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Pam Frampton: The ball’s in Ball’s court

Premier Dwight Ball takes questions from reporters outside the House of Assembly Tuesday afternoon.
Premier Dwight Ball takes questions from reporters outside the House of Assembly. — Telegram file photo

“If you live in the overlapping world of politics and media, as I am learning, anything less than full transparency can potentially do you in.” — Campbell Brown, American journalist

On this issue, Premier Dwight Ball is being — to quote “Star Trek’s” Spock — highly illogical.

Insisting he was not in a conflict of interest when his company, Jade Holdings, received a $400,000 forgivable loan for an affordable housing project in Deer Lake, Ball is willing to offer up only partial proof of that and expects it to satisfy us.

Pam Frampton
Pam Frampton

Ball says though Jade Holdings was in his control at the time, by the time the loan came through he was completely hands-off and the company had been put into a blind trust, because in the interim, he had become premier.

Now, I have no reason to believe Ball was in a conflict when Jade Holdings was given the money, so all he has to do for me to believe him is show me the proof.

After all, he sought an opinion on the matter from the province’s commissioner of legislative standards — twice.

But here’s where things become troublesome.

While the premier says he’d be willing to share the opinion of legislative commissioner and Liberal appointee Bruce Chaulk, which he obtained more recently, he will not divulge the earlier opinion of the former legislative commissioner and Progressive Conservative appointee Victor Powers.

Wait — the premier must have a logical reason for proffering one and refusing the other, right?

If he does, we haven’t heard it.

The way conflict of interest rules governing the legislature works is, if one MHA suspects another MHA is in a conflict of interest and makes a formal complaint, the results are made public. However, if an MHA asks for an opinion on his or her own situation regarding a possible conflict of interest, it’s up to him or her to share the information — or not.

Ball is in the “or not” camp when it comes to Powers’ opinion.

And that’s not good enough. Once again, “openness, transparency and accountability” is being treated more like a catchy campaign slogan and less like words for politicians to actually live by.

If Ball was found not to be in a conflict of interest in receiving a loan from a government entity, he should be shouting it from the rooftop of Confederation Building, not picking and choosing which opinion to make public.

If he was in a conflict of interest, then his company should not have received the loan and the money should be repaid and the premier publicly censored for acting outside the rules.

If it turns out the first, Tory-appointed commissioner’s ruling found him in a conflict, but the second, Liberal-appointed commissioner’s opinion was that he was not, then we have an even bigger problem.

We can’t just take you at your word, Mr. Ball. A politician’s word in this province is no longer enough. We want proof, thank you very much.

The only way to satisfy taxpayers of the province that his business dealings and his politics are completely exclusive of each other — or not — is to disclose both rulings and let us see for ourselves.

You’re either transparent or you’re not.

Simply patting us on our collective head and saying “trust me” doesn’t cut it anymore — or, at least it shouldn’t.

We’ve been burned too many times. If Muskrat Falls didn’t make us dislike being spoon-fed carefully crafted message-bites, nothing will.

We can’t just take you at your word, Mr. Ball. A politician’s word in this province is no longer enough. We want proof, thank you very much.

As for Tory Leader Paul Davis’s feeble attempts to make political hay out of a loan that was approved for Ball’s company during Davis’s own tenure as premier, well, spare us. If the loan was given improperly, then Davis would have his own explaining to do — and this from a politician whose administration refused to come clean with taxpayers about the ungodly state of the province’s finances just before the last election, because they knew it would sink them.

Remember how that worked out?

Perhaps the conflict of interest rules need to be changed to make every commissioner’s opinion public.

It’s our money. We have every right to know.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email pamela.frampton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton


 

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