You can fool some people some of the time, but you can’t fool everyone all the time. That cliché is becoming a bit more evident in Newfoundland and Labrador these days as people are waking up to what has to be the most underwhelming government of all stripes we’ve likely ever had in the history of our province.
Go ahead, right now, and tell me who among the current lot in the House of Assembly — no matter their political affiliation — would make a great premier. Come on now. I’m waiting. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Even the current person holding the job is the least popular premier in the country according to the latest Angus Reid poll — Kathy Dunderdale ended up tied with Christy Clark, a scandal-plagued premier from B.C. who’s likely about to lose her government.
Three out of four people don’t like the job Dunderdale is doing.
Is anyone surprised by that?
The people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, especially those in the $1 billion fishing industry, certainly are not.
Dunderdale makes big prime time TV announcements when it comes to mining and oil, but the thing she and her cohorts forget about is people. See, the mineral and oil businesses are big money makers, no doubt about it. They pour millions into the coffers at Confederation Building.
But they don’t affect people nearly as directly as industries like tourism and the fishery.
Obviously, the $2 billion combined worth of tourism and fishing is small potatoes in pure dollars and cents compared to the big time non-renewable resource industries. But those money numbers don’t factor in the tens of thousands of people who directly draw their livelihood, culture, history and lifestyle from the fishing industry or even the tourism industry.
Those tens of thousands of people do live in voting districts, however, in areas where the only sign of sexy oil or mining money is a bit of pothole patching or a bridge repair.
These people are noticing how their industries and communities are being ignored and lip-serviced, while the big revenue industries are getting all the attention financially and fundamentally. Government is killing regional economic development groups, and pouring extra money into a resettlement fund and publicly funded television shows. Meanwhile, nobody is marketing our world-class seafood, or focusing on rural renewal. Am I cherry-picking here? Yeah, maybe, but sue me.
The problem with trying to build your political house on a marsh of oil and gas money or mining revenue is a very simple one: loonies and toonies can’t vote.
People do that job.
And right now the people are looking around at all the souls and parties in the House of Assembly, and like me, they are not seeing a lot to pick from. When someone like Dean MacDonald — basically, Danny Williams Lite — is considered a potential saviour, well, you know the pickings must be slim.
Where are the leaders?
Where are the trailblazers and original thinkers who understand that governing is not about showing off your financials or padding your bank account — it’s about the people, dammit.
Jamie Baker is the managing editor for The Navigator magazine, www.thenavigatormagazine.com
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