05 May 2014

The House comes back… what’s on the menu? #nlpoli

Nice to be wrong update:  The Liberals started Question Period on Monday hammering the Conservatives over the Humber Valley Paving controversy.

This is a big story with huge implications.

Original post follows



As far as when Frank Coleman might find the time to get around to taking over the Premier’s job, not much as it seems. 

It’s till vague, undefined, and potentially will happen quite some time from now.

He appeared on VOCM Open Line on Friday and still talked about wanting to take the job some unspecified time after July 5th.  As for when he will get a seat in the House, Coleman is still talking – hypothetically – about some unspecified time in “the fall.”

Some people might think the cabinet shuffle changed a lot.  The Telegram editorial board is hung up on the cost.


As SRBP told you last week, the shuffle fixed some internal Conservative problems.  That’s all.  Since Coleman still doesn’t know what he is doing,  Tom fixed the problems now rather than let them fester.

Big deal.

We might get to see the draft whistleblower bill now that the House is coming back on Monday.  Then again, maybe we won’t.  The longer the session the Conservatives leave it to introduce the bill, the less time there’ll be for public scrutiny.

That’s bad, as the Conservatives should have learned by now.

And, as with other Bill Number One measures in the recent past, the thing may never appear.

The questioning about paving contracts may not get as intense in the renewed House session this week as some might expect.  Notice that the Liberals sent out the MHA for the area where local companies are still owed thousands of dollars by HVP.  That’s a sign they are treating it  - at least initially - as a local issue and not one of fundamentally bad government policy.

If they keep with that approach, they’ll be missing a far bigger policy issue that also happens to be a big political issue.  The main issue is not that Frank Coleman’s company got to bail on a contract without penalty and leaving a bunch of local companies in the lurch.

The problem is that the Conservatives describe this as a common practice and  that Humber Valley Paving could bid on the back half of the same contract again. 

As with many Conservative talking points, the ones about HVP are just nutty.  Conservative MHA David Brazil was in the media on Friday talking about how HVP could bid the same contract again and bring the whole thing in on budget.  But… he’d just finished explaining that HVP bailed because they couldn’t finish the contract on budget and make money.

If you want to know why the provincial government is overspending, it’s because of practices like this one.  There’s also no surprise that it involves capital works projects and that the companies involved also have a record of giving lots of cash to the party in power. 

The atmosphere gets very chummy such that when a company makes some business mistakes – HVP wanted to finish this early so they could get to other jobs -  they don’t suffer the kinds of penalties like a loss of cash that the market normally would impose.

Instead, they get a do-over so they can be profitable and make even more public money later on.  What’s really telling is that HVP didn’t answer for its business decisions – the provincial transportation minister spoke as if he represented the company, not the public.  The HVP guys got to issue a vaguely worded statement and to remain almost completely invisible.

This story shows that lots of politicians can’t figure out the difference between the public interest and private interests. That’s a theme SRBP will be coming back to a couple of in other contexts later this week.