Lib­er­als lov­ing life in the rearview mir­ror

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - OPINION - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 36 Saltwire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@thetele­ — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

It has been some 1,076 days since Dwight Ball’s Lib­er­als were elected to run this prov­ince. Just 20 days short of three full years.

To put that in gov­ern­ment terms, that’s meant some­thing like 90 well-paid pen­sion­able per­son-years of em­ploy­ment for the cur­rent crop of Lib­eral MHAS.

Three-quar­ters of their man­date.

But while the Lib­eral slo­gan may be “The Way For­ward,” I think it could just as well be “The Blame Back­wards.”

Be­cause here we are, all that time later, and the Lib­er­als seemed to be crit­i­cally fo­cused on rais­ing past Tories fail­ings to de­fend them­selves from crit­i­cism on all fronts.

Just take the past few days in the House of Assem­bly.

Here’s gov­ern­ment House Leader An­drews Par­sons an­swer­ing a ques­tion about methylmer­cury: “The irony again is that we’re deal­ing with an is­sue that was left to us by the crowd over there when we talk about Muskrat Falls.”

And Pre­mier Dwight Ball, an­swer­ing a ques­tion on the car­bon tax: “I just want to re­fer the Mem­ber op­po­site to the Muskrat Falls project, no big­ger im­pact on New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans, no big­ger im­pact on New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans, dou­bling of elec­tric­ity rates…”

Dwight Ball on work­ers get­ting paid by Nal­cor: “This is a long list of the is­sues that we’ve had to deal with as this ad­min­is­tra­tion that we in­her­ited; the mess that was put in place by the ad­min­is­tra­tion that you lead.…un­for­tu­nately, Mr. Speaker, the for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tion, the ad­min­is­tra­tion that the Leader of the Op­po­si­tion now leads, has left this on the backs of tax­pay­ers in New­found­land and Labrador:”

Tourism Min­is­ter Chris Mitchel­more, af­ter he was asked about the ap­point­ment of some­one with Lib­eral con­nec­tions to a prom­i­nent and well-paid po­si­tion at The Rooms: “So, Mr. Len Simms was ap­pointed chair and CEO of the Hous­ing Cor­po­ra­tion in 2005, re­signed as chair in 2007 to run the PC cam­paign. Then, af­ter elec­tion day, was reap­pointed as chair and CEO of the Hous­ing Cor­po­ra­tion …”

Dwight Ball, asked about a court chal­lenge to the Up­per Churchill con­tract: “But, Mr. Speaker, right now the strate­gic fo­cus for us in New­found­land and Labrador is not just about win­ning a court chal­lenge; it’s ac­tu­ally fix­ing the mess that the peo­ple that you now sit with cre­ated for the peo­ple in our prov­ince.”

Ball, on the deficit: “I would ask the Leader of the Op­po­si­tion, why is he fail­ing to ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for why we are where we are? Why don’t you ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity? Ig­nor­ing the fact that you and your party put this prov­ince in the mess that it’s in. Ac­cept the re­spon­si­bil­ity. Apol­o­gize to the peo­ple of our prov­ince.”

And the House of Assem­bly has been only been open this fall for a hand­ful of days.

The theme is ob­vi­ous.

It’s also bank­rupt. Take Mitchel­more’s use of the reap­point­ment of Len Simms at New­found­land and Labrador Hous­ing Cor­po­ra­tion as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for The Rooms job — well, two wrongs don’t make a right. While point­ing back­wards at Simms’ ap­point­ment, Mitchel­more con­ve­niently for­gets, for ex­am­ple, that mem­bers of his own party called the ap­point­ment “un­eth­i­cal and ob­scene” at that time. But it’s a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion now? Only if you be­lieve in the most se­lec­tive of rear-view­ing.

The Ball gov­ern­ment may well have been elected the first time as re­sult of the mis­man­age­ment of Muskrat Falls and wind­fall of oil rev­enues by the Con­ser­va­tives. But the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion can’t pos­si­bly ex­pect to go into next year’s elec­tion on the ba­sis of the “the Tories still did bad things four years ago.”

For a while, a new gov­ern­ment can tee off on the mis­takes of past ad­min­is­tra­tions. I can re­mem­ber Lib­eral John Ef­ford chastis­ing the Tory op­po­si­tion over the Sprung Green­house for years af­ter the Lib­er­als won. Then, as now, there was a point when it stops be­ing le­git­i­mate.

Af­ter a while, it just gets ex­ceed­ingly stale.

Three years in, it’s about time to own your own record, in­stead of blam­ing some­one else’s.

But while the Lib­eral slo­gan may be “The Way For­ward,” I think it could just as well be “The Blame Back­wards.”

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