It all turned out to be a tempest in a teapot. But one lingering question remains: what exactly did an official for Labrador Affairs Minister Nick McGrath say to the acting president of Labrador’s Combined Councils, Nath Moore?
Moore did not talk to the media directly, but he did express his concerns to NDP Leader Lorraine Michael.
On CBC’s Labrador Morning last week, Michael said McGrath’s office had called Moore and demanded Michael be removed from a roundtable discussion that takes place every year as part of the councils’ annual meeting. That panel took place Saturday.
Michael said she’s been invited to participate every year. On Friday, McGrath said that’s not entirely true. He said others are invited to address the Combined Councils, but that only Labrador MPs and MHAs actually participate on the panel.
“I don’t think that panel is the place for political debate,” McGrath told the CBC Friday.
Michael’s point, however, is that an organization of elected municipal leaders should not be ordered around by a government minister. It was their choice, and theirs alone, to invite Michael to participate.
In that, at least, she’s right.
McGrath admitted he gave the council a choice: it’s either him or Michael, but not both. That, at the very least, is a little immature — play by my rules or I’ll take my marbles and go home.
But the big question is not what McGrath said, but what his staff member told Moore.
Michael said Moore was very clear about that conversation. He said he was told if Michael was permitted to speak, the minister would “go to the premier.”
And that sounds like a not-so-veiled threat.
On Friday, McGrath didn’t really deny or confirm what was said. But he insisted there was no reason for the Combined Councils to be concerned about funding or anything else.
“Nath Moore has no reason to feel threatened by my officials or this government.”
There’s a lot of third party evidence here, but the issue should still raise alarm bells. Because this “fear factor” seems to arise a lot with this government, as it did under former premier Danny Williams.
Governments should not be able to bully citizens, private or elected, into accommodating its own political aims.
According to one source, Saturday’s panel was relatively uneventful. Michael did get to speak, offering a few innocuous words about her experiences in Labrador, and McGrath spent most of the evening promising to look into matters that came up.
In the end, you have to wonder what all the high-pressure tactics were about.