Leader focused on getting his party election-ready
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball has definite plans if his party wins the next election. Scrapping Bill 29 tops his to-do list as premier. — Telegram file photo
The next provincial election is two years away, but Dwight Ball has already made his first firm campaign promise.
If his party wins the general election in the fall of 2015, Ball promised he’d open the House of Assembly for a fall session to repeal Bill 29, and then by the following spring, he’d present a new, beefed-up access to information law that focuses on government transparency.
“Early on in 2015 when we got into the legislature, when the legislature opened up — bang — we would repeal Bill 29. And in this case, the spring session, which would be in 2016, we would bring in new legislation which would be something that I believe would reflect the kind of government that I would lead,” he said.
“(We would) put in some meaningful, serious discussions around openness and transparency, how that would look. That would include people like the media, people that are actually working in the system, our legal minds, our academic minds.”
When Ball sat down with The Telegram for a year-end interview, nearly everything fed into the two central themes of the current Liberal party brand: openness and general competent management.
Ball talks about tweaking the governance structure of Nalcor, changing the way the province budgets, focusing more on chronic disease and smoking cessation, and through it all, making more information available to people about how the government is doing its business.
It’s clearly a message the public is willing to listen to.
The past year has been a hard slog for the governing PC party, and this fall was an unmitigated disaster for the NDP, but for the Liberals it’s been one win after another and meteoric growth.
A year ago, when Ball sat down with The Telegram for the 2012 year-end interview, he was putting a brave face on being at third place in the polls, and talking about how he could strategically eke out electoral wins against the New Democrats on the left and the Tories on the right.
A lot has happened since then.
The government laid off nearly a thousand civil servants and imposed deep budget cuts last spring, and then provoked widespread public ire by trying to get New Democrat MHA Gerry Rogers thrown out of the legislature for being a member of a controversial Facebook group.
Then this fall, the NDP caucus let a messy caucus revolt play out in the media, and two of the five MHAs denounced Leader Lorraine Michael’s leadership to go and sit as independent MHAs in the House of Assembly.
Through it all, the Liberals chugged along with a consistent performance as the Official Opposition, a successful leadership campaign and two byelection wins.
This year, Ball didn’t spend much time talking about his opponents at all; instead, he talks about consolidating the gains and organizing the party for 2015.
“It’s about organization and continuing to grow the party,” he said. “The fact that we’re in good shape in the polls right now, that’s not what we’re all about. What we’re all about is making sure we’re prepared and we cross the finish line with momentum.”
The finish line, ostensibly, is
Oct. 13, 2015 — the scheduled date for the next provincial election.
In recent weeks, Premier Kathy Dunderdale has publicly mused about changing the date to avoid a conflict with the federal election, but political insiders privately think it might not come to that.
If Dunderdale resigns, that could provoke an election within a year.
When Ball is asked whether he believes the next general election will happen in 2015, this is clearly on his mind.
“We’re preparing for an election a year away, and under the current legislation if the premier steps aside, you could have an election in as early as a year,” he said. “So in my mind, we prepare for an election within a year.”