In another world, the provincial government would have said things a lot more simply. They would have said that there was a vacancy on the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, and they had a good idea of someone they thought could do the job.
They would have said, “We know Elizabeth Matthews pretty well, we’ve worked with her for years, she’s out of a job and this is something she could probably handle.”
They would have gone ahead and made the appointment, made their arguments for making her vice-chair of the board with a salary that a vast number of experienced Newfoundlanders and Labradorians could only dream of ever making, listened to the inevitable outcry, and then maybe they would have listened to the public outcry, said, “Wow! Maybe we should have seen that coming,” and backed down diplomatically.
They might have said they’d changed their mind, or maybe they might even have taken the high road and said, “We realize how unseemly it is to have made a pick who also happened to be one of the home team, someone who has done pretty darned well by being on the right political side of the tracks for all these years.”
Instead, the Tory government waited for Matthews to resign, and then started up with some absolutely unbelievable tripe, complaining about the opposition parties “politicizing the process.”
In other words, their claim was that the provincial government had picked the right person for the board until the entire process was skewed by hateful Liberals, who were so busy making political points that the province wound up losing a capable and thoughtful appointee.
Blah, blah, blah baloney.
Grits do it, Tories do it …
Meanwhile, the Liberals — who not all that long ago spent years cramming provincial agencies, boards and commissions with just about anyone who could claim one single drop of Liberal blood — predictably cried foul, saying, in essence, “You political scum, you’re just rewarding your own while robbing the province.”
This, from a party that just spent several years rewarding their own, while robbing the province — a concept they had not one iota of a problem with, as long as they were the ones handing out the goodies to their friends and supporters, and even to themselves.
A letter-writer to this paper put it well earlier this week, when they pointed out that not one single Liberal had a word to say when both former Liberal premier Beaton Tulk and former Liberal cabinet minister Jim Walsh were appointed to federal boards that not only pay jammy salaries, but that are also charged with aspects of transportation safety that are critical for people who use planes, trains or ships in this country.
The devil you know may be better than the devil you don’t, but the fact is that you’d be a lot better off hiring the devil that actually knows what the heck they’re talking about, rather than someone whose credentials included “already eligible for an indexed pension at taxpayers’ expense.”
Those who support patronage will come up with all kinds of lines — like the idea that you have to keep people interested in the political process by making opportunities for them to “give back” (while at the same time being paid more handsomely for their hours than anyone in a normal job makes).
Or that some candidate or other “shouldn’t be ruled out just because they happen to be a supporter of the party in power.”
Of course they shouldn’t — but at the same time, their political stripe should not be the first and only line on their résumé.
Here’s something to know, you political folks. You’re all pissing in the well. And that doesn’t make the water palatable for anyone.
Every single time we go through this charade — whether it’s self-serving legal work, untendered consulting contracts, patronage jobs or even Queen’s Counsel announcements — another member of the general public takes a good, long hard look at the whole process and says, “They’re all thieves.”
Not “the Liberals are thieves,” or “the Tories are thieves,” but “They’re all thieves.”
We’re not actually idiots out here in the rest of the world. And it’s time for a better way; time for people to get jobs because of what they know, not who they know.
In another world, the water would be so bad that no one would willingly drink it anymore.
Laughs are on you
To the politicians: you might think this is all a game, the sort of one-upmanship that sounds sweet when you’re pitching it back and forth in the House of Assembly club.
News flash: you sound like a bunch of self-serving tools.
And when you come out on the air or in the newspaper with a bunch of hollow and expected platitudes, we all roll our eyes.
Congratulations: you’re making a joke.
You just don’t seem to realize that you are making jokes out of yourselves.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s editorial page editor. He can be reached
by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.