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.