In his nature

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Most observers agree that Wednesday’s cabinet switcheroo was in part a prelude to tightened purse strings and tough talks with public-sector unions.

Jerome Kennedy is back as finance minister, exchanging his Natural Resources portfolio with Tom Marshall. Marshall will now play closing pitcher on the Muskrat Falls project, while Kennedy takes on a ballooning deficit in the midst of labour negotiations.

Kennedy is not afraid to do battle. And Premier Kathy Dunderdale has been setting the table with constant talk of austerity and belt-tightening. So far, the unions have offered few hints of their strategy.

If past experience is anything to go by, we can expect some nasty fireworks over the coming months. Here’s why.

In the spring of 2010, Danny Williams’ government was entangled in an acrimonious battle with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA). As health minister, Kennedy was front and centre in that dispute, and he was not one to mince words.

In early May of that year, he came out swinging against NLMA executive director Rob Ritter.

“This is the individual who has publicly said he’s going to show Danny Williams who’s boss,” he told reporters. “This is the individual who has shown and demonstrated an inability to reach a deal, and that’s really unfortunate to all those doctors out there who want a deal. But you know something? It’s even more unfortunate to the people of this province.”

Meanwhile, in the House of Assembly, Kennedy called then Liberal leader Yvonne Jones a “fool” for questioning the direction of negotiations.

It was a fractious year, yet it ended with a total reversal in attitude. Williams stepped down as premier in November, and within days, Kennedy was all smiles, inviting doctors back to the table to work something out.

He also announced he was interested in replacing his former boss, an interest that soon evaporated as party forces quashed any internal competition for interim premier Kathy Dunderdale.

Kennedy resumed his confrontational ways until last fall, just before the House was to reopen for a debate on Muskrat Falls. Now in charge of Natural Resources, Kennedy sheepishly told the media that he and other government members may have been too chippy and reactive in dealing with concerns about the project.

That was going to change, he said.

Then, in the fog of the December filibuster, he called Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce a “fool.” Only on the third try did the Speaker manage to extract an unqualified retraction from him.

It all brings to mind the fable of the frog carrying the scorpion across a river. Despite his assurances to the contrary, the scorpion stings the frog halfway across, and they both drown. He couldn’t help it. It’s in his nature.

Kennedy may be the right person to get the job done when the going gets tough. But here’s another little nature-based saying: you get more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Voters, too.

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association

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  • crista
    January 18, 2013 - 12:41

    reading this article and looking at the activities going on in the article by the elected you can certainly see something under mindedly going on in the interviews left for the voters to read very interesting to hear these comments as such that were being allegations toward some one and never clearly proven and promises that were not clearly kept it would get one to think more about bill-29 and the reasons it was put there and the interest of public interest in the society that is being governed in the assembly of the house and the interest of the public with a 3 party government it would leave one thinking about???? and how it operates in society that involves taxpaying dollars and services it do not say much for our media and the services it enables to provide for one that is interested of the every day problems that go on and the amount of tax dollars and revenue and budgets that are promised to be distributed out rightfully it certainly tells one what has gone on and what is going on and the rights of peoples and their rights and services are being violated with their personalities they provide to the interest of the public and the complaints provided by the fixed income peoples and they call it his nature???? what about the peoples that have concerns that can not get them dealt with what nature do they call that???? who are they trying to deceive and why, do they not get paid for who they are when elected and appointed????

  • Herb Morrison
    January 18, 2013 - 12:25

    In the early days of the Williams' Administration, during an ongiong strike, the talk was of cows. Mr. Rogers compares the appointment of Minister Kennedy to the Finance portfolio to putting a fox in a hen house. As long as we are in a decidedly agrarian mood, lets not forget to give at least an honourable mention to the sometimes seemingly endless supply of bull which occasionally eminates from the lips of M.H.A.'s of any given political stripe, at any given time, in our House of Assembly.

  • Cyril Rogers
    January 18, 2013 - 10:35

    Minister Kennedy's appointment as Finance Minister will only serve to put the fox in the hen house. As the lead minister on the Muskrat Falls project, he led us on a circuitous merry-go-round as to the rationale for that deeply-flawed project and now he will lead the Finance Department which is going to have to come up with additional billions of dollars to support Danny's legacy. The more cost over runs emerge, the more combative will he become in ensuring this fiasco continues. The truth will become evident as time goes on but it will not save us from the folly of this arrogant administration.