Three men in a boat

Pam Frampton
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“In the morning you are all three speechless, owing to having caught severe colds in the night; you also feel very quarrelsome, and you swear at each other in hoarse whispers during the whole of breakfast time.”
— From “Three Men in a Boat” by Jerome K. Jerome, 1889

Three political allies will soon become political adversaries as they joust and jostle for the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservative party, a position that, as of just two weeks ago, no one else wanted.

John Ottenheimer, Paul Davis, Steve Kent — one former minister and two current ones from a regime that was once buoyant, riding high on a big blue wave, but which has since taken on serious water.

You could say the winner will be the one who bails the fastest, but given the sad saga of the previous candidates who bailed, well, that would be a cruel joke.

Three men in a boat, bobbing on the perilous sea of public opinion. Can they impress PC supporters enough to make them forget the spectacular failure that was the last leadership “contest”? Make them forget that none of them were willing to vie for the premiership then?

It’s depressing to think of the money about to be wasted if — given the spending limit of $350,000 per candidate — close to a million dollars could be spent to pick a fall-guy premier who will likely be ousted in the next election. Not my money, of course, but still it sounds like squander.

And forgive me for my lack of imagination, but nothing about these three candidates screams party renewal. It’s telling that no one on the outside wanted in.

And, if past performance is anything to go by, we shouldn’t expect anything other than the status quo.

All three were happy to be members of a government that likes to preach openness, transparency and accountability, but is piss-poor at practising it.

Lewisporte MHA Wade Verge, speaking Wednesday night in support of Davis, expressed precisely how this party still just doesn’t get it.

“I think what we need to do is a better job of selling what it is that we are doing,” he said.

No, Mr. Verge. Not selling — telling. You need to get better at telling us what it is you’re doing.

Ottenheimer showed his colours with his reluctance to go public during the breast cancer testing scandal.

Kent and Davis are both fond of commissioning consultants’ reports that they then refuse to divulge to the people who paid for them.

(And I ask for the umpteenth time: why do we constantly pay for outside consultants and ignore the in-house talent?)

The latest from Kent was his refusal to release a draft report on the highly controversial topic of — wait for it — compost.

Here’s a bit of double-speak from Kent in Ashley Fitzpatrick’s story in The Telegram July 3 after the newspaper asked to see the long overdue and over-budget document:

“We asked the consultant for clarification on a few details, and until we receive them, the report is still considered draft and we would prefer to release the report in its final form,” Kent stated, also noting “the finalization of these details, however, doesn’t invalidate the remaining primary content of the report.”

Translation: the information in the report is solid, but we don’t want to give it to you yet.

That’s what they call open and accountable?

And here’s Davis doing his best duck-and-weave in a Telegram story from March 27 by James McLeod. In this instance, children removed from their homes were the subject of a report — parts of which a judge agreed the CBC should have been privy to when it fought the government for access to the report in court.

Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons peppered Davis with direct questions in the House of Assembly, but Davis preferred obfuscation over giving direct answers:

“I ask the minister: why were you keeping this report so secret?” Parsons said during question period (March 26).

Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Paul Davis provided a response, but did not answer Parsons’ question.

“In 2008, there was a report that was sanctioned, invited, ordered and directed by the minister of Child, Youth and Family Services at the time to review a case file,” Davis said.

“We review case files on a regular basis. It is a really good way to learn how we have done casework in the past and how we should do it in the future. It helps us reflect on what we have done in the past and it helps us determine new ways to advance and improve the services we provide to children and families throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Translation: reports? Yes, I’ve heard of those. Reports are good.

So much for transparency.

But what can you expect from members of a government that kicked access to information back to the Dark Ages?

Granted, at least this time there is an actual contest, with more than one option to choose from.

Still, I can’t help but thinking of three men in a leaky boat, rowing in circles, spinning and spinning but never moving forward.

Pam Frampton is a columnist and

 The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email

Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: Youth and Family Services, CBC

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Sam
    July 08, 2014 - 16:48

    While some will differ on this, the role of the media is to report the facts and to challenge. The fact that all three of these individuals backed away from the leadership race just a short time ago, begs a comment. I enjoyed article and if others wish to put forward a different view on this topic based on some degree of fact, I would enjoy reading that as well.

