Government’s unprecedented decision to cancel the Humber Valley Paving (HVP)
Contract and release two Bonds, worth a total of $19 million, has placed Frank
Coleman at the center of another political crisis.
crisis? Yes. The first was a not-so-secret uprising in the Tory Caucus over his
activist ‘pro-life’ stand and the revelation that his religious beliefs extend
to protesting current laws on the public streets of Corner Brook.
has dissipated somewhat, though it has caused some to wonder if Mr. Coleman’s
meeting with Tory MHA’s, on Wednesday, followed a summons from them.
Caucus, which includes all Members of Cabinet, are increasingly discouraged
that the Administration continues to be mired in crises. Scandal allegations expose
a House of Assembly in which Tory MHAs are drained of enthusiasm. Question Period has been all but hi-jacked by
the HVP issue. With Premier Marshall having skipped off, leaving Opposition questions
to a less than skilful Minister of Transportation and Works Minister, some Tory
Members wonder if a dysfunctional Government can ever find resurrection.
Coleman was sold to them as the guy capable of raising the Government out of a
political quagmire. Three years of attitude and ineptitude, under Kathy
Dunderdale, are now stretching into a fourth; this one worse and with unimaginable
thing for a new leader to display insensitivity on a polarizing issue like abortion but the possibility of
high level scandal in which the Cabinet is implicated, wittingly or otherwise,
must now cause them unparalleled grief.
Marshall used the Cabinet Shuffle last week to shore up the back bench by
awarding three Parliamentary Assistant positions and elevating one to the
Cabinet, it has all the makings of a Band-Aid.
wants to be associated with allegations of corruption; it is a stench that
follows politicians around long after they have left politics. Most of them are fundamentally honest and
hardworking; they have no wish to be associated with power brokers under
suspicion of having subverted the public interest for their friends.
the Tory Caucus knows that public servants, in the Minister’s Department, are
troubled by the HVP deal. Professional
public servants are deeply upset that the Government’s interference in the HVP affair
has destroyed the practice and the perception of equal treatment of all Tenders.
his meeting with the Tory Caucus, Telegram Reporter James McLeod tweeted
Coleman’s comment that he had no problem with the Auditor General (A-G)
investigating the file. Minister McGrath
echoed the same sentiment to Debbie on CBC’s Here and Now.
sentiment, however, is not the same as actually calling for an investigation; that
Debbie did not directly ask the Minister for one is irritating. But, then, Frank Coleman could have baldly
stated “I want an investigation”. The Minister, with the Premier’s approval, would
wonder the Caucus is in deep despair. Nick
McGrath has had to forgo the argument originally advanced that the $19 million
of Bonds were handed back, pro bono, due to forest fires in late June,
2013. He has admitted that HVP had already
been given a one-year Contract extension on July 11, 2013 in consequence of those fires.
Opposition has not yet asked if the Department forgave HVP the penalties, referred to as “Liquidated Damages” (which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars), to
cover the Government’s out-of-pocket costs due to that extension.
have Frank Coleman who says he knows nothing about anything after he sold his
shares in HVP. Yet, he disputes the
Minister’s own words that he negotiated the Contract/Bond release with Coleman’s
were not inconsistency enough, you have the Minister stating that he received a
legal opinion on the affair but there is no paper trail on the $19 million
likely one or two Cabinet Ministers who know a legitimate legal opinion is
provided in writing; one that is verbal amounts to a conversation. Some of
those Ministers might wish Nick McGrath was still plying his trade as a rodent
catcher instead of playing nuisance himself.
issue demands a host of answers, I find two matters particularly critical right
relates to whether Frank Coleman, his family and associates benefited from the
Minister’s release of Bonds worth $19 million.
know if the assets of the man who is the incoming Premier helped secure those
Bonds at the time the Minister released them.
Opposition needs to ask: who was liable if the Bonds had been called?
to enquire: did the Minister say to his incoming boss: no you don’t have to put
your hand in your pocket for $19 million?
to know if that is why Frank Coleman opined to reporters, “…the Department acted
is the matter that his son, Gene, and other family members are (or were) owners
and/or Directors of the Company. Is it
not a fiction to suggest there was no personal benefit?
Minister did state he did not want to bankrupt HVP; the implication is
that the Government should take the hit for the cost overruns HVP was either
unwilling or unable to incur. Shouldn’t we know everyone who benefited from
the Government’s largesse?
issue relates to Frank Coleman, not as businessman but as incoming Premier.
take the Tory Caucus out of their deep sense of despair and show the leadership
demanded of high office shouldn’t he move quickly to bring an end to
the current acrimonious outpouring of anger and mistrust?
needs to say to the Premier is this: ‘there shall be no questions of scandal
hanging over my head…there will not be as much as a hint of wrongdoing that I,
or my family, have benefited from high level political favors. I will not accept the Office of Premier
unless I have been cleared accordingly’.
is not saying anything of the sort. He
is telling the media any suggestion of conflict is “heinous”. He is being either foolish or naïve. The Caucus knows it. They wear it on their
too late to attempt survival but one should never underestimate politicians’
survival instincts. Those more alert had
better think fast. The Caucus has often
been a catalyst for change when leaders lack the talent or are distracted.
Members know what they must do.
famous invocation may give them something to think about:
this is not the end.
not even the beginning of the end.
is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
is, neither Dunderdale, Marshall nor Coleman have demonstrated as much
political skill as might have been contained in one of Sir Winston’s hang nails.
Caucus cannot figure out that what is at issue is not mere patronage but corruption
on a grand scale, then, I suggest a serious modification to Sir Winston’s
the end of the beginning….but the beginning of the end.