Tuesday, January 10, 2012

PERHAPS THE PREMIER HAD A POINT


A few weeks ago, I wrote a post that questioned the wisdom of Premier Dunderdale commenting on the impact that bloggers and critics have on her.  I wondered why she wanted to discuss that issue, when there is so much else going on. 

The following week, former Premier Danny William’s admitted that persistent personal criticism from some sectors played a role in his decision to step down. I had written a few posts while he was Premier wondering why someone with his wealth would sacrifice so much and still put up with so many personal attacks. Lets face it, Williams passed on a lucrative decade of business opportunities to donate his time and talent to lead the province. That did not mean he should have been given a pass on criticism,  but unlike career politicians, the personal stuff must have hurt.

I believe in the right to question and criticize, but  I think you would be lying if you said criticism did not bother you. Constructive criticism can be hard enough to endure, but daily bombardments, questioning your ethics, intelligence and commitment has go to get right under your skin. 

Admitting that it does bother you shows that you are human. You have to have a pretty thick skin to go into politics. The further you advance the more personal the jabs. 

I have  friend. He is a senior public relations person with a very public organization in the province. Over the last couple of years I have heard his name used in vain on talk shows and in numerous letters to the editor. This guy is a career public servant, doing his job. Yet, commentators feel is is okay to challenge his professionalism, his skill set and his agenda in public forums. Often he has had to explain to his kids why people are talking about him in the media.

Over the weekend, a couple of well known NL Bloggers posted comments that left a bad taste in my mouth. I know that is quite a statement, but, you know, you gotta wonder about people's agendas are.

The first one was a comparison of  former Natural Resources Minister Shawn Skinner to Nintendo's loveable character Mario. Skinner was defeated in the recent election, he no longer holds a political office but he is still open to foolishness from local bloggers. 

The other was on Sue’s Blog, where paranoia, and conspiracy theories are incubated. 
What bothered me in this connect the dots post was dragging a highly respected and professional retired public servant into a silly  conspiracy theory that has prevailed since Danny Williams traveled to Stephenville in the late 1990's to pay his respects to Brian Tobin, when the former premier's father passed away. 

The theme was a significant issue in some camps during the Liberal Leadership race of 2000-01, and carries on to this day.  Even last night, I found myself in a serious discussion that turned into a debate with a former Liberal MHA, and a couple of former senior liberal party members. They believe that the convention was rigged, Dean Macdonald's decision to resign as Chair of the board, rather than support the Grime's Churchill Deal, and even Craig Westcott's appointment as PR director was part of the "conspiracy theory" to keep the liberals divided and weak.


I think the conspiracy stuff articulated by some is pure fantasy. It is right up there with Frank Magazine and Mad Magazine. What bothers me is when the theorists start dragging the reputations of non-elected, retired, respected officials through the mud.  Danny Williams, Brian Tobin and Dean MacDonald like the spotlight. They are more than able  to defend themselves.

The latest chapter of fiction espoused by the conspiracy buff includes a chap by the name of Gary Norris. I doubt a heck of a lot of people outside of provincial government circles and marathon running know the name.

Norris spend decades in the provincial civil service. He retired two years ago, On December 03, 2010. Following his retirement, Mr. Norris accepted the prestigious position of Fellow of the James G. Channing Chair in Public Administration at Memorial University. At the time of his resignation he was Clerk of the Executive Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, the province's most senior non-elected official.


Mr. Norris was one of the hardest working, straightest, most honest and non-partisan officials that you could ever hope to work with.  The man reeks integrity. He served the province well. He served a number of premiers of different political stripes because he was honest, straightforward and competent.  People like Gary rise above the partisan games and offer a continuity in government that allows for a professional civil service.

A few months ago, Mr. Norris accepted, what I expect, was his first job in the private sector, VP Government Relations with Alderon Resources. The company was very fortunate to land someone with Norris's experience and knowledge. 

The spin placed on him taking this position in the recent blog post makes me a little angry. This man has a right to work, to sell his skills, but is it fair or ethical for a blogger to cast a dispersion on his 30 year career with the province? I would argue no.


This episode made me take stock and reconsider the Premier's comments about the types of criticisms she endures and the agendas of those publishing them.   It is one thing to beat up on public officials. That appears to be fair game, but  questioning the integrity of former senior public servants to help expand a conspiracy yarn is very disturbing.

5 comments:

Brad Cabana said...

Just a note on the premier has a point - in her year ender she singled out bloggers, she referred to them and on-line critics as the peanut gallery, and in the next breath essentially linked her need for security. I think Ms Dunderdale was way out of line. There may also be some bloggers that get out of line. The people you refer to are lawyers or quite capable of getting one on short notice. If they believe they have been libeled then there is a remedy for that.To say that Dunderdale had a point be in one breath crying because she was called names, and then to proceed to call names herself is stretching the point.

Peter L. Whittle said...

brad

I still stand by my comments that criticism of public/elected officials and policy is a natural freedom of expression in a democratic society.

Any attempt to intimidate or shut down legitimate voices needs to be met head on. Elected officials need to have thick skins.

You are right on the libel piece, not sure any occurred, just think dragging non-elected officials into a conspiracy theory is bothersome for me.

Hence, the premier may have had a point about the motivations and impact that such comments have on people.

I still think the House of Assembly should have opened in the fall and take offense to the Premier suggestion that those who disagree with her are being partisan when in fact the government is partisan in many of its activities.

Wm. Murphy said...

Its hard to know where to start when commenting on Ed and Sue...full of shit comes to mind but I will leave that up to others to decide.


I invite people to play the game with Sue and post a comment that agrees with her paranoia and conspiracy theories ...and then post a contrary comment and see which gets posted on her comments section. The game is quite amusing and worthy of the crap she writes about. Unless you are gushing admirers of all things "chicken little" or lunatics like Phil Earle, then you will be out of luck in being able to join in on the delusion and paranoia discussion.

and then we have the expert Ed who knows all. Too bad really, because the 25% of what he writes is good stuff. It is his seething hatred and arrogant rants that makes the other 75% laughable.
I am not sure whether his jabs at Skinner was worse than having the Hobbit waste a seat at a hockey game....maybe he is a hockey expert now! Who knew. Pathetic and quite telling that he would post this crap about Skinner. Of all people.

There is a part of me that hopes that this peanut gallery crap continues because Sue and Ed will soon realize that their "employers" will finally have enough.

The Doctors and pharmacists deserve better and they will soon realize that they have dangerous people representing and communicating their professional views. This is a small world and they will get their dues sooner than later

Anonymous said...

Peter

I have been a faithful reader of your blog for a number of years, occasionally posting a comment.

Your ability to see the different sides of many an issue is admirable. I thought your first post on the Premier's year end interview was thoughtful. To go back and question your own interpretation a week later certainly illustrates a sense of fairness that one does not find in some of the other politically charged and biased blogs.

As for your agenda, keep them guessing.

Peter L. Whittle said...

Thanks for the kind comment. I do strive to be fair but I am not exactly an angel. There are times when, in retrospect, I regretted a comment. Tis back here where it gets a little more personal than need be depending on who is being baited or putting out the bait.

In this case, I really felt that Sue's post was unnecessary. I worked with Garry in different roles over a fifteen year period, over five premiers. He is an incredibly dedicated individual. Any tint is uncalled for.

I am sure it does not matter a fiddlers frig to Sue, but I was very disappointed in her.

She has every right to print what she feels is fair to print, I just think she is dead wrong on this one.