In­quir­ing minds need to know

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Editorial -

Dear Edi­tor,

The head­line on page A3 of The Tele­gram, March 7 read, “In­quiry asks for all doc­u­ments re­lated to Muskrat Files.” Was that last word the work of a grem­lin in the print­ing process or a pun­ster in the news­room?

The sub-head of the news story read, “Bill 35 al­lows gov­ern­ment to hand over all in­for­ma­tion, but still main­tain priv­i­lege by pre­vent­ing some from be­com­ing pub­lic.”

Jus­tice Richard LeBlanc’s Com­mis­sion of In­quiry Re­spect­ing the Muskrat Falls Pro­ject has re­quested all doc­u­ments from the gov­ern­ment and Nal­cor En­ergy re­gard­ing the pro­ject since July 2006.

The pro­vin­cial Depart­ment of Jus­tice has pro­posed an act to amend the Pub­lic In­quiries Act so gov­ern­ment can re­lease all doc­u­ments up front, with­out re­view­ing for priv­i­lege.

Ac­cord­ing to Jus­tice Min­is­ter Kelvin Par­sons, the goal of Bill 35 is to get all the per­ti­nent in­for­ma­tion into Com­mis­sion of In­quiry’s hands as quickly as pos­si­ble while pro­tect­ing gov­ern­ment and Nal­cor from the pub­lic dis­clo­sure of in­for­ma­tion harm­ful to the gov­ern­ment or Nal­cor’s busi­ness in­ter­est.

I would like to pro­pose an­other amend­ment to the Pub­lic In­quiries Act. If any per­son is called to tes­tify at this lat­est or any fu­ture in­quiry and re­fuses to heed the sub­poena or sum­mons to ap­pear and tes­tify, then the fine for civil con­tempt should be at least a thou­sand times the measly $100 penalty im­posed on the prin­ci­pal wit­ness/re­cal­ci­trant no-show at Jus­tice Leo Barry’s in­quir­ing re­spect­ing the shoot­ing death of Don­ald Dun­phy.

Scof­flaws must know their ac­tions or lack thereof have con­se­quences. Laws must have teeth. The ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice is not a bor­dello or other sport­ing venue.

Most of the peo­ple suck­ling the gi­ant gov­ern­ment teat at Muskrat Falls can af­ford a mere $100 from his or her pocket. To get a lawyer to tod­dle down to New­found­land Supreme Court on your be­half would be much more ex­pen­sive.

The threat of a $100,000 fine for civil con­tempt of a pro­vin­cial in­quiry might en­cour­age any cit­i­zens called to put on their best bib and tucker for the cam­eras and make their words flow like the wa­ters of the Churchill River.

At any rate, ei­ther with my sin­gle pro­posed amend­ment pass­ing or getting a thumbs down from the main piti­ful of lawyers at Con­fed­er­a­tion Build­ing, I do hope Jus­tice LeBlanc brooks no non­sense or slight to his court

Tom Ca­reen Pla­cen­tia

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