New MLAs face steep learning curve
Here’s one by-the-numbers take on Tuesday’s provincial byelections:
Progressive Conservatives 0; NDP – 1; Liberals – 2; Cape Bretoners – 3.
Yes, all three newly elected MLAs — Derek Mombourquette, Liberal, Sydney-Whitney Pier; Dave Wilson, Liberal, Cape Breton Centre; and Marian Mancini, NDP, Dartmouth South — grew up on the right side of the causeway and, who knows, there may be a conspiracy theory somewhere describing this as an elaborate plot by Cape Bretoners (including ex-pats) to gain control of the province. One seat (or three seats) at a time. Once enough of them become MLAs, they’ll disregard party affiliations, join forces and set the province on the right track once and for all.
All kidding aside, the results in the two Cape Breton ridings don’t come as much of a surprise.
The victorious candidates had fared well in losing causes against popular incumbents in the 2013 election.
This time around, with Gordie Gosse and Frank Corbett having retired, it was Mombourquette and Wilson who brought more name recognition to voters’ doorsteps. Plus, they carried the political colours of the party in power. Nothing like having your candidate on the same side of the floor as the premier, right?
For the candidates running against them those were two big hurdles to overcome. Especially with the Liberals not having done much to alienate the masses just yet. Sorry, but major film tax credit cuts don’t generate a huge amount of angst in this neck of the woods.
So Mombourquette and Wilson become MLAs 33 and 34 on the Grit hierarchy list and they’ll have just over two years to consolidate their power base before the next provincial election is called. Attracting a government-supported goodie or two to their ridings will help, but it’s a tall order in this era of austerity.
Mancini, of Glace Bay, will also attempt to build on her base in Dartmouth South, but with her party reduced to just six MLAs she will no doubt be given added duties as the NDP attempts to chip away at the Liberal majority.
The learning curve will be steep and for all three new MLAs, if they haven’t done so already, we recommend reading Graham Steele’s award-nominated memoir “What I learned about politics: inside the rise — and collapse — of Nova Scotia NDP government.” It’s a real eye-opener and a sobering look at a system that clearly needs an overhaul.
Our three new MLAs will also discover that it’s one thing to get elected and become an effective constituency politician. That’s the best way of keeping your job for a couple of terms or more.
But it’s quite another to help bring about real change in a province in dire need of politicians with the courage and vision to see the big picture and act on behalf of the greater good.
Time will tell what level they are able to rise to.