Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Today's Episode Of The Dobranos.....

.......The Big Chill
(please note: updated at bottom of post)



Late yesterday, Sean Holman at Public Eye raised the specter of a wee bit of a 'Big Chillian' style-pushback against anyone who may wish to continue considering, based on the circumstances and facts rather then the self-generated assurances of non-impropriety by longtime associates, that Mr. Ken Dobell may perhaps be in a conflict and/or conflicts of interest.

While Mr. Dobell himself is, so far at least, playing the chill factor game rather cagily, that does not appear to be the case for some of The Dobranos' most trusted Lieutenants.

Specifically, members of the Campbell government have suddenly started to go after Carole James for asking questions during Question Period in the Legislature* about the appropriateness of Mr. Dobell's myriad contracts, board memberships, and reciprocally crafted creative consultantships that are, according to the registered lobbyist himself, not lobbying.

By way of example, here is the Liberal House Leader, Mike de Jong, laying the lumber on Ms. James, as quoted by Mr. Holman:

"These are not questions. These are assertions that people are making. And it's easy to make those kinds of very harmful assertions when you don't have to answer for them," responded Minister de Jong, adding that "it seems to me somewhat cowardly to make those assertions in a place where you don't have to be held accountable for them."

Which, of course, is disingenuous at best and outright buffoonery of the non-union busting kind at not-quite-best.

Especially given the fact that all sorts of issues, questions, and, yes, assertions, have already been raised by all sorts of people outside the Ledge.

People like Les Leyne of the Victoria Times-Colonist:

You can't help thinking that if Dobell and the government had recognized the minefield he would be walking through early on and fully disclosed all the steps they were taking to avoid problems, he wouldn't be in the news.

By disclosing contracts only in response to freedom of information demands and belatedly releasing memos and letters only when it suits them, they just seem to heighten suspicions.

And Michael Smyth** of the Vancouver Province:

How can he (Dobell) "advise" and "lobby" (Liberal Premier) Campbell at the same time?

How can a professional lobbyist have a desk right inside the premier's office?

Isn't it all a conflict of nterest?

But as the NDP screams "cover-up!" at the legislature, Dobell came to Victoria yesterday and offered a surprising explanation: He's not really a "lobbyist" at all, you see.

"I'd regard myself as a content consultant," he (Dobell) told a news conference.

And, Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun:

He (Dobell) kept up the defence of his conduct for the better part of an hour (during the press conference yesterday), until reporters had exhausted their questions.

In the end, I don't know as though he (Mr. Dobell) managed to do much more than explain his own state of mind.

He's not a lobbyist because he doesn't think he's one.

He's not in a perceived conflict because he doesn't perceive one.

He's entitled to do what he does because -- can't you see it? -- he's working on the side of the angels.

And that, of course, just may be the real reason why The Dobranos are suddenly trying their darnedest*** to put this entire thing in the deep freeze.

Because, given the faith that this bunch puts in media message massaging that, despite its mendaciousness, should, of course, never be confused with manipulation, it is clear that if the biggest media mavens in Lotusland continue to write stories like the ones quoted from above it will take way more than a huge vat of super-cooled liquid nitrogen (obtained only after intensive consultations with non-lobbyists representing the compressed gases industry, of course) to keep this one from exploding into a massive fireball of falling poll numbers.

Not to mention public confidence in all those projects, many of which are of the megalicious variety (see: Boondoggle/Convention Center), that Mr. Dobell is so 'creatively' involved in.

*Questions during question period? What the heckfire is that crazy leader of the opposition thinking of? Geez Loueegie, perhaps Mr. de Jong is correct. After all, if this continues the next thing you know parliamentary democracy-based oversight will start breaking out all over the place. And if that were to happen, well, it might get a little harder for the folks running the Premier's office from handing out $5 million-type grants to things like, say, 'Culture Precinct' projects whenever they feel like it.
**Who, as he likes to point out early and often on his (notso)Giant98 radio show everytime that the issue of the Goodfellas from Pilothouse comes up, got his job when Brian Kieran left the PNG's august(us gloopish?) tabloid.
***Interesting, don'cha think, that it is the elected legislative branchplant workers who are doing the real pushback work for a big fish member from the apparatchik division. Kind of makes you wonder just who is really running things doesn't it?
Finally.....If the icebreaking work of folks like Messrs. Holman, Leyne, Smyth and Palmer was to continue apace they may soon be out ahead of that new melting curve from Julienne Stroeve (who's work we've written about before), which is one problem that most certainly won't be fixed by well placed deflector spin, media pit-bulls, non-incandescent lights or meaningless reductions in carbon emission intensities. OK?

Update: Whew. This one is becoming a double episode.

I was remiss in not excerpting from the earlier work of Paul Willcocks as well. The interesting thing about Mr. Willcocks piece is that he gets to the heart of the matter about why this insular, circular awarding of contracts and grants is problematic in the real world:

I can't imagine how the government didn't see this as a problem. One meeting, Dobell is offering his guidance to the premier on some of the most important issues facing the province.

And then an hour later, Dobell is sitting in the same chair in the bright Vancouver premier's office, lobbying for a multi-million-dollar contribution to Vancouver's plan for an arts district.

Perhaps Campbell and Dobell could keep the roles straight.

But if you were a representative from another community trying to get money for a cultural precinct, would you think the playing field was level? Would you have the same chance to talk to the premier about the issue?

The answer to both questions (as so many communities who were shut out of small grant MCFD funding when everything went all-inside-to-insiders-all-the-time awhile back will tell you) is, of course, no.


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