28 February 2008

The Williams Zone

You unlock this door with the Key of Confusion. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of fury, signifying nothing.  You're moving into a land of shadow, a world of obfuscation, where nothing is ever as it seems.  You've just crossed over into the Williams Zone.


The reports on the physical repairs and upgrades needed in four St. John's hospitals date back to 2005.

It took Ross Wiseman and his cabinet colleagues two years to get around to giving Eastern Health $500,000 to come up with a plan to figure out the future needs in the St. John's area for buildings.

In the meantime, the $135 million in capital repairs and upgrades didn't get done.

And there's no commitment from government that they will accept the recommendations - which aren't in yet apparently - when they finally come in.

Two years could easily become five or more by the time everything gets done that needs to be done.

By contrast, just three weeks ago Wiseman and his newbie cabinet colleague Dave Denine dropped the regulatory hammer on 22 personal care homes in the province for not installing sprinklers in their buildings despite having five years to do so.

Seems just a bit hypocritical given the government's own problems that they knew about at the time but the rest of us didn't.

Why didn't we know?

Because the open, accountable and transparent government never indicated they already had studies showing $135 million in deficiencies. 

They never said Word One about it at any time right up to last fall during the election when they promised to look at the hospital needs around St. John's as if it was a brand spanking new idea.

Little did we know they'd been diddling around for two years.

But this is not the first time the Premier and his cabinet have known something and didn't tell us.

Secret bonus payments in the House of Assembly, for example. 

That's just one example.

And ya know what's really galling?

It's not like saying 15 years ago when a government faced with a bill for $135 million could say, honestly and legitimately 'We don't have the money."


In Fiscal Year 2005, Danny Williams' administration finished the fiscal year up with a surplus of over $500 million on their capital and current account.  They only reported a little over $130 million on an accrual basis, which means they tossed the cash surplus up against the total liabilities to make it shrink.

But they still finished up with $524 million in cash left over.


That's almost four times the money needed to fix all the problems in those two linear feet of reports.

The ones they kept completely, totally secret.

While claiming to be open, transparent and accountable.

There was a chunky surplus in 2006, too.

And in 2007, the year they gave $500,000 for a study?

Well, that's the year where finance minister Tom Marshall forecast he will wind up with an extra $880 million at the end of the year he didn't expect.


That's six and one half times the money need to fix up all the existing hospitals in St. John's.

So that maybe the Health Sciences Centre wouldn't need to close its day surgery because of leaks in the roof.

So what's Tom Marshall been doing all the while he knew he had all this cash and knew - or should have know - he had all these problems in St. John's hospitals?

He's been running around the province clicking his debt clock asking us what we wanted to spend "our" money on.

And all the while he knew something really, really really important that we didn't.

Hardly fair is it?

Hardly, accountable, open and transparent, is it?


But it is what you get in the Williams Zone.