Duelling rich guys

Brian
Brian Jones
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One of the best things that could happen to politics in this country is if lawyers would stick to lawyering and businessmen would stick to businessing.

It would also be beneficial if retired teachers would find a different hobby, but that’s an argument for another day.

Rich, powerful people in politics would be comedic if they weren’t so destructive.

Former premier and cable guy Danny Williams has obviously been watching too much hockey, because this week he dropped the gloves and was all over fish merchant Bill Barry.

Danny and Billy are both ardent free-enterprisers … except when they’re not.

Danny said he doesn’t support Billy’s quest to be Tory leader. Danny said Billy is trying to take the easy route to the premier’s office.

Apparently, in Danny’s mind the difficult, more credible, pay-your-dues route into the premier’s office is to make tens of millions via a legally sanctioned monopoly, bank it, be crowned as a party leader, serve in opposition for a few hours, then take the elevator to the 8th floor while your sycophants hold up the end of your robe so it doesn’t drag and collect dust.

Billy’s sins? That he supposedly wants to privatize Nalcor Energy, and allow more free enterprise in the educational and health-care systems.

How about allowing more free enterprise in the fish business?

Not so fast, suckers.

Prolific letter writer David Boyd of Twillingate publicly posed the question earlier this month right here on Page A6 (“What do you say, Bill Barry?” Feb. 3). If elected premier, would Barry allow a free market in the sale of fish, so fishermen could sell to the highest bidder, whether or not that bid came from a Newfoundland (or Labrador) fish merchant?

To his credit, Barry responded to Boyd’s query (“This is what I say, Mr. Boyd,” Feb. 13). His short answer: no. His businessman-politician answer: yes, “provided there is a level playing field which allows our processing sector to compete” — i.e., as long as Newfoundland fish merchants continue to have first dibs.

Voters should be careful when busiticians blurt clichés and jargon such as “level playing field” or

“ability to compete” or “climate for investment.” It usually means they’re looking for taxpayers’ money or some other kind of government support. (See: bank bailout; auto industry bailout.)

For instance, consider Danny and his colleagues on the board of directors of Alderon Iron Ore Corp.

They have plans to develop an iron ore mine in western Labrador. The proposed Kami mine requires plenty of electricity.

Alderon needs a transmission line from Churchill Falls to the area of its mine site. It wants taxpayers to chip in $300 million toward building this line.

Sure, you might say. Why not? The government is always talking about “investing” in this and “investing” in that. I wouldn’t mind receiving a dividend cheque every once in awhile.

Hold on. Who said anything about giving taxpayers a return on their investment? Not Alderon. Not Danny.

Predictably, they rely on the old ruse of jobs, jobs, jobs.

But do the math — almost a million bucks per.

Corporate fingers reaching into the public cookie jar is common, unfortunately.

This week, Chrysler Group LLC asked the federal government and the Ontario government to pitch in a total of $700 million toward the company’s planned $3.6-billion upgrades to two of its Ontario auto plants.

So, the free-enterprise argument comes full circle. When a busitician says the government needs to be run more like a business, he — or she — is saying more public money needs to be put into it.

Someday, in a better world, this might also apply to health care and education.

In the meantime, we’ll continue writing those cheques payable to Big Inc.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Nalcor Energy, Alderon Iron Ore Corp.They, Chrysler Group LLC The Telegram

Geographic location: Labrador, Ontario

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Recent comments

  • Ben
    February 18, 2014 - 09:55

    So who does Jones think should run for politics? Journalists?? Brian we only have to look at Mike Duffy & Pamela Wallin to see how that turned out. My take on it is if you have the nerve and the guts to enter politics, and god forbid win, then you shouldnt be condemned for where you come from. I guess we can expect to see Jones name on the ballot in 2015...can imagine what banner he will be carrying.

  • Too Funny
    February 17, 2014 - 13:42

    "One of the best things that could happen to politics in this country is if lawyers would stick to lawyering and businessmen would stick to businessing." I don't see how lawyers "lawyering" and businessmen "businessing" would help politics. Unless Jones is claiming that politicking should be left to career politicians. Well, that has done wonders so far.

