17 May 2012

Here we go again #nlpoli

Few people who pay attention to public life in this province will forget the abuse the provincial government  - particularly former Premier Danny Williams  - heaped upon Max Ruelokke for having the temerity to be a better candidate to head the offshore regulatory board than the guy the premier wanted to stuff in the job.

Ruelokke had to sue the provincial government to force them to do what the law directed.

So detestable was the provincial government’s – i.e. Danny’s  - behaviour that the judge who heard the case stated in his decision:

Having considered the above, I find that the conduct of the Respondent (in relation to the Applicant) has been callous and “reprehensible” and is deserving of “reproof and rebuke”.  Accordingly, I will exercise my discretion and award the Applicant his solicitor and own client costs.

We may be headed for the same mess again.

In answering a question in the House of Assembly about a vacant provincial appointment on the offshore regulatory board, natural resources minister Jerome Kennedy tied it – entirely erroneously – the position of vice-chair.

… As I indicated the other day, Mr. Speaker, under the Atlantic Accord there is a process for filling the chair when it becomes vacant, that six months before, under the Accord act, you have to start a process whether by agreement or a mediation procedure. No such process exists, Mr. Speaker, in relation to the appointment of the vice-chair. At this point, despite our approaches to Ottawa, there has been no agreement.

There is a vacant provincial seat on the board.  The vice-chair position is a different issue.

However, regular readers will recall the embarrassing mess hat Premier Kathy Dunderdale and Shawn Skinner  - Kennedy’s predecessor - by trying to stuff a blatantly partisan appointee into the job, apparently as a favour to Danny Williams. 

And then screwing up the explanation with half-truths and completely false connections like the one Kennedy made.  You’ll find links to the posts on the fiasco at the end of this post.

On Wednesday, Kennedy went a bit further than just connecting the vice-chair job with the vacant provincial seat.  In response to a follow-up question about any timeline for dealing with the provincial vacancy, Kennedy said this::

What will happen, Mr. Speaker, from a very practical perspective is that the chair has to be filled by October of this year. There will be a process there whereby that vacancy will be filled. I would assume, Mr. Speaker, that if the federal government is going to seek any agreement from us in relation to the appointment of a chair, then they there will also have to be agreement on the vice-chair.

Yes, friends, the provincial government is linking Max Ruelokke’s replacement with the appointment they screwed up before.

This could get interesting.

Well, it could get interesting because the provincial government doesn’t really have any leverage to try and force a settlement on the federal government.

You see, under the real Atlantic Accord (1985), the federal and provincial government’s have three months to come to an agreement on who will be chair of the offshore regulatory board.  If they don’t, they must appoint one person each to forma committee. Those two people appoint a chair for the committee and then the committee picks the person who will run the offshore board.

The committee’s choice is binding on both the federal and provincial governments. That’s what happened with Max Ruelokke, incidentally.  The provincial government frigged around and frigged around and finally triggered the Accord process. And then they frigged around some more until finally a judge had to embarrass them into doing what the law said they had to do.

And having botched not one but two efforts to try and engineer an outcome at the offshore board over the past six years, the provincial government guys are going back for a third kick at the cat.

The third time is supposedly a charm.