Thursday, August 10, 2006

"I will abide by Halley's decision. . . Eventually"

Kathy Dunderdale, spokesperson for Premier Williams in the Department of Natural Resources, was quoted in the CBC radio news this morning on the issue of Max Ruelokke and the ongoing controversy of the CNLPOB Chairmanship. She was directed to say that:

"We're not going to comment on the Max Ruelokke decision at this time . . .We have received the judgment, the Department of Justice is reviewing that for us and until that review is complete, I won't be making any comment."

For fans of judicial decisions, Judge Halley's stands apart in its decisiveness, clarity and straighforwardness; that will make the review fairly easy. No doubt the capable counsel at Justice will spend most of a cofeebreak coming to their conclusions.

Looking for a Hole

On July 12th, Premier Williams, in a scrum outside the House of Assembly on the topic of Justice Halley's remarks during closing arguments was also decisive, clear and straightforward: he would abide by the decision of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland.

So why the delay now?

If pressed, if one could get a government official to respond, I suspect that the answer provided would be all about government being prudent, doing drilldown, performing a due diligence piece and all the other buzzwords that get bandied about to provide cover for what is simply playing for time until government figures out which way to jump.

In other words, the Premier now regrets those hasty words in the scrum and is seeking a way out of his box. So what will he do now? This previous post covers some of the options available to him but which will he choose?

We can't be sure until that's announced but we can extrapolate what he should do based on his popular image and preferred self-descriptions: as the eminent lawyer, successful businessman and honourable politician.

As a lawyer he can read and interpret the decision and understand that Ruelloke is already the de facto chair. As an officer of the court, he is obliged to heed decisions of the court without undue or mischievous delay. If he plans to appeal, he should be announcing that without delay.

As a businessman he must be aware of the hazards of instability in the province's largest industry; the single biggest own-source of government revenue and the largest industrial component of the GDP. He understands that the longer this issue drags out, the more he shows the world that the regulatory regime of the province and economic policy of the province is based on personal capricious whim and not the rule of law.

As an honourable politician he is obligated to stand by his word and his word was that he would abide by the decision of the courts. At that point he placed no caveats, equivocations, conditions or exceptions to his declaration of intent to abide by whatever decision came out.

This is a watershed moment for this government and for the Premier in particular; unjustified delay under the camouflage of prudence damages credibility and calls into question any statement made in the future on any issue.

Get on with it.

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