"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

We Are The Government!

Some commentators – not many, and not enough, not yet – are finally twigging to the apparent tendency of Glorious Leader not only to decide that he is right, and that everyone else is wrong, on any question, but also to reserve to himself powers and responsibilities that he does not have.
Not just has he done this outside the bounds of what he is politically entitled to do, he may well be skirting dangerously close to going out of the bounds of power he has constitutionally.

A few examples:

For starters, take the spectacular flip-flop that the Danny Williams administration made over recognition of the Labrador Métis. He promised one thing. He delivered the opposite. And in so doing, made an assessment that only a court, not an executive, can make:
“Based on the assessment of this decision, and the historic record available to us at this time, we have concluded that the members of the Labrador Métis Nation do not meet the test for qualifying as section 35 Métis,” the Premier said.
The Courts, Glorious Leader would find last year, begged to disagree. Danny’s 2004 “assessment”, one not his to make in the first place, was wrong.

In 2005 – not coincidentally in the middle of a by-election in the district where it was located – Danny Williams, through his amanuensis the Minister of Education, over-ruled a local school board decision to close the high school in Bishop’s Falls. It was such an important over-ruling that the government, in the middle of the writ period, announced it not once, but twice.

School board, schmool board. We Are Above The School Board. When We want to be, anyway.

Next came the long, drawn-out Ruelokke affair, in which Glorious Leader decided he should not be content with exercising the powers of the Premier alone, but also those of the federal government, the CNLOPB, and the courts.

First, he tried to bully the federal government into submitting to His wisdom that Andy Wells – for some still-unexplained reason – should be Chairman and CEO of the offshore board, despite the fact that the CNLOPB answers to neither federal nor provincial government alone, but to both.

Having failed in that, he tried to short-circuit the lawful process, provided for in the federal-provincial legislation governing the CNLOPB – the Atlantic Accord – for resolving a federal-provincial deadlock on appointing the Chairman of that board. That process, contained in s. 12 of the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act, was agreed to byboth governments in 1987. It binds the province. Yet Danny Williams attempted an end-run around it, resulting in significant legal costs to the province, for motives that remain unclear.

In doing so, he became the only politician ever, federal or provincial, to try and breach the black letter of the Atlantic Accord!

The process-selected candidate for the position, Max Ruelokke, properly, and expectedly, hauled the Greatest Lawyer In The History Of The Common-Law World and His infallible posterior into court. Greatest Lawyer, etc., pledged in advance to abide by the court’s decision. (See offalnews’ coverage.)

The court, properly, and predictably, found the Premier’s conduct “reprehensible”.

Having decided, again incorrectly, that he knew better than the Atlantic Accord’s own process, the Greatest Lawyer In The History Of The Common-Law World decided, equally incorrectly as it turns out, that once again he also knew better than the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Maybe on that particular morning this guy [i.e., Mr. Justice Raymond Halley] got up on the wrong side of the bed… If he did, so what? We're all human beings and we all have opinions.”
Do we ever have opinions!

“We did have a judge here who, in my opinion, went over the top in his statements,” the Greatest Lawyer, etc., opined. Mr. Justice Halley was “excessive” in his comments, he opined further.

Opposition Leader Gerry Reid was led by the spectacle to ask, “Is there any institution or any individual for which this premier has any respect?”

A rhetorical question, obviously. No, there is not.

But the court was wrong, Greatest Lawyer, etc., assured us. Glorious Leader, Andy Wells, and We The Province itself had legitimate grounds to appeal.

Finally, on September 11th, He decided, on second thought, maybe We don’t.

Last week, Greatest Lawyer, etc., wearing his Glorious Leader hat, took umbrage with the Speaker of the House of Assembly over the timing of the disclosure of recent findings on the growing legislature expense scandal and associated scandalettes.
“Here I had a situation where I had a person within government, who knew prior to Christmas, that in fact one of my ministers was named,” Glorious Leader complained, “and 10 days later I get told?”
Perhaps Glorious Leader, Greatest Lawyer, etc., has trouble remembering this important point, but the Speaker of the House, in a Parliamentary system, is an officer of that parliament, not of government. The Speaker answers to, and is responsible to, and takes direction from, the House, not from the Premier, not from the government. Notwithstanding the principle of responsible government, whereby the executive are also members of, and accountable to, the legislature, the executive and legislative powers are still separate.

You have to wonder whether He really might have a “personal preference” to just do away with the House of Assembly altogether.

Then comes this week, in which the Auditor-General releases the findings whose non-disclosure by the Speaker incurs The Wrath of Dan. One of the findings involves a backbencher in The Party. The other involves the cabinet minister who, scant days ago, the Premier asked to step aside temporarily until the affair could be cleared up.

The Auditor-General referred his findings in both cases to the Department of Justice for further review, just as he did in the cases of alleged constituency-allowance overspending by four other current or former MHAs, including former minister Ed Byrne, whose full resignation, not merely a step-aside, was demanded and received.

However, the Premier has decided that not only does he know better than the federal government, the CNLOPB, the courts, school boards, the Internal Economy Commission, and the impartial Speaker of the House of Assembly, he also knows better than his own Department of Justice. Notwithstanding the fact that the matter is before that Department, Great Lawyer has determined that there is “no evidence” that the Minister committed any criminal wrongdoing, and that “no court” would ever convict him, or words to that effect. The Minister is re-instated.

Nothing to see here, folks, move along.

On the basis of the public information concerning the circumstances, that does seem to be the case.

But the determination, and the decision, is not Danny Williams’ to make. What happens if he is proven wrong?

“When I speak out on these matters,” Glorious Leader said in response to charges that his criticism of Justice Halley in the Ruelokke case wasn’t called for, “I speak on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

In other words, We’re Danny Williams, And You’re Not.

We Are The Government. All orders; federal, provincial and municipal. All branches; executive, legislative, and judicial.

We Have Spoken.

There is a risk with this approach, where the Premier Is Power Personified, and with its closely-associated syndrome wherein he blurs the constitutional lines, telescoping all three branches and all three orders of government into a pair of power-wielding Trinities. Sooner or later he may end up being not just wrong, but spectacularly wrong.

If or when that happens, there will be a long, drawn-out legal battle, costing the “people” on whose behalf he speaks, millions in court or other costs. And costs that may be paid long after We are no longer in office.

Just ask Peckford what second-guessing the courts in the Offshore and Upper Churchill Water Rights cases accomplished.

And, like Ernest Manning, Maurice Duplessis, Joe Smallwood and Brian Peckford before him, Great Lawyer may well end up in the pages of law school textbooks, though not in the way he might have liked.

A rash political action may well end up serving, some years hence, as the central fact in an expensive, famous, and precedent-setting case, Respondent v. Williams, on the division of powers, the separation of powers, or the metes and bounds of administrative fairness.


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