portfolio awaits Finance Minister Cathy Bennett — assuming she doesn’t quit
first, or refuse a demotion. Liberal Party insiders report that Premier Ball’s
next Cabinet shuffle will see a new face in the Government’s most important and
on the wall for Bennett?
with, the rules of politics are simply against her. But, in addition, Bennett has
not demonstrated either the heft or the skilful art of politics essential to
survival in a time of great crisis. Besides, in full public view, the Premier has told the Minster to take her fiscal plan and stuff it!
A weak and
vacillating Premier has discovered he is unpopular. The rulebook demands that
someone — other than the Premier — is blamed.
Giving the matter additional urgency is that a few people from inside the
Caucus, and at least one from outside, want his job.
theory, the Premier can replace a Minister whenever he chooses. But, in practice, taking such
a step so early in the mandate, affecting such a high–profile Minister and
poster-girl for the Party, can occur only if the Government is in trouble, if the
Minister is at loggerheads with the First Minister, or because the Minister’s
poor rapport with Caucus, and her policy direction, has them screaming for her
reasons apply to this Finance Minister, further confirming that she is on the
been a reluctant bridegroom on the Finance Minister’s proposals to deal with
the fiscal nightmare. Demonstrating an almost puerile appreciation of public
expectation, Ball embraced her collection of new taxation schemes rather than opt
to reduce public service bloat. He can now see that the Minister was a neophyte
strategist, and even greener when it came to selling the public on matters fiscal.
Bennett lacked a steady hand. It is true that she was absent a First Minister capable
of rescuing her from a financial “Plan” devoid of context let alone hope. But
she willingly chose to go along with Ball’s “Hush Puppy” approach to laying
blame for the mess at the feet of the Tories. She wasted a province-wide
consultation process, using up precious months to invite ideas for savings, accomplishing
nothing more than allowing Ball deference to dither. In the end the public, for
all intents and purposes, was left out of the process.
is equally to blame — along with the Minister of Public Engagement, Siobhan
Coady — it is Bennett who will take the hit for what has occurred to the Liberal
Party’s fortunes. A savvy Minister would have put her foot down at the start. Knowing,
as she should have, that bringing off a more focussed and sensible plan would
have still been a tough slog, one with buckshot aim was sure to get everyone’s dander up.
too, was an increasingly awakened public, following the imposition of the levy and
Stan Marshall’s single outburst of truth — the “boondoggle” at Muskrat. Some of
the Minister’s initiatives were plainly dumb — like closing community libraries
to save pocket change — and the course was reversed only when most of the political damage to
the Liberal brand had been done.
|The best laid plans of …..goes adrift…
politician, over-confident and relying upon a shrewdness she did not actually
possess, kept no bag of tricks in reserve, except the assurance that the Liberal
Caucus would spend their entire first term in a political grinder.
earned the moniker “ditherer”. Insiders freely acknowledge that the Premier’s “in” basket remains a
convenient resting place for decisions which will never see the light of day. But notwithstanding such dysfunction, having
watched the Premier ignore her and the advice of her Department — from the get–go — a skilful Cabinet Minister would have made sure that she wasn’t swimming solo. A savvy
Minister would have known the piranhas in the Caucus simply by their name tags.
aghast — nay, furious — that the Party is in a race to the bottom of public
opinion polls, as the Tories are given a free ride. That Tory Leader Paul Davis
feels unhindered from another run in the next election is, alone, indicative of
how poorly the Liberals have managed their first year in Government.
Premier is trailing his own Party in the Polls. Ball’s 17% voter satisfaction
rating stands against the Liberal Party’s 34%. Even the Tories still picked up
the support of 33% of voters — a group that, by now, should have been driven
out of town!
for such failure, the Liberal Caucus would love to throw the Premier to the wolves
at this fall’s Liberal Convention. But that decision would trigger an election
within a year of Ball having been replaced. (A real Premier would have
discarded all the phony electoral reforms of the Williams era as the
Government’s very first legislative measure.)
understands self-preservation far more than it does good fiscal management. Of
course, they are on the front-lines. All that MHAs hear is kickback from their
constituents over the levy and over a plethora of other issues, too.
the Polls, what bothers them most is their embarrassment over Ball’s
unwillingness to demonstrate even a smidgen of moxie. They have put the Premier on
a very short leash.
departure of the Finance Minister will constitute Ball’s first signal — to the
Caucus — that he is willing to change and that he has their back.
be no repercussions over Bennett’s departure. From day one this Minister has isolated
herself, not just from the Premier’s Office but from her Cabinet and backbench
colleagues too. She will be easy pickings for a Premier preoccupied with his
own political survival.
problematic for Ball, however, is that there is no one in the Liberal Caucus
with a decent finance or senior business background; hence, he will be forced
to choose an even poorer amateur to speak for a province on its fiscal knees. Secondly,
though Bennett spoke to the detail of what the fall Budget might accomplish, Ball
is also associated with last April’s disclosure of the “mini-Budget”.
Rooms on July 28th, he declared that the mini-budget was not off the
table. According to the CBC, the Premier said: “There’s no date yet for the
supplemental budget this fall.”
until September 6th that VOCM News, among other media outlets, reported that
the “provincial government is changing its tune on what was originally being
billed as a mini-budget…”
Dwight Ball “is no longer calling it a mini-budget. He
now says a fiscal update is expected sometime this fall.” It continued:
“He says fiscal responsibility is not just about cuts, but about doing things
by the disastrous Poll results, the Premier at least understands his tenuous
hold on power amidst a Liberal Caucus ready for revolt. Ball is ready to make
at least one decision that just might begin to disassociate him from so many
serves at the pleasure of the First Minister. Hence an unpopular Premier,
under extreme pressure from his Caucus and facing a fall Liberal Convention
that promises to be as exciting as a wake, has to find a way to change the
solution anywhere in this equation for a province in deep financial distress. And
only a temporary one for the Liberal Party.
head is Ball’s short-term reprieve.
politically astute, she would leave before she is pushed.