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BRIAN JONES: Weather got you drove? What about nepotism?

Premier Dwight Ball released a video statement Monday afternoon announcing his decision to leave politics. Ball said he’ll stay on as premier and head of the Liberal party until such time s the party chooses his successor. He's expected to speak to the media about his decision Tuesday morning. — Video screengrab
Premier Dwight Ball is leaving politics but will stay on as premier and head of the Liberal party until such time s the party chooses his successor. — Video screengrab - Contributed

With all the shovelling and more shovelling and extra shovelling that people have had to do since Christmas Day heralded a new era of blizzards, almost nobody has time to reflect on the rot that has set in after a mere 4½ years of Liberal rule.

Perhaps some people, with each shovelful of snow they throw off the driveway, ponder throwing out the Liberals, too.

More likely, most people have their minds on whether, or when, a plow will come by and block them in again with another four-foot ridge of hardened snow.

These are disgruntled times. So much so, it’s difficult to recall the last time Newfoundlanders were gruntled, i.e., “happy or satisfied,” as per the Cambridge English Dictionary. In fact, if you Google “gruntled Newfoundlanders,” the result is, “Do you mean ‘disgruntled Newfoundlanders’?”

Look up, and you see snow. Look out, and you see snowbanks pressing into your driveway. Look up at Confederation Hill, and you see rot, rot and more rot.

All the recent storms may have interfered with your focus. Premier Dwight Ball’s recent decision to un-premier himself may also have shifted your attention. But before the snow goes and before Ball goes, it would be good for Newfoundlanders to set their shovels and gullibility aside and remind themselves of the rot the Liberals have wrought.

Let’s review their rottenness, in no particular order of extremity of rot.

• An as-yet unidentified employee is turfed out at The Rooms so Carla Foote — a Liberal foot soldier and daughter of Judy Foote, longtime Liberal foot soldier and current lieutenant-governor — can have the job. With a raise. The blatant nepotism becomes a political football, so Ball kicks Foote back onto the government's payroll, with the explanation that she “deserves to have a job.”

• At Nalcor Energy, the province’s largest repository of rot, former deputy minister of natural resources Gordon McIntosh has a $336,000 contract through his company Aberdeen International Associates. Aberdeen is in Scotland. So is McIntosh — so the contract helpfully includes a $3,000-per-month housing stipend. Cabinet approved a conflict-of-interest waiver so McIntosh could have the contract without waiting a year. You don’t even need warm weather for the stench of cronyism to waft over St. John’s.

• At Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, vice-president of corporate services Dawn Dalley leaves, along with a $550,000 severance payment. She had worked at the utility since 2003. Bewildered Newfoundland peasants, accustomed to the general practice of departing employees receiving two weeks’ pay for every year of service, calculate that Dalley must have been pulling in $16,176 per week.

• Meanwhile, provincial auditor general Julia Mullaley reported in February that there was “possible nepotism” at the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. Mullaley reported that Steve Winter, when he was NLC CEO, purchased $4.5 million of Bordeaux wines from Dialog Wines — his son Greg Winter’s company. Steve Winter has denied any wrongdoing, and is suing the provincial government for wrongful dismissal.

It is unending, almost like N.L. Hydro’s requests for rate increases. Last November, some executive at Nalcor left with $900,000 in severance (see: Derrick Sturge). Some other Nalcor exec walked out with $550,000 in February 2019 (see: John MacIssac).

The Newfoundland aristocracy, while moaning about government deficits but pampering its own, is oblivious to the pain and turmoil roiling the commoners’ lives, and I’m not referring to sore backs and shoulders.

The accumulated worry about how to pay monthly power bills is bigger than any snowbank in St. John’s, amazingly.

The best the aristocracy has come up with is “rate mitigation” — an invention, a fantasy, a blizzard of bull---- whipped up by Unpremier Ball.

We will soon find out whether the Liberals, after Ball’s departure, will cling to the fiction that rates can be “mitigated,” i.e., monthly power bills be subsidized without either accompanying tax increases or cuts to public services.

If so, the rot continues. If not, they admit it was propaganda all along.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at [email protected]

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