Wednesday, September 26, 2012

PREPARING FOR BATTLE: LIBS & TORIES SHAKE IT UP - A LITTLE

The government and the official opposition have been busy re-setting the chess board in preparation for the great debate over the proposed Muskrat Falls Hydro scheme. While the revised cost estimates have not been released, both sides have been moving the chess pieces around.

Both Premier Dunderdale and Interim Opposition Leader Dwight Ball have been tweaking their senior communication and policy staff.

The provinces’ official opposition has finally filled the position of Director of Communications on a permanent basis, strengthening its research and communications team.

The job was vacated by former Federal Conservative Candidate Craig Westcott who took off like a scalded cat just prior to last fall’s general election, dodging any heavy lifting during the campaign that netted the Liberals a few extra seats.


Peter Miles, who filled the role on an interim basis, has a new title, Senior Policy Advisor with specific responsibility for Natural Resources. He will be the party’s brain trust for the upcoming Muskrat Falls Debate. Peter Miles has a strong background in environmental assessment. He’s done research and policy on the Lower Churchill project, the Long Harbour nickel plant, and a refinery project in the province.

Pilot Communications Photo
His replacement is a respected former broadcast journalist, public relations, marketing and communications professional. Carla Foote has an impressive resume in communications, research, analysis, project management and strategic vision. She is quite a catch for the fledgling Liberals who are in a renewal and rebuilding phase.

Carla’s mother held a similar position to former Premier Clyde Wells before winning election to the House of Assembly and serving as a provincial Cabinet Minister. Judy Foote spent a term in opposition before becoming the Member Of Parliament for Random-Burin-St. George’s. The younger Foote has shown a desire to serve. She made an impressive, but unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Portugal Cove – St. Phillips Town Council.

Make no mistake about it. Foote is taking on a challenge. She is leaving the relative security of a comfy job as a Communications Director with Pilot Communications to navigate the ebbs, flows and raging torrents of provincial liberal politics.

Over to the Premier’s office where back-to-back polling has revealed a free fall in popular support. The changes might be categorized as a shuffling of the existing deck (as opposed to the shuffling of the officers on the deck of the Titanic).

The first move was on July 30th when Glenda Power was shuffled out of her role as Communications Director. She was appointed (Acting) Associate Secretary to Cabinet (Communications). She was replaced by Lyn Hammond.

Last week some more changes, Lynette Carroll became the new Deputy Chief of staff, Derrick Rideout the Associate Deputy Chief, Denise Payne is the Director of Policy, Milly Brown the Special Assistant in Communications and Debbie Marnell became the Premier’s new Press Secretary. For the most part it appears to be a renaming exercise. I hope some enterprising reporter checks to see if the new titles come with new salaries, and if the titles bring new responsibilities? It would be quite interesting to know, in this new era of restraint and hiring restrictions if staff in the premiers office found a backdoor to a raise!

Moving further afield, the Premier continues to move senior bureaucrats connected to the energy files around like a mad hatter. On Sept 04th Charles Bown was appointed Deputy Minister, Natural Resources, with responsibility for Mines and Energy. He was replaced as Associate Deputy Minister (Energy) by Tracy English.

 Bown replaced Diana Dalton, who was appointed as Deputy Minister of the Department of Natural Resources effective September 6., 2011. At that time the Premier was gloating about poaching her from the private sector - “Ms. Dalton brings considerable experience to the position of deputy minister, most recently as Chair and Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, and as an independent consultant on international energy and mining projects,”

Both opposition parties have called on the province to release the decision gate three numbers which the government received two weeks ago. Government says it will not release the information until Manitoba Hydro International has done a review. That review is expected to be completed this week.

The government has not set a time for the debate, nor have they established the rules.

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