  • Aurelian
    February 14, 2014 - 19:02

    Great article.Jones is a wonderful hard-hitting journalist this place sorely needs to take on the smug elites of NL. What have Newfoundlanders to show for all the much trumpeted oil wealth by the politicians: the promise of a new jail and the reality of a bigger police station in St.John's!Way to go!The letter of today by the senior says it all about this tinpot place.

  • Aurelian
    February 14, 2014 - 19:01

    Great article.Jones is a wonderful hard-hitting journalist this place sorely needs to take on the smug elites of NL. What have Newfoundlanders to show for all the much trumpeted oil wealth by the politicians: the promise of a new jail and the reality of a bigger police station in St.John's!Way to go!The letter of today by the senior says it all about this tinpot place.

  • Happily Retired
    February 14, 2014 - 14:51

    Your eagerness to misinform is amusing. Did this idea about dueling rich people only occur to you now, or were you aware of it during the Liberal leadership campaign where three millionaires, all of whom support Muskrat Falls and who would have jumped to put in a third transmission line, each spent more than $300,000.00 to become leader and then, hopefully, premier of the province. Of course scrutinizing that party might have incurred the wrath of Master Wangersky so you probably got busy thinking of other topics then. By the way, the Conservatives have made their rules public before the contest, something the liberals didn't bother to do. So much for government secrecy.

  • Don II
    February 14, 2014 - 13:30

    Much always wants more and is never satisfied! The imperious and arrogant attitude of entitlement is blatantly obvious and the fangs and claws are now showing as the elites fight over the spoils of war that obtaining Government power provides in Newfoundland and Labrador! It appears that none of the big shot corporate operators in Newfoundland and Labrador could have amounted to much on their own. The big shot corporate operators could not have accomplished what they did without the cooperation of the Government of Canada, the Government of Newfoundland and servile City and town councils. The Governments gave the big shot corporate operators whatever they wanted whenever they wanted such as: non repayable tax payer funded grants, cheap Government loans, legislation or amendments thereto, land zoning changes, quick application approvals, cheap Crown land, Union busting legislation and strike breaking police intervention, cable TV licenses, legal services contracts, tax breaks, helicopter service contracts, contracts to print contracts, commercial fishing licenses, financial subsidies, inside information, hydro-electric transmission lines, you name it they got it. However, other excellent entrepreneurial people who were not politically connected, not liked or who posed a threat to the elites were jerked around, road blocked, stone walled, ignored, lied to, cheated, denied funding, lost out in public tenders, lost well founded legal cases in modern day Fishing Admiral courts that pose as the provider of judicial impartiality and justice, had all kinds of applications rejected on flimsy grounds and even had their businesses undermined or closed down by the Government! The Government could always be counted on to create winners and losers and to pass or amend legislation to allow the big shot corporate operators to do whatever they wanted to do! Anybody can be a big shot business tycoon or local town clique boss when the Government is your committed partner, finances your projects, passes laws to protect or advance your plans, expropriates other peoples land for your projects, closes down your competitors, stonewalls, threatens, infiltrates or co-opts the media and clears the way for your unjust enrichment and guaranteed success! It appears that much of this kind of Cabinet secrecy and Bill 29 protected secretive business and project funding activity that is regular behavior and part of the political and bureaucratic culture in Newfoundland and Labrador would be grounds for undertaking Senate and Congressional investigations in the United States of America! The intense scrutiny and regulation of Government and Corporate wheeling and dealing in the USA may be the primary reason why Newfoundland and Labrador did not become the 49th US State in 1949!

  • Doug Smith
    February 14, 2014 - 12:49

    Excellent column Mr. Jones! Perhaps it would also be a good idea to have any businessman or woman running for public office list all and any aid they have received from any level of government, whether it’s the granting of a monopoly, paying for a $3 hundred million transmission line, restricting the processing of fish to locals, help in bringing in foreign workers, and making known whether the businessman or woman had any tax problems regarding the business. Also any business failures would be a must to know about. The public would then be in a much better position to judge the worthiness of the business person for public office. Doug Smith, Grand Falls-Windsor

    • Jack
      February 14, 2014 - 22:00

      What crap! Certainly what we want are people who have never accomplished nor tried to accomplish anything. Never built a business, never took a risk. Business people take huge risks, work long hours and contribute to our society. When it works, they make a profit. When it doesn't they loose everything....home and everything else they own. Most of the most successful business people here or anywhere have suffered great losses but have worked and scrambled back. I have been in business for many years and have never received one cent from the government. I have employed lots of people and there have been many times when I could not afford to pay myself as I was growing my business. I get in business and take the risk n the hope of reaping a reward. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't.

