19 August 2009

The whole story sometimes hurts


Ryan Cleary.

Wannabe (N)DP candidate Double Naught 1.5

License to shill.

Wasting no time in turning his attention to his latest dream job, former journalist Ryan Cleary is now writing letters to the editor of the local paper to poke as his political opponents, that is his opponents should he win the (New) Democratic Party nod in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.

The subject: federal money for a new provincial penitentiary in Newfoundland and Labrador.

So, the federal Liberals are disappointed about the lack of action on Her Majesty's Penitentiary ("Lack of action on penitentiary disappointing: MP," Aug. 12 Telegram) and would do more to make a new prison a priority? That's surprising, considering the party totally ignored a direct question about their commitment to a new prison leading up to the October 2008 election.

Now for those who don’t know, this is an old chestnut from Tory campaigns past  that has become legendary in the local world of political efforts to buy votes with public money.

Originally, it was supposed to be a federal prison in the province built entirely with federal money and handling prisoners doing more than two years of a sentence. 

Since it was first tossed out in the early 1980s, the idea has morphed to its latest version in which the provincial government  - in the interim flush with oil cash - wants the federal government to pay 70% of the cost of building a new provincially-run prison.

Danny Williams included it in the most recent version of his now trade-mark schtick, the begging letter to Ottawa.  That’s the phrase that comes from the way  (N)DP member of parliament Jack Harris described this sort of stuff:

Some politicians think we gotta treat Ottawa like Santa Claus and write him begging or something...or when Joey was around it was "Uncle Ottawa" maybe he'll do us some favours.

Cleary apparently doesn’t agree.

It seems that the supposedly independently minded wannabe Dipper MP  endorses the approach of a provincial government going cap in hand to the federal government for money to do what the provincial government not only should do on its own but clearly has the cash to do on its own.

But if Liberal leader Stephane Dion didn’t talk about that particular issue in his response to the begging letter from Danny Williams, what  - pray tell  - did Jack Layton of the (N)DP offer?

Well, he sure didn’t jump at the chance to cost-share a provincial prison on a 70/30 basis with the feds picking up the larger bit.


Layton committed to finding an “acceptable funding arrangement”.  That’s it.

An acceptable funding arrangement could be anything from having the province bear the whole load to having the federal government pay only enough to represent the handful of prisoners that are held in provincial custody awaiting transfer to federal custody.  That wouldn’t likely be 70%, incidentally.

No wonder Cleary didn’t make any reference to the letter Jack wrote. His party isn’t really any better than the crowd he’s trying to poke.  Well, at least when it comes to answering people that come begging to Uncle Ottawa.

Sometimes the whole story is just too painful to write, even in a brief letter to the editor.