Tories have to stop treading water

Gerry Phelan
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Time may have to be the new BFF of the governing Tories. They’ll need it if they hope to make good on the gift Kathy Dunderdale handed them last week.

Her resignation and the upcoming leadership convention do more than give the PCs a chance to rebuild; it is also an opportunity to revisit their past mistakes and make amends.

Make no bones about it, the Tory executive has some big decisions ahead of them as they meet in St. John’s this weekend. More than just setting a date for a leadership convention, they will have to put in place a process to save the party from the abyss of defeat.  

It will take more than formalities. The conversation around the executive table tomorrow must be frank and honest.

Listening to comments from some senior cabinet members after Dunderdale’s resignation almost made me throw up. They blamed social media and a hostile media for her downfall.

They said she was a good communicator in the right circles and had earned the respect and admiration of her counterparts across the country.

Lesson 1 to the Tories from a humble journalist: get over it. Move on. There is no looking back and any blame for where your party finds itself can be found in one place: the mirror.

Kathy and her advisers made mistakes, spurred on by the cheerleading and always defensive cabinet and caucus with verbal pom-poms. The first thing you have to do is stop pretending you or the former premier are victims; you have to right the wrongs.

Some people have made millions of dollars on erasers. There is no shame in correcting mistakes.

Revising Bill 29 should be the first of many steps. It has become an albatross the PC government will wear well into the next trip to the polls. More often than not, access to information policies barely resonate with the electorate. In this case, rightly or wrongly, people are convinced the government wants to hide something.    

There are other issues that deserve an honest reassessment as well. I won’t (yet) go as far as to say stop Muskrat Falls, but I am not confident in the public oversight of this project or where the planning has left us with our electrical grid seemingly hanging on a shoe string.

Hopefully the inquiries will provide some comfort that we won’t freeze to death in 2015 or 2022 because of someone’s Muskrat Falls blinders.

I’m not going to skewer anyone today; there has been enough of that already, most of it deserved.

We now know, more than likely, that within the next few months we will have an election budget. The bad news is it means some things that likely should be done, won’t be.

We’ll keep overspending or mis-spending, depending on how you look at it. On the brighter side, it will probably be kinder and gentler, with real financial pain saved for a new mandate.

Time will tell whether anything has been learned from the polls and floor-crossings, the utter disgust and mistrust of the government. I and others have written over and over again about the communications blunders, but there was forever little change.

The Tories will have to prove they are not like lab rats, getting shocked when pressing the wrong button over and over again. It has been pressed once too often.

Lesson 2 for the party is that the job of changing perceptions starts now; it can’t wait until the leadership convention.  It may mean having to rein in or cull a few tired party faithful, but so be it. We may have an interim premier, but the job has never been more important.

Premier Tom Marshall’s reassuring words at his swearing-in ceremony are the heart and soul of what has to be done. He asked that “you open up to us. If we are doing something right, tell us. If we are doing something wrong and need to do better, tell us.”

We can only hope they will listen, learn and act accordingly.

Gerry Phelan is a journalist and former broadcaster.

He can be reached at gerryp@bellaliant.net

Organizations: Tory

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  • Cashin Delaney
    January 31, 2014 - 04:24

    "I won’t (yet) go as far as to say stop Muskrat Falls" and no member of the liberal media will ever be given the latitude to do so, until the concrete is set. This TC Media journalist would do well by the readers (who also read those uppity bloggers) to extend his humble observations onto our liberal opposition who not only debase the same code of members conduct in the HOA, but also debase the concept of a loyal opposition. It is evident that no journalists in NL, not even the hacks at the independent, have the freedom to address valid science and economics that indicate MF project must stop, without getting slammed by climate change proponents at all levels who look forward to exchanging mercury-free river flow for sky carbon credits. The liberals are not doing anything at all to explore the issues, let alone champion solutions. This is not opposition at all, at all. TC Media is not opposition, just distraction. Mr. Phelan is no more acting as a free journalist here than Dwight Ball has acted a democratic opposition leader. Infotainment from the media in lieu of real journalism, and shame blame and promises to manage the fallout from THE LOYAL OPPOSITION, instead of doing their job. “We may have an interim premier, but the job has never been more important”, but is still not as important as the position Dwight Ball is occupying, and the job he is not doing well within it.