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.