Newfoundland politicians are lucky. It takes a long time for them to be loathed by the electorate.
Premier Kathy Dunderdale and her government apparently want to speed up the process.
The current Tory administration isn’t even at the halfway point of its four-year mandate, but already displays the arrogance and contempt for the public that is typical of governments nearing the end of their reign.
The numbers are not on Dunderdale’s side. Never mind the recent polls.
It is the numbers on the calendar she needs to worry about.
This year marks a decade in power for the Tories. When the next election is held, in 2015, the PCs will have been in power for 12 years. If historical precedent is anything to go by, their time is almost up.
The previous Liberal administration, in the Wells/Tobin/Grimes era, was in power for 15 years before voters got fed up and voted them out.
Before that, the Moores/Peckford Tories ruled for 17 years before the electorate got fed up and voted them out.
Joey Smallwood and his Liberals held sway for 23 years before the public got fed up and voted them out.
There are some recognizable patterns.
Governance of the province goes from Liberals to Tories to Liberals to Tories. Back and forth, back and forth, sort of like a tennis match at Wimbledon.
The Liberals and Tories are the two main players, and the NDP is the ball boy.
Another pattern is the declining length of each administration’s reign.
It has gone from 23 years to 17 years to 15 years. By 2015, Dunderdale and her Tories will be sitting on 12 years’ experience.
If voters follow the historical pattern, they will be fed up and vote the Tories out, thereby following tradition and cutting an additional three years off a government’s ruling streak.
None of this is preordained, of course.
But it is highly likely.
A high proportion of the electorate is already saying they are fed up.
The days of 100 per cent approval ratings for the premier are gone, thankfully.
A recent poll put Dunderdale’s approval rating at 32 per cent, one less than the NDP’s Lorraine Michael at 33 per cent. Liberal Leader Dwight Ball was at 17 per cent.
In tennis terms, this means both main players are now less popular than the ball boy.
But are Newfoundlanders ready to break longstanding tradition and take the game away from both the Tories and the Liberals?
The same poll put the NDP in the lead, with 39 per cent of decided voters. The PCs are at 38 per cent and the Liberals are third at 22 per cent.
A lot could change by 2015. But what probably won’t change is the government’s behaving like royalty, which has caused its popularity among the peasants to plummet in the first place.
Typically, Dunderdale had a self-justifying explanation for the poll’s numbers.
The current provincial budget deficit and coming cutbacks and layoffs can be blamed on previous governments, she said, because they blew money on things “we couldn’t afford.”
This from a premier who, a mere three months ago, approved spending $6 billion on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.
So, some governments spend too much, and some governments spend $6 billion on a highly controversial megaproject. Perhaps Dunderdale alone can distinguish the difference.
You know a politician is on his or her last political legs when he or she starts boasting about having the courage to make “tough decisions.”
They go to a meeting. They decide. It doesn’t sound so tough. Strangely enough, their tough decisions usually lead to tough times for other people.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at
The Telegram. He can be reached at email@example.com.