Why don’t more of us like Kathy Dunderdale? A convenience store clerk suggested the media is being unfair in its coverage of the Dunderdale government, that we tear the premier down because she’s a woman.
I had casually raised the issue as I flipped through last Friday’s Telegram, and pointed to the editorial cartoon of an angry cat and the words, “Katty Dunderdale, Boo Hiss!” The clerk didn’t share my amusement.
Now, before the rants start that I’m sexist, take a deep breath. I am not picking on our premier because she’s a woman.
In fact, I’m not picking on her at all. It’s just now that Dunderdale has said publicly that she fully intends to lead her party into the next election, perhaps she’d welcome some advice.
Dunderdale took the reins of this province at a time when governing should have been easy. There are more people working, most making better money, and on April 28 last year, then finance minister Tom Marshall was quoted by the CBC as saying,
“We are flush with cash. Our financial position is the strongest it’s ever been.”
But even then, the approval numbers were falling. They’ve been headed downward ever since. The latest Angus Reid survey gave Dunderdale a 25 per cent approval rating.
The toughest blow is probably the 73 per cent disapproval, and the survey was conducted before the austerity budget.
Today, there’s a Facebook site with more than 2,000 members titled “Kathy Dunderdale Must Go.” A recent Question of the Day by VOCM on whether Dunderdale should step down before the next election prompted more than 13,000 votes. The Tory poll-fixers were obviously outgunned that day, as more than
90 per cent voted yes.
Muskrat Falls, the issue that has dogged the government since it was re-elected in October 2011, can’t be the reason for the disapproval. A poll found most people are in favour of the project.
So what is causing people to view Dunderdale and her government with distaste?
The answer is simple: attitude and approach.
We have seen what often appears to be an arrogant, insensitive government, failing to communicate that their actions are in our best interests.
In the legislature and in media scrums, Dunderdale’s approach has appeared combative. I’d be interested in seeing what would happen if she toned that down and allowed people to see her the way those closest to her do.
At the PC convention last October, Tom Marshall suggested most people don’t know the real Kathy Dunderdale.
A Telegram story by reporter James McLeod quoted Marshall as saying, “But how well do people really get to know another human being based on the brief images and the sound bites that make up the evening news?”
Better late than never. If there is a calmer, less aggressive Dunderdale, now’s the time to bring her out. Let’s see the charisma that will help people like and trust the premier.
The same goes for cabinet ministers who show up on television with all-knowing smirks, but then days later have to backtrack on their positions.
It’s not about looks. It’s not about gender. It’s about how you carry yourselves, how you present yourselves. It’s the whole package; a presence.
The premier told NTV’s “Issues and Answers” she is not feeling any pressure to step down. She said she has tremendous support from the caucus and the party.
Well, it may not stay that way as we move closer to the next trip to the polling booth. A few byelection losses could cause some nervousness in the backrooms.
I know it’s a long time between now and 2015.
Time will tell if Dunderdale gets to enjoy her Sally Field Oscar moment, and can look out on the crowd to say:
“The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it. And I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!”
She can’t say that now. At least not yet.
Gerry Phelan is a journalist and former broadcaster.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.