READING THE TEA LEAVES IN VIRGINIA WATERS

Many people,
and not just pundits, are salivating in anticipation of the results of the Virginia
Waters byelection.
  Perhaps, as its ‘bellwether’
history suggests, the outcome will confirm the winner of the next general election.
  Of course, a multitude of signals are sought.  In particular, the Government wants to know
if its free-falling popular support has been arrested with Dunderdale’s banishment.
 

A ‘bellwether’
riding is a term used to denote a single electoral district or region which reflects,
with consistency, a larger political trend. 
The District of Virginia Waters qualifies; but don’t bet your last dime
on the accuracy of this gauge.

Province-wide
Polls suggest the Liberals are the Party with momentum; the Tories and the NDP
have crashed.  
Still, the outcome
of the byelection is not a forgone conclusion.    

In 2011, Premier
Dunderdale took 60% of the vote against 30% for the NDP and a mere 10%
for the Liberals.
  Given the corrosive
political environment of the past three years, no one expects the Tories to
replicate recent victories.
 

In the
elections of 2003 and 2007 the Tories took 58% and 73% of the vote respectively.  That Dunderdale’s vote was reduced to 60%, in
2011, was indicative of the growing NDP strength in that middle-class riding. 

Three
successive wins suggest the district now contains a large “core” Tory vote.  To put it another way, a ten year pattern of
partisan consistency may, in fact, have disqualified the Riding as a source of
serious ‘bellwether’ interpretation. 

Its it
possible three years of nagging acrimony has had a corrosive effect?  Virginia Waters surely has been in the eye of
this caustic storm.   

All three
Parties in the byelection are represented by experienced and respected players.
Danny Breen, Sheila O’Leary and Cathy Bennett carry less baggage, on a personal
level, than that which their respective Parties have saddled them. 

NDP Sheilagh
O’Leary hopes to build on the Party’s 2011 credible showing.  But her Party is simply not the political
force it was even a few months ago. 

Cathy
Bennett, like O’Leary, has come through a recent contest which serves to
enhance her electoral strength. 

Her challenge,
to turn the Liberal Party’s meagre 10% share in 2011 into a win, is a monumental
task.  Bennett faces Dwight Ball’s
questionable strategy of letting the Tories fall on their sword rather than capitalize
on the legitimacy and policy flexibility afforded him by his Leadership victory.  If she wins, Bennett might just become the
ball (sic) of energy the Liberal Party needs to propel it through the next
election.

Danny Breen
has earned a kind of respect, in municipal politics; but it is less than clear
he is ready for the big leagues.  Nevertheless, the
baggage of the Tories’ fall from grace, and Dunderdale’s forced exit, finds him
in the position of pivot.  A discredited Government expects him to demonstrate its fortunes are on the turn.   If he fails the voters might get ready for a ‘damn the torpedoes’ strategy next (though it might be hard to distinguish from the approach taken in the
recent deficit Budget).

When you see
Danny Williams hoofing it on the streets of Virginia Waters, in support of
Breen, it’s not that the odor of victory has been detected; it’s just that the
stakes are so high for him personally; like the Emperor in Hans Christian
Anderson’s Fairy Tale, Williams feels he must risk being seen without clothes. 

While the Government badly needs to demonstrate that support, which for so long has been at
crippling levels, is on the rise Dwight Ball must
prove that the Liberal juggernaut is still alive, that it is irreversibly on
the way to crushing the Tories in the next general election.  The NDP will be content to prove it is not
dead.

Where do we
look for guidance as to the outcome? 

The likelihood
of the Liberals going all the way over the top from the low figure of just 10% seems dim; yet the
Carbonear-Harbour Grace byelection confirms turnover is not impossible.

In 2011,
Jerome Kennedy won 76.3% of the votes cast against only 14.8% for the Liberals and
8.5% for the NDP.  When Kennedy resigned,
two years later, municipal politician Liberal Sam Slade, won the Seat with just
over 50% of the votes.

Look out,
when the voters are pissed!

The Virginia
Waters campaign, reflecting the Riding’s demography, has been a respectably
middle-class affair; the Candidates have been very nice to each other.   

Sam Slade
took the gloves off.  The voters of Carbonear-Harbour
Grace weren’t bored. They were constantly reminded that an election was on,
that the stakes were high.   

In Virginia
Waters, neither Candidate has adequately defined the other’s failures nor those
of the Parties; it’s as if the mountains of unploughed snow are a welcomed
shield denying each other (and the voters) an uncomfortable encounter.   

That is not
the way to gain uncertain ground.

Is there a
clue within the results of the most recent CRA Poll?  A March 6th report placed overall
support for the Tories at 33% against 53% for the Liberals, and 13% for the
NDP.

Those
standings are a far cry from the numbers that bolstered the Dunderdale
Government’s 2011 bid which also dates Virginia Waters’ last trip to the Polls. They paint a
picture of odious leadership and unwise public policy.

Does
Virginia Waters’ recent history of voting Tory three times, successively, constitute
a partisan and impenetrable wall protecting the P.C.’s?  Or, is the public’s faith in this
Government breached beyond repair?

Will Cathy
Bennett replicate Sam Slade’s minor miracle in Carbonear-Harbour Grace?  

Can Sheilagh
O’Leary advance the NDP in spite of itself?

Is Virginia
Waters ‘bellwether’ and is the signal one of change? 

Wednesday
night can’t come soon enough.
Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.

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1 COMMENT

  1. This is pretty cocky for even the Tories, since they kicked Dunderdales ass to the curb and caused this By-election. This slap in the face to the voters means two things 1) they think you have not short term memory 2) wake the hell up! It doesn't really matter if they run Danny Breen or Mr. Bean ! BY Williams just showing face causes people not to think for themselves, never mind the possible mix up of their names, which will equal votes. You can even sense that little twitch of arrogance back in the PC MHA's that's now all ears to the public. Now, maybe its worth it to have your finger tips on the strings of people that close to government funds, look no further then the over $300 million snap of the fingers that got Premier TOMMY marshal/ Alderon its power for nothing and caused us to tack only another BILLION dollars on historic Debt caused by the Tories. These people are use to having it both ways. Even if Breen does lose he will still go back to city hall with Ronny and a few other new big mouths down there with no solutions to help with the winks and nods for new development. This doesn't mean DW shouldn't be out supporting his interests, just look at the Muskrat vote when he showed up at the house of assembly bleachers to help convince anyone on the fence. There were jokes from people that attended about thinking they were at a Caps games with Danny up in his booth to wondering why the puppets were flooding the ice. What the support does say though, is that once again DW and the PC's are saying one thing and doing another. Since Danny has already proclaimed the new Premier, Finger Puppet Frank, maybe he'll throw us all a bone in the future while still looking after the interests of our Emera link. I just saw their CEO's salary went up.
    Dunderdale allowed the whole province to have a quick peek inside what really is going on inside the party, inside the government and the state of our province. Our Province and just about every department in there as been idle for years. Everyone should be curious and needs to see more on what else they have been hiding. And to steal line from the same book Dunderdale gave her last quote from. " it is easier to control a Government that it is to run a hockey team"
    Where's Dean McDonald he isn't out supporting his team/teams? Both ways remember! How much longer is province going to be run from Florida?