Another choice morsel from Our Dear Rant
last Thursday night before an audience of people who certainly got $500 worth of entertainment:
Anybody knows me, I can take a joke with the best of them... But I gotta tell ya, when those things are said about you personally, when you put yourself in Our shoes, and like I said, you need to put yourselves in the shoes of someone whose grandchild says, “what's that all about, Poppie? why are they saying that? what does that mean? why would they mention something like that?” That's when it hits home. That's when it really hits home. And in politics, that's not necessary.
One hopes, then, that His Premierliciousness will not rest one minute until he finds out who leaked the Westcott email to the press, thereby precipitating all those news stories and radio interviews which linked the words “Danny” and “penis” and “Williams” and so on together in the same paragraph. No stone can be left unturned, no email account left unscoured, every inventory of brown envelopes cross-checked and tabulated, until that person, who caused, even if inadvertently, so much pain to the First Family, has been found out and dealt with in accordance with whatever the law is this week.
Giv'em hell, Danny.
On the other hand, it is a refreshing change, coming from Him, to learn that family matters, well, matter. It is a welcome turn that He now believes that the families of those in public life should be shielded from the slings and arrows that dominate the Roman arena that is political life in a democracy.
It wasn't always thus.
For example, on April 19, 2005
, Himself rebutted questions about potential familial conflicts of interest not, as you might expect, by invoking the sanctity of the family, but rather by dragging the questioner's family into the debate as well:
MR. GRIMES: Again, I guess he does not want to tell us exactly whom it is that he divested the interest in.
Mr. Speaker, in light of these conflict of interest concerns and the potential of a minister who is participating in decisions that impact his immediate family, I ask the Premier: What conflict of interest guidelines do you expect your ministers to follow when participating in Cabinet decisions relating to family members?
PREMIER WILLIAMS: We will follow the same guidelines that were followed by the previous government, for the Leader of the Opposition. As a former premier, he knows what those guidelines are. He knows how we behaved when we were on the other side of the House. There was no character assassination. There was no attempt to defame someone’s character, someone like the Minister of Finance, who has an impeccable reputation in this Province. To go on a character assassination is really pitiful, quite frankly, and very unfortunate. As a matter of fact, this particular gentleman has a legal lawsuit against the hon. gentleman opposite for the statements that he has made. There is no doubt about it, what he said.
Also, Mr. Speaker, if I can, while the hon. gentleman opposite was in power as Premier of this Province, we acted as a responsible Opposition because - in fact, the hon. Premier’s brother Ross was a negotiator for CUPE, at a time when he was Premier, and he gave a raise to the public section unions. Your brother was a public sector negotiator. Did we come up and ask you whether you excused yourself? His brother happens to be a pastor, was he involved in the denominational education discussions? His other brothers actually work at Abitibi. In fact, did he excuse himself when the legislation was passed for the No. 7 machine in Grand Falls? Did he excuse himself on that? Finally, when your good wife, who works at NAPE, sits there in the office, in a very important position, did we ever, for one minute, question your -
AN HON. MEMBER: The NLTA
PREMIER WILLIAMS: I am sorry, the NLTA. Did we ever question your integrity or try and attack your character or assassinate you or your family like you are trying to do this man? That is absolutely despicable!
The scene replayed itself the next day
MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, the Finance Minister has stated that he did not leave the Cabinet Table when the decision to implement production quotas was taken and he is stating that he will not leave the Cabinet meeting when the crab production quota issue is discussed in the future. He is taking this action even though he has brothers who may directly benefit from this government policy.
I ask the Premier: Is the Premier aware that two of the Finance Minister’s brothers are on the Board of Directors of the Association of Seafood Producers, an organization that has lobbied hard to have these production quotas implemented? If he did know that, why did he then still permit his Finance Minister to be actively involved in these discussions with such an obvious conflict of interest in play?
PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, the reputation, the honesty, the ethics, the integrity, of the Minister of Finance is not in question. It is not questioned by members on this side of the House; it is not questioned by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. For you to continue on this particular attack, which you are doing, is not only libellous and defamatory - as I have said to you before - it is scandalous and it is embarrassing to you and to your Party.
