Poisoned politics

Pam
Pam Frampton
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“In politics, madame, you need two things: friends, but above all an enemy.” — Brian Mulroney

Brian Mulroney’s quote reflects the shroud of cynicism that clings to the political profession like cobwebs in an attic.

Darin King. — Telegram file photo

In this province, there’s plenty of interest in politics — anyone who follows Twitter can attest to that — and it often generates intelligent and thoughtful debate. Unfortunately, and all too often, that thoughtful debate is not issuing from the mouths of our elected officials.

Ask anyone with a genuine interest in working towards the public good why they wouldn’t consider running for elected office and you’d probably get a few answers: the expense, the time commitment, the public scrutiny.

Well, for sure one of those answers would be that they find the combative and often conniving nature of politics off-putting. There’s too much derision and not enough debate. Insults and catcalls take the place of reasoned argument. Heckling and evasiveness stand in for direct and honest answers.

Sometimes, government members seem to forget that opposition MHAs were also duly elected and have constituents to represent.

Rather than work co-operatively, too often MHAs from opposite sides of the House resort to cheap shots and one-upmanship.

It’s depressing to watch and oh-so predictable, no matter which party holds the reins.

Right now, it’s the Progressive Conservative party clinging to the remnants of power. And it seems the more tenuous their grip, the more mean-spirited they become.

And they don’t always let a little thing like the truth get in the way in their attempts to thwart the opposition.

Case in point: the cat had Justice Minister Darin King’s tongue in the House of Assembly Wednesday when it came to questions about how the government arrived at its decision last year to axe the Family Violence Intervention Court — a type of court with a proven record in many parts of the world when it comes to stopping domestic violence before it escalates into murder.

Joan Shea, minister responsible for the status of women, was willing to speak in his stead though, when NDP MHA Gerry Rogers asked whether King had bothered to consult with the Women’s Policy Office before making his decision.

“Any time there’s a decision that may or may not even affect women, we ask their opinion on that particular policy or policy move of government to ensure that we don’t miss that piece of work,” Shea said.

Since cutting the Family Violence Intervention Court was all about saving money, and not a matter of policy, there was no need for consultation, she said.

“The decision to eliminate it or not continue it was a budgetary decision, Mr. Speaker, not because this government disagrees with the concept of a Family Violence Intervention Court. … At no point did this government say that we disagreed with that particular policy, Mr. Speaker.”

Rogers was clearly still hoping for an  answer from King: “I ask the minister, did he consult with the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women?”

Shea’s response was snide, implying that Rogers was being obtuse.

“Unless the member doesn’t understand what I’m saying, the Family Violence Intervention Court was a budgetary decision as opposed to a reversal of policy for this particular government,” she said.

But that’s not true.

After the court was dismantled in March 2013, King — who was able to speak at that time — did not say the court was a wise idea that the province simply could not afford, but rather that it was ineffectual.

Here’s his quote from The Telegram on March 30, 2013: “There comes a point in time, from government’s perspective, when you have to decide whether that’s an effective way to deliver services and supports to those who are impacted by family violence, and we don’t believe it is.”

Sure sounds like a policy decision to me. It isn’t working, so axe it.

His explanation ran counter to that of members of the justice system, who believed the court was having a beneficial effect and even saving lives.

As one Crown prosecutor noted after quitting her job in disgust at the court being cut, “That going away, that is just such a devastating blow. There are women killed or seriously hurt by violent partners in this province. We were making really good progress with that court. We were doing really important work there.”

But rather than acknowledge at the time that the Family Violence Intervention Court was a good idea and that it was regrettably a necessary casualty of fiscal restraint, King tried to obfuscate his way through a media scrum and justify his decision.

He could have agreed with the Crown prosecutor, made her feel her work had value, and vowed to try to bring the court back.

Now that the Tories’ popularity has waned, they’re trying to rewrite their own history.

And that’s the funny thing about politics — politicians have short memories, while the rest of us can see past last week.

 

Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email pframpton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: Policy Office, Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women

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Recent comments

  • W Bagg
    April 13, 2014 - 09:27

    Political Parties are gangs that employ methods of bullying. Political Parties have nothing to do with like minded similar individual policy, but more for opportunists to try and get as much out of taxpayers as possible for themselves, their families and their friends. Just my observation

  • jiM boB
    April 12, 2014 - 23:12

    The people of Grand Bank has voted this guy in and this is the democratic process. But what is not democratic is that the Premier chooses to make King Justice Minister and now the rest of us is paying for the mistake that the Premier and the people of Grand Bank has made.I have no problem with King being a MHA (as long as he is not mine) as he was voted in, but the rest of us did not ask for or want King in any position as Minister. Now we all suffer when it could have been kept to Grand Bank. He does not stand for what a free country expects, he does not understand the importance of a democratic process, the justice system, and some of his people working for him are in the same boat. King is setting us back many years and the innocent people of this province will suffer, some will die because of him. Shameful.

