Wade MacLauchlan on hot seat for three weeks

Published on March 14, 2015

 Premier Wade MacLauchlan gestures as he speaks to a gathering of senior civil servants in Charlottetown Monday. One of the items he announced was that new conflict of Interest requirements will soon come into being. Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

Premier Wade MacLauchlan continues to make reforms on how the P.E.I. government operates, first with wider conflict of interest guidelines and this week with stringent expense claim forms. Expenses will be posted online each month for public scrutiny, which has earned the praise of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Also this week, he moved to revamp his staff on the fifth floor of the Shaw Building, saying goodbye to Ian (Tex) MacDonald and Allan Campbell. Several days earlier, he appointed a new conflict of interest commissioner.

Friday, he announced the release of Auditor-General Jane MacAdam’s report for Monday, March 16. The report is usually withheld until the opening day of the spring sitting of the legislature in early April, but with an election pending that month, the report might not get released until late May. It was a pre-emptive strike by the premier to release the AG report ahead of schedule to blunt Opposition suggestions the government is trying to be secretive or hide something.

He had earlier referred the e-gaming file to the AG for a full review and recommendations. That report isn’t expected for several months.

In between, he had to fend off a call for judicial inquiry into e-gaming and its suspected connections in PNP, and a demand for an emergency recall of the legislature on the conflict of interest commissioner issue.

Yes, it has been a tumultuous three weeks in office for the new premier who certainly had a rude welcome to the bruising battle of P.E.I. politics since being sworn in Feb. 23.

These decisions are attempts by the premier to regain control of the political agenda which came close to derailing following the explosive Globe and Mail story in late February on the failed attempt to bring e-gaming to the province. All Opposition parties used that story and various spin-offs to score damaging political points at the expense of the Liberals.

The overdue reforms are not the fault of this premier, but he is taking criticism for the sins and omissions of previous premiers and governments who let things operate much too loosely.

With a stubborn series of crises seemingly abating, all parties will get down to wrapping up a blitz of nomination conventions for the real battle of a pending provincial election campaign. Time is rapidly running out for all parties, with an election call expected at any time.

Talking points ring true

No government or political party is going to criticize the contents of a manifesto unveiled this week by the Vision Initiative. The 17 guiding principles endorse some broad idealistic strokes toward a non-partisan vision for the province - although not warmly endorsed by columnist Alan Holman. Group spokesman David Weale said the idea is to promote a more creative public discourse about what is possible for the future of the province.  

A number of talking points ring true for most Islanders, such as clean water and air etc. But a number of others hint at corruption, patronage and integrity concerns. They seem to suggest the current or recent administrations are taking the province on a hazardous course. The new group is intent on reversing that course although it stresses it doesn’t support any party and did not take form to affect the outcome of the pending election.

Governments have always benefitted from citizens and groups with lofty ideals and principles to help steer it with a sound, moral compass. We all need a regular reaffirmation - like going to church on Sundays because we all lapse and we all sin - to get back in the right direction.