01 October 2014

The Usual Suspects #nlpoli

The Conservatives who said Premier Paul Davis was going to doing nothing more than shuffle the cabinet that was already there got it absolutely right.

On Tuesday,  Davis announced his new cabinet and the names and jobs are all very familiar.  To give the illusion of change, Davis re-organized a couple of the portfolios and gave them some new names but basically, there are no changes of direction in the bunch.

Everyone noticed that Davis rewarded Steve Kent for his support leading up to and during the leadership convention.  Kent got the biggest portfolio – health – and will be the deputy premier and minister responsible for the Office of Public Engagement.

They also noticed the political unknown Davis found to take over the renamed justice portfolio.  The new minister, the unelected Judy Manning isn’t news on her own. Calling the department of police, prisons, and fire trucks the ministry of public safety is as old as the hills.

The big story in the cabinet shuffle is somewhere else.

The big news was the creation of a new super ministry that will bring  the old business and industry department together with tourism, culture, and recreation. According to the official news release,  this department is about finding new synergies among all the bits and pieces of it.  Synergy is just a fancy word for connections.

There’s no obvious link, though, between luring a new business to the province and ball hockey. But they are connected:  all the bits of the new department involve handing out public money to private groups.  Businesses like Dynamic Air Shelters,  the local drama group, and the broom ball team all have one thing in common:  they depend on hand-outs from the government to survive. 

The cheques the government issues to these people also come with news releases,  media events, and photo ops for government cabinet ministers and backbenchers.  Davis has combined all those pork barrels and photo ops into one big ministry and the job of running it goes to one of his key organizers.
Don’t think of him as Darin King anymore.  Don’t even imagine that his Twitter handle – King_Darin  - is now reality.  Think of him more like a the czar of political pork.  The future of the Conservative Party depends on Verbal Kent in public engagement and Kaiser Soosey in the mega-pork portfolio.  Let that thought sink in for a while.

Except for those few things, Davis’ cabinet looks very familiar.  Ross Wiseman stays as minister of finance.  Sandy Collins, who had problems handling the fluff ministry of public engagement, stays in the much heavier portfolio of child, youth, and family services.  Susan Sullivan is handling education these days.  Natural resources, fisheries,  municipal affairs, and the rest, all stay in old hands.

Kevin O’Brien, the Coleman campaign fixer who kept an eye on Nick McGrath on that crucial day of March 13 to make sure Nick did the job, got his reward:  he stays in cabinet.  Tony Cornect’s number of portfolios is in inverse proportion to his chances of getting re-elected in the next election.

It’s all so tedious.

It’s all so familiar.

Where is the “innovative approach” the stock, government-issue news release told us was lurking in among the quotes in a larger font in bold type so we would know they were important?

Maybe it is the appointment of the backbench goon Keith Russell to the post of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs. His resume in the official release is only slightly longer than that of the other cabinet noob Judy Manning.  Russell has more experience, it seems, in making a public ass of himself.  In 2012, he dismissed aboriginal religious beliefs as “mumbo-jumbo”.  Later the same year, Russell caused a controversy with his verbal altercation with officials at a youth hockey tournament and his use of foul language.  Before getting elected as a Conservative,  Russell was a cabinet minister in the Nunatsiavut government.  The government leader fired him.  If this is the innovation Davis’ handlers meant, then they have an innovative definition for the word.

This is the “bold new plan for Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Conservative political staffers should update their Linked-In profiles.