    • Jack
      February 14, 2014 - 22:03

      What crap! Certainly what we want are people who have never accomplished nor tried to accomplish anything. Never built a business, never took a risk. Business people take huge risks, work long hours and contribute to our society. When it works, they make a profit. When it doesn't they loose everything....home and everything else they own. Most of the most successful business people here or anywhere have suffered great losses but have worked and scrambled back. I have been in business for many years and have never received one cent from the government. I have employed lots of people and there have been many times when I could not afford to pay myself as I was growing my business. I get in business and take the risk n the hope of reaping a reward. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't.

    • a business man
      February 16, 2014 - 09:31

      It is ideas like this that keep me away from politics. I have a MBA, and JD, and years of experience as a businessman and a lawyer. I think I would be a good politician. Even if I were willing to take the pay cut that being a politician would entail, I have chosen to stay away because people will always look for something to make an issue of. So I will just stay in the private sector and help myself

  • Jack
    February 14, 2014 - 11:18

    What pure idiocy from Jones, again. He is always completely against everything and everyone. Alderon and all the other mining companies pay big royalties to the government (the dividend you ask for) Have you ever checked to see how much of the government income comes in royalties? And of course you just dismiss Barry's suggestion that there should be a level playing field. Why has the fisherman's union been against out of province buyers coming in and buying fish? Local buyers are forced to pay things such as Workers Comp whereas out of province buyer would not have to. Why does the Telegram allow you to write such sloppy one sided drivel? Do some research. Get some facts.

  • Joe
    February 14, 2014 - 09:13

    Didn't I just hear that the new $300 million line will be exempt from PUB review? When did Tom say he was going to change from the old governments practices?

  • Cashin Delaney
    February 14, 2014 - 08:40

    Nalcor enjoys the benefit of our public backing, and of the Crown, and is as secret as any private energy company. The only difference is that they are compelled to publish reams of report-chaff and a symphony of tweets to appear as transparent. Boundless energy ads abound. Con lib private public are all outmoded catergorizations of the activities mentioned here by these two (m)ad-venture capitalists (give me Lloyd Hillier, or Rick Hillier for Premier!) For 61 years now, Bill, and Danny too, maybe, speak fondly of the absence of "I" in team onto those under them.....because they see the M, and the E are there. Pretty cute. Can we even get someone under 50 with a pol sci masters degree to be Premier, knowing what they know, they would likely rather take the chicken catcher job that is always opposite the MHA mugshots in The Shoreline.  Someone who doesn't intentionally make a public joke of us on the world stage for their own public/private profit? Not much to ask. Politics has been privatized. Wait, not so fast, ask a REAL rich man, not these ACOA-rollers. Contrast John Risley's refusal to entertain NS political office, and his Devil Advocates piece which follows John Crosbie's stale Senate rhetoric rehashed in the Atlantic Business Magazine. http://www.atlanticbusinessmagazine.net/?article=devils-advocate-2 A "cable guy" and "fish monger" himself, but who's sound bites don't sound like a hungover hockey player being asked how he'll give 110% down the stretch, and I double ding dong dog dare Bill Barry and David Boyd - overachieving plant worker vs poet fisherman - to beg Risley to settle their stalemate. Ed Fry, welfare guy. Government does not build infrastructure. Tools can't build infrastructure, yet. When they do, we can put a circular saw on the 8th floor.

