Although difficult to recognize through the cascade of teardrops that descended on the province a few weeks ago, it was not a time, and is not a time, of complete, unadulterated loss, as many would have us believe.
There were, indeed, an emergence of winners.
• Newfoundland Liberals. After seven years lost in the wilderness area of the Official Opposition where their existence and location were close to irrelevant, and facing a future that appeared beyond bleak as long as the Beatific Vision of Daniel exerted its power over the obedient and disturbingly loyal masses, the Grits have obtained in the resignation of the premier a political GPS that might guide them to the promised land.
That oasis of power, however, is still quite a distance away, and will require a fierce bout of infighting among the nomads to entice a politician of the magnitude of a Dan the Man to take over the reins of the Opposition and give the party the legitimate appearance of an alternative government, an administration in waiting. I know it’s early in this after-Danny era to be making prognostications, especially when the landscape can change in a flash, but the Liberals might have to be content to merely make some headway in next fall’s election, and bank on complete rescue in the second election A.D.
• The media. Sure, it was fun for a few of us to incur the wrath of Danny and his devotees by having the gall to hit even the slightest note of apprehension about the health of
a province largely populated by defenceless kittens all vying for the same teat.
But for the Fourth Estate employees armed with notebooks and microphones, even those able and willing to take the odd pot shot at a target fortified by a Newfoundland secret service willing to protect the boss at all costs, it was getting somewhat tiresome. Fresher targets, ambitious opportunists all, are now appearing on the target range.
The likes of Kennedy, Marshall and who knows else are popping up in our crosshairs. There’ll also be a leadership convention that — if even half the Liberal and PC competitions of that sort in the past are any indication — will surely prove to be a delectable buffet of cannibalism, a menu of backstabbing that is always a reporter’s delight. One man’s dominance over governance and politics has come to an end, and not a year too soon or we might have been facing the complete reincarnation of Joey (just the odd glimpse, the scary imitation by Dan of Joe was scary enough). But aside from the important return to an environment of significant give and take, where alternative views are valued and encouraged, where intimidation has not even a subtle role to play, there’s just the unabashed pleasure journalists can take in observing and commenting on performances where more than one actor is on stage.
• The House of Assembly. It has not been a memorable time for the legislature. After all, there was on the table a profound recipe for ineffectiveness and public indifference: the affairs of the House were being dictated by a premier basking in near unbridled power, exploiting his status as the most popular politician in the country, able to ignore a handful of mostly impotent MHAs across the floor, never reluctant to mockingly and derisively respond to even their most effective questions.
It has to get better.
There’s nowhere to go but up.
Were there any losers? I don’t think so, despite the teary-eyed and depressed who seem to believe Newfoundland was discovered on the day of the prophet Daniel’s ascension to the eighth floor of Confederation Building, and that
its existence evaporated when the enlightened one bade us a mournful goodbye.
We’re a sorry lot if our entire fortunes depended on one man. Danny was a politician who did his thing, did some of it amazingly well, some of it not so well, and got out while his reputation was still solid. But he fostered an era of limited debate, where criticism, even of the constructive type, was ignored and slammed.
Any change in that sort of atmosphere will breed winners.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.