Peo­ple can change


As a guy who likes to think he should try to be op­ti­mistic, some­times against all the ev­i­dence, I was heart­ened by Kathy Dun­derdale at­tempt­ing to do the same re­cently. Re­spond­ing to Yvonne Jones in the leg­is­la­ture and speak­ing about Stephen Harper, the premier claimed that “peo­ple can change.”

She was sug­gest­ing that Yvonne Jones was be­ing too in­flex­i­ble in con­tin­u­ing to think of Harper as the close rel­a­tive of the devil that sup­port­ers of the “Any­one But Con­ser­va­tive” cam­paign painted him in the fed­eral elec­tion a lit­tle over two years ago.

At the same time Dun­derdale was ex­cus­ing her­self for hav­ing cam­paigned door-to door for Lib­eral Siob­han Coady in 2008. The rea­son for the premier’s change of heart was Harper’s luke­warm state­ment of sup­port for the Muskrat Falls hy­dro pro­ject. He promised a fed­eral loan guar­an­tee, or some­thing sim­i­lar. He spoke in less than cap­i­tal let­ters. It was not in writ­ing. Nonethe­less, it was enough for the premier. She turned on a dime.

If you have all your re-elec­tion eggs in the Muskrat Falls bas­ket, maybe you have to cosy up to a guy you used to treat like a weasel.

Premier Dun­derdale is not the only one do­ing it. Four of the seven Tory can­di­dates in this prov­ince are for­mer mem­bers of the Wil­liams’ ABC cabi­net. All of them left be­fore time, it must be said. Maybe Fabian Man­ning, Loy­ola Sullivan, Trevor Tay­lor and John Ot­ten­heimer were se­cret ad­mir­ers of Steve all along and just couldn’t face the rage of Danny by say­ing so.

It’s lit­tle won­der they feared the wrath of Dan. Man­ning alone had guts enough to speak against Wil­liams’ pol­icy. It was on the fish­ery, a topic the for­mer Premier cared noth­ing about, and even so, Fabian was im­me­di­ately cast into outer dark­ness.

If you are to be pun­ished like that for speak­ing out on the fish­ery, imag­ine if you dared to say a kind word about Steve the Great Satan within earshot of the Danster. It doesn’t bear think­ing about. So none of the four ex-min­is­ters did. But they did all wan­der off be­fore time. Now more than half the Tory can­di­dates for fed­eral NL seats are exWil­liams min­is­ters stam­ped­ing to join the Harper team.

It is clear that their de­ci­sions are in­spired by the ac­tions of our new premier, who proved within days that her new broom re­ally could sweep clean. The echo of Wil­liams’ foot­falls, ex­it­ing the mar­ble foyer of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Build­ing for the last time, were still au­di­ble when the new premier solved the last of sev­eral bit­ter, long­stand­ing labour conflicts.

She made it look easy. And the truth is, re­solv­ing prob­lems is much eas­ier if you think that find­ing a so­lu­tion is more im­por­tant than prov­ing you are tougher than the per­son sitting op­po­site.

But that was the for­mer premier’s only move. He played the tough guy all the time. There al­ways had to be an en­emy and who­ever it was, Danny was tougher. For me, it got very old, very soon, but there is one thing on which he and I agree. Stephen Harper can­not be trusted. And just be­cause our car­toon tough guy is gone from the scene doesn’t mean that his arch en­emy has sud­denly been in­fected with a vir­u­lent strain of truth­ful­ness.

Harper be­lieves in the pol­i­tics of di­vide and con­quer to gain per­sonal short-term ad­van­tage, never mind that this leaves com­mu­ni­ties split and em­bit­tered.

Harper has a se­vere al­lergy to com­pro­mise and con­sen­sus and he is tak­ing his meds. It ex­plains his out­bursts against the “coali­tion” de­spite the fact that coali­tions are rou­tine and func­tion well, gov­ern­ing demo­cratic coun­tries around the world. There is one in the U.K. at the mo­ment. Harper him­self pro­posed form­ing one six years ago with the NDP and Bloc, par­ties whose names he rou­tinely spits out be­tween clenched teeth.

Danny Wil­liams has al­ready re­tired from pol­i­tics and I will go out on a limb to pre­dict that it won’t be long af­ter the up­com­ing elec­tion that Stephen Harper will be gone too. The two men hate one an­other. We know that. In try­ing to un­der­stand why they do, it is use­ful to re­mem­ber the rule about mag­nets. Op­po­sites at­tract and likes re­pel.

I can pic­ture the scene. The two of them are in a park. They are walk­ing to­gether but shout­ing at one an­other as, be­tween beds of flow­ers, they slowly stroll to­gether down a gen­tly wind­ing so­cio path.

Peter Pickersgill is an artist and writer liv­ing in Sal­vage.

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