23 May 2014

Tom Marshall’s puppet government #nlpoli

Whatever is going on in the Premier’s Office these days, it isn’t an orderly and organized transition from one premier to another.

That’s certain.

Every transition from one premier to another since 1949 - whether it involved a change of party or not - has happened in a matter of a few days or at most a couple of weeks. Your humble e-scribbler was directly involved in two of them and is familiar with most of the rest.

News on Friday that Tom Marshall had fired all but two of his staff doesn’t look like any transition anyone has ever seen.

A transition is a simple, administrative process.  The incoming team works with the outgoing team to figure out – among other things - when specifically the transition will take place.  There are lots of administrative details to go with it.

It’s not a gradual affair. 

It happens in one shot.

It happens in one shot because the Premier’s staff are his or her personal staff.  The Premier’s staff are the one group of people on whom he can rely to cover his own ass, to look after her own best interests, and to do his bidding. They come and go with the boss.

In 1979,  Brian Peckford kept some of the staff and changed others after he took the oath of office.  After he took office in 1989,  Tom Rideout didn’t keep any of Brian Peckford’s people except for one guy. In 1996,  Brian Tobin kept a handful of Clyde Wells’ staffers for a transition period and kept a couple after the general election.  Much the same thing happened in 200 when Tobin left again in 2001 when Roger Grimes moved in.

Notice that none of the changes happened until after the new Premier took office.  In the news on Friday,  it looks like Tom Marshall has fired all his personal staff except for his executive assistant and his communications director. VOCM reported on Friday that the bloodshed extended to the cabinet secretariat with the departure of assistant secretary to cabinet for communications Glenda Power.

Marshall appointed Frank Coleman’s man Darrell Hynes as chief of staff starting on Monday.  That’s significant because the chief of staff is usually the Premier’s right hand.  All staff report for the chief of staff. 

But in this case, Hynes doesn’t really work for Tom Marshall, except on paper.  All Tom has left is his personal aide and a communications director.  As it seems, everyone else will actually work for a man who – constitutionally – has no authority to direct the Premier’s Office staff. 

With his decision on Friday,  Tom Marshall has – in effect – abrogated his responsibility to the people of the province.  Marshall has surrendered his constitutional power to someone else who has no political legitimacy.  He leads a puppet government.

If Frank Coleman’s staff will occupy the Premier’s Office on Monday, then Frank Coleman himself ought to take the oath of office without further delay.  Anything else is a display of unparalleled arrogance and an abuse of the public trust.