Premier, it’s time to go

Russell
Russell Wangersky
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NL Premier Kathy Dunderdale

Kathy Dunderdale, your race is run. You may not know it yet — you may not even want to believe it — but it’s over.

Take the small successes that have come with a long political career and get off the stage — or else run the real risk of driving your entire party over an electoral cliff.

That’s a hard message for any politician, especially one who can look back and see a set of successes that might well be all it would take to get a different person elected.

And there have been successes: Dunderdale will go down in history as this province’s first elected female premier, and her work in making sure social issues found their way to the fore for government should not be underestimated. She led a party to government after the resignation of a popular and charismatic leader, and, if you have had the opportunity to meet with her, you’ll know she’s quick, attentive, aware and on the top of her game when it comes to issues involving the province.

There have also been mammoth missteps, missteps that are all the more obvious because they come back to the same base cause.

Two of the worst? First, the administration’s tragic and constant lockstep support for Bill 29, the legislation the government introduced to tighten up controls over the ability of citizens to get information from government.

Second, the tone set by Dunderdale herself, both in the House of Assembly and at public events, where the singular message was that the provincial cabinet knows best, and that it (and Dunderdale, for that matter) are neither interested nor willing to accept input from others, no matter how educated and well thought out those other opinions might be.

Those two failures — like many others in the current administration — come back to a confused interpretation of what it means to be open and accountable.

The current government views itself as a good communicator — but that communication is remarkably one-way, along the lines of “If you need to know something for your own good, we will tell you it. But we decide when and how to tell you.”

Lost in that message is the two-way travel of real communication and openness — one is conversation, the other, mere dictation.

Take any issue from Muskrat Falls on down, and ask yourself if you’ve been engaged in the discussion, or merely told what you should think.

Exactly.

The problem is that the good points of the Dunderdale administration, sadly, are not enough — because, under Dunderdale’s current leadership, her party is absolutely tanking at the polls. That same party is running out of time to show it can put the brakes to the slide and show a new face to voters in time to change their minds.

There are little messages out there about the depth of the problem that are hard to miss: caucus members who are even willing to complain about the voters, saying things like, “Don’t they see all the things we’re doing?” That alone shows a fundamental disconnect, one common to long-serving governments. It doesn’t matter if the voter is wrong, because, in the end, the voter, like the customer, is always right.

Thursday’s Corporate Research Associates poll results are only a dismal icing on tragic cake: when 64 per cent of the province’s voters are dissatisfied with government, when the PC party is a distant third and still sliding (despite a summer of good-news announcements and spending), there has to be something worth listening to.

There are leaders who have managed to come back from worse situations — but think about this: in the latest round of polling, Dunderdale’s personal popularity is neck and neck with the leader of the Liberal party. And, just in case you didn’t know it, the Liberals don’t have a leader right now.

Imagine if you were polling just one point ahead of an empty chair.

You might get the message.

Clearly, though, it hasn’t sunk in yet. The Tories haven’t found the gumption to give their leader the boot, and their leader is apparently living in a Never-Never Land where winning a 2015 election actually seems like a possibility.

Can Dunderdale stay on and hope against hope that she can turn things around?

Yes.

Should she? No.

My advice?

As hard as it is, hang up your shoes and make the most dignified exit you can. You can keep running, but the race truly is already over.

 

Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at rwanger@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Corporate Research Associates

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Recent comments

  • Corey
    September 12, 2013 - 16:51

    Whether or not people support or do not support the PC party, one thing's for sure...Premier Dunderdale is NOT a "Quitter". And since WHEN do we, in today's society, ENCOURAGE "Quitting"?? Yes, the PCs have slipped badly, but a lot can still happen between now & October 2015. Ah, but y'know, it's real easy these days to kick people when they're down...right Mr. Wangersky?

  • Just sayin
    September 11, 2013 - 13:43

    Russell has called for Dunderdale to go but Muskrat Falls to continue!

  • terrible column
    September 09, 2013 - 19:04

    wicked talk about slanted negative column; I'd say this worst low ball tactic I have ever seen; not in history of this province have we seen the like of this; funny never read this type of stuff when wells; tobin and grimes running this place; and they ran place into the ground and into near bankruptcy; from 5 bil; to over 12 bill in little less than 13 years; but I guess they never crossed poor Russell; in his quest to get a story; he must have forgot the king clyde wells days of "OH SAID THAT; WHO ARE THE PEOPLE WHO SAY''; funny how time erased his memory; wicked rotten stuff; and of course Tobin never kicked AG out of the house assembly; and clamped down on all access to minsters and information; NO; of course not......must have been a dreamy time for journalists the years from 1989 to 2003......

