Transparency, accountability, change.
Those are the buzzwords knocked around by the Official Opposition Liberals as they endure the long summer lead-up to a provincial election that should give them the reigns of power. It is so close that they can taste it.
On Wednesday, I posted a note congratulating the Liberals on retiring their 13 year old debt acquired in the 2003 election following the loss of power to the Williams' Conservatives.
The celebration did not take long to turn into a double hangover when reporters starting asking questions about how much of their debt was actually repaid, and if the banks in question had offered them any "special arrangements"
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball refused to discuss the issue or name the party's bankers, except to say arrangements were made to pay of the outstanding loans - minus interest.
The problem was that any political reporter worth their salt already knew who the parties bankers were and what the debt was from the party's annual filings with the Chief Electoral Office.
Ball could have just answered the question, and been candid about the arrangement. Did anyone among his brain trust think the "write-off" part of the arrangement would fly under the radar? Give the media some credit people.
Instead, he dodged the question and refused to answer a question that surely would be answered in short order. Subsequent news stories focused on the amount of money that years of interest on three quarters of a million dollars. The good news story changed. It was no longer a good news story about the business community having confidence in the new leader, it was about $400, 000 that was written off by the banks.
I don't think there would have been as much interest in the story if Ball had been transparent from the get go. Instead. he came off as being a bit shiftily, non-accountable and perhaps even arrogant. I expect we will be seeing those media clips a lot during the election,
The Premier-in-waiting did not feel that the there was any need for transparency about the amount or what three banks were involved. In short, he ducked full disclosure.The story was the Liberals were debt free.
It came as no surprise that the Liberals would negotiate some sort of write down on the debt, interest or service charges. The PC's did a similar thing leading up to the 2003 election.
It is much easier to get ones financial house in order when the odds are in your favor. Corporations and wealthy individuals do not mind dropping thousands of dollars in donations at dinners and snobby cocktail parties to curry favor with the next premier. Banks, it appear, operate much the same way. They wait until they have a sense of the way the political wind is blowing.
A lot has changed since the last time the banks wrote off interest for an opposition party on the verge of becoming the government. We suffered through the House of Assembly fraud scandal and people expect more transparency when it comes to electoral financing. By not disclosing the banks and the total amount forgiven or forgotten, the Liberals created a rod for their own ass. They did not sound transparent, offered no accountability and frankly, many people were wondering about change.
It is really is no secret that the party has been in hock to four banks going back to the 2003 election. There were some attempts to make payments and negotiate better terms over the years but political parties really have no assets or collateral. The banks had to wait in hopes that the party's fortunes might turnaround. Loaning money to political parties is crap shoot!
The Telegram is reporting that the write off afforded to the Liberals was $372 thousand dollars. That is quite the favor - old chum.
The spin doctors in the Liberal Party seemed pretty eager to get the word out that they had their financial house in order but they might have been better off to pay all they owed. You borrow money on the condition that you will repay it with interest. That is capitalism - that is how banks make money, or is writing off debts to partys a lost leader for banks.
Folks who do not pay their credit cards, mortgages, car payments or other debts face consequences. They are forced into bankruptcy, they loose their cars, houses and belongs. They are harassed by unrelenting bill collectors. Debt forgiveness is a rare thing when it comes to government finances - or at least for the average citizens. If you do not pay your taxes, you are fined and interest compiles
This double standard is sure to create some turbulence for the Liberals and certainly fans the fires of discontent fueled by NDP leader Earl McCurdy's apt refrain "Liberals - Tories - Same Old Story"