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EDITORIAL: Report washed clean

Liberal MHA Bernard Davis was one of the backbenchers pushing for a change to MHA pensions that will see drastically lower benefits for newly elected and future politicians.
Labour Minister Bernard Davis. — Telegram file photo

Here’s a snippet of an actual conversation from The Telegram newsroom early on Monday morning about a civil service posting for a job opening in St. John’s: “You interested?”

“Nah. Besides, they’ve already picked out the person they’re going to hire anyway.”

Maybe it’s defeatism. Maybe just dark humour at the expense of the provincial bureaucracy.

On the other hand, talk to people who’ve applied for positions in this province, and you hear a familiar refrain: it’s often not what you know, it’s who you know.

Where else did that come up later on Monday?

Why, the House of Assembly.

During question period, Progressive Conservative MHA Paul Dinn questioned Skills and Labour Minister Bernard Davis about a report done by consulting firm Goss Gilroy that asked people who had left the province why they’d gone, and what it would take to bring them back. The Tories got the $22,000 report through a request using the province’s access to information legislation.

... if you have world-class qualifications and can’t even score an interview, while the eventual winner of the competition has far less experience and all of the necessary family connections — well, chances are there’s something wrong with the system.

The answers? Shortages of jobs here, better quality of life in other provinces and countries, and better opportunities.

But part of the final report was different from draft versions, and Dinn asked whether it was proper “for government to purge complaints of nepotism, cronyism and political interference” from the document.

Among the complaints that vanished from the final version? “The old boys club is a problem. You either need a family member in politics or someone needs to rub elbows with someone in public service or someone on a board.”

Or this, which also apparently vanished: “If you don’t know them, you are persona non grata. We weren’t going to use politics or friends to get a job in Newfoundland. People should get hired on merit.”

As is often the case in the House of Assembly, Davis responded by not actually answering the question, and going off on a tangent.

But the issue is one that you hear all too often: the decision’s made before the job posting even goes up. You hear it about public sector jobs, about private sector jobs, and every now and then, the provincial government adds fuel to the fire by having a high-profile hiring without anything close to a competition.

Sure, no one owes anyone a job, you can be interviewed and a prospective employer might not think you’re the best fit. But if you have world-class qualifications and can’t even score an interview, while the eventual winner of the competition has far less experience and all of the necessary family connections — well, chances are there’s something wrong with the system.

Obviously, we’re a relatively small community with hometown biases and more people than jobs.

But if you have to launder a report so that people can’t even mention the problem, you don’t have much chance of fixing it.


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