Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wiseman Dumped

As you've no doubt heard already, Williams has finally dumped Wiseman from Health:

Timing is everything in politics, and in this case it was most curious. The spin and counter-spin will no doubt be full of all sorts of theories on why Williams decided to oust Wiseman today, rather than when he moved Burke out of Education.

But I'm sticking with the principle of Occam's Razor: the simplest explanation is likely the most accurate. And the simplest explanation is this: Williams did it because he wanted to. That's all. He waited until he decided it would be best for him, not for Health, not for the cabinet, not for the media, not for the public, not even for Wiseman himself, I suspect.

Perhaps a clue is that it was done in between Townie holidays (the 12th is soon upon us again), and in between scandals at Health: so it would generate as little publicity as possible. The last thing Williams would want is to give the impression that he was caving into public pressure. No, it was wham, bam, shuffle. No public leaks (at least none that I know of), just a terse media advisory giving the bare necessities:

The sharpest commentary I've seen thus far was on the CBC site, where someone said, "Someone must have suggested to Danny that Wiseman should stay on as health minister." At least Wiseman will no longer have to feel guilty when he spends his time speaking to Chambers of Commerce.

For those of you who just have to have a theory, here's one to chew over: Williams dumped Wiseman as a way to provide a temporary distraction from the crisis in the fishery and the fallout from his reckless Gros Morne power line talk. The pattern seems to be that he finally ousts a minister after the scandal in her/his Department has temporarily eased and when another Department is getting media heat. Thus Burke was dumped well after the initial presidential crisis erupted but at a time that took some of the pressure off Wiseman, who was being boiled in every news cycle. This fed the media something else to talk about and gave the impression that Williams was on top of things. Perhaps I was right when I said that last week's fishery protest had penetrated Williams' teflon. Williams returned from Europe, gave an absolute disaster of a media scrum (feeding not 1 but 3 stories in the Telegram), and so he was left scrambling to find a way to do damage control.

And for those of you who dare to think that this has something to do with the looming release of new information about cancer testing, you would be right: Wiseman said that the two events are connected, because today's shuffle bumped the release down the media advisory ladder. According to CBC, "The shuffle comes the same day as new numbers of patients affected by mistakes with breast cancer tests were expected to be released. Wiseman said the shuffle pre-empted the release, and the update will come early next week."

One could argue that the causal relationship should be the other way around, i.e., releasing new information would prompt a change of minister. One could also argue that the release of the cancer test imformation should take priority, given the earlier, "they should be shot," fiasco.

But nothing could be further from the truth. According to the CBC, "the premier said the timing of the shuffle is not related to the update." Quod erat demonstrandum.

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