Todays editorial in the Western Star is weird beyond belief.
Just over a week ago, after Premier Daniel Williams barked rudely at Lorraine Michael across the floor of the House, a Star editorial suggested that it was time for the premier to step down.
To my surprise, other media seized upon this as a news story. To me, it was no big just another editorial comment.
Anyway, The Star won my respect for that bit of commentary. It does take some nerve to criticize the premier in his own district.
Which makes todays editorial all the more bizarre. In a nutshell, it defends the Williams Government for the way it released information about the bungled expropriation in Grand Falls-Windsor. Then it tries to lay blame for the fiasco at the feet of the Opposition.
I have to admit, my eyeballs nearly popped out of my head.
First, they make this peculiar claim:
at least the Tories, to their credit, were up front about the blunder, and said so straight out without trying to couch it in some political song and dance.
That entire statement is so factually wrong, it beggars credibility. The fact is, Williams Government was not up front about the blunder, did not say so straight out and did couch it in political song and dance.
They announced the mis-expropriation back in February, through a release issued on a Friday afternoon, on the week that Williams was going in for heart surgery. And here is how they described it, in the first sentence of the news release:
The Provincial Government is assuming custody and management of the former pulp and paper mill and property in Grand Falls-Windsor, as well as Grand Falls House and the former mill managers house, upon notice that Abitibi is handing the assets over to the province.
Further down, the release does say it has taken legal ownership of the mill, but the wording is confusing and the governments blunder is not spelled out in clear language. It is a piece of obfuscation. It was not understood by media, because the bungled expropriation was reported during March as if it was a new story. The obfuscation, along with the surrounding noise, was successful in concealing their error.
And at this point, government had apparently known about the mistake for nine months, neglecting to tell us about it until the week Daniel Williams went in for surgery. There was nothing up front about it.
Back to the Star editorial. After lauding the government for its (*choke) up front communications, they go after the Opposition:
Few would argue that government did the right thing by taking back the water and timber rights from AbitibiBowater, but the result is shameful and the opposition cant shirk their complicity in the matter.
Its time they admitted their shortcomings in the process.
Its the duty of the opposition to challenge the government on legislation it brings before the house, and make sure these kinds of potentially expensive hiccups dont make it into law.
They were asleep at the switch in this matter theres now way around it.
They dozed in their seats, didnt ask enough questions ... and let the bad legislation become the law of the land.
Liberal Opposition Leader Yvonne Jones was on Open Line just a few days ago, dealing with this issue. She said they asked questions about the integrity and implications of the legislation, but the premier assured them their homework was done, every detail was covered and speedy passage was essential. This is not to say the Liberals handled it well they should have opposed the legislation but there was nothing they could do to stop it either.
To blame three Liberals for Danny Williamss mess is ludicrous. (Yes, it is the premiers fault. The buck stops with him, and it is unacceptable and chicken-hearted for him to blame others.)
So what has changed at the Western Star, since last weeks editorial and this one? What are they smoking? Have they gone off their meds? Did they receive an angry call from the Eighth Floor?
Either way, the credibility of the Western Star is now in serious doubt.
For more on this jawdropper, check this entry at Ed Holletts blog.