Former minister cut trade mission short

Ashley
Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Premier says ‘no great big story hiding in China’

The province’s current finance minister, Tom Marshall, has described the schedule for the provincial government’s trade mission to China as “go, go, go,” but there were at least two people who did not go, go, go all the way with the group.

Jerome Kennedy, minister of finance at the time of the roughly 10-day trip in June, skipped a portion of in-country travel completed by the rest of the provincial delegation.

While the others travelled from Beijing to Hangzhou, in Zhejiang province on June 27 — where a memorandum of understanding on trade and business was later signed — Kennedy and his executive assistant took a train from Beijing to Shanghai.

They flew home from there, two days ahead of schedule.

According to documents obtained by The Telegram through an access to information request, Kennedy was booked to leave China on the same flight as some others in the provincial delegation, on June 30. The flight would run from Pudong International Airport in Shanghai to Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International.

However, a receipt filed with the former minister’s expense claim places him at the Fairmont hotel at the airport in Vancouver the night of June 28.

While there has been speculation about the travel schedules — suggesting that in-fighting led to both Kennedy’s early exit from the trip and, ultimately, from government — Kennedy has suggested otherwise.

“Over the summer I decided that I wasn’t going to run again,” he told reporters on Oct. 2, announcing his political retirement outside of the House of Assembly at Confederation Building in St. John’s. He said the decision to leave was based on his interest in returning to the study and practice of law, effective Nov. 1.

During the news conference, the rumours about a row in China were raised and the question was asked of whether or not there had been an argument involving Kennedy and Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

“We argue all the time. We are passionate about what we do,” Dunderdale said. She stood by Kennedy’s side throughout his goodbyes.

On Friday, in a sit-down interview, she was asked about China once more, given the publication of the $200,000 cost for the trip and the documentation on the travel schedule. In response, she ran through positive news items from the trip — strong reception for the provincial delegation, productive meetings and signed memorandums of understanding.

“And so I don’t know what the relevance is, if he and I had a falling out in China. Did we run out of patience with one another? We all run out of patience with one another from time to time,” she said, reiterating Kennedy’s good work on behalf of the government.

“Are we all committed? Are we all doing good work? Are we all working on behalf of the people of the pro­vince? Absolutely,” she said, noting Kennedy worked to settle public-sector union collective agreements in the months after the trip.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Tom Marshall was made available for an interview on the China trip Thursday. He was not interested in commenting on why his predecessor left China ahead of schedule.

“I would refer you to Mr. Kennedy to answer that question,” he said Thursday. “I can tell you where I went, but I think as to what (he) did or didn’t do, I think you’d have to ask him that.”

The Telegram did not have a phone number for Kennedy, but attempted to reach him via Twitter direct message, email and a number for his former executive assistant. No response was received as of press time.

Kennedy was not the only government employee to change travel plans at the last minute.

The premier travelled to Europe, visiting the battlefield of Beaumont Hamel, before returning home. Her chief of staff, Brian Taylor, was to accompany her on that visit and other stops in Europe, but returned to Newfoundland and Labrador directly from China instead.

“Mr. Taylor had planned to accompany the premier to France and Belgium after leaving China,” reads a note on the documentation of expenses. “While in China, it was necessary for Mr. Taylor to change those plans and return directly to

St. John’s.”

He left China on June 30, flying from Shanghai to Vancouver, from Vancouver to Ottawa, and from Ottawa to St. John’s.

Within weeks of his return, he took a leave of absence from government service. On July 16, CBC News reported the leave of absence, for an unspecified period, and the premier’s office offered no comment at the time.

“None of that could have been predicted before we went to China,” Dunderdale said this week, of Taylor’s leaving.

In illustration, she referenced her own recent travel to Brazil with the Council of Atlantic Premiers. She decided to cut short time in that country in order to return home and deal with response to the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement with the European Union.

“There’s all kinds of things happening here all the time and they’re not always predictable. There’s no great big story hiding in China,” she said.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: The Telegram, Pudong International Airport, Fairmont hotel Confederation Building CBC News Council of Atlantic Premiers European Union

Geographic location: China, Shanghai, Beijing Vancouver Hangzhou Zhejiang Toronto Europe Ottawa Newfoundland and Labrador France Belgium Brazil

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Recent comments

  • Dolph
    October 20, 2013 - 14:22

    That China mission smells more like an outhouse everyday. She continues to fiddle while her cabinet burns.

