On Tuesday, the provincial Conservatives launched their election campaign.
It was to be built solely on the image of Paul Davis as a great leader. They labelled the campaign Davis 15. The revamped the party website and they launched a second site – with the clever address davis15.ca – that included videos by and about Paul.
One of the videos included an endorsement from a police officer who, as it turned out, received a promotion last spring from sergeant to inspector. Only a short while before he had been a constable.
The law governing the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has a pretty clear prohibition in it against police participating in political activity. Both Davis and the fellow in the video were police officers before the House of Assembly revised the police law. There’s nothing new in it and certainly nothing that either of the two didn’t know about.
Davis spoke to reporters on Wednesday about the video. He defended it, saying that the video was old and that the officer had been on the executive of the police association when it had been filmed. Neither mattered as far as the problem with a police officer engaged in partisan political activity. Davis said he believed the law was wrong and should be changed to allow police officers to do whatever they please as long as it doesn’t interfere with their jobs.
We’ll get back to that last point in a bit. Note, though, that a few minutes after Davis stated his defence of the video, officials from the Conservative party removed the video from the site. By Wednesday evening, it was back, but with the 12 seconds of this particular endorsement missing.
If the video was correct, as Davis said, then the video would still be on the site, intact. By removing the video, the Conservative officials confirmed several things. One of them was that – as the police chief himself stated – he had never heard of the video. That’s important because the regulations under the police act allow the chief to approve certain types of activity.
Put that together with Davis’ comment that the video was old and you have another implication: people on Davis’ campaign didn’t pay much attention to what was in the video. We can tell that anyway since there is a rather obvious typo in the identification of this officer.
“Leading our province is a privilege,” Davis website says. That is absolutely true. While Davis may indeed work to earn that privilege every day, as his website also says, the past two days have shown that Davis lacks the qualities of leadership that a premier must have.
Any one aspect of the endorsement fiasco would be enough by itself. The whole thing was a rather simple publicity exercise, for example, and Davis and his people screwed it up. We cannot trust them to handle anything else if they screw up simple stuff like this.
Davis is the premier and a former police officer. His attitude to the law, revealed during the scrum with reporters, is simply unacceptable. Davis seems to believe it is okay for people to do as they wish, not follow the law as it is. That is an unacceptable attitude in either a police officer o a premier. If Davis believed so strongly that this law is wrong then he ought to change it: he has the power. That Davis chose to ignore the law rather than change it suggests he simply does not understand the responsibility of the office he holds.
That he and his staff changed the video with words of his defence still ringing in everyone’s ears suggests that at least someone in his office understood that the Premier was either disingenuous or just simply wrong.
Paul Davis had an opportunity in the past 24 hours to demonstrate the qualities of leadership he has.
Everything else he does after this is a waste of his energy and our time.