Though they represent merely a “snapshot” in time (as politicians, especially those in trouble, are prone to describing poll results) the Corporate Research Associate numbers released this past week on the popularity (or lack of same) of Newfoundland’s
three political parties had to have stretched more than just a few Tory, Liberal and NDP eyebrows skyward as the possible implications of the CRA information were scrutinized.
Actually, a movement of hair north of the eyeballs probably
doesn’t do justice to the way in which NDP disciples, in particular, must have reacted upon seeing a poll that showed their party in a virtual tie with the Liberals for second place among Newfoundland voters, at least those (as per the always important caveat) with a definitive opinion on ballot box matters.
In fact, there was probably a collective (in a manner of socialist speaking) scream of joy from the NDP rank and file, an understandable howl of pleasure.
Being that it’s spring in most parts of North America (the Avalon with its traditional depressing dose of RDF being an exception), let’s put those NDP numbers in perspective with a bit of baseball analogy, as in: New Democrats here have not quite reached the futility level of, say, the Chicago Cubs (who’ve not won a World Series since 1908), but Team NDP in Newfoundland is not unlike that group of “lovable losers” of major league ignominy, the provincial left-fielders having been the recipients of not much more
than patronizing pats on the head throughout their time on the ballot in this province.
So for those long-suffering NDP rooters in this smiling and wind-swept land, signs that their party and their leader, Lorraine Michael, may be taken more seriously than perhaps at any time in their history (during those few weeks, at the very least, when the pollsters were “in the field,” as they say) must have produced a state of mind of
unfamiliar satisfaction, a dramatic change of pace from the single-digit figures of support normally attached to their electoral chances.
And it’s obviously not a coincidence that the poll was conducted around the time of the federal election, when the federal NDP was making historic strides in its parliamentary quest for power, unprecedented success that included victories in two Newfoundland ridings.
It should also be noted that the timing was also a factor in the significant fall in the polls for Kathy Dunderdale, her bosom-buddy appearance with Stephen Harper during the campaign a disaster (as even the most casual observer of politics could have predicted), a loss in voter support for her and her party, a depreciation in popularity that has obviously benefited the NDP.
There was no way Dunderdale was going to be able to maintain the incredible (some would say near frightening) leadership popularity of her predecessor, Danny Williams, the premier with the Smallwoodian power, a man who was Newfoundland politics for a decade.
No one could.
And it hasn’t helped that where Williams was forever confident (see: cocksure and arrogant) and intimidating, Dunderdale, in her early stages as premier has appeared, at times, nervous and unsure of herself.
Throw in that ill-advised hop in the political sack with Harper and you’ve got a recipe for the unappetizing meal those poll numbers served up last week.
As for Yvonne Jones, the CRA results just confirm what anecdotal evidence and street talk say about her fortunes, namely that people seem to genuinely like the Liberal leader and admire her toughness, exemplified in her unfazed willingness to go one-on-one with the formidable Williams, but that she’s perceived to be the classic opposition politician, a saucy and belligerent Steve Neary/Bill Rowe type (I’m dating myself here), not a potential premier.
Not the head of government in waiting.
Whether you agree with all, some or none of the punditry emanating from the poll, you’ll have to admit that if these recent numbers indicate a trend, we’re in for an interesting election this fall, a change from recent displays of electoral power by Williams; there’ll be no slam-dunk this time around for the Tories.
But if the provincial NDP are buoyed by the recent performance of their federal brothers and sisters, a move from the mezzanine into the orchestra pit, just a hop away from the main stage, and if the local party is ambitious beyond the St. John’s area, they could be the story in October.
Still, five months can be an eternity in politics, plenty of opportunity for more of those “snapshots” in time, for polls like the one released Tuesday, and columns like this Saturday offering, to be rendered absolutely and positively out of touch with any sense of reality.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.