As a younger colleague of mine noted, en route to Confederation Building for Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s resignation, it was “pretty epic.”
Inside, loud chatter bounced off the hard surfaces of the legislature lobby, made colder and more austere by the construction underway. A phalanx of TV cameras stood at the ready, as media-types held urgent, last-minute phone conversations or sent microcosmic observations out into the twittersphere.
The sense of anticipation was strong when a guy stepped forward to perform an interminable soundcheck. “Test, one, two. Test.”
I stood in the wings, old-school notebook in hand, feeling incredibly old-school myself as 20-something social media journos milled about, knapsacks on their backs, thumbs furiously working their smart phones or else holding them aloft to snap “before” pictures.
“Test, one two. Test.”
Outside, scaffolding surrounded the entrance, the snow fell sideways and a massive crane dominated the front parking lot, creating a sense of everything being in slings.
When I had quipped to my husband on the drive home Tuesday night that the crane was probably brought in to resurrect Dunderdale’s sagging political career, I did not expect to hear later that same evening that she was stepping down the next day.
Arriving on Confederation Hill to hear her farewell speech, the joke suddenly didn’t seem that funny anymore.
Not because Dunderdale’s popularity wasn’t waning, because it had. Not because I didn’t think she should go, because I did. And, frankly, I thought she should have stepped aside sooner for the good of her party.
But when you stand there and watch someone’s political aspirations being dashed to the ground, you realize what a tough decision it must have been.
To go from the bright, shiny moment when you get to wear the mantle of first female premier to having to acknowledge you’re no longer the right person for the job cannot be an easy journey.
And even though I’ve spilled plenty of ink propounding my views about what was wrong with Dunderdale’s leadership, I took no pleasure in seeing her secede.
It’s not an easy job to hold and must be a harder one still to give up.
When Dunderdale emerged to join the members of her caucus — a group dominated by men in sombre suits — you realize how few women there are in positions of political power in this province and what a blow it must have been for Dunderdale to acknowledge it would be best to step aside.
It remains to be seen whether she did so in time for her party to regroup and gain new strength or whether she waited too long to go.
My money’s on the latter, but politics is nothing if not unpredictable.
On Wednesday, the rumour mill was whispering that she had had no choice but to go; that she was being pressured to step aside with the threat of further defections.
The truth of that, too, may be revealed in time.
The only truth that mattered on Wednesday, though, was that Dunderdale was giving up her premiership when she was good and ready, and not one minute sooner.
She’s stubborn, I’ll give her that — though that may very well have been her fatal flaw.
But she was gracious in her leave-taking, saying, “there is no greater honour than to serve the public” and “no greater reward than knowing your service has made a difference.”
Dunderdale has not said whether she will keep her seat in Virginia Waters until the next election or whether she will even run again.
I suspect the answer to both those questions is no.
Let’s face it. Once you’ve reached the pinnacle, it can’t be a lot of fun to find yourself back at base camp.
But Dunderdale is nothing if not a survivor, and chances are she will resurface before too long — reinvented, reinvigorated and taking on a new role in some aspect of public life.
In what were likely the final moments of her final speech as premier, Kathy Dunderdale thanked the people from the bottom of her heart, then turned and walked towards the elevators on a wave of thundering applause.
Next to me, Nalcor CEO Ed Martin smiled enigmatically, cap tucked under his arm and clapping politely, looking for all the world like a man who had just dodged a bullet.