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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Based on the legislation

In her remarkable scrum on Tuesday (RealMedia link), Minister of Education Joan Burke says:

The official process will be as the selection committee finishes their work, they will submit their work to the Board of Regents, who will then submit their recommendation to government, and then it will be a cabinet appointment, so that the end process will be a cabinet appointment

It’s legislation that this will be a cabinet appointment, and it will be

So it is a position that has to be approved by government, and it will…

The whole process has never put the selection process squarely with the selection committee. The selection committee, as I said, brings the names foreward. Now as Minister of Education, I guess, I did not have to be involved in the process. It could have been brought forward. We could have reviewed the names at that point, and probably would have got similar feedback. I guess my interest is, that when we finally bring this to a cabinet level, that we go in with a sufficient list of names and qualified candidates that we’re able to make a selection

This has always been an appointment of cabinet…

We are expected by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to play the leadership role that is ours, based on the legislation…

I will be one voice at the cabinet table. But as the Minister of Education, when those names, and that selection process hits the cabinet table, I want to ensure that we have the best possible selection, the best leadership that we can possibly find internationally…

When I goes to cabinet to present, I want to make sure that I give a list of names and qualifications of people that we can do an adequate selection….

What is most important here is that we don’t settle for anyone, that we have the best leadership possible, and if that entails an international search, then that’s exactly what it’s gonna be…

This is a process that I s’pose I didn’t have to get involved in, I could have said to the selection committee, let it come on through, and then we could have sent in all back because I wasn’t prepared to go to cabinet with the selection of names

The selection committee feeds into the Board of Regents, and the Board of Regents then submits to government for a cabinet appointment.

And when asked by a reporter, “What do you say to MUN professors who say that they would feel uncomfortable working in a university where the government is so heavily involved in selecting who runs the place?”, Minister Burke replies:
Well, certainly they knew the legislation, if they weren’t familiar with it, they can have a read through it, and they can see that it is a cabinet appointment…
Ah, yes.

The legislation.

The Memorial University Act.

Have a read through it.

But, you see, here’s the crazy thing.

The Act, as quoted by the anti-Danny Williams all da time no matter the issue, Liberal blogosphere, states:

Appointment of president

51. There shall be a president of the university who shall be appointed by the board in consultation with the senate and with the approval of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council.

Or, converting from the passive mood to the active, the board — of regents, that is — appoints the president of the university.

That’s what the legislation states, in case you, or, let’s say, the Minister of Education, weren’t familiar with it.

Nothing about the cabinet (or “Lieutenant-Governor in Council” as the convenient legal fiction has it) receiving a list of names plural.

Certainly nothing about the cabinet doing the appointing. Section 51 of the Act makes it clear: it’s the Board of Regents that does the appointing, the appointing of the President.

Which it does in consultation with the Senate (of the University) — a step which is not accounted for at all in Joan Burke’s workflow.

And with the approval of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, the Cabinet.

Cabinet can approve the appointment. Singular. The appointment made by the Board of Regents. The appointment by the Board of a President. Singular.

No lists.

No cabinet doing the appointing.

If the drafters of the Act had wanted cabinet, and not the Board of Regents, to do the appointing, then they would have said so — just as they did, in fact, so say when it comes to the largely ceremonial post of Chancellor:

48. (1) There shall be a chancellor of the university who shall be appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council.
That is what a cabinet appointment looks like in law.

But nope: Joan Burke says that the President a cabinet appointment, and anyone who disagrees, like, say, pesky stupid professors with their stupid professor degrees and their stupid professor books sitting in their stupid professor offices eating their stupid professor sandwiches while they type stupid professor stuff on their stupid professor computers, well they can read the act for themselves.

It’s a cabinet appointment, and if cabinet has to scour the four corners of the international world to find a president (Gro Harlem Brundtland? Vigdís Finnbogadóttir? Bertie Ahern?) who will generate that all-important “buzz”, then so be it.

And hey, if the black letter of a twenty-nine word section of the Memorial University Act disagrees with Joan Burke’s profound understanding of the law, then the implication is obvious.

Ed Hollett is wrong.

The Memorial University Act is wrong.

They must be.


Well, because the only other alternative explanations — that Joan Burke is a brazen liar, or Joan Burke is unbelievably stupid — cannot, surely, cannot possibly be true.



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