31 August 2015

Ferry Tales #nlpoli

There are times when you have to wonder if provincial cabinet ministers actually realise how moronic they sound to everyone else.

David Brazil is the transportation minister.  By his own admission,  a company in Romania could build ferries for the ferry system in Newfoundland and Labrador for a better price than anyone else.

That better price included – by his own claim – if the provincial government had to pay a multi-million penalty on the project under federal tariff law. 

Brazil and his officials knew the rules.  The decided to build the ferry in Romania.  So how come Brazil wants to try and make this into a case where the federal transport minister is the villain for simply enforcing the law?

After all, Brazil doesn’t have a legitimate case for an exemption from the tariff. There’s nothing urgent about the construction of these vessels.  If he wants to pretend that cost is an issue, then he can only look in the mirror and see the reflection of his immediate predecessors.  They have ben unable to get their own ferry construction project sorted out for the better part of the last decade.

For those who may not know the sorry-assed record of the current administration and ferries, take a look at this post from March.  They started out in 2003 attacking the Liberals for making a mess of the ferry replacement scheme.  They promised to use public works as a way of supporting local industries like shipbuilding.  We don’t really know why the provincial government and Kiewit in Marystown couldn’t figure out a deal but, regardless of the details it is a bit of a distance from local procurement to support local industry to paying top dollar for Romania ferries. It is as far as the Black Sea is from Marystown.

So with all that additional background, why then is David Brazil going to keep at the federal government to help the provincial government out of a financial jam of its own making?

Well,  the first thing we should do is question whether or not Brazil is really going to be able to make much out of this.  Both he and his federal counterpart are in the midst of election campaigns of their own.  While the departments of both the federal and provincial governments are still functioning,  the ministers are generally letting all but the most pressing issues slide.

This ferry thing is not a very pressing matter.  Dave might say he is going to fight, but, other things might take his attention.  Saying he plans to fight the decision just gets the media off his back for a bit. That might be all Dave wanted to do.

Second, it is possible Brazil will try to create a racket. Local politicians seem to think that any old racket with mainlanders is good for them politically.  The entire CETA racket was an example of something the Conservatives concocted to try and shift public opinion, not because they actually had a case.  In fact, the story they told the public actually wasn’t true. 

Third,  Brazil might actually do it on the outside chance he can score some cash.  That’s not a very likely scenario as the federal government has nothing to gain in the transaction. Besides,  Brazil and his officials should have requested the exemption before they awarded the contract, not after.  Still,  Brazil could be trying that angle.  Those niceties haven’t stopped politicians from this province from trying to get money from the federal government in just this way.