Thursday night’s result constitutes the worst possible election outcome.
other jurisdictions, minority governments are notable by their brevity as much as
for their instability and lack of progress on normally intractable problems. We
have some of those. Locally, the 1971 election is our singular post-Confederation
encounter with minority government. It was marked chiefly by chicanery —
inducements to Members to switch Parties — and it was short-lived. We would
never have to worry about something like that ever happening again, would we?
will see the election outcome as a judgement on Dwight Ball’s leadership:
his indecision and his lack of forthrightness. Indeed,
his poor approval ratings were earned early and got worse. Why he was the centrepiece
of the Liberal Campaign ads, I’ll never understand.
one will argue that, when the Liberals won the election in 2015, they were
handed a poisoned chalice by the Tories. The decisions they took —
Muskrat and huge deficits in particular — were so egregious that the Liberals
ought to have been able to bury the P.C.’s for at least two generations. The
bumbling began with Ball giving Ed Martin a multi-million dollar handshake, and
continued with a ham-fisted display of political cowardice by raising taxes in
the 2016 Budget in place of taking an axe to spending.
far the greatest display of bad judgement was the Liberals’ assurances that our
fiscal problems were under control and that rate mitigation would be painlessly
achieved — which suited the Tories perfectly.
of their own described the Liberals’ litany of errors and mismanagement as
“fifty shades of dumb!” Who could disagree?
hour has found a secure home in other arenas, too. Everyone noticed Ches
Crosbie’s unscripted lack of class in not, at least, congratulating Ball and
promising to work with him, a matter to which I will return. The same borrishness was practiced by politician/businessman Paul Antle a few days earlier on Burin
Peninsula, when he left no doubt as to the linkage between aquaculture-related
jobs, the governing Liberals, and the purchase of the Marystown Yard. And bad
judgement got a boost by Her Honor the Lieutenant Governor’s unwise
decision to be in the proximity of her old Provincial and Federal Riding during
things never change. But what now? What should the public gird themselves for within
the context of our new political circumstance?
concern over minority government, stated at the outset, is directed at our
likely impossible fiscal position.
ask the most obvious question: with a return to the Polls an omnipresent fact
of life requiring that each Party stays in the voters’ good books, which one will
propose cuts to spending? The Liberals? The Tories? The NDP? One of the two
Independents? Who have we missed?
problem that is likely already beyond our capability to reverse can only worsen.
In an economy heavily dominated by government spending and employment, no one
will be meting out pain to an electorate looking for leadership that is insisting someone else should be tapped.
now, there is only time to play politics; survival is destiny’s political
exigency. Ches Crosbie spelled it out on Thursday night. It will be the same
for the Liberals and the NDP, except that they know some things are best said
only certainty is that no Party, except the Tories, wants a quick return to the
Polls. The Liberals are seeking a new leader; they will not allow Dwight
anything except a civil exit. They will attend to the issue early in case the
Government collapses prematurely. Secondly, all the Parties need to replenish
their coffers; without money, the Campaign ads can only get worse.
next year will be dominated by extreme partisanship and a keen eye to which
Members might be “open-minded” about switching.
political leaders will gather their new Caucuses, each containing brand-new
members that they neither know nor, at this early stage, trust.
— former leaders, former MHAs, Party officials, and indeed anyone enabled with information
or influence — will be instructed to engage the new ones in particular. Opportunities
for leverage will be the singular preoccupation.
Independents, Eddie Joyce and Paul Lane, know that they are kingmakers. Eddie
Joyce’s distain for Ball and his nemesis, Sherry Gambin-Walsh, does not extend
to the Liberal Party to which he has unshakeable loyalty. Ball’s exit will solve
only one of those issues. However, on a solo basis, Joyce will not bring down
the Government in a Confidence vote.
Lane has a different history. And he has already indicated that he will not
accept the Speaker’s Chair and will remain an Independent. He is savvy enough
to wait until greater clarity is carried on the political winds.
egos inside every Caucus will assume a new proportion. The Premier will be
careful not to disappoint any Caucus Member; all who desire a Cabinet post will
have one or, failing that, a position befitting their enlarged self-perception.
Member’s health and well-being will be monitored, should those have terminal
the public — especially the media — every announcement, speech, or appointment
will be assessed within this new paradigm of heightened suspicion, distrust,
and personal and political self-interest.
Crosbie can smell victory’s uncertain scent. His worry is that the Liberals will
come up with a respectable leadership candidate, someone that the public finds
more endearing than either he or Ball. He can’t give the Liberals an inch. He
has to take them down at the earliest, and he knows it.
NDP were awarded a second chance, though any growth will be hard-earned. There
is no fourth Seat even within striking distance, which suggest that they will
have to play the long game. Their next opportunity occurs when the wheels fall
off the fiscal bus.
this maelstrom of political intrigue will be parsed daily; the news might
actually contain… some news.
balanced Budget in 2022-23? Of course, ‘rate mitigation’, too. And a chicken in
every pot and…