  • keith kent
    July 07, 2014 - 18:08

    Ms. Frampton....Thanks for the clarification but I do understand the difference between Reporting and an Opinion Piece. It's just that when the Opinion Piece is consistently one-sided, I feel it's "fair comment" for interested parties to question the motives of the Columnist....I appreciate your response.

    • Pam Frampton
      July 08, 2014 - 09:20

      Mr. Kent, your comments are most welcome. But the governing party will always prompt more commentary since it controls the power, taxpayers' money and the flow of information (or lack thereof) to the public. Believe me, if this was a Liberal government or an NDP government, it would receive the same amount of scrutiny.

  • Keith Kent
    July 07, 2014 - 10:39

    When Wangersky and Jones take a breather from Conservative bashing, Ms. Frampton is there to take up the slack. First she complained that no one from Caucus had entered the Leadership race and now she complains there's no one from outside. It's probably time for these "objective columnists" to formally sign on with one of the Opposition parties and give up the charade of providing balanced comment.

    • Pam Frampton
      July 07, 2014 - 14:36

      Mr. Kent, reporters must be objective in their reporting. Columnists are expected to adopt a point of view. Those are two very different types of writing. My point of view in my column is my own — not The Telegram's. There's no conspiracy theory afoot here.

    • Three sandbagging PR Masters is the only conspiracy
      July 07, 2014 - 22:28

      Conspiracy? Another word the Yankee media likes to use with that word is libertarian. I believe the writer is paid to give this opinion and has delivered. It is not the same as an unsolicited opinion emitted in the kitchen or cabin as free speech nor is it a news report. It is crafted as, Keith Kent points out, to show how stupid the PCs are. How stupid our government is. Easiest gig in Newfie John's. "Has Pam Frampton ever written a positive article" Has anyone worth their salt written positively on politics in this proivince these past years? I do believe an opinion column is useless as fair balanced content - see Patrick Butler. I do believe people like Keith Kent try to bully a female where they would likely "like or lump" a male columnists work without grieving out loud for balance, objectivity and farity. Notice this man has no objective complain of his own and is just blubbering in Pam's ear. There there little guy...don't worry dude, Pam doesnt have the power to defeat the PCs with quotes and rubadub allegory. Does she? Biased writing is not a conspiracy theory but essential method for us to check a uncontrollably irresponsible government. If that is conspiracy - conspiracy to commit time and ink to exposing our terrible government's mistakes and sandbagging tactics - then just call Pam Frampton Mae Brussell!!

  • Corporate Psycho
    July 06, 2014 - 13:28

    Kent and Davis like to mislead. It's how they roll.

  • Dave Moore
    July 05, 2014 - 23:07

    Fair comments all. These 3 men are now given the chance to speak their minds. To distance themselves from past policies imposed upon them...BUT if they do, will they get the same sort of support that Bill Barry got? Will anybody believe them? I'll vote for any candidate with spine enough to give me the facts and apologize when the party forces bad decisions upon them. The question now for these 3 men, is : "Do I try to please the people or the party, because they do not seem to be on the same page?"

  • Debbie
    July 05, 2014 - 20:30

    Spot on!!

  • Ben
    July 05, 2014 - 10:58

    What district is Frampton running in for the Liberals?

  • Margaret
    July 05, 2014 - 10:57

    Has Pam Frampton ever written a positive article???

    • Anna
      July 06, 2014 - 14:15

      I read all of Ms. Frampton's articles and I find them positive and realistic. It is necessary that we have journalists such as Ms. Frampton to write about the political scene in NL as there are politicans who are hoping we will all forget the sins of the last eight years and consider this party as the right choice for the next four.

    • Margaret
      July 07, 2014 - 09:48

      @ Anna You find the above article positive? Please point me to one sentence in this article that is positive Anna.

  • Sam
    July 05, 2014 - 05:56

    Great article. Me thinks the sorry lot are all looking to see if they can't bump up their pension entitlement. The reasons given for not running before are nothing short of pathetic.