  • Maggy Carter
    October 19, 2013 - 23:05

    It might be a while before we get the full story on the China, but there's no doubt it was the trigger for Kennedy's departure. Was it strictly a personality clash or something more serious - like a major policy rift on Muskrat? If the latter, Kennedy will want to let that be known sooner than later - in effect, to put distance between himself and one of the worst disasters ever to befall this province. But it's not only China that doesn't compute - Dunderdale's explanation for leaving the trade mission in Brazil before it got started is equally bizarre. She knew Harper was headed for Brussels to put the final touches on CETA - it was his carefully planned strategy for escaping the opening day in the House and the inevitable grilling on Duffygate. On Friday her ministers held a press conference in an effort to pick up some badly needed political points on the heels of Harper's announcement. So why the urgency for her to return and what - other than political gain - justifies the waste of the taxpayer money? One thing Dunderdale did say is that she likes to keep things close to the chest. Well ain't that the truth. Her now infamous Bill 29 is the embodiment of that penchant for secrecy. It has been the hallmark of her administration - and no doubt it will herald its downfall.

  • Taxpayer
    October 19, 2013 - 18:01

    Why isn't the telegram posting comments on the recent story about Dunderdale's expensive trip to China that cost the taxpayers of NL a small fortune?

  • Pauline
    October 19, 2013 - 15:46

    The biggest pile of hogwash, that ever came out of anyone mouth. I see the Pcs got the same policy as the Liberal. Dishonest. Try been truthful for a change.

  • Marg
    October 19, 2013 - 14:52

    Hhahhahahha why is this news? Who cares

  • Who cares
    October 19, 2013 - 12:07

    Why is this China situation such a big deal to people? Jerome Kennedy is a private citizen now, leave him alone and let's try to stick to what is truly important in this province instead of chasing drama like a bunch of children.

  • Political Watcher
    October 19, 2013 - 10:34

    "There’s no great big story hiding in China,” she said. Correct me if I am wrong but wasn't that the same reply she provided when she was first asked about members of her Government padding public opinion polls? We later found out that Kent and Lane and others were having their cronies and themselves vote continiously.

  • Don II
    October 19, 2013 - 09:31

    An excellent story by The Telegram. Premier Dunderdale is quoted as saying: "Did we run out of patience with one another?" Is that political double speak for: "Yes, we had another big racket about how we are running the Province and he took off."? Political double speak has become a refined art in Newfoundland and Labrador mostly because the media and the opposition do not have the resources or the time to do the research, find the sources, obtain the facts and ask well documented confrontational questions of politicians. Accordingly, the politicians can rely on double speak to brush off any inquiries and allow the issue to die. The public interest and ethical governance demands that politicians in Newfoundland and Labrador tell us the truth, something which is apparently a foreign concept to most of them. Another case in point that illustrates political double speak and political manipulation of history is the reference in The Telegram story regarding Premier Dunderdale "...visiting the battlefield of Beaumont Hamel,..." The description of Beaumont Hamel as a "battlefield" is a well publicized and widely accepted myth and distortion of historical fact. The site at Beaumont Hamel is really a killing ground or the site of an ambush style massacre and is not the site of any "battle". The Newfoundland Regiment was massacred at Beaumont Hamel! There was no "battle" in the sense that anyone would understand it's definition. How many German soldiers were killed or wounded by gunfire from the Newfoundland Regiment in that famous "battle" of Beaumont Hamel? Does anyone know the answer to that question? If the facts had been reported instead of the Government propaganda, the historical account would have accurately referred to Beaumont Hamel for what it really was.....an ambush style massacre into which the poorly led soldiers of the Newfoundland Regiment were ordered to charge into on that tragic day of July 1,1916! It appears that political double speak and political manipulation of historical fact has been in operation by the Government of Newfoundland for a very long time. It appears that a blatant lie or a myth, if repeated often enough and left unchallenged, becomes the accepted truth.