to the Opposition filibuster in the House of Assembly on June 8th served
to underscore the larger issue of the Tories’ legitimacy as Her Majesty’s Loyal
House Leader Andrew Parsons told the media that the Tories “were agreeable to
finishing up”. As well they might have been. Even if the Liberals’ budgetary
measures were misguided, as many deem the case, only the mindless would be
capable of denying that Tory fiscal mismanagement was the root cause of the
debate in the first place.
was the first of the 48th General Assembly. In the preceding General Election,
the remnants of the Progressive Conservative Party had been sent to the
Opposition benches less by a Liberal juggernaut than by its own determination
facing penury from overspending and a reckless energy strategy devised by a
bunch of ‘rink rats’. A vulnerable society, one perennially on the edge, has seen
its tenuous financial stability frittered away in less than a decade.
Leader Paul Davis still recites lines that reflect blissful economic ignorance of our current circumstance. More frequently, Keith Hutchings is sent out to play
the Opposition role. The smiley Member for Ferryland tackles important
budgetary issues as if he were commenting on a sporting event. Gravitas is lost
to sound. Incredulity is grafted onto light-weight. Bemusement is the consequence.
that a province in trouble has been robbed not just of leadership by a newly-elected
government, but even of essential parliamentary opposition too.
time since Confederation a Party, even if battered and bruised, was allowed to
retain some semblance of legitimacy regardless of how deep the rout. Not this
are a Party disgraced. Theirs is a legacy that cannot, in any practical way, be
undone unless the province first suffers years of human and financial misery.
forgiven because the electorate exacted its pound of flesh at the polls, or
because the Liberals are proving themselves unequal to the task of cleaning up the
another political Party that the public can count on if the current political
fundamentally irrelevant except when kneejerk politics demands a parking lot,
so we can’t include them in this conversation.
Tories are a longstanding and successful political Party, one that — prior to
the leadership of Danny Williams — boasted a serious legacy of institutional and
policy development. Its resource policy initiatives (especially the Atlantic
Accord), which include provisions for local benefits, were the envy of many
except Tory apologists, can claim that the province’s current financial debacle
is due to the fall-off in oil revenues rather than to mismanagement — some
suggest, on an almost criminal scale.
problem is serious not least because the British parliamentary system is
predicated not only on effective government but, at least minimally, on a credible
Liberals are eventually forced to face up to the budgetary crisis, and great
public angst results in the process; if important services are cut, which is
likely, or if the power bills arrive showing a rate reset of 21.4 cents per kWh
(a blended rate – not even one reflecting the full cost of Muskrat Falls), stressing both the
economy and the society; from whom will the public look for intercession on
their behalf, to argue fairness or relief?
group of fools who ran us off the fiscal cliff in the first place?
expect the public do that? Because they are prescient enough to blame the
Liberals? Because acknowledgement of Tory responsibility is submerged by denial
or profound ignorance?
inconceivable that the only punishment awaiting the Tories is a term or two in
is not nearly finished with them — that a day of far more severe reckoning
partisanship is a blind state. In this province it is made worse because the
cronies of Danny Williams still possess a firm grip on the Party’s apparatus.
seems, has thought through the threat to that political institution, nor to our
political system either.
public will better comprehend their pitiful financial condition and want to better
understand its origins. When that circumstance occurs, it won’t only be the
Consumer Advocate, Tom Johnson, and Wade Locke who will be tendered for public
flogging. The former Constable Premier and his most recent accomplices,
including Williams, Dunderdale and Marshall, will also be in for a drubbing.
P.C. Party initiates a purge of those who hold it hostage and repudiates the
policies which have led to this province’s virtual financial collapse, it too is
likely to collapse.
It is natural
to think that a new political party will emerge. History shows that newbies have
enormous difficulty finding their footing, even if populism is fertilized best
when social and economic misery is at its worst. Still, it is tough to worry what
any new partisan incarnation would look like when democracy, such as it is,
allows a Party fit only for the funeral pyre to inhabit the people’s House.
account politics, perhaps like nature, abhors a vacuum. We will see.
question, however, is whether an “old line” Party, having set the stage for
demise by its own hand, can survive.
Economic Planning Group under Clyde Wells. Bonnell wrote in the Telegram recently a four step approach to dealing with our financial condition.
step, he suggested, should see the Government elicit support from the
opposition parties in the formulation of a strategy to resolve the budget
deficit before the lending agencies turn off the taps.
annihilation might have embraced his approach by offering sensible ideas, helping
an ill-prepared Government find bearable solutions — even as it worked to
maintain its constitutional obligation to provide opposition. The two roles are
neither incompatible nor mutually exclusive. It’s just that Bonnell’s suggestion
is far too idealistic – too much to expect from a Party lacking the wisdom to understand the
depth of its own failure.
is inherently contradictory that an unrepentant, unreformed, conflicted Party,
one hi-jacked by private interests, is capable of putting the public first.
Party has not learned that it needs to demonstrate the capacity and the
willingness to admit its monumental blunders, throw itself at the mercy of the
public, shed the super-egos with which it is possessed, and expose its
willingness to adhere to a major program of public policy reform.
It is only
because a political party is constituted of a mass of people, and not just the
egos, that the question deserves to be put at all.
don’t have a long time to institute their own revolution. It may be too late
outset, the P.C. Party must recommit itself to the fundamental principles which
underlie decency and common sense; it must rid itself of the stench of private
agendas, and of its penchant for deceit that the Muskrat “boondoggle” exposes by its origins and execution; it must shed the demons that
overshadow its vital role within our parliamentary system. If it can’t do all
of those things, slim chance will be no chance at all. The P.C. Party will be
banished to history.
will be few who will even care.