We read you, loud and clear

The Compass - - OPINION -

Politi­cians love to say it, es­pe­cially when they are do­ing badly in the polls. Pre­mier Kathy Dun­derdale, whose party has been trend­ing third in pro­vin­cial opin­ion polling, has said it her­self: the only poll that mat­ters is the one on elec­tion day.

Well, in a by­elec­tion in Car­bon­ear-Har­bour Grace, pro­vin­cial elec­tion of­fi­cials just counted the bal­lots in the only poll that mat­ters, and Dun­derdale’s Tories were left lick­ing their wounds.

It’s some­thing of a star­tling mes­sage — or, at least, it should be. Car­bon­ear-Har­bour Grace is a dis­trict that, un­til re­cently, was rep­re­sented by one of the most pow­er­ful Tory politi­cians in the prov­ince. Jerome Kennedy held down, at one point or another, vir­tu­ally ev­ery top post that you could get in cab­i­net. The dis­trict has done well un­der the Tories, and the gov­ern­ing party cer­tainly threw ev­ery­thing they had at the cam­paign.

The last few weeks have been a ver­i­ta­ble land­slide of good news an­nounce­ments, with the hyper­bole reach­ing the point where Fi­nance Min­is­ter Tom Mar­shall de­creed in the House of As­sem­bly that, in this prov­ince, we are all lucky to be liv­ing in a “golden age.”

In the end, though, it was the Lib­er­als’ Sam Slade, a for­mer mayor from the area, who took the vote, cruis­ing to a win that was prob­a­bly more com­fort­able than any­one would have ex­pected, more than 400 votes ahead of his Tory com­pe­ti­tion.

What does the vic­tory mean? Well, you can look at it sev­eral dif­fer­ent ways: it might be pre­ma­ture to sug­gest from a by­elec­tion in just one dis­trict that the vot­ers are look­ing for a change in gov­ern­ment (al­though the Lib­er­als have al­ready said pretty much that).

What it says more than any­thing else is that there aren’t any safe seats for the Tories; that the next elec­tion will at least be more hotly con­tested, and that any­one who slid in on Tory coat­tails last time might be in for a fight.

The other thing you can al­most count on? Tory mem­bers who have been in of­fice a long time, es­pe­cially those who are now fully pen­sion­able, will be look­ing to their guts to see if they have the stom­ach for a full-fledged bat­tle, or whether it’s time to let some­one else fight the 2015 elec­tion.

Most of all, though, this should be taken (at least by the gov­ern­ment) as some­thing of a warn­ing.

There’s another say­ing about polls - well, about by­elec­tions, any­way. Gov­ern­ments reg­u­larly lose them. Why? Be­cause it’s a nice, safe, easy way for vot­ers to sig­nal that they’re un­happy with the di­rec­tion that the gov­ern­ment’s tak­ing, with­out hav­ing to change out the cur­rent crew en­tirely.

The only ques­tion when it comes to that par­tic­u­lar mes­sage is whether the Tories are lis­ten­ing.

— Reprinted from the Nov. 28 print edi­tion of The Tele­gram

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