Sunday, June 28, 2009

Defending Chairman Dan

The surprising (well perhaps not so for some) decision of Friday, to sack President and CEO of Ridley Terminals Dan Veniez, has started to generate some news copy with the province's news services.

As we outlined in our blog on Saturday, the Globe and Mail was first to post the latest development in the ongoing saga of Ridley Terminals, which had recently seen Mr. Veniez taking a very public profile in his quest to change the business direction and make up of the Prince Rupert based coal terminal.

While his reputation across the Northwest has made him a rather controversial figure locally, for the provincial and national media, his thoughts, commentaries and occasionally bombastic declarations have been the food chain of many a column or profile. And with his forced march out of the coal pile, he once again is proving to be making for some good copy.

The CBC posted a story on it's website today that highlights the political nature of the firing, asking questions of both Prince George MP Jay Hill and Transport Minister Rob Merrifield (he of the you can't quit, you're fired letter decision) but as of yet receiving no replies to their queries.

The CBC piece examines the side of the story that Mr. Veniez is apparently offering up, that of a political move to silence him due to the feedback of coal companies who don't agree with his thoughts that they should pay more for shipping their coal out of Ridley Terminals.

Over at the Vancouver Sun, Mr. Veniez received a most favourable ear as he outlined his tales of battle with the Conservatives. With a rather declarative title of Ridley Terminals chief fails to kowtow, is fired, columnist Don Cayo takes offence with the Conservatives handling of not only Mr. Veniez but how the Terminal is operated. Suggesting that Messrs. Hill and Merrifield would feel quite at home in the NDP with their thoughts on how the Terminal should proceed.

His impression of the situation seems to be that the close relationships between the MP and the Minister, with the coal interests of BC and Alberta is what is at the heart of this turn of events.

Cayo includes Mr. Veniez's most recent correspondence with Minister Merrifield, (prior to his dismissal), cc'd to a list of notables, including Prime Minister Harper, Sheila Fraser and Jim Flahterty to name a few.

It reads with the kind of bravado that many in the Northwest might remember from his days at New Skeena, in fact if you try you can probably picture him with a microphone at the PAC delivering this agenda for the New Ridley.

The closing paragraph outlines his state of mind as he outlines his thoughts on his efforts to move RTI forward according to what he believes was his mandate. `The onus is on you, Minister, to provide clear guidance to RTI's Board, not on us to defend our record of accomplishment and service. We welcome an opportunity for a complete and thorough review of these and other important facts.`
One might suggest that the Minister provided for his guidance with his letter of dismissal of Friday, but that will be for the pundits (and maybe the lawyers to divine).
And if we think that Mr. Veniez is going to quietly clean out his desk and walk into the sunset, think again.
In the Cayo column for the Sun, he suggests that he's more than willing to testify before a Commons committee, after all as we all know on the North coast, the man does enjoy a good dramatic reading it seems. The contents of his letter to the Minister more than sets up that tempting possibility of a public appearance in Ottawa to outline his talking points to federal politiicans.

Interestingly enough, earlier this week NDP MP Nathan Cullen had made statements that suggested he was going to investigate the entire Ridley Terminals situation, though many would suspect that his investigation probably was going to deal more with Mr. Veniez`s fast moving desire to reach privatization.

Now it seems that if Mr. Cullen and the opposition parties want to keep up with the fast flowing curve of point and counter point, they had best expand that examination to much more of than the Veniez angle of the Ridley story.

Regardless, the events of Friday are no doubt going to reverberate across Northern British Columbia for months to come.

By removing what had become a rather troublesome stone in his shoe in the form of Mr. Veniez, Minister Merrifield may have opened up his office to much deeper investigation than he might have planned for.

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