16 March 2011

Operation Ridiculous

Usually when one is in a hole, it is a good idea to stop digging.

There may be exceptions to this rule,  but for most occasions,  when you can no longer see over the edge of the hole even on your tippee toes, best thing to do is lay the shovel down and start figuring out how to get out of the self-inflicted predicament.

If your friends are in a hole, then you can offer them a hand up out of the hole.  Under no circumstances, though, should you start shovelling dirt in on top of them.  Jumping in with them may be noble but it is never sensible and if you are in the hole, it is never wise to start pulling the shite back in around your own feet.

Evidently, someone forgot to explain this subtle bit of mystical political knowledge to Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

Instead,  Premier (pro tempore) Dunderdale got hold of the Danny and Liz playbook, a portion of which Liz decided to continue this week in her ongoing campaign to destroy whatever shreds of her own dignity she might have left.

Remember that claim about not knowing about the appointment?  Well, kiss that nose-puller goodbye when the evidence is unveiled.  Elizabeth Matthews told the Telegram that in fact she had a copy of the order in council the Liberals released on Tuesday.

The she tried to turn the whole thing into a process story:

The job of vice-chair of the CNLOPB requires approval from the federal government and Matthews said she was not “informed in any official capacity” that she had been named to the board.

So she knew, but not officially and therefore she didn’t know.

Or did she?

Liz Matthews may well turn out to be the political progeny not of Danny Williams but of Tom “TimeLord” Rideout.  Liz knew but didn’t know.  Back in 2007, Tom wanted to explain that the Green report recommendations on allowances would come into effect tomorrow but in his world, tomorrow meant six months in the future, not the day after this one.

How in the name of heavens can anyone not wilfully and pathologically blinded by Danny-envy be surprised that the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, the crowd that brought you a low rent version of Doctor Who  - Rideout, Hedderson and Marshall editions - and the Abitibi expropriation blunder couldn’t even handle a simple appointment to a board whether out of unfettered lust for patronage or a secret John-Turnerish promise to Danny?


Who is shocked by this?

Didn’t think so.

Unable to hide from the media any longer, the person who actually made the Elizabeth Matthews nomination made a few comments today.  The result was, well, let’s just say that when she frigs up Kathy Dunderdale does not settle for half measures. She laid her shovel down alrightee and then dragged in a backhoe just to really bury herself.

Before going any further, let us remember that the core point Dunderdale could have used was simple:  appointment’s not done yet.  We’ll let you know when and if it is made. That is the same line Matthews could have used and it is the one Shawn Skinner could have tried. 

There might have been a bit of a stink about patronage or potential pork-barrelling but it wouldn’t have been half as bad as day after day of the appointee and a senior minister saying things that they both ought to have known were bullshit and that could be shown to be bullshit fairly easily.

Think of it this way:  they did not impeach Clinton for a quickie in the closet with a young woman a fraction of his age.  They got him for insisting that he had not had sex with that woman and then engaging in some amateur lawyer bullshit about the definition of “is” in order to perpetuate the patently ridiculous denials.

So take a gander at the raw footage of Dunderdale talking to reporters. 

Making it up as she goes along 

Dunderdale claims there is a regulation requiring first a board appointment and then the second stage of a vice-chair nomination.  She then claims that a letter conveys the official appointment.

Dunderdale knows or ought to know this is preposterous.  There is no regulation governing the appointment.  The Atlantic Accord implementation acts simply state that the nominee for vice chair needs the support of both the federal and provincial governments.  If both governments agree on the nomination, a board appointment can follow in due course.  Both governments can even agree whether it will be a federal, provincial or joint appointment.

Take a look at the order in council.  It is clear that Matthews is appointed with effect from January 1 and that – in addition – cabinet put Matthews forward as a nominee for vice-chair subject to federal agreement.  There’s even a reference to negotiating the salary for the vice chair’s job.

Simply put, Dunderdale is wrong.  You have to be on the board if you are vice chair but you don’t have to be on the board before becoming vice chair.

Let’s go one step beyond.  If, as Dunderdale claims, she never intended Matthews to sit on the board in any capacity other than as vice-chair, the order in council would have been written to say that.  More likely, it would have followed the agreement and approved the appointment and salary as already agreed.

Dunderdale defends her nomination of Matthews because she believes the former Williams communications aide is a “strategic thinker” who is articulate.  Clearly the events of the past couple of days speak to the contrary impression.  Articulate strategic thinkers don’t usually default to easily disprovable crap as the first thought.

Dunderdale claims that the process is not secret, that it has to be straightforward and done in public.  The events as they unfolded and Dunderdale’s own account of how things were supposed to happen make her claims about welcoming debate patently false.

Had things unfolded as Dunderdale intended, no one would have learned of the appointment until after it was copper-fastened, to use a hideous Dunderism.  Michael Connors of NTV (or so it sounded like) made the point in a question that an appointment to the board announced in December would have sparked controversy.  Indeed, it would have.

As for welcoming the chance to defend Matthews, it is almost laughable that both Matthews and Dunderdale talked about their willingness to defend the appointment only after Matthews quit the process and therefore made such a defence unnecessary. 

People who genuinely believe they can win don’t quit.  It’s that simple.  Everything else is nonsense.

As for what really happened, the full story may never emerge.  It is possible, for example, that Dunderdale – like her patron and water rights – got caught in a rather amateurish effort to engineer something for Matthews.  Heck, maybe the same legal geniuses behind that fiasco and the expropriation cooked up this scheme with their less-than-perfect knowledge of the law and procedure.

Faced with a federal twin vice-chair who might well have wound up as the official replacement for Ruelokke, any other schemes about changing the board using Matthews may well have been scuttled.

Then again, the simple fact that Matthews blew her own feet off with her patently false claims on Friday, coupled with industry and political pushback made the appointment too stinky to survive the very debate Dunderdale supposedly welcomed. Dunderdale and Matthews can talk all the brave talk they want:  fact is they lost.

The whole Matthews mess is almost too embarrassingly ridiculous to believe. Had it not unfolded in front of our eyes, anyone could reasonably reject it as too incredible to be true.

[But the fact is] you just cannot make this stuff up.

All we can do is wait to see what Dunderdale does next.

[Updated:  corrected typos;  subhead clarified;  words added in square brackets to clarify sentence.]

- srbp -