It’s getting a little too complicated now: CBC News has reported about incoming premier Frank Coleman personally benefiting from his former company being released from performance bonds by his soon-to-be-subordinate, Transportation and Works Minister Nick McGrath.
Coleman has called the CBC report “gross misrepresentation.”
McGrath has said he did what he had to do to get road work moving ahead as quickly as possible and, in the process, kind of obliquely protected his future boss’s former company from bankruptcy. Just normal business in the open and accountable province.
Except other road contractors have said the minister’s actions in this case were far from the norm.
And now, in the latest salvo, a group that represents bonding agencies has said McGrath doesn’t know his performance bond from a hole in the ground.
Surety Association Canada president Steven Ness said that McGrath’s explanations about the way he handled a controversial roadwork contract in Labrador don’t make any sense.
“The minister’s comments about the surety bond process were completely irresponsible and just plain wrong,” Ness said in the release.
In a Telegram interview, Ness went further: “It defies reason to suggest that you’re going to save money by not exercising (the bond,)” Ness said. “It’s like if your house burns down, you’re not going to claim your fire insurance?”
Surety Association Canada has no political irons in the fire here. In fact, if anything, McGrath’s actions meant members of the association wouldn’t have to have pay out money to complete work that Coleman’s Humber Valley Paving might have failed to get done.
And that makes the concerns all the more valuable to consider. As to the process taking additional time if McGrath had called in the Humber Valley Paving sureties?
“The surety bonds are likely to minimize those delays because these are guys who have access to a lot of contractors who can get it done as expeditiously as possible,” Ness says.
So, to recap: plenty of people saying plenty of things, with lots of conflicting comments stirring up the political silt.
The province’s auditor general is already peering into the murky morass, in one of those backhanded examinations that seem to be popular with politicians. Even though Premier Tom Marshall has every confidence that everything was done right, he’s asked the auditor to have a little look.
There are different ways to handle a review of something: it can focus on what the players are legally able to do, or it can be more global — and the review should go beyond what a minister legally can do, to what a representative of the people should do.
This silt has to be settled — the current murk benefits no one, except perhaps those who would prefer to keep the machinations of their business out of public sight.
And if you can’t stand being in public sight, maybe you shouldn’t stand for public office.