Looking for signs of normalcy

Brian Jones
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Spring and political normalcy are both battling to make breakthroughs.

Spring will eventually win, because Mother Nature’s power will prevail. The buds are bursting out all over — bushes and trees, unlike humans, don’t mind two weeks of overcast and drizzly weather.

A return to political normalcy, on the other hand, is not assured. Created and influenced by human nature, the political beast alternates between tame and wild, a puppy one moment and a predator the next.

Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) awoke as from hibernation this week.

They rubbed their eyes, shook their heads and saw — for the first time in more seasons than they could remember — that their exalted leader had less than a 79 per cent approval rating.

Granted, “normalcy” is a highly subjective term. A large percentage of Newfoundlanders have deemed it normal to give messiah-like status to Danny Williams, Brian Tobin and Clyde Wells. (Quiz: of those three former premiers, which one failed to walk on water?)

In Alberta, millions of otherwise rational adults think it is normal that the same party has ruled the province for four decades. (This year marks the Progressive Conservatives’ 40th anniversary in office.)

Perhaps “political health” is a better term than “political normalcy.”

“Normal” can be subjective and judgmental. “Health,” in contrast, implies objectivity. Assess the Newfoundland body politic, and determine whether it is healthy for any leader to enjoy a 79 per cent approval rating.

PCs can’t be happy about it, but it’s a good sign for provincial politics that Premier Kathy Dunderdale, in a poll released this week by Corporate Research Associates (CRA), has a 51 per cent approval rating among decided voters.

It is tempting to say “only” 51 per cent, due to Williams’ atmospheric approval ratings that were customary over the past half-decade.

Even so, the Tories seem headed toward another majority in the October provincial election.

But the people of the province seem ready to give themselves something that is necessary and beneficial — a significant opposition in the House of Assembly, and one that amounts to more than the current five out of 48 MHAs.

It is a sign of how skewed provincial politics has become that, in the CRA poll, a five per cent jump for Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones over last year has brought her to only 16 per cent approval by decided voters. NDP Leader Lorraine Michael improved by 10 per cent over last year, and is preferred by 14 per cent of decided voters.

There were other indications of political normalcy this week. Williams, still in premier mode, made a speech in Ottawa and blasted the federal government for its favouritism toward Quebec.

St. John’s East MP Jack Harris, NDP defence critic — seemingly suddenly aware that socialists don’t usually endorse dead-end military actions — questioned Canada’s deepening involvement in NATO’s attacks on Libya. (Memo to Harris and the NDP: if you couldn’t see that the phrase “protect Libyan civilians” was a euphemism for “oust Moammar Gadhafi,” you all — not just the young rookies — need to attend an MP refresher course.)

On the abnormal side of the ledger, Senate page Brigette DePape got fired for holding up a “Stop Harper” sign during the throne speech. The winsome 21-year-old’s action spurred some support and a lot of vitriolic denunciation.

Perhaps she embarrassed an electorate that just returned to power a government that had recently been deemed in contempt of Parliament.

Oddly, a few years ago it

had been then-governor general Michaelle Jean’s official, constitutional duty to “stop Harper” when the prime minister, faced with losing a non-confidence vote, chose instead to shut down the House of Commons. She failed.

It is easy to dismiss DePape’s action as youthful naivety. Jean had no such excuse.

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

Organizations: Corporate Research Associates, NDP, NATO House of Commons The Telegram

Geographic location: Alberta, Newfoundland, Ottawa Canada Libya

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Recent comments

  • Harvey
    June 12, 2011 - 09:35

    When Danny Williams was our premier, I found it difficult to believe that Yvonne Jones could ever reach that level. However, now I find myself asking, if Cathy Dunderdale can be premier, why not Ms Jones? Using Mr. Williams as a bench-mark for premiership,is going result in a long wait for one of similar capabilities...regardless of what naysayers might say.

  • MBC
    June 11, 2011 - 07:31

    The LIBERALS will NEVER form a government with Yvonne Jones. Make no wonder why Dumberdale has a large smile; nothing to fear from Jones!!.

  • Cyril Rogers
    June 11, 2011 - 00:31

    Speedy, Liberals would have been accused of back-stabbing yet again if they had dumped Yvonne after her recent health issues. It was a lose-lose proposition for them. Don't you think that a party can have a lot of leadership even if the perception of the leader is that he/she is weak. I do believe the perceptions of Ms Jones are too harsh and it reflects a failure of people to seriously examine her performance in comparison to the current Premier. She has shown a much greater ability to debate and grasp issues than has Ms Dunderdale so her perceived weakness is not as apparent as when Danny was premier. In that instance, Danny could do no wrong and people chose to see everybody else as weak. History will show this was overly harsh on others and is one of the more regretable legacies of the Danny regime - it appeared that he was the only real leader we could ever have. How sad!!

  • speedy
    June 10, 2011 - 09:50

    I do not think it is normal that the Liberal Party failed to elect a new leader before the elections in October. I have nothing against Yevonne Jones but I do not think she is the right person to lead. In politics, though this may be normal, look what the Federal Liberals did, leaving Michael as their leader.