think about the machinations of politics, even momentarily, must wonder what
changes occur in an Administration so challenged and unpopular, its very
survival is threatened.
Premier’s popularity, at 20%, is the lowest of the Country’s ten First
Ministers; newspaper editors and Blogs (including this one) have called for her
resignation. Now the Minister of Finance
has quit amidst reports of squabbling and disagreement.
behaviour of the Premier, of her Ministers, their staff and even of senior
public servants affected when the Government is virtually under siege?
is, yes. The behaviour of most everyone,
at the senior level, changes.
does not manifest quickly. In most
governments, it is in the early months of a term, when the toughest and most
unpopular decisions are made. There is expectation that the rough spots will even
out over time. Dunderdale did not see that the Williams’ joyride had to end, that
his agenda possessed all the hallmarks of a fairy tale. It was as if the oil price bubble could never burst.
public reaction is prolonged, and seemingly intractable, the leadership is
expected to rethink the Government’s agenda, engage in public consultation, offer
new ideas and begin the process of re-building public confidence.
is evident and the political maelstrom only grows, concern begets fear that the
Leader is sleep-walking.
begins to creep into relationships. Backbenchers
are paid greater deference. Ministers,
who just a few months ago were relaxed and free-speaking, are now guarded even with
their closest allies.
politicians are present, become more circumspect especially if public servants
are absent; their presence suddenly a perquisite for business-as-usual.
of inside political operators are extended; the most innocuous conversations
are parsed for inference. The open-ended question (are we winning yet?) becomes
an art form.
and MHA’s visiting the 8th Floor, make the inevitable weather metaphor
a segue: are we going to weather this b’y?
The Premier’s staff will listen but not confirm a single doubt. They will edit every Press Release until it
is sanitized. Strangely, though, they seem unable to discourage this Premier from
walking into a free-wheeling ‘scrum’, knowing, as they must, another verbal
disaster awaits one so incapable of speaking ‘off-the-cuff’.
perhaps, the best evidence that this Premier does not take advice. She seems not to study her Brief or demand
scripting. It simply may be the case
that she is incompetent. If, as a Premier, you have sanctioned a $7.4 billion
Project, in a Province where that is still a hell of a lot of money, you ought
to know more than a few basic lines like, “we need the power” and “Muskrat is
the lowest cost option”. I have a
feeling her staff never need a hair-cut; they have gotten used to pulling it
for a Government to be productive when a depressingly negative energy hangs in
the air, like a morning fog. Ministers will vent but few are strategists, their advice
more plaintiff than analytical or prescriptive.
supporters will call the Premier’s Office.
The same ones who gave the Premier unwavering support at the Convention in
Gander, are enquiring if the Premier understands her predicament and whether “she
is going to do anything”.
summer recess and the garden party circuit failed to yield respite from Question
Period or the Opposition’s easy access to reporters. The Government’s stumble on Muskrat, Bill 29
and an overall lousy agenda, which has been wrongly described as “poor
communications”, has only begotten worse Polls.
The news shows and social media have been as busy as any other time.
difficult to understand why a Premier must be a person of both superior
character and political skill. Equally,
it is easy to see how a poor performer succumbs when failure overwhelms.
READ: HOW THE PREMIER DAMAGES HER CREDIBILITY (PART I)
Right now, Confederation Building is not host to a productive
support causes strife and saps enormous energy.
New initiatives are re-thought for fear they will add to the fuss. Senior public servants are more guarded in
their advice. The experienced ones will
spend extra time micro-managing; small problems become huge when the blame game
begins. Not wishing to be parties to desperate decisions, they will keep a safe
distance from their political masters.
corrosive environment. The business of politics
and even some government business, too, become frozen.
like these, the Premier ought to take steps to prevent a ‘bunker mentality’ from
pervading her Office or her Cabinet. Of
course, it is the elected ones who first look to the exits, as they re-do the math
on their pensionable status.
someone who has long enjoyed her confidence, whom
she thrusts, and who is capable of sound analysis. It must be reasoned,
truthful and not spare anyone or any prior decision; it will include
politically sensible recommendations. The
Premier’s ego may even take a bruising.
If she is offended she may give the advisor’s ego a bruising in return. That
is the price of that privilege.
asked to offer council, are well-intentioned people. But, judgment is truly a scarce commodity.
is: does the Premier possess the judgment to assess advice, good or bad? She has not built a reputation for skilfulness.
the Premier will shuffle her Cabinet. She
must find a replacement for the Minister of Finance. As far as Cabinet material goes, put bluntly,
she is ‘short-staffed’.
Cabinet shuffle alone is inadequate. The Government requires a serious re-set of
its agenda. The Premier must promise to change her ways and acknowledge that
she will respect the messages the public has sent. If only a shuffle, the Premier will confirm her
incapacity to countenance advice.