25 June 2009

Scuttling his own political future

Senator Fabian Manning went a long way this week to ensuring he won’t be able to make a comeback in elected politics any time soon.

The guy who beat him – Scott Andrews – revealed that Manning had committed the federal government to spend a couple of million or thereabouts on a road in the eastern end of the riding Manning used to represent. 

Only problem was the money wasn’t anything close to approved when manning made the announcement in late 2007.  Not only that but it wasn’t approved until this week and hastily announced the day Andrews scored a big political smack right in Manning’s possible future.

Manning did some media interviews on the affair.  In the process, he managed to come off looking like a guy scrambling to come up with excuses for his obvious blunder.

In the story printed by the Telegram (not online), writer Dave Bartlett attributes the following to the junior senator:

The senator then explained what happened.

He said the original project was funded under the Rails for Roads agreement, but the provincial Liberal government of Clyde Wells scuttled that program in 1988.

Neat trick that would be.

The federal and provincial governments signed the Roads for Rails agreement (see page 11 of the link) in 1988.  In exchange for money to upgrade roads across the island portion of the province, the federal government was relieved of its constitutional obligation under the 1948 Terms of Union to operate a rail service across Newfoundland.

In 1998, Brian Peckford sat in the Premier’s Office.  Clyde Wells was Leader of the opposition and didn’t get to the Eighth Floor until May, 1989.

But even then, Manning’s accusation that Wells scuttled the roads deal is completely out to lunch.  From 1988 until the program ended in 2003, the roads deal paid for a host of projects all of which were pretty well mapped out at the start, the year before Wells took office.

Not only did Fabe make the blunder of announcing money he didn’t have, he then made it infinitely worse by coming up with a completely bogus excuse once he got caught.

And it’s not like Manning wouldn’t know the rights of things.  He sat in the House of Assembly from 1993 until his local Tory buddies flicked him out of caucus.  Every year , Manning would have heard announcements about roadwork paid for by the Roads for Rails agreement.

Heck, even Loyola Hearn knew that the roads deal didn’t die in 1988.  CBC quoted Hearn on the very same announcement Manning was chatting up in December 2007:

Hearn, Newfoundland and Labrador's federal cabinet representative, said it's the biggest program of its kind since the roads-for-rails agreement hammered out in the late 1980s, when the Newfoundland Railway was closed down.

All things considered, Manning would be nuts to even consider taking another run at elected politics.  Better off  to sit in the Antechamber to the Kingdom of Heaven than blow holes in your own political hull the size of that one on the CBS bypass road.