Paul Lane qualifies comments on Liberal ‘neglect’ and ‘mismanagement’
In the spring of 2012, during his maiden speech in the House of Assembly, Paul Lane summed up the Liberal Party in a single word.
“As I look back over nearly two decades of Liberal governance, the one word that comes to mind is neglect,” he said.
“Since taking over government in 2003, we have seen unprecedented investment in this province as we try to repair the severe damage left behind by the former Liberal administrations.”
Today, not even two years later, Lane is a member of the Liberal party.
In an interview Tuesday morning, he was much less strident about the “mismanagement” and “neglect” of previous Liberal governments.
“I think that there were a number of factors that played, you know, into our situation over the years. For one thing, obviously, we didn’t have the revenues that we have now.”
“And you know, it wasn’t necessarily always two decades of Liberal governments. There were PC governments in there as well,” Lane said.
Under just about any circumstance, floor-crossing is an awkward affair for politicians. But in the case of Lane, it’s that much more awkward because right up until the beginning of this week, he was such a strident Tory partisan, and loyal soldier for Premier Kathy Dunderdale.
On Monday, Lane denounced Premier Kathy Dunderdale for a lack of leadership during the province’s rolling power outages earlier this month.
He said Dunderdale should have showed real empathy, instead of quibbling over whether the ongoing blackouts constituted a crisis.
But while it was happening, Lane did an interview with The Telegram at a Mount Pearl warming centre, and he spent some time dwelling on what the right word was.
“We’ve heard this whole thing out there about what constitutes a crisis and are we in a crisis,” he said during the January interview. “I think that could be defined very much on an individual basis, and depending on your circumstance and your stage in life in terms of your health issues, in terms of having small children. Then the level of crisis goes up accordingly.”
Dunderdale used almost exactly the same language to describe the situation.
On Bill 29, Lane now says he made a mistake in supporting it, specifically because the provisions around cabinet secrecy go too far.
But in the legislature, during the Bill 29 debate, he heaped ridicule on an NDP amendment which would have specifically reigned in the cabinet secrecy provisions.
“There is only one reason why this amendment would be put forward. It is simply to delay the debate, keep it going, keep it going, keep it going, and grandstanding,” Lane said in the House of Assembly in 2012 during the Bill 29 debate. “It is just an opportunity for these people across the way to grandstand and try to score political brownie points, but while they are doing it, Mr. Chair, I think they are being very disrespectful, in my humble opinion.”
On Tuesday, when he spoke to The Telegram, Lane said he now regrets his position on Bill 29, but he also made excuses for some of what was said during the debate.
“I know there were points of time I was doing, like, 18 or 20 hours straight. And there was, in an effort to keep it going, amendments made where someone would add in just a period or a comma,” he said. “Based on the information I have now, based on the feedback I’ve gotten from my constituents, I believe that was a mistake.”
One policy position that Lane isn’t wavering on, though, is his thoughts about Muskrat Falls.
Back in March of 2012, he said, “I will not sit on the fence. Muskrat Falls certainly is a great project for our future.”
Today, he’s still convinced it’s a great project, but he’s also a lot more sympathetic to the opposition politicians who are skeptical.
On The Telegram’s website, comments came in overwhelmingly against Lane’s decision to cross the floor to the Liberals.
One person just posted a single-word comment: “Traitor.”
Lane shrugged off the criticism, saying what he’s hearing in messages directly from constituents is overwhelmingly positive.
As for the negative responses, he said, that’s just part of the politics game.
“I’m not surprised that you’re going to get a mix in terms of reactions,” he said. “Obviously, though, there are going to be people who are strong supporters of the PC party who are going to be upset, so there’s going to be a mix of emotions there.”