Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Government and Ruelokke: Time is ticking

As Ed has mentioned, it's been 48 hours and still no response from government on the Ruelokke v. Government of Newfoundland and Labrador decision.

Maybe government thinks it can take its time in thoroughly reviewing the matter at its leisure. If so then government would be wrong. Time is ticking and other forces are moving forward.

In the judgment of Justice Halley, paragraph 59 says:

"It is now time for the Respondent to accept the Panel'’s decision and permit the Applicant to get on with the job of running the Offshore Petroleum Board."
So what choices are open to government? I think they are pretty clear. Government can:

1) Immediately heed the judgment and let Mr. Ruelokke take the job he has already held de facto since December 5, 2005. This would put the matter to bed, government can redeem itself and could move forward with it's agenda.

File an appeal. This is most likely a fruitless exercise and just delays the inevitable. It also has the side-effect of making the government and the Premier look more spiteful and obstinate than they look already.

3) Buy off Ruelokke. To the government an attractive possiblilty except that he has thus shown absolutely no interest in stepping aside in any way shape or form. Thanks to the clarity of the Halley judgment, I can only imagine he'd be less inclined now.

4) Refuse to heed the decision. This puts government in the position of refusing to comply with both the federal and provincial legislation - the Atlantic Accord enabling acts - that outlines the division of powers and responsibilities in the management of this resource. This option has the side bonus of provoking an unprecendented fundamental constitutional crisis on the issue of government versus the powers of the judiciary and, as an officer of the court, puts the Premier in a personal conflict.

5) Try to bring the federal government onside and sidestep this entire mess somehow. Unfortunately, the federal government has hitherto shown no enthusiasm for the provincial position and, by contrast has been very supportive of the process generally and the candidacy of Max Ruelokke in particular. Even if the feds were inclined to agree with the province, it's a process that could take months or years, cost the feds much credibilityy in the industry and the larger business commmunity with no advantage to itself. And there would still be the issue of compensating Mr. Ruelokke.

6) Just delay delay delay as if the province had all the time in the world and hope it will all go away.

While government is dithering, Mr. Ruelokke has shown every disinclination to stand by and leave his fate in the hands of others. He is quoted as saying that he hopes to be on the job by Labour day. I have no doubt that he will take further action then if the government continues to do nothing.

That leaves Premier Williams just 3 weeks to make the next move.

In the meantime, the federal government will likely publish their own Order in Council confirming Mr. Ruelokke in the job.

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