Dr. Fitzgerald’s body language did not betray her when she shuttered most of the Province’s economy for the second time
on Wednesday. Her demeanor and countenance suggested that she had just endured the
kind of pushback from the politicos on the 8th Floor that lets you
know “doing the right thing” is not easy especially during an Election; she
might have still been feeling the bruising. She was probably thinking, too, of
the unwise Premier sitting six feet away and of the arrogance required to play
Russian roulette in a pandemic.
Where have we seen it before? Danny Williams and Kathy
Dunderdale come to mind; too smart by half, a pair of Wiley Coyotes so full of
themselves seeking political advantage by crushing common sense. Premier
Furey’s manoeuver – too slick by half – now sees him looking down the wrong end
of the gun.
If it was only about winning an election, a healthy society
and economy would work its way through one more dalliance with “amateur hour” he exhibits. We have certainly seen this before: Danny, Kathy, Tom, Paul and
Dwight have not defeated this place, even if they have given it a good shot.
Elections are not just about who runs the House of Assembly.
Who has the “confidence” of the people is actually far more important. The issue, therefore, that
escaped Premier Furey’s notice in his gamble for advantage with a February
election – the harshest of winter months – and the constant threat of COVID-19
– is this: if his Party wins, will he have anyone’s confidence. Will he have
the moral authority to govern?
At first, it is worth remembering that his default that the
law required him to go to the Polls risks offending basic common sense. The
“law” afforded the Premier a window of opportunity of one year following his
Swearing-In, last August. Secondly, in a pandemic, possibly the most
legitimate reason for changing the law – though I can think of others – the
option did not receive even momentary consideration.
The Premier cannot be credited with seeking a mandate in
response to the Province’s fiscal crisis. His platform – and those of the other
Parties – fails to acknowledge its awful dimension. The Premier’s own assertions around the “fiscal gap” constitute a
deliberate misrepresentation of its enormity. Furey’s platform, in short,
offers only the assurance that his friends in Ottawa will come to
our rescue. If this is correct, why the need
to get ahead of the release of Moya Greene’s Report, even if her professional
history includes no talent for “gilding the lily”?
In the circumstance, it is pretty darn hard not to conclude
that Furey has deemed the health of citizens a collateral matter; the
exigencies of Party politics are obviously far more important. Otherwise, he
would have publicly addressed the largest fiscal crisis of the last ninety
years, taken pains to explain its relationship to the need for a new mandate,
and described the problem in a way that, so far, no Party leader has been
This is not real politics; this is sham democracy. This is a Premier
content to play footsie with the truth as he takes cavalier risks with public
To be perfectly frank, any leader motivated by the true spirit
of democratic practice would want his actions to indicate what he thinks of the
truth and of the rights of citizens. This should include the certain knowledge
of what they are facing before voting.
If the election is not delayed, the greatest threat to its
legitimacy is that it will suffer a low turnout. Many people, not just those in quarantine,
the elderly, the health compromised, and the justifiably fearful, will be
This is not a good start when the greatest need is to restore
the public’s faith in their House of Assembly and in their Government, not to
erode it further.
Nothing less than a full and fair election – one in which all
who wish to vote can – will begin the path of repair for the confidence
needed to deal with each of our realities – the pandemic and the fiscal crisis.
For all those reasons, Premier Furey should do the right
thing. The Chief Returning Officer does not have the authority to delay the
Election but the Chief Medical Officer of Health does. He should call her today. A full “Mail-In” Ballot return is easily viable.
An even better idea is to reschedule the Campaign until summer or
fall when Covid-19 ought to be in the rearview mirror, vaccination more
widespread, and new voting methods developed. However, that may be an unlikely option considering the legal basis for the Lieutenant Government’s authority to reconstitute a dissolved Legislature has no precedent.