11 January 2012

The real story of the Ottawa office #nlpoli

Nobody’s been in the job since since January 2010.

There’s no evidence that the two people who held the job actually did anything substantive during the time from 2004 to 2010 that someone held down the position known derisively as the Ambassador or – as your humble e-scribbler preferred – the Premier’s Personal Envoy to Hy’s.

And yet it still took Premier Kathy Dunderdale a full year and then some of her own term as Premier, plus the experience of interviewing a few potential replacements to realise what Premiers before Williams knew:  the whole thing was a foolish waste of time.

Lord sufferin’ dynamite, Old Man.

That is absolutely stunning.

And it tells you so much about how two successive Premiers and their administrations actually work.

They led with their strong suit:  the hyper-torqued official announcement that was long on the bullshit and short on the truth.  As a result, most of the conventional media reports were full of it, too.  Take the Ceeb’s account as an example of the type.

As some media accounts of the Premier’s scrum with reporters make it sound, Dunderdale has found a new way of doing things, what with ministers, deputy ministers and other officials talking to their federal counterparts.  And with communications better now that Kath and Steve are on the same wavelength, the Ottawa office is just not needed anymore.

No sir.  There’s a new energy in town and, by gosh, the release assures us all “it made sense to have our Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat assume responsibility, over the long term, for the functions that would have been carried out through the Ottawa office.”

Whatever functions the office did perform – there were no people in it, evidently – they were such that over a six year period, the big job in the office sat vacant for about half the time.  So whatever the crowd in Intergovernmental Affairs are taking on, odds are it wasn’t much.  They will just carry doing what they have done since the 1970s:  deal with their federal and provincial counterparts on a variety of issues.

So you caught that, right?

Since the 1970s, IGA has been doing all the things people claim this personal envoy job did. And they kept doing it all the way through the time this office existed, whether someone worked in it or not.

Now while your humble e-scribbler can say this based on his own knowledge of the provincial government and from seven years in the Premier’s Office, you really don’t have to go by that alone.

Consider the version of events by no less a person than Bill Rowe, the first personal envoy to Hy’s,  Rhodes Scholar, radio host, writer and secret police report leaker extraordinaire.  His insider’s account of things he was outside the room for made it plain Rowe did nothing while he was there.

There is no mention in the book’s of anything Rowe actually accomplished.  Well, aside from wait around for a cell phone and a laptop and arrange to have his used snow tires shipped up to him from Sin Jawns.  Like there was no place up there to buy new ones. 

Now Rowe sold a lot of those books.  Mainlanders are especially gullible, it turns out.  Hopefully, the guy made a few bucks of the book.  But if he only cleared a twonie, then his time in Ottawa at taxpayers’ expense was infinitely more productive for Rowe than it was for the people who footed the bill for his sojourn on the Rideau.

Our man in a Blue Line cab – Rowe’s eventual successor - did no better, although he stayed longer. Danny Williams acknowledged as much when Fitz packed it in at the end of his one and only contract.  Williams found him a nice new job back home.  Williams insisted the office in Ottawa would remain open, to be filled eventually with some other incumbent.

Kathy Dunderdale said the same thing after Danny handed over the Premier’s Office to her. Last June,

“The office serves a great purpose when it’s functioning the way that it should,” she told a Telegram editorial board [last] Wednesday. “And it’s important to me that we maintain that.”

Nothing changed in the intervening six months or so, except Dunderdale’s talking points. The bottom line remains now as it has since Danny Williams decided to give his old alum chum a nice perk;  the job was a total waste of public money.  Public servants in this province and cabinet ministers never stopped doing the work they and their predecessors have done.

The fact that it took the Tories two years to shut the office down and that it took Kathy Dunderdale a full year to arrive at an incredibly simple  - and glaringly obvious – conclusion tells you this is a government that consistently has a hard time getting things done.

In other words, not a thing has changed since the serial government took office.

- srbp -