A precarious position

Pam Frampton
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“Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong.”
— Richard Armour (1906-89), American author

The latest Tory flap about Municipal Affairs Minister Kevin O’Brien’s role in having NDP reps disinvited from a community breakfast represents another small collapse in the Dunderdale house of cards.

Of course, we all know just how few of these small collapses can send the whole thing tumbling to the ground.

The fact that Premier Kathy Dunderdale recently found herself having to react to a Telegram column calling on her to resign speaks volumes, as well.

Any politician worth his or her salt knows that by acknowledging and reacting to specific criticism you give it credibility; otherwise, wouldn’t you just ignore it?

Referring to Russell Wangersky’s front-page column in The Telegram Sept. 7, the premier noted, “He has never been a friend of the Tory government.”

In saying so, she reveals (not that it was a secret) that she shares another of Danny Williams’ foibles — the old if-you’re-not-with-us- you’re-agin’-us syndrome, which seems to afflict so many in the political realm.

That’s right, Russell Wangersky is no friend of the government, nor should he be.

That isn’t his role as an observer and commentator.

Nor is it any other columnist’s, unless he or she feels the government’s performance is worth cheering about. That’s why politicians have communications professionals to paint them in the very best light.

And cabinet colleagues, of course. Such as Natural Resources Minister Tom Marshall, who recently sent a letter to the editor defending and praising the premier. The thing is, the letter probably said more than he wanted it to say, such as:

1) That Wangersky’s call for the premier’s resignation carried enough weight to demand response from a senior cabinet minister.

2) The letter reiterated a level of caucus support for the premier that should go without saying, were it solidly shored up. (Methinks Marshall doth protest too much).

3) That the premier is vulnerable enough that the cabinet feels it has to circle the wagons.

Who’s missive will be next?

Besides, it’s not support from cabinet colleagues the premier has to worry about in the long term, it’s support from the public.

And, in actual fact, while several eyebrows were raised at the bluntness of Wangersky’s message and its prominent placement, he’s not the first one to suggest the premier should consider an exit strategy — just likely the most eloquent person to have said it.

The premier may not have a presence on Twitter anymore, but tweets and Facebook postings and media website comments have been calling on her to step down for months, or else vowing she will never be re-elected.

That criticism of her performance as premier was also reflected in the latest polling numbers, with the Tories only garnering 26 per cent support from decided voters.

I can honestly say I greeted the dawn of the Dunderdale administration with a sense of hope; I was open to the possibility that there were better times ahead; that she would be a fresh face and a strong new voice — not just because she is the first female premier, though I did welcome that, too.

And things started out on an optimistic note.

But the fiscal mismanagement and the heightened sense of imperiousness and secrecy that have characterized this administration since have dashed my hopes, as they have been dashed by many other administrations previously, and not just Conservative ones.

In speaking to reporters recently about how unpopular some of her decisions have been, the premier had this to say: “It’s never a pleasant thing to do when you have to cut back or you have to lay off, but they’re absolutely necessary and I believe with time that people will see the good sense of that.”

I disagree. There was no good sense in that. Good sense would have dictated managing the province prudently in the first place so the government wouldn’t find itself in the position of having to flail about with the fiscal equivalent of a machete, slashing here and cutting there.

Those shortsighted and reactionary decisions were only necessary because there was a lack of responsible stewardship in the years preceding this one.

It always amazes me how governments — of various stripes — can have so much expert advice at their disposal among the ranks of an experienced public service and still find itself in this kind of shemozzle.

My guess is that the amount of arrogance increases with the length of a government’s tenure, and sage opinions wind up getting shouldered aside by political motivations.

Now, I didn’t think for one moment that the premier would read Wangersky’s column and say, “You know? Maybe he’s right.”

All premiers want people to think they’re in firm control of the ship, even if they’re not.

But in refusing to recognize the serious dents in her armour and acting in the best interests of her party, the premier has done the very thing her political foes must have been hoping for.

She’s vowing to stay on.

There’s rough water ahead.


Pam Frampton is a columnist and

The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email pframpton@thetelegram.com.

Twitter: pam_frampton

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