Sue's Blog

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Nancy O'Connor fiasco

The CBC Newfoundland and Labrador has reported this morning that Nancy O'Connor - Director of Communications for the Premier contacted Memorial University about the "Resign" Dwight Ball signs on poles prior to their removal by the Department of Transportation and Works.

In part O'Connor explains to CBC: "In my capacity in communications I reached out to my counterpart at Memorial inquiring whether or not the poles belonged to the university and if posters were permitted to be displayed on those poles," and "If the university did not permit the display of posters on those poles, it would be a reasonable expectation that they would be removed."

The body of the actual email was:"Telling DB to resign ... Are these poles belonging to MUN or Power? And are ppl allowed to put posters on them? If not can someone take them down?"

Where do I begin?

If the communications director of the Premier does not know who owns utility poles in this province - she is not informed enough to serve as a communications director for any government department or agency. She might have visited the websites of Newfoundland Power, Nalcor, Telephone and Cable companies to educate herself.

What makes this worse is O'Connor's so-called expertise. She was a spokesperson for MT&L PR (Now known as "National") during the pro-Muskrat group development. In this regard she was listed as:
i) listed as Nalcor media contact for the response to Nunatukavut complaints over lack of consultation on the Lower Churchill project;
ii) Listed as Nalcor media contact for panel hearings on the Lower Churchill development...

All of her work involving the promotion of the Williams project and she does not understand the distribution system of the province?

Nancy O'Connor a walking support mouth of the Muskrat project for Williams and company finds her way to be the comms director for the new Liberal Premier?

Nancy's expertise cannot be questioned as it relates to transforming herself to advance herself but it most certainly can and should be questioned as it relates to the important issues in this province.

Now let's look at this seasoned experienced professional's take on democracy. The most important thing on a Sunday morning for Ms. O'Connor was trying to get the Premier's face off utility poles? It was not why the pictures were on the poles? It was not why the people were infuriated with Ball? It was not dealing with the inflicted hardships of the budget? Ms. O"Connors concern was how do I thwart freedom of expression and protect my boss? It was to ask an independent academic institution - our provincial University to help - if they could in removing "Resign" signs?

‘Freedom of expression’ is one of the fundamental freedoms protected by section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 2(b) provides that everyone has “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.” 
In R. v. Keegstra, ([1990] 3 S.C.R. 697) the Supreme Court of Canada identified three main objectives underlying the guarantee of free expression. First, free expression is “instrumental in promoting the free flow of ideas essential to democracy and the functioning of democratic institutions.” Secondly, free expression is “an essential precondition of the search for truth.” Thirdly, free expression is “worth protecting for its intrinsic value to the self-realization of both speaker and listener.” 
Given the breadth of the underlying objectives, the guarantee of free expression has been held to apply to artistic, educational and even commercial expression, as well as political expression.

In consideration of all this Ms. O'Connor is trying to find an owner of poles who would thwart such expression?

Let's just say MU owned the poles and they did not allow posters. Is it O'Connor's most important duty to inquire of the University if they did and suggest they follow such rules?

I - we - pay her salary. She works for us. In my opinion - based on her activities involving the poles fiasco - she is not qualified to hold the position - particularly when we the people are paying her salary and benefits.

Now let's take a leap. If somebody in the Office of the Premier was trying to find a way to have the signs removed - are we to believe that some individual in the Department of Transportation and Works was thinking the exact same way at the same time - but no words, winks, nods were ever exchanged?

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