Seeing former premier Danny Williams out this week at a public event that wasn’t a hockey game may have kindled nostalgia among Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians).
It was just like the old days, when what Danny said, went.
There he was again, at a Rotary club luncheon Tuesday, figuratively patting his protégé, Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy, on the head for boosting, defending and justifying the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric megaproject before all the facts are even in.
Kennedy’s lackey-like loyalty to his former boss’s legacy “file” — a word Williams used to describe the most important issue facing several generations, current and future, of Newfoundlanders — might inspire confidence among his friends and colleagues, but anyone who looks at the situation objectively must surely entertain an obvious question: will Muskrat Falls be the downfall of the Tories?
It was fitting Williams made his appearance, and Kennedy made his speech, on Valentine’s Day. The flipside of love and romance is heartbreak, and the flipside of political power is political decline. In romance as in politics, you can look back, often years later, and pinpoint a single statement, event or action that signalled the beginning of the end.
In the case of Muskrat Falls, if it goes through, a few decades will probably pass before Newfoundlanders come to the heartbreaking realization it isn’t the love of their life, but rather an overpriced streetwalker.
People who like sports and politics might find fun in having a political pool as well as a hockey pool.
The intent of the political pool would be to challenge your friends, coworkers and fellow voters to predict what will cause the downfall of the ruling Tories, and when that cause occurred.
Start by creating a table; the vertical column on the left can be labelled “what”; the horizontal row along the top can be labelled “when.”
Bear in mind that today’s monolithic administration eventually becomes tomorrow’s has-been. It was only some years ago, for example, that the Liberals under Clyde Wells and then under Brian Tobin seemed unbeatable.
The Tories under Premier Kathy Dunderdale still enjoy a healthy and respectable amount of support. Whether or not that majority support is the leftovers of Dannymania is immaterial. It is there, proven in polls.
But the Tories’ second mistake would be to assume their support is timeless and open-ended.
Their first mistake — and this is where I’m putting my money in the political pool — has been to continue with a ruling style that is arrogant, obstinate and condescending.
In the “when” box, I’m marking, “Election night, 2011.” That was when Dunderdale, newly minted as premier-elect, declared — on the very day of democracy in action — the House of Assembly wouldn’t open in the fall and would resume sitting months away, in the spring.
There’s nothing like rushing right in to an authoritarian regime. If and when the Newfoundland electorate ever rebels against this, you can reliably trace it back to Oct. 11, 2011.
There are a variety of other issues worthy of your wager. You couldn’t go far wrong betting on “government secrecy/lack of transparency.”
Even the provincial auditor general has complained the government isn’t forthcoming enough with information. If he can’t find satisfaction, it’s highly unlikely many regular citizens can. But will their dissatisfaction be enough to turn them against the Tories? The political pool beckons your guess.
How about the coming cuts to health-care spending? Mark your X.
The Muskrat Falls “file,” being so thick, should be broken down into subsections for the purposes of a political pool. Some suggestions: “Similarity to Upper Churchill deal”; “cost overruns”; “subsidizing Nova Scotians’ power bills”; and “ignoring obvious downsides.”
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached via email@example.com