Petty politics at its finest
I know politics is sometimes a game of hold-your-nose pragmatism.
Strange bedfellows sometimes result from people’s simple base desire to stay in government or in cabinet, with the end result that people who actively despise each other end up making happy-face across the cabinet table.
But last week in the provincial Liberal party pretty much defies description.
As it stands right now, the House is considering what action to take after the commissioner for member’s interests looked at a series of complaints against former Liberal cabinet members Eddie Joyce and Dale Kirby. The commissioner found both Kirby and Joyce were deserving of one reprimand each for their actions.
Since then, though, more wheels have fallen off the campaign bus.
Eddie Joyce made a “not-anultimatum” ultimatum that he wouldn’t come back to the party or cabinet unless the MHA and cabinet minister who complained about his behaviour, Sherry Gambin-walsh, leaves.
A very high-stakes game of chicken indeed, and one that, if Premier Dwight Ball acquiesces, can only make him look weak. I don’t know any former premier, placed in the same position, who would not immediately say, “Bye, Eddie.” Imagine trying that little stunt with Brian Peckford, Clyde Wells or Danny Williams — you’d find the contents of your desk in a box by the curb.
The optics of caving in are just too politically horrible to contemplate.
And Joyce is not alone in his attempt to put a stick in the Liberal spokes.
Dale Kirby was also found to have contravened the MHA Code of Conduct for his behaviour with Liberal MHA Pam Parsons.
Kirby’s no-hold-barred, firingat-everyone attempt to make his way back into the government fold or to completely scorch the earth in the process?
His actions are already being reviewed to see if he should be found in contempt of the House of Assembly for releasing the report on his conduct early, so that he could describe it as something of an exoneration. He released it saying that, out of seven allegations, he’d been cleared of all but one, which he was disputing.
His solution to the contempt contretemps that’s arisen since about his release of the report? To drag in another MHA, fellow Liberal Colin Holloway, and say Holloway should also be punished for leaking a different report early — even though Holloway apparently first got permission from the Speaker of the House of Assembly to go ahead. How far will Kirby go? Don’t forget, if things continue in this vein, the provincial Liberals would be the second provincial political party that Kirby’s had a hand in blowing up from the inside. Kirby was also front and centre in breaking up the provincial NDP when they had the highest number of seats they’d ever won in an election, a hair’s-breadth away from being the official opposition.
If both Kirby and Joyce end up back as Liberals, how exactly are Liberals Pam Parsons, Sherry Gambin-walsh and Colin Holloway supposed to work with them, anyway?
I’m not sure how Dwight Ball thinks he can fix an atmosphere that’s guaranteed to have his MHAs playing watch-yourown-back for, at the very least, the rest of the current mandate.
Probably pretty much everyone has had dirt done to them in the workplace. I know I have. And even if you’re not vindictive, even if you don’t take direct revenge, you remember.
Should the premier find a way to put a temporary patch over this electoral pothole, I predict bringing Kirby and Joyce back into the fold will only last until the first hard freeze.
They’ve doubled down with very weak cards, hoping the premier will fold.
The problem is that if Dwight Ball folds now, there’s a risk he’s folding his own future.
“A very high-stakes game of chicken indeed, and one that, if Premier Dwight Ball acquiesces, can only make him look weak.”
Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 36 Saltwire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at email@example.com — Twitter: @wangersky.