Instead, Williams has created a situation which is diametrically opposite to Norway's good governance practices. Of course, Williams can still learn something but if he does, it will mean a round of new legislation to undo or dramatically alter many of the changes already made.

Through it all, though one cannot help but notice one specific thing that is extremely odd about the make-up of the delegation from this province:

Missing from the contingent is Kathy Dunderdale, newly installed minister of natural resources.

She's most likely not taking the flights with Williams and deputy premier Tom Rideout because it will fall to Dunderdale to announce that the provincial government is acknowledging the appointment of Max Ruelokke as the chairman and chief executive officer of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

Williams will be wheels-up on Tuesday and Dunderdale can make the announcement - and take the flack - so Ruelokke starts work immediately after Labour Day.

In the meantime, Williams just might be able to learn a few things from the Icelanders and Norwegians. That would mean he will have to dramatically alter his current energy plans and relinquish direct control over organizations like Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. It would also mean he and Rideout will have to abandon their current approach to fisheries issues. No one should be holding his or her breath on that one, though.

The trip might be a case of better late than never; but since the whole junket is likely nothing more than an excuse for Williams to skedaddle while his energy minister takes the flack over Ruelokke, the odds of Williams altering plans already laid would be pretty long ones.