Turbulent Tory times

Bob Wakeham
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As Simon and Garfunkel might put it (if they were still buddies and living in Newfoundland):  
“Where have you gone, Danny Williams? 
The Tories turn their lonely eyes to you,
Woo, woo, woo.    
What’s that you say, Mrs. Dunderdale?
Dandy Dan has left to make a mint. 
Hey, hey, hey.
Hey, hey, hey.”

Newfoundland Tories can certainly be forgiven for longing for the good ol’ Danny Days.

Just put yourself for a second in the shoes of some ancient, diehard PC: for a decade or so, you had smugly relished the unbeatable, near-unprecedented popularity of Danny Boy, then you watched helplessly as Kathy Dunderdale dragged your party down the political septic tank, and now you’re forced to sit back in frustration to await a saviour who — at least at this point — has not made an appearance.

OK, so it is hard, I’ll grant you, to generate sympathy for the Tories.

But you’d have to admit that the starting lineup for the Tory leadership convention, as of this week, was not exactly one for the political ages.

The names bandied about since Dunderdale ignominiously vacated the eighth floor of Confederation Building, even those who didn’t have a prayer of victory at the convention, are disappearing from the potential leader list with regularity.

Every day, Tories are probably checking out blogs or Twitter or whatever information-dispensing gizmo they have at their disposal — maybe some of the old-fashioned baby-boomers just read The Telegram or watch the evening news or listen to radio — and are forced to pose the same question to themselves: who’s gone now?  

The latest to drop out of the race, as everyone and their dog now knows, at least as of this Tuesday-night writing, is the cabinet minister thought to be the frontrunner, Darin King.    

Joining the Man Who Would Not Be King on the sidelines are two lightweight cabinet ministers, Keith Hutchings and Paul Davis, who caused barely a ripple of interest anyway. Nor should they have.

And Tim Powers, the VOCM bullpen host, decided he would rather shake, rattle and roll behind the scenes and on the air than go through the torture of a leadership race, spend a couple of months wielding power, then plop down in opposition for years.

So who’s officially on the ballot? At my deadline, just fish merchant Bill Barry. And he managed to shove his foot so far down his throat he nearly choked, telling the province that members of the government caucus wouldn’t know a bucket of S-H-I-T (he spelled it out) if it was poured over their heads. Way to go, Billy, b’y. It’s one thing for the Liberals or  the NDP to say something along those lines or for a saucy columnist to put it in print.  

But it’s quite another for a politician (he foolishly and disingenuously claims he’s not a politician) to slander the people he’s hoping to sit beside and lead. To say nothing of the fact that he would need the support of many of those very same individuals in order to be successful on the convention floor.

Sure, Barry is colourful, always was, always will be. But he’s a loose cannon, not what the fragile Tories are seeking at this point.

And his political ideology, in the view of many, makes Stephen Harper look and sound like a left-wing radical.

Danny Williams certainly took some liberties, exaggerated, in fact, when he accused Barry of having preached in an email the homily

of privatization of education and health (along with Nalcor).

But, at the very least, Barry was dropping hints that his agenda would contain a provocative discussion of altering much of what Newfoundland society views as sacrosanct.  

That’s damn frightening stuff to most people. As it should be, if you ask me.                                   

And getting an unambiguous thumbs down from the former premier puts Barry behind the eight ball (anyone naive enough to think Danny Williams doesn’t pack a ton of wallop in Tory World must believe pigs can give you an aerial view of St. John’s). 

And who’s left out there still playing the speculative game?

Well, there’s Steve Kent. And the mere fact that we’re talking and writing about Steve Kent as a potential premier speaks volumes about the state of the Tory party.

And then there’s Derrick Dalley; as in Derrick Who?

We still hadn’t heard earlier this week an official yea or nay from Fabian Manning.

But, as I’ve noted here previously, this is a politician with some serious baggage weighing him down, patronage baggage: two return trips to the Senate courtesy of Stephen Harper.

And CBC “On Point” panellist Shawn Skinner hadn’t decided (again, as I say, at my deadline) whether or not he wants to try going from pundit to premier in one fell swoop. Just the mention of his name, I’m sure, strikes terror in the hearts of Liberals and NDPers. 

So, it’s a sad state of affairs thus far for the Tory leadership contest. There could be, I suppose, someone waiting in the wings we haven’t yet heard from, a charismatic star who could pick up the Tories by their bootstraps and lead them out of the polling doldrums.

If not, it’s Premier Dwight Ball. Get used to it. A great photo-op guy. 

Maybe, when all is said and done, it’ll be more than just Tories who’ll be bemoaning the fact that the messiah, Pope Dan, Dan the Man, is now merely adding millions to his bank account with the development of that patch of land the size of Gander, and continuing to play with his toy, the IceCaps. For all of his faults, and God knows he provided me with grand column fodder, he was still a force to be reckoned with. Still is.

“Where have you gone, Danny Williams? 

A province turns its lonely eyes to you. 

Woo, woo, woo.   

Woo, woo, woo.”

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com.             

Organizations: Tory, NDP, Newfoundland society CBC On Point IceCaps

Geographic location: Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Corporate Psycho
    February 23, 2014 - 13:05

    Curtis Coombs would do well with the PC crowd.

  • darrell
    February 22, 2014 - 14:43

    And it looks so good on them. To see people opportunists like Dalley, French, Brazil, Little John pretend to really care about people while stuffing their pensions is a complete joke. Can't wait for the next election.

  • Crazy
    February 22, 2014 - 07:15

    Bob, look at the pass history of Interim Leader, history show they have the habit of bring the province down lower then when they starts. Same thing is going to happen if the Liberal form the next government, Right from the start, their campaign starts of with dishonesty, when they said they wanted a healthy competition for a new leader for the party, we all know what happen on July 5/2013, DEMOCRACY die at the hands of the liberals.