When political leaders step aside, expectations of them,
however fanciful, are withdrawn; civility requires us to wish
all, including Dwight Ball, godspeed. But while some leaders are quickly given
the peace they seek, others warrant the lament popularized in the now famous
lyric by Ron Hynes: “Godspeed. Goddamn.”
Minister on a wave of expectation. He didn’t defeat a leviathan in Paul
Davis. The public just needed to rid themselves of a godawful government in a
province where good governance is a rarity. The new broom had represented at
least the possibility of hope.
politicians are, allowing an opaque future to catch him flat-footed. On the
contrary, his mission had been indelibly carved in Newfoundland and Labrador society’s
rearview mirror. It was put there by two reckless Premiers — Williams and
Dunderdale — and two more who were ineffectual and complicit with them — Tom
Marshall and Paul Davis. Hence, at the beginning, Ball’s most hoped-for
characteristic was not clairvoyance, premonition or even sagacity; it was just
a fervent desire that he possessed a spine.
diminished expectation was embraced soon after his inauguration. It began with a
bevy of “Mandate Letters” to his new Ministers that were quickly recognized for
form rather than substance, offering, as Uncle Gnarley suggested in December
2015, not even “the pretense of a cogent mission statement”. His initiation as
Premier continued with the ham-fisted firing of Nalcor CEO Ed Martin, including
a refusal to acknowledge that he had acceded to Martin’s “without cause”
departure, having resigned and returned miraculously, to pick up an obscenely generous severance
assurances that “it’s not a crisis”, successive deficits having hit the
stratosphere of irresponsibility. Yet he girded his Administration to “wimp
out”, unwilling as he was to administer even the most minimal dosage of fiscal
medicine. In the process, he blew through the public’s goodwill on tax
increases and a mere $1 million cutback — not to the St. Brendan’s ferry, a
bloated public service or even to the boatloads of entitled at Nalcor — but to the
public library system. He even undermined his newbie Finance Minister as she
exposed her own “incomplete digestion” of the Budget brief.
cost overruns and delay manifested in the “more” truthful — but still
underreported — $12.7 figure offered by new CEO Stan Marshall. His commitment
to “transparency” proved more of a slogan than a mantra; it took until April
2017 before new appointments were made to a “fake” Oversight Committee the previous
government had established. He never exhibited understanding of the debacle
that Williams had divined anyway, content as he was to bask in Stan Marshall’s
credibility, all the while ignoring the inescapable fact of Muskrat’s incurable
consequences. Dither had found a comfortable home.
course of a half-decade, a frightening deficit and debt earned the province a
downgrade, the bond-rating agencies proving to be no more impressed than the
public. In the company of vague assurances, the spine was even weaker than the
production quickly saw turnips traded for weed, though even here the odour of
marijuana was no match for the stink of partisanship; a meritorious hiring
process haing gotten in the way of advancement for friends and cronies.
bad polling or of a desperately fearful Caucus? The smart ones knew that the
electorate’s offer of a half-hearted new beginning was a political death-knell
— not just for Ball, but for them all.
except the Liberal-appointed Consumer Advocate. Partisanship always carries a
price. Ball’s Trumpian echo of self-praise, however, spoke to desperation. What
had a feckless Premier to show? A hapless Federal Minister and two stir sticks in
Coady and Mitchelmore: a thin army, even amongst partisans, when the others had
already deserted. Godspeed.
grandstand. Vague commitments and no money. Copycatting Danny Williams. Is
there a legacy here, somewhere? Please.
public isn’t buying.
Premier Ball: Godspeed, Goddamn.