22 October 2009

Kremlinology 7: Desperate in the Straits

Signs that things are not good in some parts of the province for some people:

1.   The Other One Percent:  Danny Williams rockets into Flower’s Cove a few days after advance polls and announces he’s managed to find the last one percent under the cushions of his Avalanche.  Lab and x-ray will stay in Flower’s Cove regardless of who wins the by-election.

2.  How many shifts of position does that make?  It really depends on how many shifts of position you want to count. 

In Flower’s Cove alone, a suggestion last February from the regional health authority to reduce clinic hours in the community as a way – theoretically – to save money was never implemented because cabinet ponied up the cash.

Suddenly and inexplicably that became a decision - by cabinet as it turned out - announced in August to cut operating hours and take out lab and x-ray service.

On top of that there was a review of x-ray and lab services everywhere in the province.

As the by-election started in the Straits and White Bay North, the clinic hours miraculously reappeared.

Then the lab and x-ray cuts became mere possibilities if savings could be found.

Then the review went into the “Doubtful it will be finished” pile.

Then suddenly the Premier was 99% sure the lab and x-ray service could be saved.

But only 99% sure.

And now it’s 100% back.

That’s eight shifts and it doesn’t even begin to count the finance minister flip flops on whether there is cash for everyone or things are tight and previous decisions were unsustainable.

3.  Who actually made the decision?  Paul Oram claimed he made the fateful decision in late August.  No one really contradicted him directly but the Premier said early on that the decision were know before Oram became minister.   Maybe Ross made it. 

After Oram resigned, the Premier told someone on the campaign trail that “Paul Oram had proceeded on the basis of recommendations made to him by the health authority.”  The story was picked up in the local paper.

Now it turns out that isn’t true. 

Well, at least according to Jerome! Kennedy it isn’t true.  In an interview with Here and Now on Thursday, the former finance minister and current health minister Kennedy told Debbie Cooper that the decision to cut lab and x-ray service was not made by Paul Oram but by cabinet.  Paul was just the messenger boy.

That means that Jerome and Danny made the decision  - along with every other cabinet minister in the district St. Anthony is in -  a fact they didn’t disclose as they started campaigning and began switching positions.

4.  Who’s fault is it anyway?  Apparently, Jerome was in a fessing up mood on Thursday.  He told VOCM that this has been a useful exercise for government since it forced government to look at the issues and admit they were wrong.

That’s pretty good for a guy who only a few days ago was admitting to the same  media outlet that he and his cabinet colleagues would be playing the whole issue of lab and x-ray and the by-election by ear and see how it went.

Evidently making it up as you go along isn’t a good strategy after all.

5.  How many ministers can dance on the end of a line?  Pretty well all of them, if the radio call-in shows are any indication.

Shawn Skinner was charming if not a wee bit patronising as he recounted how Trevor Taylor had taught him so much about rural Newfoundland in their discussions around the cabinet table and in caucus.

Best of the bunch?  Kevin O’Brien, the minister of permits and licenses for two reasons. 

First he talked about much money this government had spent in the district and allowed that they wanted to keep doing that.  Sounded a bit like a threat, it did.

Second – and the best bit – was when he stumbled repeatedly trying to remember the name of the district he was in.  Finally O’Brien blurted out something like how great it was to be in the district St. Anthony was in. 

Evidently he wasn’t in the same cabinet meeting as Shawn.

6.  Things are that bad, eh?  During his report on Here and Now, CBC’s David Cochrane referred this evening to senior Conservatives who admitted to him that the race was tight in the Straits.  If the Tories are admitting even that much, along with Danny’s win-or-lose-ya-got-it-back, you can guess the Tory campaign shows the Liberals out in front.

That would also explain the steady barrage of cabinet ministers and Jerome’s repeated admissions of mistakes and errors and acceptance of blame.  Odds are good the Tories are trying everything, including backing as far away as possible from their usual arrogance to try and win over  every vote they can.