This could be the summer of political discontent. Federal and provincial politicians have much to ponder as they get up close with their supporters.
On the federal scene, Stephen Harper probably feels gobsmacked by Duffygate and the ongoing Senate scandal.
His government of accountability has taken several hits, from Peter Penashue’s election failing to the slow but steady demise of his top appointments to the Upper Chamber.
Party insiders are not happy and Harper will hear that all summer long. Does he care? Maybe not, but when your closest allies start to fall, even the toughest general begins to question his actions.
Harper is no doubt commanding his troops to clean up the mess, especially seeing there is so much more of his agenda that needs to be pushed through before he is pushed out.
Now to the provincial circle. Scribes close to the political scene are indicating there is a waft of change in the Tory ranks. There has even been speculation in coffee circles that Kathy Dunderdale will announce before year’s end that she is hanging up her political coat and a leadership convention will take place in 2014.
She is not a quitter and this talk is contrary to what she said just months ago — that she would be taking her party into the next election. Still, strategists have been trying to determine how things went so bad so fast, and what it will take to turn it all around.
The Tories have a bigger problem in that if Dunderdale leaves, there is no heir apparent, no in-your-face successor.
Most of those who might be considering a run are the same people who were around when Dunderdale went, for all intents and purposes, unchallenged for the leadership.
And some of those who might be so inclined share the blame for the party’s ill-fortunes. Their missteps will haunt their political futures.
Now to the opposition parties.
The Liberals have failed to attract any big-name saviours to do battle with the once-mighty PCs. Dwight Ball is getting them through the third-place times, but there are party people foaming at the mouth, wishing they had a guaranteed winner to take them over the top against a government so prone to mistakes.
The Grits have plenty of work to do as they march toward their leadership convention, which will get less attention if there is little excitement about the candidates.
They need a legitimate leadership battle, one that will show the province it’s a job people want, not one someone takes on by default. Dwight Ball may still win, but the victory will be less sweet and less savoured and get a heck of a lot less ink and airtime if it’s a coronation.
Then there’s the premier in waiting, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael. Some would suggest the election is hers to lose, but two years is a long time in the bloodsport that is politics, and we’ve already seen how quickly party fortunes can fall. The federal NDP under Jack Layton appeared poised for greatness. Thomas Mulcair is good, but he has not garnered Layton’s common-man appeal.
Add to that the up-and-comer Justin Trudeau, who may not be the greatest orator, but is getting there, and has looks and charisma to boot.
Provincial New Democrats know some of their support was because of Layton’s strong following. They have tried to articulate their positions and continued with the town hall approach. So far, it’s helped and their members seem to show up at a lot of functions.
Will it translate into votes? Can they attract interest and candidates from all walks of life? Lorraine Michael is key to that. She has to invite and entice those who are not traditional NDP supporters to jump on the Good Ship Orange and all it represents.
Yes, there’s plenty to whet the political appetite at summer barbecues, festivals and campgrounds.
There was a time when journalists dreaded what we used to call the dry news days of summer. Those days are now few and far between.
Gerry Phelan is a journalist and former broadcaster. He can be reached