  • T. Sleeveen
    February 14, 2014 - 08:38

    Your socialist bent come s out in out anti business rant. Once the line is built in Lab west, it will likely see more exploration, more jobs and more economic growth. What do you think pays for our healthcare and education??? if people aren't working and paying taxes then their will be substandard health and education. You whine when investments are made to enhance our economic position and then you whine when not enough is being spent on health and education. Investing in infrastructure is the role of every government and good on them for doing this.

  • Guy Incognito
    February 14, 2014 - 08:26

    Some people in this province still believe that Danny can do no wrong. Still believe everything he says without questioning his motives...... Some people need to open their eyes......

  • Steve
    February 14, 2014 - 07:39

    Taxes are too high because government is wasting too much money! Except when they spend it on us, then it's okay. Signed, Big Companies

  • Keith
    February 14, 2014 - 07:17

    Guess that would leave the political world to positive thinkers like Messers Jones and Wangersky. That would solve most of our problems.....Yeah, right!

  • Keith
    February 14, 2014 - 07:16

    Guess that would leave the political world to positive thinkers like Messers Jones and Wangersky. That would solve most of our problems.....Yeah, right!

  • Gekko
    February 14, 2014 - 07:15

    God forbid we elect lawmakers who have actually studied and practiced law, or have experience running anything larger than a grade school classroom.

  • Joe O.
    February 14, 2014 - 07:13

    Mr. Jones, are you suggesting that our politicians be trained and moulded like our PM? By the way, Lab West kept this province going from the early 70's until oil took over.

  • Ed Fry
    February 14, 2014 - 06:46

    So, I suppose Mr. Jones also believes that Unionists should stick to unionizing and bureaucrats to bureaucratizing? Who then is going to get involved in politics? Further, government builds infrastructure - power lines are infrastructure. Contributing government money to corporate projects is not always a bad thing. But, no doubt, Mr. Jones probably is against corporate "welfare." Well, in that case, how about ending ALL forms of welfare? What's good for the goose is good for the Gander. Government can and must continue to put money into corporate projects just like it must continue to provide welfare to its poorer citizens, even those that are able to work but simply refuse. You can't have it both ways. There is either some form of welfare for companies and people or is no welfare for anyone. It is as simple as that.

    • Angus
      February 14, 2014 - 07:35

      Ed Fry: It isn't as simple as that. The philosophy government subsidies in this province started in the 1970's ny Frank Moores and Brian Peckford and were aimed mostly at the fishing industry. At that time NL was heavily dependant on transfer payments from Ottawa and provincial governments were heavily pressed to come up with money to keep people here on welfare. The solution? Subsidize fish plants so they could operate for 10 weeks or so and then after a seasonal closing, workers would be drawing EI for the rest of the year. Because welfare was mostly a provincial responsibility and EI was paid for from outside the provincial economy it had very little effect on the provincial finances AND kept people in the province thus maintaining the status quo with transfer payments. Without these transfer payments, the population of NL would be drastically different today as well as the size of the civil service and such departments as health care and education. This was also the era when the make work projects were born and for the exact same reason.

    • jack
      February 14, 2014 - 11:30

      Angus, You give away your tender age if you think government subsidies started with Frank Moores and Brian Peckford. Look at the remains of Joey's failed rubber boot factory in Holyrood (only made one size boot) His steel plant at Octagan Pond is long gone along with the hardwoods plant, the cement plant and boat loads of other schemes.

  • Corporate Psycho
    February 14, 2014 - 06:13

    How about some investigative reporting on Williams? I'm willing to bet he made more off being Premier than all of his predessors combined.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    February 14, 2014 - 06:09

    You will also note that Mr. Barry says that "With regard to increasing processing capacity by allowing anyone to spend their own money to do small volumes of local species...If I was premier, I would seriously consider an exemption for you, David, to set up your own small community operation with your own money. ".. So that is not allowing "anyone" to set up small processing --- it would be by "exemption" only, and even then he would only "consider" it. No competition there. The big business monopoly must be protected.

  • Randy
    February 14, 2014 - 05:51

    Can you just put this garbage, Lana Pain and Barb Sweet all together on one NDP cheerleaders page so I can know which page not to read?

    • Donna J.
      February 14, 2014 - 07:40

      Because God forbid that you are exposed to ideas that challenge your insulated little world.