Blunderbuss and bafflegab

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Soon-to-be-premier Frank Coleman says there’s nothing untoward about a deal that saw his former company given different treatment by his soon-to-be caucus mates. And maybe it looks that way from his side of the fence.

But after listening to Monday’s House of Assembly performance by Transportation Minister Nick McGrath, there sure is a lot that has to be explained.

Take this curious statement from McGrath: “I will say unequivocally that at no time have I ever had a conversation, as the minister of Transportation and Works, at no time have I ever had a conversation with Frank Coleman concerning Happy Valley-Goose Bay.”

With all due respect, that sounds like it was written for McGrath by a lawyer — especially because, later in question period, he used the same peculiarly constructed sentence again: “Again, Mr. Speaker, as I said unequivocally, never — never — have I had, as the minister of Transportation and Works, a conversation with Mr. Frank Coleman concerning this issue.”

Later, McGrath clarified the muddle, saying he didn’t ever talk to Coleman about the issue.

But even those strange and unequivocal constructions were better than a later comment, that reads like it was constructed deliberately to confuse: “(It) was on March 13 that the company had first approached government to enter into a verbal conversation to move forward to make a decision whether or not there could be a mutual agreement that termination of the contract would be in the best interest of the government, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the contractor in question here now.”

Asked about whether he had talked to Premier Tom Marshall about the issue, Minister McGrath continued to provide bafflingly structured explanations: “Mr. Speaker, I have many conversations with the premier as well as the cabinet and caucus, and verbal conversations. I will not say that I did not have a conversation with the premier concerning this because, as I said, I have conversations almost on a daily basis, especially with cabinet. There is no written documentation as there was not with Humber Valley Paving. On March 13 they approached us to see if we could have a discussion, whether or not it was possible to move into negotiations to terminate this contract.”

So did he talk to the premier or not? He “will not say that I did not.”

Does that mean he did? McGrath has “many conversations … and verbal conversations.” Does this mean he also has non-verbal conversations? They can’t be by email — “there is no written documentation.”

All in all, it sound like a minister well in over his head in a case that grows more curious every day.

What’s missing in all this is clarity.

This requires a good deal more review, and review that’s done by someone independent of the political process, like the province’s auditor general.

Geographic location: Happy Valley, Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Uncle Dolf
    May 10, 2014 - 14:46

    Yankee satirist Mort Sahl's said 'Liberals feel unworthy of their possessions, Conservatives think they deserve everything they've stolen'. It fits the bill here, perfectly!

  • Auditor General please do us a favor please audit this messy affair.
    May 07, 2014 - 18:16

    The Auditor General should exercise his right to audit this deal immediately. Can't anyone see in authority that the majority of the electorate are against what happened to the Happy Valley-Goose Bay contract debacle and as a result they are against having Mr. Coleman crowned as Premier of the province by an ex-Premier. All around this is a tangled messy affair. We are going to be he laughing stock of the Western World, if we already aren't!

  • david
    May 07, 2014 - 18:11

    I just watched Mr. Coleman's brief interview in the foyer of Confederation Building with a couple of reporters. It's plain to me that (in any other credible jurisdiction at least) he would not get to actually survive this to ever sit in the chair of the premier's office.....he is simply completely unprepared for his own show in prime time, clearly not competent enough to start out in the highest office in the land, and ethically unfit for public service....he is oblivious. If you didn't laugh, you'd cry.

  • Corporate Psycho
    May 07, 2014 - 17:34

    McGrath's answers in the HOA were pathetic at best. So much for dignity.

  • Why would somebody want the job given the wrath of the electorate at this time.
    May 07, 2014 - 16:08

    Any other person having to deal with this strange situation, that would put them in such a bad light with the electorate, would have said 'I do not want this job" but to the contrary this man is stronger in his resolve than ever that he wants to ascend the throne of Newfoundland and Labrador come hell or high water. I wonder what is expected of him to be carried out in the premiership job that would entice him to do so given the wrath of the electorate against him at this present time? It appears to me that something has to be completed in order for something else to fall in place for those who preceded him? I can only guess what it might be.

  • Buster Garvick
    May 07, 2014 - 10:58

    What a farce.

  • Tony Rockel
    May 07, 2014 - 10:53

    Members of this puppet government and its behind-the-scene manipulators have absolutely NO SHAME. They would appoint Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, or the Whore of Babylon to the position of premier if it met their nefarious needs. They are even worse than the Tobin government if that's possible.

