Nfld. & Labrador

Dunderdale contemptuous of democracy, Cashin says

Former union leader Richard Cashin castigates Premier Kathy Dunderdale for "disgraceful" disregard for institutions and those who ask questions.
Richard Cashin: 'I have never been so scared, upset, frightened even by government behaviour than by the arrogance and insensitivity of this government.' (CBC)

Premier Kathy Dunderdale has shown a "disgraceful" disregard for democratic institutions and an appallingly arrogant attitude toward those who ask questions, alleges former fisheries union leader Richard Cashin.

This week on On Point

Richard Cashin is guest host Lee Pitts' guest on this week's episode, airing at 7:30 p.m. NT

Cashin, who spoke out on Thursday as part of a newly formed group that questions the proposed Muskrat Falls hydroelectric megaproject, said Dunderdale has lowered the bar for contempt of public opinion.

"I have never been so scared, upset, frightened even by government behaviour than by the arrogance and insensitivity of this government," Cashin said in an interview to air Saturday on On Point with David Cochrane.

Cashin, a fixture in Newfoundland and Labrador public life for decades, said he has never seen a premier or government that has acted in what he calls an unacceptable manner.

He is especially critical of how Dunderdale and her ministers ignored the Public Utilities Board when it reported this winter that it was not given sufficient information to make a decision on the Muskrat Falls proposal.

"There are two explanations for that. One is that they have something to hide. The other is absolute incompetence," Cashin told guest host Lee Pitts.

"You take your choice. Either way, it's frightening."

During a news conference on Thursday, flanked by four other high-profile lawyers who worry that Muskrat Falls could potentially bankrupt Newfoundland and Labrador, Cashin made other pointed remarks about the Dunderdale government.

"No government in my lifetime — and we've had two who've been accused of being dictators, one my friend Joey [Smallwood] and latterly Danny [Williams] — none of them behaved in that way," said Cashin, referring specifically to how the government handled the PUB's mandatory review.

Cashin cited a number of other issues he has found appalling, including Dunderdale's controversial decision after last October's election to not open the house of assembly for a fall sitting.

He also said Dunderdale has appeared to show a shocking lack of knowledge about issues before her, particularly with a comment about her confidence in Nalcor, the Crown energy corporation.

"When I saw the behaviour of this government and the contemptuous way they dealt with their own parliament, the dismissal of the legislature by the premier, and then the incredible statements. Imagine a premier, a cabinet minister, not knowing the history of Churchill Falls, when she credited Nalcor with experience in developing it, I said where are we? What movie is this?" he said.

"It's embarrassing."

The governing Progressive Conservatives have come under steady criticism for secrecy in recent months, particularly during the passage of revamped access to information legislation, which gives cabinet ministers broader reasons to withhold release of requested information.

Earlier this week, Opposition MHAs spoke out against requirements in some departments that their work on behalf of constituents must now go directly through a politically appointed executive assistant.

Cashin, though, was also critical of the performance of politicians in the Liberal and NDP caucuses.

"I'm certainly not encouraged by the Opposition," he said.