05 April 2012

Time to end the despicable abuse #nlpoli

Through her shouting and bawling it is hard to know if Yvonne Jones does not know what she is talking about or does not care.

Either way, the result is the same.

On Wednesday, Jones kept up her shouting about the tragic death of Burton Winters.  She has been talking about it in the House of Assembly every day the House has held a session for the past month.  The only day Jones didn’t rise in the House was when she and two of her colleagues went to Ottawa for a media stunt with federal Liberal members of parliament and the two New Democrats from this province.

Jones asked the Premier – yet again - if she would hold an inquiry into Winters’ death.  A month ago, there might have been a reason to do so.  Jones and few other political ghouls first tried to pin the tragedy on  federal officials. While Jones and the ghouls went off in pursuit of their own political agendas,  no one asked a few simple questions to provincial officials.  After all, ground search and rescue is a provincial responsibility.

Now let us be clear. Just because people are responsible for conducting a search does not mean they must be responsible if the search ends with finding a dead body. Your humble e-scribbler has pointed to the provincial officials before, not because they screwed up, but because they had information that should have put to rest any questions, concerns or doubts about the events in Makkovik.

No one asked for and no one volunteered the information.  One media outlet had the man with answers in their lap and instead asked him about something else.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale was content, at first,  to play the same game and go off to Ottawa for answers for questions that were irrelevant to knowing what happened. She even worked the federal defence minister to cook up a protocol change about when someone made a telephone call, as if that mattered then or now. It was pure theatrics and nothing more.

Despite the political misdirections, the public did get a very good  picture of what happened over those fateful few days in late January,  They had a very good timeline on  CBC’s website very shortly after the tragedy.  On February 10, the federal government released an internal report by National Defence officials on the incident as well.  It had plenty of detailed information on the provincial government’s actions. 

On March 7, though, when the House debated a resolution on the Makkovik tragedy, someone finally gave an account of events from the provincial government perspective. To his great credit, municipal affairs minister Kevin O’Brien gave a simple and clear account of things.  Unfortunately, quite a few people - your humble e-scribbler included – never saw or heard O’Brien’s speech. 

There is no need for an inquiry. By March 7th at the very latest, anyone who earnestly wanted to understand what had happened in Makkovik in late January could have known. 

A young boy went missing.  Police and local volunteers went searching where they thought he might be.  As it turned out, they had support from a helicopter that was in the area.  The police called provincial officials who, as they always do, called on a contracted helicopter service to help.  They couldn’t fly because of weather conditions at that time but came as quickly as they could.

Provincial emergency officials tried to get another helicopter from National Defence.  An inspection turned up a problem with a fuel line which they corrected.  Other than that, they had the same weather problems the commercial helicopter pilots had.

When the weather cleared, the commercial helicopter arrived and joined the search.  The searchers turned up signs of the young boy hours later.  They asked for and got help from the joint rescue centre in Halifax.  They sent a helicopter from Goose Bay and a long range patrol plane with equipment that could find heat from a human body at great distances.

The helicopter found other signs before nightfall and weather forced them to call off the search.  The next day the commercial helicopter located the boy’s body.

There can be no question about what happened.  The events are now well known to anyone who cares to find out.  The accounts of the search are consistent and always have been.  Many people acted in good faith and in a sincere effort to find a lost boy. Through no fault of anyone, they did not find the boy before he died.

For some unfathomable reason, Yvonne Jones seems determined to smear the young boy’s blood on someone – anyone -  even though there is not a single shred of evidence to support her efforts. She is prepared to invent or imagine all sorts of faults and failings for all sorts of people. 

Premier Kathy Dunderdale is Jones’ latest victim on that account.  The Premier often has trouble getting things straight.  On this issue, she has done a great many things except cut to the simple and plain truth.  But to be fair to her, Dunderdale has not been misleading anyone or confuddled her accounts, as Jones claimed on Wednesday.

In her relentless blood-smearing efforts, Jones also tried on Wednesday to invent some delay by provincial officials in calling the federal government for help.  There was no delay and Kevin O’Brien was again right to call Jones out for her political grandstanding:

You are playing politics with a tragedy, I say to the hon. member. Appalling!

Amen to that.

Jones’ behaviour has been appalling.

But there is an even better word for it and no one should be afraid to tell it to Jones at every opportunity:  despicable.  Yvonne Jones’ behaviour is utterly despicable.  It is beyond contempt.

There are times for politicians to fight for their constituents.  And there are times when responsible political leaders must help a community to heal.  In this case, Jones should be helping people to come to terms with a tragedy.  Instead, Jones is tearing open their wounds each day.  She is abusing people who have put their trust in her to do the right thing. She is being grossly irresponsible.

And whether she simply has no idea what she is talking about or does not care, the end result is the same:  a young boy’s family, friends and neighbours and thousands of other sincere people across the province continue to suffer the most horrible mental anguish.  They should not have had to endure it for one second longer than necessary. Yet as a result of Jones’ actions, they have been deluded into looking for blame where there is none to be had. They have been misled into thinking there are some secrets  or mysteries yet to be discovered. They have suffered now for days and weeks and months longer than they needed to. There is no excuse for it.

Jones has had help in this monstrous abuse.  She received it from other politicians.  She has received it from the news media.  

And above all she has received it from her caucus colleagues and her party leader, Dwight Ball.  They have not just stood by and allowed her to carry on.  They have joined her, as Ball did for the Ottawa stunt. There are no words in the English language strong enough to condemn Jones for grandstanding over others’ grief or for Ball who has simply acquiesced to Jones at every turn.

Let Wednesday be the last day for this despicable abuse of Burton Winters’ family and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Jones and Ball should let people begin to find some small measure of comfort from their anguish. If instead, Jones and Ball persist on their current course, then they deserve whatever political consequences they suffer.

It’s time for them to stop the despicable abuse.

- srbp -