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

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Apprehension of bias

Danny Williams is rumoured to have been a lawyer in a former career. A good one, in fact.

Danny Williams knows, or should know, a thing or two about bias, and about the need to avoid both real bias, and the mere apprehension of bias.

Which makes this particularly disgusting exchange, from proceedings Wednesday in the Kangaroo Court which passes, these days, for a legislature, especially disgusting:

MR. REID: On Monday, Mr. Speaker, government announced it would be appointing Mr. Paul Reynolds as the Chief Electoral Officer and Commissioner of Members’ Interests. Even though this position has been traditionally held and occupied by impartial and non-partisan individuals, as it still is in every other province in the country, the Premier appointed an individual who is the past-president of the provincial Tory Party, a close personal associate with the current PC election chair, Mr. Ross Reid, and is still an active member of the Virginia Waters PC District Association.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Why was there no mention of Mr. Reynolds political ties in his biographical information that you released on Monday?

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, based on comments from the Opposition when we appointed the last Chief Electoral Officer, we felt that information was not particularly important because, to quote Mr. Kelvin Parsons, the Opposition House Leader: It is the Premier’s prerogative to nominate a person of his and the Cabinet’s choice. To me, politics are irrelevant. To me, if he is appointed for this job, which he no doubt will be, he parks his politics at the door. When he goes in to work, he is the Chief Electoral Officer and he is the Commissioner of our interests and he parks his politics at the door.

Politics was not relevant. It was not relevant when Mr. Chuck Furey was appointed, and it is not relevant now.

MR. REID: I say to the Premier, politics are relevant in this issue. He is supposed to be impartial. The Premier did not quote what I said when I stood and faced the individual sitting in the gallery at the time, and told him I would not be voting for him and did not vote for him, I say to the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, one of the guiding principles of Elections Newfoundland and Labrador is that you must be non-partisan. As a matter of fact, ads - and I have a copy here for you, Premier, if you do not have one - currently being run in The Telegram and other newspapers around the Province say that enumerators and returning officers cannot apply if they had been in the service of a political party.

I ask the Premier: Do you see the irony in appointing a sitting member of the PC Association to the Chief Electoral Officer’s position while lower-ranking staff working in that office must be non-political and non-politically affiliated?

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Leader of the Opposition: Why didn’t he raise that point in the by-election in Humber Valley when the sister of the candidate was working as the returning officer and was basically showing up at polling stations? I didn’t hear him mention any impropriety about that then. It was not an issue then, but he was out there, so it is not an issue.

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Anyway, irregardless of that, Mr. Paul Reynolds is an exemplary individual. He has an outstanding record of public service. He was a former Mayor of Wedgewood Park. He was a councillor in Wedgewood Park. He was a councillor in the City of St. John’s. He served on many volunteer boards. He has been in the private sector. He has been in the public sector. He is very capable of doing that job. There is no need for you to disparage his reputation.

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, the individual to whom the Premier referred from Humber Valley was appointed to that position many, many, many years ago and she was not politically aligned, unlike Mr. Reynolds today.

I ask the Premier - he does not need to try to besmirch the character of that individual in Humber Valley whom he knows was non-politically aligned when she was appointed to that position.
The unprecedented decision, in Dannystan, in any province, to appoint the former President, not just of any old party, but of the incumbent governing party, to the supposedly impartial post of Chief Electoral Officer, is one product of an arrogant, out-of-control, hyperpartisan control freak, who is increasingly viewing his 70% or so poll support as license to do just about anything.

The way in which this indefensible decision is being defended by Glorious Leader, is perhaps a product of the 94% job approval rating he views as license to do anything else not otherwise covered in the 70% above.

This is blatant partisan cronyism. Bad enough on its own merits, but absolutely unforgiveable given the sensitivity of the post in question.

It is utterly unprecedented for a partisan to be appointed as CEO of a province. Any province.

It is (by definition) infinitely more so for a partisan to have been appointed to the post twice in a row, by the same government.

Yes, Danny, we all know, "I am sorry, Sir, I am just not going to follow what the Government of Canada does. We are going to stand on our own and (inaudible)."

But your crypto-separatists plans, and your utterly undeserved popular support, do not give you the authority to declare autonomy from the bounds of common sense, basic public decency, or respect for democracy and Parliamentary institutions.

The Reynolds Affair has transported Dannystan well back in time, beyond the nouveau-Smallwood era that the province has been languishing in for the past four years, and straight into the worst excesses of the late 19th and early 20th century politics of Newfoundland.

People should be worried. They aren't. And that's what's really worrisome.

The Reynolds thing is the symptom. The disease is almost too scary to think about.

PS - It's amazing, too, the selective nature of Danny's knowledge of the Standing Orders and the common law of Parliament. He repeatedly breaks rules against the use of props or the calling of members by their proper names, without sanction from the Speaker... yet has no trouble recalling that, as in the case of his comments about "the sister of the candidate" quoted above, whatever he says in the House is privileged speech and not actionable.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home