  • jiM boB
    April 12, 2014 - 23:09

    The people of Grand Bank has voted this guy in and this is the democratic process. But what is not democratic is that the Premier chooses to make King Justice Minister and now the rest of us is paying for the mistake that the Premier and the people of Grand Bank has made.I have no problem with King being a MHA (as long as he is not mine) as he was voted in, but the rest of us did not ask for or want King in any position as Minister. Now we all suffer when it could have been kept to Grand Bank. He does not stand for what a free country expects, he does not understand the importance of a democratic process, the justice system, and some of his people working for him are in the same boat. King is setting us back many years and the innocent people of this province will suffer, some will die because of him. Shameful.

  • Glenn Stockley
    April 12, 2014 - 16:40

    Interesting that you should headline the article with a quote from the most machievellian minister ever to plunder the public purse for his own gain....it was his elected position that guaranteed his immunity from the laws made by parliament...a crook can't get much cuter.......

  • Ed
    April 12, 2014 - 10:43

    What a joke Pam Frampton has become. She's one the nastiest, biased contributors to our only newspaper and then asks why more people don't run for politics? She has the nerve to accuse politicians for the being nasty without looking the mirror. And of course, it's only the government that is being disrespectful all the time, every time, and the Liberals are just doing their job. Hilarious. I guess Eddie Joyce, Dale Kirby and Andrew Parsons must be exemplary MHAs in the house for her. It's incredibly disappointing our only newspaper continues to only employ the likes of Frampton, Jones, and Wakeman with no other point of view other than the government hates people and never does anything correct. We desperately need additional columnists in our society for balance.

  • Don Jackman
    April 12, 2014 - 09:00

    Darin King has to be the biggest failure that we have ever seen in the Justice Department. His attitude does not change even now when the poles are showing the PC party is in poor shape. What disturbs me the most is that Tom Marshall is not admitting that King is failing us by keeping him in Justice. This is the system that keeps everything we know in balance and enforces what is right and now we see that under Darin King our Justice department is becoming a liability rather than an asset. Some of us remember a document that we signed back in 1982 called the constitution. This ensures our freedom of speech, the right to our day in court, freedom of religion etc; Darin King has worked against this constitution and have taken away these rights. He has no sense of fair play, negotiation, does not listen to or care about another person's opinion. When a Judge writes about the concerns of lacking services in the court system, King's biggest concern is to get his deputy to lay a complaint against the Judge and why? So that Darin King can enforce to the people of this province that his opinion is the only one that matters. I know all to well about King's tactics and unfairness can do to a person. We have had crown prosecutors quit, the sheriff's department is in a mess, we have loss our Family violence court, we have single women/mothers who lack the services of legal aid who need help with divorce, separation, and violence against women and the list goes on, and simply what is happening is that Darin King is taking away the balance that our Justice system is supposed to have to allow us what we deserve under the Constitution. For those of you out there who have never dealt with this present day Justice minister's office directly , I say to you "thank God" I have and there is nothing fair about what goes on behind the doors of the Justice Minister's office. Tom Marshall, who I have met several times professionally, in my opinion was one of the best Justice Ministers we had, and now it seems he is letting politics stand in the path of everything he stood for by leaving King in a position where he can do so much damage to so many people. Politics is an thankless job and it it mostly to do with just a few politicians. Most are great people.

  • DWB
    April 12, 2014 - 06:06

    Great article! Darin King should never have had a seat at the cabinet table to begin with, due to his hot headedness and apparent inability to think things through. Premier Marshall made a committment to the people of the province to listen closely to us, and to govern better. The problem he has now Is exactly the likes of Darin King and Joan Shea, who still defend their lies and tell us all straight to our faces that, the we don't understand them. They at least have that much correct. We don't. How can anyone understand that level of arrogance?

  • Morris
    April 12, 2014 - 05:51

    Excellent commentary! It's interesting that the Advisory Council on Status of Women are not the lead in advocating against these cuts while the ALL INCLUSIVE Nl Federation of Labour leader IS FRONT AND CENTER IN OPPOSITION and supporting the intervention court for family violence!