By; Ryan Young
It seems like the only time I want to break away from the worlds of work and family life to give the Rogue Bayman a voice lately, is directly following a Friday evening press release from government. The release from last Friday regarding the dismissal of NL Liquor Corporation CEO Steve Winter has been predictably ill received, and it makes me wonder how the Liberal’s still have not learned their lesson.
The whole issue is tricky to write about as it is saturated with side stories and political innuendo. As was the same with the Canopy Grow announcement before Christmas, instead of being upfront and factual with us about what is going on up on the hill, the government opted to do the late Friday release thing and hope that it would disappear or blow over long before they would be forced to answer any questions on Monday morning.
Unfortunately for the Liberal’s, by the time Paddy Daly had finished his opening monologue, the phone lines were lighting up with cynical citizens and opposing politicians chomping at the bit to lash out at the government for its obvious political patronage. By the time Tom Osborne was able to get his staff at finance to draft a statement for him to deliver to the public, the damage had already been done, with social media playing judge, jury, and executioner.
If one is willing to dig a little deeper than the obvious rhetoric and look at the facts, maybe getting rid of Winter and shaking things up a bit at the NLC was not a bad thing. Mr. Winter certainly did a fine job in a financial sense. He was able to constantly keep profits up and transformed the NLC into one of the top organizations in Atlantic Canada as recognized by being a regular name of the list of top 50 Atlantic Canadian CEO’s. On the other hand, organizations such as RANL and individual liquor license holders have long complained about antiquated liquor laws and rules within the NLC. Certainly, Winter can’t be blamed for legislative shortcomings, but as a veteran CEO he seemed unwilling to be a catalyst for any of the change that was desired by business owners throughout the province.
According to Minister Osborne, Winter was not comfortable with the implementation of the new plan to regulate legal marijuana and that played a big part in the CEO’s departure. With only months to go before legalization, that would certainly give the government reason for concern, and a very good reason to replace Winter at the top. The pot plan seems to be one of the few files that the Liberal’s actually seem committed to doing a good job with, and it should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to how things have progressed, that anyone not on board with the plan would be shown the door.
That brings us back around to our most popular theme here on the Rogue Bayman, openness and transparency…or a lack thereof. If Osborne’s comments about Winter’s opposition to marijuana legislation are true, then why not wait till Monday morning and come out with a proper release and be willing to answer questions to explain the decision? Why play so many of the same games that always backfire and end up with people having even more scorn and distrust towards the government? In a bizarre twist, the former CFO at NLC, Sharon Sparks, will now be replacing Winter, even though she was fired by him just last month. Did government not think people would have questions about that? And what about former Liberal candidate Lynn Sullivan being appointed to Sparks’ now vacant CFO position? I guess they didn’t think that was worth mentioning either.
Instead of getting out in front of the story and explaining their decision with rational discussion, they decided to once again push aside promises of openness and transparency and hope that nobody noticed or cared. It would be shameful for any government to act this way, but it is especially hard to swallow when it comes from a government whose whole campaign hinged on promising to be more open and accountable. Either the communication staff in the Liberal office is the worst in history, or the ministers themselves are too stubborn to take good advice or at least stop repeating the same mistakes. It seems like this government is not able to pass up a chance to make themselves look bad.
Even though we want to be mad at the Liberal’s, we shouldn’t be mad because Winter was fired or because Sparks got the job. Also, we should not be shocked at Sullivan’s patronage appointment, as we know that is just how things are done in politics. What we should really be mad at, is the fact that our government thinks we are either a) too stupid to understand or b) that we don’t deserve to know about the decisions that are supposedly being made in the best interests of the province. We should be mad that they have such an aversion to telling us the truth that they are willing to continuously put themselves on the defensive rather than to give us the full facts without having to be dragged out of them.
In the age of social media and digital ATIPP requests, the government can’t hide from these sorts of decisions. What they could do, however, is start being straight with us about why decisions are being made. Lard tunderin by’s just try it out once. It might even feel good…