It probably wouldn’t have been so startling if the examples weren’t so close together. But you have to wonder about how willing the provincial government is to hear anything that conflicts with its own vision.
In the House of Assembly on Monday afternoon, Premier Kathy Dunderdale had this to say about a management expert’s criticism of her government’s appointment of inexperienced directors to the board of Nalcor: “Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the CBC and experts from Toronto, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are quite capable to determine who manages their affairs.”
The expert’s concern? That new board members with little experience in corporate governance and a sparse background in energy issues might be a bad choice for a company that’s in the throes of considering multi-billion-dollar energy sector investments.
Dunderdale had a similar answer to a question about the board appointments from Lorraine Michael.
“We have heard quite a few aspersions from her in the last 10 days or so about the character of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Mr. Speaker, and I, for one, do not like it very much. With all due respect to expertise outside of this province, we know what we are doing here. We got to where we are today by the knowledge, the support and the business experience of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, of the people who sat in this House and made decisions on behalf of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
On Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours later, Dunderdale was singing a different tune, explaining that, in an effort to convince oil executives that Hebron work should be done in this province, they’d hired an international consultant who supported the province’s position.
“We have gone beyond our own expertise in the Department of Natural Resources and hired a consultant, an international consultant, to come and look at that rationale and see if it’s being properly applied as far as infrastructure is concerned. … He’s out of the U.K., we’ll make sure that you have his résumé.”
Dunderdale had no qualms on Monday about dismissing the management expert’s résumé, any more than Justice Minister Felix Collins had no problem out-and-out disparaging and ignoring anyone with access to information expertise who questioned his new changes to provincial access law.
So, what can you take from it all?
Perhaps that qualifications matter if an expert supports the government, and expertise is dismissed as coming from uppity mainlanders if the expert doesn’t.
Apparently, there are government-approved experts and there are all those other experts who are unnecessary.
It’s easy to be confused: is there some sort of accreditation that experts are supposed to take to make them worthy of public attention, or is it truly a matter of whether their opinion happens to echo the provincial government’s own views that gives them particular credibility?
Expertise is a funny thing: it can help you make better decisions, but only if you’re willing to actually listen to it.