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

Friday, August 24, 2007

Word count is your friend

Danny Williams, speaking about the Voisey's Bay deal, said in the House of Assembly, on June 19, 2002:
I was really surprised today, Mr. Speaker, in my last question to the hon. the Premier. It was a sincere offer, by myself and by the members of the Opposition, to help, because that is what we wanted to do. I said to the Premier: We have the benefit of all of our research, we have gone through the Statement of Principles and we have constructive suggestions as to how this deal could be improved. I wrote the Premier on two separate occasions and I asked him to delay the vote tomorrow on this Statement of Principles. I asked him to give us all the documentation, not eighteen pages, not a couple of percent of the documentation. I asked him to give it all to us, every single bit of it, and postpone that vote until September 30 and allow us to work with the Premier, to work with the Minister of Mines and Energy, to work with the Minister of Justice, to sit down and work on the documents to try and improve them, to try and make them the best possible documents for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

He rejected that offer and I, for the life of me, cannot understand why he would reject that offer.


What he said in this Legislature yesterday and what he has said publicly outside this Legislature — with respect to the Statement of Principles he said — and when I asked him and I was talking about giving us more information, giving us the other documentation, giving us the final document that this Statement of Principles will be based on, giving us all the other agreements that are contained in the Statement of Principles, they refused to provide that to us. They have refused to provide the definitive and binding agreements. When he was asked how they would compare to those other documents he said: Nothing will be added to this Statement of Principles. He is categorically on the record as saying: There will only be eighteen pages of documentation to take care of a $50-plus billion project. Those are your exact words, Premier.

He also said nothing will be deleted. No additions, no deletions. On the public airwaves he said, "This is the full deal." Those are his exact words. "Nothing is going to change." Those are his exact words. He also said: Every eventuality has been covered off. This covers it all. This is full protection for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, this eighteen-page document.

I have done a lot of transactions, Mr. Speaker, some for myself, some for clients of mine, and I can tell you that a transaction of this magnitude would have documentation stacked three feet, to the top of that desk, before we started on it; I can tell you right now. Eighteen pages to cover a deal like this is absolutely disgraceful.

Mr. Speaker, we have to make tough decisions, we have to stand firm. When it comes to making decisions, we have to stand up. We cannot just do the things that may appear to be popular at a given point in time. That is the position that we find ourselves in. We are standing up for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and we are trying to make this a better deal, but we are not getting the information from this government that is not open, this government that is not accountable, and this government that is not transparent. We are in the dark, we do not have all the information, and it is impossible for us to make a responsible decision on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Voisey's Bay Statement of Principles, released in its entirety on June 11, 2002, including headings, totals 6,068 words.

The backgrounder to Danny Williams' August 22, 2007, press release regarding Hebron-Ben Nevis — the only documentation which has been released on the deal — including headings, totals 435 words.

Admittedly, the figure that has been bandied about for the value of Hebron is $16-billion, about a third of the $50-billion the Premier has attributed to Voisey's Bay. Proportionately, then, you'd expect that the Hebron MOU — the one that no one is allowed to see — to weigh in at about 2,000 words, if the value of the project is somehow keyed to the prolixity, verbosity, and wordiness of the lawyers involved in making it happen.

Or, alternatively, going by Danny's previous experience as his clients' super-awesome lawyer, there should be a one-foot stack on someone's desk.

"Above all else," Danny Williams said, "a government must be accountable and responsive to the people. Elected officials are the people's representatives, the people's voice, and must at all times act in the best interests of the Province as a whole. In particular, financial accountability and transparency is critical to any successful and effective government. It is a profound and significant responsibility which we as an elected body must never lose sight of, as ultimately our decisions determine the future course of Newfoundland and Labrador. My government will provide real financial management, real transparency, and real accountability."


Real transparency, there, Danny.


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