It will probably come as no surprise to you, but Friday afternoon I drove out to Gander for the Progressive Conservative Party Convention. Though I have been out of politics for four years now, I still like to go, mostly just to see and reconnect with old friends.
On the drive out, I turned on CBC Radio to get the news and what do you know: Ted Blades had Barry Warren on. Of course, most would know that Warren is the Gander businessman who ran for the Liberals against Kevin O’Brien in the last provincial election. Warren is also the person who has come forward accusing Minister Kevin O’Brien of being a bit of a bully around a breakfast this past summer during Gander’s Festival of Flight.
It is kind of hard, in the midst of the accusations, to determine accurately what happened. Warren maintains that O’Brien threatened to slow down construction of a new school in Gander over a tiff about who was allowed to serve breakfast at the Festival of Flight. Really? Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. Even if O’Brien said this, does anyone see the logic and value in doing this? So, you are mad with some people in your district and therefore you are going to try to slow down or stop a major project in your own district. Aside from the fact that once the government makes a decision to fund such a project, no one minister can then arbitrarily stop it, it makes no political sense.
But the part of Warren’s interview with Blades that I found really disconcerting was his statement that no one else had come forward out of fear that as businesspeople they might have their ability to bid on government contracts hampered. That was when he completely lost me.
It is one thing to make accusations of bullying against O’Brien, but quite another to suggest that the government penalizes businesspeople and hampers their ability to access government contracts simply because of their political views. Where is the evidence of this? Look back over the past 10 years of Tory government in this province and point out evidence of this happening. There is none.
On the contrary, all evidence points to a very robust Public Tendering Act that affords all people regardless of political stripe the same unimpeded ability to bid and win government contracts. The government of the last 10 years has been nothing but fair in its dealing with contractors in this province. The government of today is vastly different from Liberal governments of the past where there were numerous court cases that the government lost for inappropriate behaviour in public tendering, wrongful dismissals and pork-barrel politics.
Furthermore, there is no evidence of districts in the province having access to government funding limited because they elected a representative of one of the other two parties. Again, on the contrary, some of the biggest investments by government have been in districts held by Liberal members. You have to look no further than the aquaculture investments on the Connaigre Peninsula when Oliver Langdon was the member, or to Arnold’s Cove and Icewater Fisheries when Percy Barrett was the member, for a couple of examples.
Likewise, look at who wins road building contracts; look at who is doing the site preparation for the Strait of Belle Isle transmission line crossing, and you will find very prominent Liberal businesspeople with sizable contracts.
Look at who has been appointed to prominent positions on boards and government agencies and you will find a long list of known Liberals and New Democrats.
No, there is no evidence of what Warren speaks. Nor should there be. He is right: we live in a democracy and no one should be penalized, have their access to government or their ability to bid government contracts inhibited. It has not happened over the past 10 years, and let us hope we never go back to that type of government.
Trevor Taylor is a former cabinet minister under the Danny Williams administration. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.