Tories are doomed if they don’t ditch Dunderdale

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Cartoon, Oct. 3, 2013

Amazingly, many Progressive Conservatives think it is a good idea to keep Premier Kathy Dunderdale in charge of the party and the province.

Tory followers should reread Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

With a few adjustments, the epic poem can describe the PCs’ impending decimation in October 2015: “All in the valley of electoral Death/Rode the Tory faithful/ ‘Forward, to the polls/Charge for a majority’ she said/Into the valley of electoral Death/Rode the Tory faithful.”

Everyone is gaga about technology and social media, but it seems long-dead poets still have something to teach society.

The Tories are doomed if they don’t ditch Dunderdale.

Most rank-and-file members of the Progressive Conservative party probably think they are displaying loyalty by not calling for her to resign, step down, step aside, retire, quit or go away.

But to impartial observers, their supposed loyalty looks a lot like stubbornness. In fact, they seem to be just as stubborn as their leader, a trait that partially explains her perpetual unpopularity.

The last two public opinion polls have put the premier’s popularity percentage in the 20s — significantly behind the NDP leader and the leaderless Liberals.

Danny Williams, the former premier who now toils as a hockey czar and suburban developer, consistently reached approval ratings in the 70s and 80s.

Dunderdale is no Danny, obviously, but she is nevertheless largely to blame for squandering the vast public support the PCs previously enjoyed. (Blame shared, it must be said, by former cabinet minister Jerome Kennedy, who this week did the semi-honourable thing and fell on his sword.)

How did Dunderdale squander the party’s popularity? Let us count the ways. Arrogance. Stubbornness. Condescension. Ineptness. Hubris. Ego. Etc.

Consider Bill 29, the infamous legislation that amends the province’s access to information act to make information less accessible.

The provincial government is releasing more information to the public than ever before, the premier told delegates at the recent Tory convention.

Dunderdale is apparently of the opinion that voters are so stunned they don’t understand the difference between quantity and quality.

The amount of information released to the public is less important than the quality of that information. Among other nasty attributes, Bill 29 gives cabinet ministers control over what information about their departments is released to the public — a feature that is inherently contrary to the purpose of freedom of information legislation.

Conservatives might be content to not know what Nalcor is spending its hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars on, but plenty of other people aren’t. (Note to backbenchers: that constant chorus of complaint you hear is the sound of the electorate intending to toss you back onto the opposition side.)

Revolt required

The silent subservience of Tory loyalists is going to hurt them not once, but twice.

First, keeping Dunderdale as leader will ensure a PC defeat in the next election.

Second, ignoring the ample evidence of their ongoing decline sends a message to the public that the Tories are a group too gutless to fight for their own survival.

A revolt within the party would actually be a good thing, in Tory terms. It would show that some Tories — like many voters — are disgruntled, dissatisfied, fed up, mad as hell and so on.

You can ride loyalty only so far before that horse starts to sound like fatal stubbornness.

Again, the PCs would do well to abide by Lord Alfred’s description of heading for oblivion: “Angry voters to right of them/Angry voters to left of them/Angry voters in front of them/Into the jaws of electoral Death/Into the mouth of ballot-box Hell/Rode the Tory faithful.”

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Tory, Progressive Conservatives, NDP The Telegram

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  • Cyril Rogers
    October 04, 2013 - 22:03

    It is so easy to pick on Ms Dunderdale and, heaven knows, she deserves all the criticism she is getting nowadays. However, she is merely carrying out the dictates of Danny Williams in trying to push through his "legacy" project. Bill 29 was, in part, passed to ensure any damaging information regarding the Muskrat Falls project would be kept under wraps. It is obvious that it has no merit and Ms Dunderdale is being more than simply stubborn. The PC's owe their political good fortune to Danny and he is being repaid. They are falling on the sword for his impulsive decision to go through with the MF project and have deliberately blinded themselves to new energy realities.

  • Maggy Carter
    October 04, 2013 - 15:41

    Yes one would think that the "PC's impending decimation in October 2015" would be motivation enough to oust a highly unpopular and ineffectual leader. There are reasons this hasn't happened and probably won't for another year. The first is the powerful group of special interests who are desperate to avoid a halt, or even a review, of the Muskrat Falls project. The underpinnings of that project at the moment resemble a house of cards. Replacing Dunderdale at this point might well be the gust of wind that brings them down. The fallout from the collapse, reconfiguration or downsizing of Muskrat at this stage would extend well beyond the Confederation building. Larges sums of money are at stake, as are the careers and reputations of important people. The second reason for political inertia is even simpler - the shakers and movers within the party have concluded (I think correctly) that the damage done by Dunderdale is beyond repair. There is no great line-up of would-be replacements anxious to take on the horrendous mess that would be left behind. A little late many feel to ask the captain of the Titanic to step aside. And then there is the most basic reason of all for the reluctance of rank-and-file members of the Tory caucus to change horses (or mules) at this stage. If there is a strong likelihood of your being wiped out politically in the next election, then you might as well keep this government going until the next scheduled election rolls around two years from now. Had the Tories not given Dunderdale a resounding, if hallow, vote of confidence at Gander two weeks ago, she would have resigned. That, by law, would necessitate an election within twelve months, thus cutting short the perks and plump pay packets of a great many MHAs. Why settle for another year at the trough when you can have two?

  • Kilgore Trout
    October 04, 2013 - 15:23

    I agree with the Telegram editors that this hasn't been a successful government for NL thus far, but the level of vitriol in these articles is starting to get a bit tiresome. And isn't it all rather obvious? That a government that has the lowest popularity of any in Canada probably doesn't stand a great chance of being reelected. I'd like to see some more nuance to these articles, less self indulgence.

  • Ben
    October 04, 2013 - 08:52

    Another pissed off reporter who can't get Cabinet Ministers briefing notes! Whether you like it or not Dunderdale was elected in 2011, for a 4 year term. I will leave it up to Premier Dunderdale when she wants to leave, not some disgruntled reporter, or editor in this instance, who keeps wanting to sway the people in this province. PS...you could say the media is doing its best to doom this government. Hard to believe we have come to this...worst journalism ever.

    • NL Taxpayer
      October 04, 2013 - 13:26

      Oh Ben, Ben, Ben. This reporter is reporting. It is what reporters do. You don't agree with what's going on, I can see, but attacking the messenger won't help. This government needs no help in dooming itself. Cuts to Heath Care, cuts to Education, increased costs for services, all to pay for that huge hole in the ground in Labrador called Muskrat Falls. I see no end in sight for the waste of taxpayers money on this disaster that will make Churchill Falls look like a lottery win. More that $1.5 million dollars a day, every day, 365 days a year for the next 4 years to pay for this colossal blunder. And, of course, we have The Official Secrets Act, Bill 29 in place so we can't even find out how our $10 billion dollars are being spent. Yes, it is hard to believe we have come to this, indeed!

  • Watch Ross Reid
    October 04, 2013 - 08:37

    That's why Danny's man, Ross Reid was put into the Premier's Office. It's not about ressurecting Dunderdale, It's all about timing he retirement and choosing a new leader (from outside the existing caucus) to battle the 2015 general election. Ross doesn't know much about policy but he knows political tactics very well.

  • Peas in a pod
    October 04, 2013 - 08:31

    I'm confused. First you write "Dunderdale is no Danny, obviously" Then you describe her faulty traits as "Arrogance. Stubbornness. Condescension. Ineptness. Hubris. Ego." In other words, the difference is not so obvious after all.