Thursday, November 16, 2006

End of an era - Sprung lands sold

On November 15 the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation closed tenders for the Sprung lands in Mt. Pearl. For those of you who are too young to remember this notorious era in NL history, I direct you over to Premier Peckford's pickle palace, a CBC retrospective on the subject.

This scandal lowered the curtain on 17 years of Progressive Conservative administrations, and particularly on the Peckford government. A wave of public revulsion on the issue elected the Liberal government of Premier Clyde Wells which had the unexpected effect of profoundly changing Canadian constitutional history when he rejected Meech Lake.

A total of about 800,000 cucumbers were produced with a cost to taxpayers per cucumber of $27.50, compared to 50 cents for cucumbers produced out of province and sold in Newfoundland grocery stores.

In 2001, Globe and Mail columnist Heather Mallick wrote: "As scams to rake in government money went, it was the most embarrassing in Canadian history."

In the end the Sprung Greenhouse project exposed the conduct of the last years of the PC/Peckford administration as capricious and casual in its decision-making process, sloppy and self-interested in it's use of public funds, high-handed and vicious towards critical media and unrepentant in the short-sighted and wasteful expediture of roughly $25m of taxpayer's money.

This history should be taught to every student in the NL school system as a valuable civics lesson never to be forgotten. If we don't remember history like this, we are well and truly doomed to repeat it.

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