The propaganda professionals in the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland (and Labrador) have a challenging job during the next two months: they need to convince the voting public that the Round 2 leadership candidates are legitimate contenders rather than merely B-team opportunists.
Anyone who is paying attention to provincial politics rather than renovating the cabin, cooling off in the nearest pond or driving around looking for this year’s 1,539th spectacular iceberg will want an obvious question answered: why are you running in Round 2 when you didn’t run in Round 1?
“I forgot about the deadline and didn’t get my nomination papers in on time,” is not a satisfactory answer, nor is, “The dog ate it.”
Honesty won’t work either, which is so often the case in politics, unfortunately.
“I didn’t think I could win in Round 1,” is definitely the wrong answer, which is why the party will rely so much on its propaganda professionals during the next two months.
Luckily for the PC party and its manipulation machine, Frank Coleman is eminently forgettable. So is Bill Barry, in his political incarnation. So is, um, that other guy.
The names may go and the names may change, but the debacle of Round 1 remains, and should remain, in the minds of an ever-vigilant electorate.
An instructive lesson from the aborted Round 1 is that the PC party will kick someone out of a leadership race for sending allegedly offensive tweets (see: Wayne Bennett), but won’t kick someone out of a leadership race for allegedly taking advantage of party connections and influence to bring benefits to his former company (see: Humber Valley Paving, released from contract).
Of course, the PC propagandists can partially rely on Newfoundland (and Labrador) voters being willing dupes (see: Newfoundland, history of).
Their success will be gauged by how long the PCs can delay a general election. After their Round 2 candidate is crowned, the Tories must call a general election within one year.
The longer they are able to delay their own decimation, the higher the bonuses to their spin wizards should be, because they will have done an admirable job in convincing the public to postpone — and possibly limit — their expression of wrath.
Oddly enough, Round 2 presents similar dilemmas as were encountered in Round 1.
Candidate John Ottenheimer — like Frank Coleman before him — could conceivably become premier without being elected by the public.
Watch how the Tory fableists turn this tale. Ottenheimer is a former MHA and cabinet minister, the propagandists will pronounce, and therefore can claim the legitimate support of the electorate. It’s slightly twisted, but it just might work.
To get to that point, though, John O. will have to get past Paul Davis.
A cancer survivor, former cop and likable tough guy, Davis will be a formidable opponent.
This week, after announcing his candidacy, Davis smartly anticipated the question of why he didn’t run in Round 1, and explained that his health didn’t allow it six months ago. End of discussion — unless you want to get really crass about it.
As of this writing (Thursday morning), Steve Kent has not announced his candidacy, but reports have stated he will run. Some observers on social media are aghast at the prospect of the Mount Pearl Kid having a chance to become premier.
The invisible hand of the backroom strategists is somewhat less than invisible. If and when Kent declares, you’ll be able to envision the caucus meeting that led to it: “Com’n b’ys,” the assembled PC MHAs will have been told. “If we don’t get another candidate for Round 2, we’ll all look spineless again.”
Brian Jones is a desk editor at
The Telegram. He can be reached by email at email@example.com and can be found on Facebook.