  • ksndhRe
    September 09, 2013 - 13:31

    I think she have done every thing for St Johns it is flourishing, while she failed to remember that St johns is not the only place in NL. the rest of NL. is slowly dying, for major attention, from our Gov.. our infersturer. are crumbling. & every thing is getting more dilapidated every year. & our Gov. is only concerned. with St johns Must Rat Falls & the off shore oil..... Wake up Newfies...

  • Allan
    September 09, 2013 - 12:39

    Hard to critize someoneone for Stating what the vast Majotity of the people in this province are Thinking !!!

  • BuD
    September 08, 2013 - 21:36

    Mr Editor...thanks for saying it out loud...without saying where I am philosophically or politically, I, too, have recognized this fact quite a while ago...I agree that she had big shoes to fill, and some tough moves to make, but really PC's, the only reason the numbers aren't worse now or why the numbers didn't get this low a year ago, has been lack of 'competition' (from the other parties maybe, but definitely in the 'leadership' department) - there is a dearth of leaders so far, so there's a pent-up demand for one, in any party, and now is the time for the first party to show that and produce that will most likely win the 2015 provincial election

  • Sam
    September 08, 2013 - 10:22

    I see Wangersky is filling in for the Liberals again, as he has done a few times on On Point! And last time I checked a government is elected for 4 years, not when the media thinks they should be replaced. Oh yeah and it also looks like Russell might have a problem with a woman at the helm! To me Dunderdale has been given a rough ride by the media. So much for media being fair to all parties! Hopefully we will see Wangersky's name on a ballot in 2015. Well at least we know what party he will be running for!

  • Don
    September 08, 2013 - 10:13

    This is well written and it looks like the reporter is listening to the people and certainly this government is not.

  • saelcove
    September 08, 2013 - 09:46

    O danny danny what have you done

  • Danny
    September 07, 2013 - 21:54

    You do mess of Nfld future but you do good for me Cathy.

  • Joannie
    September 07, 2013 - 21:17

    Amen!

  • Corporate Psycho
    September 07, 2013 - 20:50

    Don't go away mad premier just........

  • Maggy Carter
    September 07, 2013 - 18:44

    Ignore the public bravado from ministers like O'Brien and Marshall - and Dunderdale's own insistence that she isn't going anywhere. The sharks are circling! She will slowly, but inevitably, accept the near unanimous pubic message that she must go. As I have commented previously, her going now won't save her party from defeat at the polls - but could well save it from extinction. There is one point on which I disagree with Wangersky. That is his reference to her successes. Frankly I am at a loss to know what they are - and Wangersky himself offers little elaboration. The distinction of first female premier is her personal achievement but not , of course, an achievement of her administration. For those of use who had looked forward to seeing a woman premier, the results are terribly disappointing. Rather than serve as a beacon for other women, she has become the poster-girl for bad leadership of either sex. Particularly sad when you consider that no premier in our history arrived in office with such economic prosperity and fiscal flexibility on which she could have built. But if you're one of the few who likes how this lady operates, don't despair for he future. Big business owes her big time. She will undoubtedly find a comfortable spot for a soft landing.

  • Eli
    September 07, 2013 - 15:18

    Nobody could have said it better. But I hope their arrogance continues so the PC's will be buried altogether.

    • Corey
      September 12, 2013 - 16:55

      Maybe the PC party will FOLD after 2015, would you prefer it that way?? Anything to dissolve the PC party once & for all. Then the Liberals & NDP WON'T have anyone to criticize, so they have to...turn on EACH OTHER.....

  • The I.R.A.
    September 07, 2013 - 13:00

    Yes please, pack it in, you're motley

  • Verna Northcott
    September 07, 2013 - 09:57

    This article says it all...

  • Rob
    September 07, 2013 - 09:05

    Well written, but Russell misses two key points. First, were the Premier to resign now, it would trigger an immediate Provincial Election. This is something the PCs can hardly afford right night now. Watch for a dignified exit, as requested, in October of 2014, when such an election would not be triggered. Second, could *anyone* have taken Danny's place without a certain amount of this backlash? No one could live up to that. Was KD doomed from the start?