22 February 2013

Live from the Orchestra Pit #nlpoli

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians got a vivid example on Thursday of the Orchestra Pit Theory of Political reporting.

For those who don’t know the story, the Orchestra Pit theory goes like this:  two politicians are on the stage.  One announces a cure for cancer.  The other falls into the orchestra pit.  The media will cover the guy in the pit.

Well, the guy in the pit on Thursday was Brad Cabana.

The Big Three political reporters – David Cochrane, James McLeod, and Mike Connors  - were all live-tweeting the first day of Brad Cabana’s lawsuit against the provincial government Nalcor and few other odds and sods.  Brad claims that the government violated his constitutional rights by approving Muskrat Falls without a referendum.

Here’s how the Telegram described it last fall:

He is essentially arguing that because the Innu Nation got to vote in a referendum related to the Muskrat Falls project, but the whole population has not been given the chance to vote in a referendum, the government is violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Now it’s all wonderfully entertaining stuff whether you followed the thing via Twitter or watched the evening news versions.  The Telegram will be equally great reading on Friday morning. 

But to be brutally frank, the whole thing has a predictable quality to it.  Sort of like watching a guy douse himself with gasoline as he stands in the middle of a fireworks storage warehouse and then lights a match. 

You know where the whole thing is going. While it may be spectacular for a few seconds, once it’s over, the world will continue to turn unaffected by the little pile of ashes that used to be the fellow with the jerry can and the Bic lighter.

Meanwhile, a story wafted out of Corner Brook on Wednesday that got a bit of play in the media but nothing near the attention it deserved. The Premier and some of her cabinet met with reporters after a cabinet meeting in Corner Brook.  The reporters asked about the future of the Kruger paper mill, the city’s largest private sector employer.

Here’s a comment from the Western Star story:

“Given the state of pulp and paper in the world, we’re far from being in a place where you could relax and say the future is assured,” the premier said.

The future of the last paper mill in the province is far from assured. 


That doesn’t sound very positive.

The mill closing would have huge implications for the west coast.

It would have huge implications for the province’s forest industry.  Basically, that entire sector would vanish after about a century.

It would have implications for the provincial economy.

And it also would make Muskrat Falls unnecessary.

The mill might still pull through if the company and the unions can agree on pensions and other issues. If they can cut a deal, then the province is apparently ready to step in with some sort of financial assistance.

What that assistance could be the Premier wouldn’t say. In a time of restraint when government is talking about cuts and lay-offs, the scope of the bail-out package could raise some interesting political issues across the province.