Now, having said that, there is a double standard. What happened in your Cabinet when things were discussed, when your brother was a negotiator for CUPE? What about when things were discussed concerning Abitibi and forestry, when your brother or brothers were working with that organization? What happened when the hon. gentleman from Twillingate & Fogo was Minister of Education and his good wife was a teacher, and he did allocations? What happened there?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
PREMIER WILLIAMS: What about when the Member for Torngat, whose brother was a negotiator for the LIA -
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
Or on May 1, 2006
, when the questioner did not even start with any reference to any government members' family:
MR. REID: I asked the Premier when he had discussions with FPI and Mr. Barry concerning this issue, because, just before the Easter break, in listening to the Minister of Fisheries and the Premier himself, they said they were not having discussions with FPI about anything; they were meeting with themselves in the Premier’s office. Yet we see, in a news release from FPI, that they did indeed have discussions with the government. All I asked was why or when you had these discussions. Mr. Speaker, obviously the Premier does not want to answer questions about FPI; he would prefer to hide away and cut deals on the side.
Mr. Speaker, in order to accommodate Mr. Barry and Mr. Risley, the FPI Act will either have to be amended or abolished outright. I ask the Premier: If this proposal is accepted, the one that your minister trotted out last week, which route will this government take?
PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, what the hon. gentleman fails to understand is that there is no proposal being accepted; everything is being considered. All options are being considered.
The hon. gentleman was Minister of Fisheries and part of a government for years, and chaired an all-party committee. He seems to have all the answers now, but we inherited what they left us. You have to remember that the management of FPI changed under their watch. That is when it changed. The number of plants that were closed by that particular party when they were in government is a significant number of plants, and the problem, as we all know, there is a significant problem with the management of FPI. That is the problem, that is the root of the problem, so we are trying to work our way through a very, very complex and a very, very difficult situation; but, as to accommodating Mr. Barry or the brother of the Member for Grand Falls, or any of these people, these people are at the table. They are at the table; we are prepared to listen to them. If there are responsible business people in this Province then we are prepared to consider their offers.
And again on November 23
of that year:
PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, whatever the hon. member is trying to imply, there is nothing untoward or anything improper about this process. This proposal was submitted to INTRD. It was not submitted to the Department of Business. It did not go through the Department of Business; it went through Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. That is exactly where it went, and that is the normal process.
Of course, the hon. member opposite is a former minister and she knows that, but she is still trying to imply impropriety and something wrong with this, and still trying to put a slur on this and talk about a public inquiry. I mean, where does that go? Do we now go back and start to review every single business transaction that has ever happened with this government?
The Member for Grand Falls-Buchans, her brother does business with this government all the time, a very reputable business person, and when he and his companies come with a proposal we take them in good faith and we deal with them in the normal course. If we have to bring him in to a public inquiry or an independent inquiry, or anybody else, any other people who do business with government - what does she say about when she was in government and the Apollogate or Country Ribbongate? You are so cute to use the term cablegate, let’s talk about some of the other transactions that (inaudible).
And, closing out that fall's sitting
of the Bow-Wow Parliament, in response to a question from the current interim opposition leader, Kelvin Parsons:
PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, you know this is an unusual procedure for a government to even allow an Auditor General to come in on a very reasonable business deal, an economic development tool, and allowing him to come in and even have a look at it. We are giving him lots of time to do that.
It is interesting you mentioned the word penny, because as a result of your new diligence, as a result of the cross, that we are on the road to Damascus, where now there is a whole new scrutiny in government, we have decided that we are going to take a closer look at what they did. Now that you mentioned the word penny, it would be interesting to note that the brothers of the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans, since 1998 to 2004, got $76 million in contracts from Works, Services and Transportation. Now, we are not alleging that there is anything wrong with that, but we are putting that out for public disclosure because we are going to disclose all the information. We will even disclose what your sons got when you were Justice Minister and the legal work that they got from the Department of Justice. Do you know something? They are good lawyers and we do not see anything wrong with that.
And from the then-member for Grand Bank:
PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting, the new-found righteousness that has come over on the other side. This is the same minister who decided to take her husband on a little trip.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
PREMIER WILLIAMS: They went to Australia and New Zealand to see if they could find Crocodile Dundee maybe - Crocodile Judy. They also went to China and they dropped into Hawaii on the way.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
His family is sacrosanct.
Your family, however... your
family might just have a target painted on them.