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Make the wrong choice and get pilloried for it. Change your mind, try to correct things, and get pilloried all over again. It can’t be much fun to be the provincial government right now, especially if you’re the minister of justice.

On Thursday, Justice Minister Darin King announced a much-needed budgetary about-face: after meeting with justice officials and consulting with the premier, the department has rolled back a number of its budgetary cuts.

It is the right move; the problem with the cuts is that they wiped out many of the improvements in the justice system recommended by Antonio Lamer’s inquiry into a trio of wrongful convictions in the province. The cuts had real risks for the justice system: reducing the number of Crown attorneys and Legal Aid lawyers, cutting back support and record-keeping for the Crown, trimming the number of sheriff’s officers providing security to the courts — and the list goes on.

A significant number of those cuts are now being cancelled — that being said, even with the changes, the justice system will be “streamlined” to a point where there could easily still be major problems.

And while the changes were the right thing to do, you can’t fully congratulate the Dunderdale government here. Why? Because the cuts supposedly came after a full year of core mandate review — any changes should have been well chewed over, both in terms of immediate effect and long-term impact, long before the provincial budget came around.

If that full year’s work had been done properly and in detail, the government should have had a very good idea of the effect of justice cuts long before then — and it is clear they did not.

So it’s good news as far as it goes — it just may not go anywhere near far enough.

On another front, Kathy Dunderdale doesn’t get much love in this space in the paper; governments tend to get the most ink in editorials, and that ink is not often complimentary.

Likewise, Dunderdale has little love for Liberal Yvonne Jones, Peter Penashue’s main opponent in the federal byelection in Labrador. Jones and Dunderdale sparred often in the House of Assembly, and that sparring was often bitter and nasty.

Despite both those things, Dunderdale has to be congratulated for her position on Penashue’s claim that he held up a project in Newfoundland until he wrangled a commitment from the province to take part in $85 million in road work on the Trans-Labrador Highway.

Her position on those kinds of divide-and-conquer tactics? She told CBC’s David Cochrane that such a minister wouldn’t be welcome in her government.

“They wouldn’t be at the cabinet table. You cannot have that view and be at the cabinet table,” she said in an interview taped for tonight’s “On Point.”

“That responsibility is even greater in terms of a federal representative. … I wouldn’t bring a minister to the table if that was their perspective.”

She’s absolutely right: Penashue’s claim that he uses his position to extort extra benefits for his own district is clearly an ethical failing, like blaming all your election overspending problems on the closest fall guy. Oh, wait — Penashue did that, too.

Organizations: Trans-Labrador Highway.Her, CBC, On Point

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Maggy Carter
    April 15, 2013 - 09:51

    Thanks Jay. No, I am under no illusions regarding Ms. Jones. I was pointing to the irony of the prospect that, at some point, Dunderdale could be dealing with a federal minister with whom she has had a bitter relationship in the legislature. A further irony is that Jones is guilty of the same charge being levelled at Penashue - that he was willing to damage the interests of the province as a whole in order to get something for his own riding. Ms. Jones - people might remember - was violently opposed to Muskrat Falls until November last year when she offered to do a flip-flop in exchange for some benefits for her own constituency. Never mind that it could bankrupt the province as long as she got a few trinkets for her own. There are some exceptions, but politics at all levels in this province consists generally of a different drove of pigs taking turns at the trough.

  • crista
    April 14, 2013 - 10:00

    maggy, reading the article and your opinion and comment,reminds us!!!! of a title, ordinary WORK,extroaordinary GRACE????

  • Jay
    April 13, 2013 - 16:23

    She'll win, but Heaven forbid that we ever see Yvonne Jones as our Federal Minister. You must have been hiding under a huge rock if you haven't seen her for what she is.

  • Maggy Carter
    April 13, 2013 - 09:14

    Yes, but what I don't understand is Dunderdale's comment that she didn't know what funding Penashue was talking about. Surely it doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce what federal funding it was for an Island project that was only approved after the province agreed to more highway funding for Labrador. And surely federal officials, on Penashue's behalf, made it clear to their provincial counterparts why the funding was being held up - otherwise it defeats the purpose of holding the province to ransom in the first place (Ransom 101 - you have to send a ransom note). The reality is that it is not unusual for governments at either level to play funding hardball in order to get something they want for their own riding - or indeed a fellow cabinet minister's riding. The province has often gone along with things it didn't want, or at least not badly, to get something it did want. It's called negotiating. But of course no politician has ever been foolish enough or desperate enough - until now - to make such gamesmanship public. Penashue's plunge into divide-and-conquer tactics may win him a few votes but it is unlikely to alter the final outcome. It is very likely that in the very near future, Dunderdale will be back to dealing with Peter MacKay (a man whose antipathy toward Newfoundland is palpable) as Newfoundland's - and Labrador's - representative in the federal cabinet. But that might not last long. Within a couple of years, we will no doubt see Minister Yvonne Jones dealing with a new non-PC government in St. John's.