    • I am sickened by what is allowed in this government.
      May 07, 2014 - 17:59

      @ Tony Rockel So true, but I don't understand how it is acceptable to the Opposition. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is supposed to be a Democratic Government where politicians are elected by the people, so where is the democracy in having an ex-premier call the shots of who will run the government. And it doesn't matter what kind of shenanigans he or she is involved in. There is something terribly wrong with this picture.

  • Cyril Rogers
    May 07, 2014 - 10:16

    This sorry episode is but one more example of a government that will obfuscate, deny, and try to squirm its way out of an untenable position….a position caused by its own arrogance and stupidity. It is a governing party that serves only one master….the political insiders of the PC Party….and nothing else matters. They look after their own, and if that means depriving the rest of the populace of resources and tax dollars that belong to all, seem unable to understand why that should be a concern. They are the epitome of arrogance, greed, stupidity, and lack of scruples….yet feel like the victim in this whole deal. It is the kind of approach to governance that led to them sanctioning a clearly unworkable deal on Muskrat Falls….. and that will yet make this tidy little scandal look like a tempest in a teapot.

  • david
    May 07, 2014 - 09:56

    We are all fools, as evidenced both by the way our politicians treat us and the way in which we do absolutely nothing about it. "Newfoundland. A Special Place. For 'Special' People!"

  • Tony Rockel
    May 07, 2014 - 08:31

    "It depends on what the meaning of the words 'is' is." –Bill Clinton, during his 1998 grand jury testimony on the Monica Lewinsky ... Does the above display of verbal gymnastics remind anyone of what's going on in the House these days (minus the sex, of course)?

  • Maurice E. Adams
    May 07, 2014 - 06:55

    While government/Nalcor is busy spending billions of dollars of the peoples' money on a needless Muskrat Falls dam, the opposition says not a word about it, and elevates their biggest supporter of this financial yoke (Cathy Bennett) to the position of opposition finance critic.

    • Hijacking
      May 07, 2014 - 07:37

      Yeah, we get it Maurice, you're against MF. But there's no need to try and hijack unrelated editorials.

    • Maurice E. Adams
      May 07, 2014 - 09:35

      I am also against an opposition that for their own political purposes gets sidetracked with chasing rabbits when they should be (on behalf of the people) hunting moose.

    • OCD
      May 07, 2014 - 12:15

      The dude is so obsessed with Muskrat that I doubt he even reads the stories.

    • Tony Rockel
      May 07, 2014 - 13:03

      Anyone with an IQ just above that of a turnip SHOULD be obsessed with Muskrat Falls. You'll wake up when you see your hydro bills in a year or so (unless you're in the same financial league as Danny, or maybe you ARE Danny).

    • Dwight G.
      May 07, 2014 - 13:51

      Look, it's Tony the good Liberal. Fortunately Tony's IQ is so high that he doesn't need to resort to insults. Maurice, what's that saying you have about attacking the messenger? Beware Tony holds the record for most posts to story. Going for 7 today, Tony?

    • Zinger
      May 07, 2014 - 14:01

      Perhaps Maurice mistakenly placed the comment under this story but sinking to insults is normal for Tony the Turnip.

    • Tony Rockel
      May 07, 2014 - 14:52

      Dwight and Zinger don't have the guts to use their real names , but they're obviously a pair of Tory hacks who think they can insult me by calling me a Liberal. Why don't you go back to serving coffee to your masters?

    • Dwight G.
      May 07, 2014 - 18:02

      That's it Tony. Show everyone your infantile tantrums. Three more posts for the record Tony. Go for it. Lets hear it for the Liberal hack. Tony, Tony, Tony - if that is your real name.

    • Tony Rockel
      May 08, 2014 - 04:44

      Gee, Dwight, (or is it John Smith?) you need a course in remedial reading. Are you being paid overtime for this, or is the privilege of carrying Danny's golf balls enough reward for you? Either way, the the effort must be quite challenging for you, with your sweaty little fingers hovering over the keyboard while your beady little eyes search for the next letter. Bless your pointy little head. Do please keep it up, it just shows us all the calibre of the people working for the Regressive Preservatives.

    • Dwight G.
      May 08, 2014 - 18:02

      4am?? You stayed up all night waiting on me. I don't know if I should be flattered or creeped out. But now I feel sorry for you. Here I am having fun yanking your chain, getting you going. And there you are, with nothing better to do but spend all day and night trolling the internet. How sad.

  • dave sharpe
    May 07, 2014 - 05:05

    There would seem to be enough crap here to bury two Nick McGrath's and two Frank Colemen's. Don't let up in the legislature, continue to bury them. McGrath sounds like a complete fool trying to answer these questions.