Such is the optimism in Newfoundland (and Labrador) that all three leaders were happy with their party’s performance in Tuesday’s provincial election.
Progressive Conservative Leader Kathy Dunderdale, Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward and NDP Leader Lorraine Michael expressed satisfaction soon after the polls closed, early in the evening, so it is evident they were influenced by the outcome, rather than by, say, celebratory substances.
A visitor from another planet or province might be confused by the exuberance displayed by the party leaders.
She’s happy with five seats out of 48?
He’s happy with six seats out of 48?
She’s happy even though the electorate blasted six of her party’s seats into oblivion, i.e., into opposition hands?
Dunderdale, obviously, has the most reasons to be satisfied. Her party may have dropped to 37 seats from the 43 it had under that guy who used to be premier but went off to play with pucks, but she will be premier for the next four years and — if Newfoundland tradition holds — for the four years after that.
This being October, the joy in the NDP and Liberal camps can be compared to the joy in Mudville.
The NDP increased its seat count by a factor of five, which in other jurisdictions would be phenomenal. Let’s set baseball metaphors aside, and think of the election outcome as a football score: 37-5. Not many coaches would enter the locker room after such a trouncing and declare, “Way to go, guys!”
The Liberals, for their part, lost 37-6, and — despite winning official opposition status — couldn’t even score a touchdown. Watching Aylward congratulate himself for scoring a two-point convert — in real terms, gaining two seats — was as painful as seeing reruns of Joe
Theismann getting his career-ending broken leg.
Speaking of Aylward and the ends of careers, it was clear halfway through the first quarter of Tuesday’s game that former Liberal quarterback Yvonne Jones might win back the starting position on the team.
No open house
When democratic representation eventually returns to Newfoundland, and Dunderdale deigns to reopen the House of Assembly, there will be twice as many opposition MHAs as there were during 2007-11, when that hockey guy was in charge.
Overwhelming optimism will prompt some to say — as they did Tuesday night — that those 11 Liberal and NDP MHAs will constitute a stronger opposing force against the PCs.
Perhaps. One thing is certain — there will be more voices during question period.
But as for actually preventing disastrous PC policy — such as the immensely foolhardy Muskrat Falls debt/development — the opposition will be as powerless as Casey.
An essential feature of Newfoundland politics remains undisturbed: the province is still ruled by one dominant party.
There isn’t even an approximation of equality of influence. The NDP and Liberals can have their say, and then the PCs can do as they wish.
Dunderdale didn’t even wait until election day was over before she proved that unsavoury fact, by declaring the House of Assembly would not have a fall sitting.
If democracy is about more than just voting, it’s apparently news to the newly legitimized premier.
Politics and pathogens
But the prospect of four more years of arrogant Tory rule should be kept in perspective. After all, life extends beyond mere politics.
For instance, news reports this week described how researchers have completed the years-long study of the bacteria that caused the Black Death in the Middle Ages. They succeeded in mapping the genetic code of Yersinia pestis — which still lives today in dirt — and determined it is essentially unchanged from six and a half centuries ago, when it killed 50 million people in Europe alone.
In comparison, political dirt is harmless.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.