Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

“The provincial government has retained the services of local law firm Roebothan McKay Marshall …”
The last line of Tuesday's press release regarding our province's lawsuit against "Big Tobacco". Not a shock in itself. This firm after all is purportedly Newfoundland and Labrador's preeminent personal injury law firm. I suppose you could consider tobacco use as a personal injury. All in the name of redress against the great sins of the producers of the evil weed. Not those that sanction it's sale of course - that would be our government. Try to look past that one for now. Let's look at the pure and unadulterated greed behind it.

For those not in the know Roebothan McKay Marshall used to have another name in front of it - Williams. Yes, that's right, Williams as in former Premier Danny Williams. The same Williams that just left Office in this province leaving behind a leaderless and unprincipled crowd to rule. A crowd that owed their existence to him. A crowd that treats rules and regulations like steeples rather than road blocks. Certainly the recent Auditor General's Report is a classic example of this. Then there is my own experience with the shameless disregard by the Party of the Party's own constitution during the recent leadership non-race - I digress. The point is, as stated in my letter of resignation, this Party and Government has lost it's moral compass. It has abused power and, by the rules of the jungle, it must now lose power.

The conflict of interest in choosing this law firm is obvious. Danny Williams, with several other lawyers, founded this firm. He may or may not still have an interest in this firm - that is an unknown. What is incredibly obvious is that the government is in a gross violation of every common sense rule that applies to politics. Here's one: Justice must not just be done - it must be seen to be done (my version). The arrogance of this decision is apparent just on these grounds. However, it doesn't end there.

Further investigation by Russell Wangersky finds that it was not tendered. A lawsuit that has garnered hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, in other jurisdictions is not tendered. We could measure the possible value of such a contract if we new the fee, or more likely percentage, of this contract to William's old firm, except the government won't disclose it. Will not disclose it. It is not unheard of law firms taking on cases for 25 to 30 percent of awards - especially if they know it's a guaranteed win. If that were to be the case here we could lose hundreds of millions to this one law firm. Theoretical of course as the terms aren't being made public.

I often wondered about previous decisions by this government to make futile legal challenges on issues such as the Upper Churchill agreement. It seemed that the only possible winners could be the law firms that did the work. I suppose that is another issue - or is it?

Just to summarize, and wrap my mind around this scandal, a law firm founded by the former premier is awarded a contract of massive proportions less than two months after the former premier departs. The contract is awarded without tender. The government refuses to disclose how much the firm will benefit. All  because they are the best personal injury law firm in the Province...except for one thing: 
"They will be working closely with foreign legal consultants Humphrey, Farrington and McClain of Missouri who have expertise in dealing with tobacco companies.”Okay. So the American law firm are the experts in dealing with Tobacco companies, but we must still have "the best personal injury" firm in the Province involved. Apparently, this US firm was previously contracted for a 30 percent share in any suit against the tobacco companies by the previous Grimes administration. So what's changed? It sounds a lot like Mr Williams old practise of getting a cut on energy deals before allowing them to proceed with their business. Is it the case here that somebody wants a percentage of any deal - other than the American firm of course? Will the St. John's firm get a cut of the American's pie, or is that a further cut of what the people in the Province will receive? Right now we don't know for certain, because the boys and girls in Confederation Building feel we are not worthy of information about our own government.

Another first class reason to have an open and essentially unrestricted access to information law. Our press folks have been calling this government out on it, and it's easy to see why. After all, they are the ones who educate us - thank God somebody is. Frankly, the stench of dictatorship gone bad is wafting throughout the Province, and the antics would be laughable if it were not so painful.

Note to the provincial PC Party: I apologize.You never "lost your moral compass" - you destroyed it.


  1. Very will said Brad and quite an observation.

  2. Well said. I've been saying for years now that these type of shenanigans have been happening under Williams and his cabal. Yet another example of greed, arrogance, and a total lack of accountability. And more shameful still is that we roll over and take it.

  3. Shannon, thanx. It's the "roll over and take it part" along with the "take it or leave it part" that boils my blood. Not to mention the "it's not your money - it's ours."

  4. What I am about to say is done with a healthy respect towards Wangersky and you Brad .

    Was it not only a short while ago that you were praising Williams and wishing to emulate his style .

    Before you can say that it was Williams I admired ,it was also Williams who moulded this government , warts and all .

    Did not Wangersky admit publicly that he voted for the Williams'government , and in fact would do so again .

    Forgive me for questioning your motives and I can appreciate the insightfulness and sound logic that you are both espousing ,but, to my mind it has a hollow ring .

    I am just one person ,I think and I form opinions , there have to be others out there who have similar thoughts .

    Is there some way that you can present your true convictions so that it will enable people to accept you Brad Cabana for what you have to offer them , as a political force ?

  5. Ursula, fair comment. I would first like to say that ethics guide me. Period. While I supported Danny Williams approach on the off shore oil thus far, and his attempt to get the most he could for the Province and her people, I do not support what appears to be a shameless money grab. I do not support corruption. I do not support the abuse of power in awarding non-tendered, secret contracts. What I do support is open process, freedom of the media as a check on power, and the freedom of idividuals to speak against their government without fear of retribution. I don't know, it seems fairly clear to me. Just because I am a provincial Liberal doesn't mean I would approve of graft just because it was done by Liberals for example. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and lift our entire process from where it is now - which shouldn't be too difficult. Our entire system of government needs to be revisited. The practise of building the economy on government departments harkens back to the Soviet era - it didn't work well there either. We have filled the public service with people, often unqualified, who owe their position to patronism as opposed to capability. I am convinced this is why so many talk shows are full of people unable to access what should be a fairly simple process.

    We need to scale back government(I call it false economy) involvement in structuring the economy and encourage private sector development - with government assistance if necessary. I believe that you build the Province by empowering it - just as you do with people. I believe in renegotiating the Upper Churchill with a new revenue sharing aspect and compensation for the past 30 years - that compensation would be directed to the debt effectively eliminating it. I believe if this is done we should negotiate with Quebec in good faith to seetle the Gulf of St Lawrence. Once debt free the Province would see oil revenue, hydro revenue, etc coming in. Sales taxes of all types would then be drastically reduced or eliminated, and the REAL economy would take off - attracting significant investment and immigration. That is how I see it, and I hope that clears it up for you. Any grey areas you want me to clear up further let me know, Brad.


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