Sue's Blog

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Kent reveals Tory problem

After seven by-election losses in a row - the Tories are on their way out. Many of them understand what the people are saying and are planning their retirements in one way or another.

What happened to the PC's?

Media and some pundits credit the loss of public support to Danny Williams departure. I don't accept that reasoning rather I credit the downfall to Danny Williams leadership style and policies.

In my opinion - Williams enjoyed being surrounded by weak people (those who would not dare defy him) and eliminating those who might. (Beth Marshall, Paul Shelley, Tom Osborne and Fabian Manning) Danny did not build a strong leadership pool nor did he take the time to consult or include grass-roots Tories. I believe it was after all - all about him.

Danny's policy choices - most importantly - Muskrat Falls - have not been embraced by the people. Williams pot of money for governing was huge - oil revenues galore and let's not forget the benefits of Voisey's. These were Liberal deals and timing made it his administrations money.

How he spent that money - on behalf of the people - did not equate into anything more than quick wealth on the Avalon and a wonderful market to build houses in.

We are in debt trouble, we are in deficit trouble, we are in demographic trouble, and we are in free fall. Highly doubtful that his Galway community is going to be the golden touch project he thought it might be.

People are very concerned about Muskrat Falls - the cost - the purpose - and most importantly the giveaway. Our resources should be used to grow our population - create long-term well paying jobs. It was Danny who was champion of this concept while in Opposition. Then how do we explain his fisheries, forestry, mining, and hydro policies? We can't because - once Premier - the giveaways were okay.

In what I refer to as Danny's decade - the province has not enjoyed growth in any real way. They all pump up the GDP - but who cares if that indicator is in isolation from other meaningful indicators such as population growth and age. Growth on the Avalon is attributed to shrinking in rural populations.

The former Premier got out before the crap hit the fan - but before he did - he groomed weak people to continue his path. His first was Kathy Dunderdale. The joy and pride of being Danny's chosen one was evident from day one. She would carry the Muskrat torch to the end - while he would carry on with his business interests - power to the Avalon and mining in Labrador.

His other political weaklings included Kennedy, Marshall, Kent, Johnson, Sullivan, Shea, and King (essentially the Cabinet base) were somehow of the belief somehow that they had a crack at the top job now.

When the day came however for a leadership race - they ran away - hid under Danny's coattails once again and allowed an "interim" Premier who did not want the job (supposedly) to actually win - uncontested. The beginning of the end.

As all political weaklings do - as party fortunes were changing - they pointed a finger at somebody else - not them - no not them. A bunch of children standing in front of a broken window.

Eventually their finger pointing and whispers caught on with an uninspired media and we were advised that Kathy Dunderdale had problems communicating the "really good" things they were doing.

As with gutless bullies in packs - they worked on Dunderdale until she left. There they sighed - all must be good now right?

Onward to a leadership election - while nice man Tom kept the Williams adoration embers burning. Minus their political guru Danny - the  guys and gals did not know which way was up - they did not know which way to go. We had speculation on a dozen or so within the PC caucus who were thinking about it. One by one they dropped off - as the collective wisdom determined they needed a fresh face - somebody from outside. So Wayne Bennett and Bill Barry stepped forward while Danny's Cabinet flourished being followers. Barry came out bold - aggressive - unpolished while Bennett annoyed the Party brass.

As might be expected when the weak did not know what to do - Danny stepped in and proclaimed Barry unfit for leadership and indirectly pushed for a fellow named Frank Coleman. As with all good sheep the caucus followed and proceeded to prepare for a Frank coronation despite the presence of a formidable opponent (Barry).

We heard excuse after excuse from former wannabe leaders within the sitting rank and file - ranging from "not my time" to "health" to "family priorities".

Meanwhile Barry was fighting a losing battle in a delegated convention wherein his commentary to the people of the province really did not matter if the Party brass was orchestrating a winner.

Many people asked why Coleman - a political neophyte - by reports private family and business man would throw himself under the bright lights of politics. This was quickly followed by awkward appearances of a man who appeared quite friendly but out of his comfort zone.

Barry following the condemnation by the great one and in true gritty business style - weighed his odds and determined the risk was unfitting the unlikely reward. Barry quit leaving Coleman as an unwilling political deer in headlights. What followed was not able to be scripted. Coleman became Premier in waiting - even starting to put together staff for his 8th floor domain. Then like an unpredicted failure of a detonation test - HVP - came to the fore. I think it's fair to say the Coleman will be remembered in Newfoundland and Labrador for performance bonds related to a paving contract not for almost becoming Premier. As quick as you could say "cheese" for a photograph - we had the sad picture of Coleman's back as he walked away from his indescribably short political stint.

Now what? Well the wannabes who all had excuses they wanted us to believe just a month or two before - shed those reasons and came flying back to the leadership race. Once again we had the speculation of who was running - who was supporting - who had a chance. In the end - and after another stint with the nice man - there was Ottenheimer, Davis, and Kent. The once held idea of a new fresh face was replaced with the need for experience. Ironically the same weaklings who just a month before were willing to accept a fellow who had never sought political office before were now questioning the option of Ottenheimer because he did not have a seat in the legislature.

When Steve Kent started his political climb - I remember a young man tenting on the corner of streets with a sign - asking the people of Mount Pearl to support him for Council. It must have been a real power rush - some years later - to find himself a political traffic cop on the corner directing leadership. Here he was - a new man - at the heart of political power in the province - a kingmaker. Kent relished it - played it up - played coy - loved the attention and could not believe he was actually in a position to broker his own political pinnacle.

Ottenheimer claimed the fix was in - Davis and Kent denied it and then in a joyous coming-out paraded it on the convention floor. Shortly thereafter he became Deputy Premier. Did this new power go to his head? Unfortunately yes - culminating in Tweets last night after his party's loss of two more by-elections. Here they are:

1. What's next? You're going to see bold, progressive leadership from and the . We've got big plans for this province.

2. There was no honeymoon period for our new Premier. That's life. A lot can change over the next year. Things change fast in politics.

3.  Our Party still has a clear majority. We still plan to bring in a Throne Speech and a Budget. We will govern. We will lead.

4. The transformation in NL over the last decade has been nothing short of extraordinary. We're still the best party to govern.

Unfortunately his words represent what IS wrong with the Tories. The real problem. He in essence has concluded the following: we don't care what the people think - we are right, we don't care what the people say we will lead anyway, we own the province and we are going to do what we want - what we think is best, and in spite of the people we are in power and plan to keep it that way.

Unfortunately the tweets also have a ring of desperation in them. That is because Kent believes that politics is a career rather than a period of public service. Career politicians are not helpful - not insightful - not life experienced - and not leaders. They expect a leader to perform for them - to ensure the longevity of the benefits both financial and social that politics and the people have provided.

Kent personifies the Tory problem - imagine if he is the only Tory seat left after the next general election. He does not like the prospect and it shows.

I believe the real strings of the Tory machine are well above Kent's power level. While he might be seen as a pliable one of those strings the puppeteers simply want to keep power for other more tangible business reasons. That's a sphere than Kent will never be allowed to enter - but he can certainly man the coat-check for those entering the real corridors of power.


Bernard Waye said...

Reminds me of "Party of One" by Michael Harris.

A good post as usual Sue.

Anonymous said...

Great article and right on the money.