Inquiring minds need to know
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