Spring and political normalcy are both battling to make breakthroughs.
Spring will eventually win, because Mother Nature’s power will prevail. The buds are bursting out all over — bushes and trees, unlike humans, don’t mind two weeks of overcast and drizzly weather.
A return to political normalcy, on the other hand, is not assured. Created and influenced by human nature, the political beast alternates between tame and wild, a puppy one moment and a predator the next.
Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) awoke as from hibernation this week.
They rubbed their eyes, shook their heads and saw — for the first time in more seasons than they could remember — that their exalted leader had less than a 79 per cent approval rating.
Granted, “normalcy” is a highly subjective term. A large percentage of Newfoundlanders have deemed it normal to give messiah-like status to Danny Williams, Brian Tobin and Clyde Wells. (Quiz: of those three former premiers, which one failed to walk on water?)
In Alberta, millions of otherwise rational adults think it is normal that the same party has ruled the province for four decades. (This year marks the Progressive Conservatives’ 40th anniversary in office.)
Perhaps “political health” is a better term than “political normalcy.”
“Normal” can be subjective and judgmental. “Health,” in contrast, implies objectivity. Assess the Newfoundland body politic, and determine whether it is healthy for any leader to enjoy a 79 per cent approval rating.
PCs can’t be happy about it, but it’s a good sign for provincial politics that Premier Kathy Dunderdale, in a poll released this week by Corporate Research Associates (CRA), has a 51 per cent approval rating among decided voters.
It is tempting to say “only” 51 per cent, due to Williams’ atmospheric approval ratings that were customary over the past half-decade.
Even so, the Tories seem headed toward another majority in the October provincial election.
But the people of the province seem ready to give themselves something that is necessary and beneficial — a significant opposition in the House of Assembly, and one that amounts to more than the current five out of 48 MHAs.
It is a sign of how skewed provincial politics has become that, in the CRA poll, a five per cent jump for Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones over last year has brought her to only 16 per cent approval by decided voters. NDP Leader Lorraine Michael improved by 10 per cent over last year, and is preferred by 14 per cent of decided voters.
There were other indications of political normalcy this week. Williams, still in premier mode, made a speech in Ottawa and blasted the federal government for its favouritism toward Quebec.
St. John’s East MP Jack Harris, NDP defence critic — seemingly suddenly aware that socialists don’t usually endorse dead-end military actions — questioned Canada’s deepening involvement in NATO’s attacks on Libya. (Memo to Harris and the NDP: if you couldn’t see that the phrase “protect Libyan civilians” was a euphemism for “oust Moammar Gadhafi,” you all — not just the young rookies — need to attend an MP refresher course.)
On the abnormal side of the ledger, Senate page Brigette DePape got fired for holding up a “Stop Harper” sign during the throne speech. The winsome 21-year-old’s action spurred some support and a lot of vitriolic denunciation.
Perhaps she embarrassed an electorate that just returned to power a government that had recently been deemed in contempt of Parliament.
Oddly, a few years ago it
had been then-governor general Michaelle Jean’s official, constitutional duty to “stop Harper” when the prime minister, faced with losing a non-confidence vote, chose instead to shut down the House of Commons. She failed.
It is easy to dismiss DePape’s action as youthful naivety. Jean had no such excuse.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org