Is the hon­ey­moon over for Kathy?

The Compass - - OPINION -

There’s an old say­ing in pol­i­tics. Po­lit­i­cal par­ties don’t win elec­tions; gov­ern­ments lose them.

Our his­tory is strewn with the corpses of regimes that out­lived their use­ful­ness. Af­ter 23 years of reign­ing supreme, Joey’s Lib­er­als fi­nally lost their stran­gle­hold on near ab­so­lute power. By the early 1970s, the elec­torate was so turned off by the party they had re­mained loyal to since Con­fed­er­a­tion, the deep dis­con­tent guar­an­teed the once all-pow­er­ful party at least 17 years of wan­der­ing aim­lessly in the po­lit­i­cal wilder­ness, while the Tories ruled the roost.

It was in­ter­est­ing and per­haps timely to see Brian Peck­ford resur­face last week with his new book about the sun shin­ing and have-not be­ing no more. De­spite his suc­cess with the At­lantic Ac­cord, it was, in the end, Peck­ford’s ob­ses­sion with Sprung and cu­cum­bers that cost his suc­ces­sor, Tom Ride­out, the 1989 elec­tion. An­other ex­am­ple of a hith­erto pop­u­lar party wear­ing out its wel­come with the vot­ers. That cou­pled with the fact Clyde Wells was viewed as some­thing of a Mes­siah-like fig­ure, at least among loyal Lib­er­als.

In this prov­ince, we like to see our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers take the odd stroll across our har­bours with­out get­ting their feet wet. We like some­one to take us by the hand and lead us to the promised land of milk, honey and have-prov­ince sta­tus.

En­ter dash­ing Danny. Like his pre­de­ces­sors, pre­miers Moores, Peck­ford, Wells and Tobin, Wil­liams knew when to get out of pol­i­tics while the get­ting was good. Not that stay­ing around would have been a prob­lem for Wil­liams, who some have al­ready anointed, “our great­est premier,” even be­fore his­tory gets a chance to make its un­bi­ased judg­ment.

Un­like some of his pre­de­ces­sors of both po­lit­i­cal stripes, Wil­liams left his party in such great shape, it now has nowhere to go but down.

No doubt a charis­matic leader like Wil­liams is a hard act for any­one to fol­low.

De­spite lead­ing her party to a re­sound­ing vic­tory in the last pro­vin­cial gen­eral elec­tion, Kathy Dun­derdale ap­pears to be flop­ping around in those ex­tra large shoes she was asked and sub­se­quently chose to fill.

Re­cent polls have shown some con­sid­er­able slip­page in pop­u­lar­ity for the gov­ern­ing party and its newly minted leader.

Then last week came an­other twist, which hinted Kathy’s ship of state may be head­ing into some rough wa­ters, and so early in her maiden voy­age.

Vet­eran PC stal­wart Tom Os­borne jumped ship and de­cided to sit as an in­de­pen­dent, at least for now. Not ex­actly a cab­i­net heavy­weight — cur­rently he doesn’t even hold a seat at the cab­i­net ta­ble. But he is the long­est serv­ing Tory MHA in the House, which should count for some­thing. Af­ter 16 years of read­ing from his party’s hymn­book, one doesn’t sud­denly de­fect with­out some rea­son, self­ish or not.

Fo r his part, Os­borne has cited Dun­derdale’s lead­er­ship style, as well as be­ing forced to sup­port gov­ern­ment poli­cies he could not en­dorse among his rea­sons for leav­ing.

But the straw that broke Os­borne’s back ap­pears to be Bill 29, the con­tro­ver­sial amend­ment to the prov­ince’s ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion laws, whi ch broa d l y in­creased gov­ern­ment se­crecy and lim­ited the pub­lic’s abil­ity to view gov­ern­ment records.

De­spite his dis­taste for the leg­is­la­tion, Os­borne did vote for it, ex­plain­ing he had been told by a se­nior cab­i­net mem­ber that vot­ing against it could mean reper­cus­sions. He claims he voted the way he did out of con­cern such reper­cus­sions could ad­versely af­fect his con­stituents.

MHAs be­ing kept on a tighter leash from the premier’s of­fice, and more po­lit­i­cal con­trol within gov­ern­ment, such as be­ing forced to go through gov­ern­ment min­is­ters’ po­lit­i­cal staff, in­stead of di­rectly to bu­reau­crats, were also im­pos­si­ble for Os­borne to swal­low.

For her part, the premier con­tends her de­ci­sion not to in­clude Os­borne in her cab­i­net is at the root of his de­ci­sion to leave.

Of course he de­nies that. And so the he said, she said con­tin­ues un­abated, along with the vitriol from mem­bers of the Tory cau­cus and cab­i­net, who have la­beled their for­mer bo­som buddy as “dead wood,” and wished him “good rid­dance!”

Do the re­cent poles and defection mean that a tear is fi­nally start­ing to ap­pear in the cur­tain in the great Tory tem­ple that Danny built?

Is the hon­ey­moon al­ready over for Kathy so early in her own first elected man­date?

With a com­fort­able ma­jor­ity in the House and with more than three years left to go in her cur­rent reign, it’s far to0 early to tell.

But as the in­fight­ing con­tin­ues to sur­face, fur flies and heads roll, if there is no hockey sea­son this year, New­found­land vot­ers can at least sit back and watch our other great blood sport – New­found­land pol­i­tics.

Do not ad­just your sets.

In this prov­ince, we like to see our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers take the odd stroll across our har­bours with­out get­ting their feet wet. We like some­one to take us by the hand and lead us to the promised land of milk, honey and have-prov­ince sta­tus.

— Bill Bow­man, The Com­pass

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