OPINION POLL OVER-RATES INEFFECTIVE TORY OPPOSITION

Opposition Parties play an important role in democratic legislatures, but you would never know it using the NL P.C. Party as a standard. Evidently confident that the Party’s slight edge (42% P.C. vs. 40% Liberals), reported 31 August by Narrative Research, is sustainable, the inconsequential lead even has interim Party Leader, David Brazil, considering running when nominations open for the 2023 Tory Leadership race. I am sure that Narrative Research uses standard research methodologies; however, the same result two years from now may be more convincing.

Though this piece is not entirely about Opposition Leader, David Brazil, it is often painful to watch him shoot from the hip as he addresses important issues. Immediate commentary is a requirement in an “instant” news world. However, some issues warrant follow through, thoughtful analysis, and frequent (more than once) communications with the public. It seems Brazil doesn’t offer that more thoughtful service.

That his “interim” status has been extended, that he thinks he is doing a good enough job, and has not been told otherwise, is not a good sign for the “second” major political Party in the Province.

Perhaps, I’m mistaken but rather than energy, intelligence and analysis, “gall” seems the only combustible required for political leadership.

Cite any issue – health care, Government spending, management of Nalcor/NL Hydro, rate mitigation, wind/hydrogen – all have been badly handled by the Opposition. The tax on sugary drinks, a relatively minor irritant, is elevated to nuclear status.

Tony Wakeham, MHA for Stephenville Port au Port, evidently wants to be the home rebate hero. Is it that he can’t juggle two issues at once, or that he is waiting to see how the wind is blowing in his district over the World Energy GH2 proposal; whether the Province will benefit from is wind resource a secondary matter.  Isn’t he also a leadership hopeful?

After “Muskrat Madness” – now likely exceeding $14 billion – one might have thought that attention to “house-cleaning” by the P.C. Party, and contrition, too, were prerequisites for the Tories to face voters.  Instead, instant gratification – where issues of the innocuous and short-term kind are given elevation – are the ones emphasized.

Brazil was a Minister in the Dunderdale Cabinet in 2012 when Muskrat Falls sanction occurred. Can we really believe that the public would take seriously his opposition to the “rate mitigation fund”, or any other comment? Confounding is that the Pols suggest otherwise.

Nevertheless, having survived in spite of themselves, the Tories have been lazy and uninspiring. The fact that it is summer, and the House of Assembly closed, admittedly makes their job tougher, except that I suggest the Party’s manifest weakness is not a seasonal problem.

Arguably, some explanation is found in the adage: “Opposition Parties don’t win; it’s Governments that lose”, which contains a cornel of truth. Presumably, it follows that they think they can coast on verbiage, even if it misses the mark. 

In a 40-Seat Legislature, having won 13 seats in the last General Election (now 12, after Lela Evans crossed the “Floor” to vanish into a group of 3), the Tories, the third Party NDP, and Independents, bring the combined Opposition to 18 Seats. Against the 22-Seat Government benches, especially during Question Period, they ought to have Furey and his Ministers begging for mercy every day.

The smorgasbord of major issues facing this province, each possessing crippling firepower for the Opposition, represent opportunities for them to excel, to display their energy and intelligence, to exhibit their mastery of the intricacies and the requirements of sound public policy, to warrant notice by the media, and – for those with the ambition – to justify their candidacy for leadership.

When an Opposition passes on the opportunity, for example, of John Haggie’s uninterrupted and disgraceful 6.5 year tenure as Minister of Health, when a 7-16 hour wait in an emergency waiting room (some much longer) have become the norm, and the larger health care system – the most expensive in Canada per capita – is literally falling apart in front of our eyes – you have to wonder what motivates Tory Members to run.

Can anyone say that the public recognizes the healthcare crisis because the Official Opposition brought it to their attention?

How did Haggie’s obvious replacement, former Deputy Minister John Abbott, and Furey’s failure to appoint him, not get noticed? Is Furey still scared over his capable rival? What “live” Opposition leader would miss the opportunity to test the Premier’s insecurities?

Alternatively, does the Opposition think Andrew Parsons on top of his Ministry?

Do they really believe that a Finance Minister who gives scant attention to the detail of taxing sugary drinks should be chastised, but one who annual serves up cash deficits approaching $2 billion is ok?

Think about it: If an Official Opposition of 12 and a total Opposition of 18 MHAs can’t persuade a Premier to disembowel Ministers unworthy to be in Cabinet – and to treat government as a process deserving of more attention than a photo-op, they are the problem, not the political system.

Electoral luck, of the kind that the Tories experienced in the last election, shouldn’t always be counted on. As much as mainstream news is far too often bereft of serious political content, (social media platforms are limited for complex issues, too), it is up to the politicians to figure out how to be heard, and to prove why they, and their Parties, should be taken seriously.  

Considering the privilege of sitting in Opposition, squandering the opportunity is more than a travesty of parliamentary democracy. It is an affront to voters who might have thought their Members are able to serve.

Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.

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