I haven't delved too much into Newfoundland politics recently, but this one has been festering for awhile and it's an old wound. So let's reopen it and have a bit of a rant, shall we...
So, we have a series of by-elections coming up, the first three taking place on Feb. 5, the other one taking place on Feb. 12 and presumably the one to replace Randy Collins will happen sometime in March or April. So, we have five by-elections all with about eight months or so until a general election. The average cost of a by-election is $75,000 to $100,000 each. Overall cost will be $375,000 to $500,000. Now, with the province's overall debt standing around $10 billion, I appreciate that's chump change. Still, you figure it might be an idea to try and pinch pennies, or hundreds of thousands of dollars, where you can.
I'm not saying there shouldn't be by-elections when an MHA relinquishes his or her seat. The people need to be represented in government. So clearly if there needs to be a by-election then one should be held. No matter that the general election is in October. If an MHA, God forbid, keels over and dies tomorrow, then obviously it's not fair to leave the people in his or hers riding until the next election.
My gripe is that each and every one of these by-election should never have taken place to begin with. Not one of them. The five people stepping down were more than capable of toughing it out until October. Or hell, if it was too onerous a burden to take all that money and constituency allowance, they could have stepped down in July. They would leave their constituency without representation for a couple of months, but at least they wouldn't be costing them tens of thousands of dollars needlessly on by-elections.
Let's look at those who are stepping down and causing these by-elections, shall we.
1. Ed Byrne. Yes, Ed has had a pretty rough last year or so. At one point he was probably favoured to succeed Danny Williams when he was finished being premier. Now, he's viewed as a crook. If he stepped down last summer when these accusations were first made against him, I could have almost understood and accepted it. "Obviously with this cloud hanging over me, it will be impossible for me to serve the people of my district, so until my name is cleared I'm stepping down as the MHA for Kilbride."
But he didn't. And once he decided to try and tough it out, then he owed it to people to stick around until the next election. If he decided to not run again, fine, no one would have blamed him. But this stepping down and forcing a by-election is foolishness. Suck it up and tough it out the last few months, for the love of God.
If the Auditor General is right, Byrne might have cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now we can apparently add another $75,000 of wastage to the bill.
2. Loyola Sullivan. Perhaps the worst of the bunch. He steps down in December and then lands a cushy, and of dubious use, federal government job a few weeks later. He's widely rumoured to have been at odds with the premier of financial matters.
Again, if Sullivan didn't want to be Finance Minister anymore and had had it up to here with Williams, I understand. But you do what Paul Shelley did. "I'm done. I'm not running again, so I'm going to resign as a Minister, and take my seat in the backbenches." If Sullivan had done that, I would understand. But instead, the man who was famous for histhrift is going to waste $75,000 on a by-election because he couldn't stomach being around the premier anymore.
By the way, to Byrne and Sullivan I add this – no one has been screwed more by Williams than Elizabeth Marshall, who is probably smarter than half the cabinet combined. And yet, there she sits in the backbenches, doing her job. You might learn a thing or two from her.
3. Jim Hodder. Is about the only one of the bunch I'm inclined to cut some slack. He's citing health reasons. And if they're true, then that's an acceptable reason to step down. Nobody expects you to die trying to do this job. From the way he phrased, however, it does sound like he could have held on until October. He stepped down now to take advantage of the Byrne/Sullivan resignations.
4. Kathy Goudie. I enjoyed how several months ago some people in the province, and Avril Baker jumps immediately to mind, saying Goudie was getting an unfair shake over the story on how she left the province to maintain her professional nursing standing. Men had done it for ages and no one said anything to them. It was a double standard. It was a clear sign of sexism.
Good God, no. It's a clear sign that Goudie is a horrifically bad politician. Look, when the reporter was hunting this story, all she had to say was this: "Yes, I did go outside the province and nurse for a couple of weeks. I'm required to do this in order to maintain my professional standing. I've spent a lot of years of my life as nurse, it means a lot to me and I might want to return to the profession at some point in my life. It's also worth noting that many other politicians, especially in the law field, do similar things to maintain their professional standing.
"I opted to go outside the province because I felt it would be a conflict of interest to have a sitting MHA also practice nursing in a hospital. I was offered a temporary position in the North, which I did for three weeks. This allowed me to keep my professional standing, and I am very happy to have had the opportunity to do this."
If there were questions regarding salary, just say that any salary as an MHA would be deferred during that time and that you used your vacation time to go be a nurse.
That's it. She says that and there is no fucking story. The reporter might have even spiked it. She made it so much worse with her response. And then to dig the grave even deeper there was the double billing incident, including submitting bills for things before she was ever elected.
I've heard rumours that Williams might have told her to go before she managed to accidentally burn down Confederation Building. Still, she was in the backbenches. Tough it out for the next few months and then opt to not run again rather than cause this useless by-election. And if Williams forced her out, well, he ought to know better.
5. Randy Collins. Yes, yes. His union won't give him anymore time off and he has to make a choice. And yes, he knows it sounds awfully convenient, but he doesn't care what you think. So away he goes. And you know what, I don't believe him. I think it's a lifeline thrown by his union. And he could have certainly toughed it out until October. But no, he's going to bail...sometime. Just add another $75,000 to the tab, will you? Thanks.
So there you go, out of the five of them, maybe one of them has a good excuse for leaving now. I desperately wish there was a rule in place to at least partially bill either the party or the candidate for the cost of a by-election when it's caused by a non-medical emergency.
And that's my rant.