The Telegram’s Steve Bartlett reported this past weekend on a series of leaked electronic messages that proved Tory MHA Paul Lane and others were up to their necks in stacking online polls and co-ordinating calls to open-line shows.
As underhanded as that is — and conventional wisdom suggests it’s common practice — what’s more disturbing is the way Lane seemed willing to boldly deny charges and bend the truth, even in the face of such evidence.
It lends credence to the all-too-common belief that politicians, by nature, are devious and deceitful. And that’s just not healthy.
On Friday, more tomfoolery surfaced in the form of a government news release titled “Changes made to the provincial ferry service.”
This release falls into a well-known category: the Friday bombshell with the buried lead. The only saving grace was that it didn’t arrive at 4:45 in the afternoon, when newsrooms are winding down for the weekend.
As Telegram reporter Barb Sweet noted in her weekend report, the release talked about a number of changes in schedules and vessel assignments before getting to the big news.
In fact, it’s not until the sixth paragraph that the release mentions the fate of one of the province’s most famous floating disasters: the MV Nonia.
To whit: “The MV Nonia is currently in dry dock, and is not expected to return to service until January 2014.”
Now if, for some reason, you were just scanning this report, you’d be inclined to think the Nonia was still going to be part of the province’s fleet — at least by next winter. But the next sentence veers in the opposite direction: “Given this time frame and the estimated cost of $9 million to complete repairs, a decision was made to remove it from the provincial fleet, have it decommissioned and sold.”
The PC government has taken many hits over the years for throwing good money after bad. This Estonian vessel, which came with a Russian owner’s manual and a boatload of flaws, has drained far too many millions from the provincial treasury already. Its demise was long overdue.
Why, then, wouldn’t the government want to flout its decision to get rid of the thing? After all, it was Brian Tobin’s Liberal administration that purchased the rust bucket in the first place.
The answer is simple. Ducking hot topics is instinctual in government. Even though this could have been presented in a positive light, it was instead quietly tucked far down the page.
It’s the same attitude that got Eastern Health officials in hot water back in 2009, when a late Friday news release meandered on about insignificant matters before casually mentioning that more breast cancer patients had been identified as possible victims of faulty hormone tests.
“They should be shot over there,” then premier Danny Williams famously thundered, signalling that that sort of cynical spin was even below his standards.
Eastern Health has at least tried to change its tune since that time. Clearly it’s time for other government members and departments to straighten up and fly right with their messaging.