“The authentic Cathy Bennett … has always been and will always be a Liberal.”
— Cathy Bennett, July 3
Cathy Bennett says she is a Liberal, despite her generous donations to the provincial Progressive Conservatives over the past nine years.
I don’t know if she’s a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal or not. What I do know is this: Cathy Bennett is a bit of an enigma.
She is also a politician, albeit a rookie.
You can tell she’s a politician by the way she refers to herself in the third person, which I have come to believe is a prerequisite for that line of work.
It’s always great to see intelligent, articulate people offer themselves up for elected office, particularly when they have no reason to be covetous of taxpayers’ money.
It’s also a refreshing change to see someone who was on the receiving end of a patronage appointment (to Nalcor’s board of directors) not acting as an automatonic shill for the party who put her there.
I realize others might call that biting the hand that feeds you.
Apart from the fact she’s the only woman in the race — joining Jim Bennett, Danny Dumaresque, Dwight Ball and Paul Antle — there are two things of particular note about Cathy Bennett’s bid for the Liberal leadership.
One is the ferocity of the rancour with which her announcement was met.
And this is especially noteworthy given that she’s far from the first person in this province to have seemingly switched political allegiances.
Still, media websites were bombarded with reader comments as soon as the news broke that she was running, and theories about her motivation abound.
Someone calling himself “Phile” had this to say on The Telegram website: “Delusional. ... After supporting the Cons and sitting on Nalcor, and having no political experience whatsoever, she thinks she can successfully run for the Liberals. Why would any Liberals want her? For that matter, why would the public support her? Rich opportunist looking for a power grab and switching allegiance when it suits her. Not a sign of integrity.”
Someone using the handle “Former Conservative” wrote: “Another board of trade flunky trying to make the rich even richer and keep the rest of us in the poorhouse. A big mistake by the Liberals if they choose (Cathy) Bennett as leader.”
And “Jimmy” wrote: “If anybody cannot see that she is trying to protect the power handle that her Tory friends have, as they know the PCs are spiralling, then they are not looking. This is insulting to not only Liberals but to everyone in Newfoundland. They think we are just that stupid. I hope Bennett and her buddies from the PC party are booted.”
Cathy Bennett insists her values match those of the Grits, and she’s said the “full story” about who she really is hasn’t yet been told.
But here’s what we know so far.
The planks in her platform are agenda items that many card-carrying Conservatives would support: increased immigration, Muskrat Falls, full-day kindergarten, strategic planning.
Her intention, she stated repeatedly in a media scrum, “is to be an elected official in the House of Assembly.” (She didn’t actually specify which side of the House).
When pressed on why she donated so much more — $6,400 vs. $500 — to the provincial Tories, who she now opposes, compared to the provincial Liberals she now embraces, she gave a non-answer (also the sure sign of a true politician), saying, “I think that it’s important for business leaders to support democracy,” and, “I’ve supported all parties,” and, “When I’ve been asked, I’ve contributed.”
So, does she support democracy generally, or a particular brand of it?
Is her past support of all parties a sign of egalitarianism or a reflection of her lack of conviction?
We’ll just have to wait and see.
Bennett insists her motivation is a passion for the public service.
“I think you have to be brave,” she told reporters. “And I think there’s not enough people to be brave, so I’m going to be brave.”
Perhaps. But if Bennett is really brave, she will gather her courage and let voters know up front how she feels about certain Progressive Conservative hobbyhorses.
Would she reverse any of the budget cuts? Repeal Bill 29? Provide more information about Muskrat Falls expenditures to date?
That’s the story I want to see unfold.
Pam Frampton is a columnist and
The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email email@example.com.