22 May 2015

A week of truth for the Conservatives #nlpoli

Not that we didn’t know the provincial government had already granted exemptions to its supposedly sacred minimum fish processing requirements, but CBC this week gave us an insight into just how often the government has waived the MPRs.

In 2010,  the provincial government approved 11t exemptions out of 19 requests.  In the last six months of 2014 alone,  it approved 27 out of 29 requests. 

That’s quite a jump.

The wild spurt of exemptions came at exactly the same time  - ironically enough - that Premier Paul Davis was insisting that MPRs were an essential part of the government’s efforts to keep fish processing jobs in the province.

They were so important that he and his colleagues would only give them up for a $280 million slush fund of federal cash controlled by the provincial government.

By the end of the week,  the crowd against the European trade deal were publicly calling on the provincial government to defend the sacred MPRs.  There were, according to the Council of Canadians,  essential to keeping jobs in the province.

The Council of Canadians clearly isn’t interested in the truth. The truth is that MPRs make it too costly to process fish in some situations.  if the government didn’t grant exemptions the processors would be faced with financial losses.  They’d also face the environmental mess of having to dump millions of pounds of fish that couldn’t be processed economically.

MPRs – truth be told – are an environmentally and economically unsound intervention by government in the economy.  The government has been granting more and more exemptions because companies can’t process fish in the province and make money at it.

Of course the Council of Canadians isn’t really interested in the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador.  So when the provincial government here looked like it was having a problem with the European trade deal Maudie Barlow and the Council were quick to exploit the news stories.

The truth is the Council misunderstood – wilfully or not – what Premier Paul Davis Davis and his crowd wanted all along.   Davis and the Conservatives never rejected the European trade deal.  They just threatened to reject the deal it if the federal government didn’t hand over cash for the provincial government to control.  It was part of a shakedown, not too far removed in kind from the sort of blackmail they engaged in with the Memorial University administration over tuition.

The Conservatives have been telling great fibs about the whole free trade deal since they launched their jihad with Ottawa last year.  They’ve used talking points.  They’ve spoken in short clips, which is a way to avoid saying so much that the truth actually spills out inadvertently.

Maybe that point flew past Russell Wangersky last week during the On Point panel.  That was former fisheries minister Clyde Jackman’s problem, as Kathy Dunderdale’s former communications director put it. The topic was the revelation that the provincial government didn’t have the legal power to force Memorial University to freeze tuition.

Jackman let that slip in a scrum.  The next day Premier Paul Davis had to confirm it was true.  So, as Davis explained, the government always threatened the university with a cut to funding if they didn’t freeze tuition.

“Part of the challenges with Minister Jackman this week was just his inability to speak in sort of short clips,” said Lynn Hammond. “What he said wasn’t necessarily inaccurate,”  Hammond allowed,  it’s just that he didn’t speak in short clips.

“Wasn’t inaccurate” is rather odd way of saying “was true.”  And Hammond didn’t explain what she meant by the short clips thing.

Well, it’s a way to avoid saying something you don’t want to say.  The less you say, the less likely you are to let slip by accident something you wouldn’t want people to know.

Like the truth. 

Good advice if we are discussing national security and lives are at stake.

Use your own judgment as to whether the Conservatives’ tuition freeze communications scam was a matter of comparable importance.

Perhaps the inability to speak in short clips is the problem that befell current fisheries minister Vaughn Granter. On Thursday, CBC reported that, in another fisheries story,  a provincial government news release from 2012 contained false information.

The release stated that, in exchange for an exemption from some minimum processing requirements, Ocean Choice International had to create a “minimum of 110 full time processing positions for a minimum of five years.”

Fisheries minister Vaughn Granter “now says the deal in fact calls for 110 jobs ‘substantially year-round’, and that the 32 weeks of work that occurred in the plant last year meets the requirements of the agreement with OCI.”

There’s no clip short enough to hide the enormous truth-crater of a difference between 110 full-time jobs and ones that provide only 32 weeks of work in a year followed by a period of federal employment insurance payments. This year, Granter is willing to accept that 20 weeks of work is good enough to meet the terms of the agreement supposedly to provide “full-time” work..

This week there are probably a lot of Conservatives wondering how different their future would be if only they had spoken the truth all these years instead of mastering the skill of speaking in short clips.

Let them ponder this clip, then, that is both true and short:

Sucks to be you.