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Is damage control the new normal for the Gallant government?

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Once again, the Liberal government has been forced into damage control mode over a questionable decision. These are adding up — among them there’s the decision on daycares, the flip-flop on the genetic-testing equipment for the Saint John Regional Hospital and, most recently, awarding a snow plows contract potentially worth half a million dollars to a Quebec company over a Hartland-based one when the difference in the bids was only $1600.

Constantly running your communications from a position of damage control is no way to instill confidence. But, when you don’t think things through, and that lack of due diligence comes back to bite you in the ass, you have no choice. That seems to be the pattern here.

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Looking just at the following three examples: with the daycares it was to cut subsidies to owner/operators and to use that money to increase wages of daycare workers. At first blush, that seemed reasonable as daycare workers are woefully underpaid, but the problem is that the owner/operators aren’t fat cats coining it at the expense of their workforce. For the most part they are in there with the employees doing the same work and getting by on a shoestring. Due diligence would have shown that.

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The initial decision to refuse the DNA sequencing equipment for the Saint John Regional Hospital despite the fact that the money for it had been raised through a year-long fundraising campaign is equally curious. It is unknown at this time whether that was simply another case of not doing their homework or bending to pressure from the privately owned Atlantic Cancer Research Centre in Moncton. Either way, they should have realized the terrible position it put the Regional Hospital Foundation in, and that, of course, the Foundation would have to fight back to preserve its credibility.  As we know it did, the government reversed its decision, and now it is the Moncton company that is upset.  A lot of what is being said is contradictory, and hopefully someday the truth will come out. In the meantime, here’s another mess of the government’s doing, despite its insistence it’s the former government’s fault.b2ap3_thumbnail_Craig.jpg

And now the government decision to award a substantial contract to provide plows and wings for the Department of Transportation to a Quebec company, even though its bid was a mere $1600 below the bid from Craig Manufacturing in Hartland.

That’s a tough one given the government’s often repeated talking point that creating jobs and strengthening our fiscal situation are the government’s two main priorities. Not only does the local company lose the work, but the spin-off benefits from the money being spent locally is lost as well, as are the taxes that would have been paid by the employees and Craig Manufacturing itself. All for the sake of $1600.

In what universe does this decision make sense? Well, apparently it makes sense to the bureaucrats. Asked for comment, a government spokeswoman said this: "The tender for this contract was conducted in compliance with the regulation under the procurement act. It was compliant with the various trade agreements to which the Province is a signatory. While both bidders met the technical evaluation criteria, the contract was awarded based on the lowest price, as stipulated in the tender documents."

This tells us the bureaucrats, or at least this one, doesn’t get it. Premier Gallant, I expect, realizes that’s not going to wash, and he has agreed to meet with the company. Maybe he’s not at fault. Maybe the bureaucrats didn’t look beyond the numbers on the page and awarded it unbeknownst to him. That plausible, but doesn’t matter. By the nature of his position, he has to wear it. And it has forced him and his government into damage control once again.

Once again, Premier Gallant and his government take a hit to their credibility.

UPDATE - This afternoon the government cancelled its contract with the Quebec company. At this point it has not been awarded to Craig Manufacturing, or anyone else; the government stating it is under review. There has been no comment on what cancelling the contract, which was awarded in May, may cost taxpayers.

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