Is it shadow boxing, some strange kind of theatre with larger-than-life sports-mascot-like cartoon figures, or does someone somewhere actually think that it constitutes political strategy?
Last Friday, the business community got to hear from a Liberal leadership candidate who isn’t actually a candidate yet, Dean MacDonald.
“As a citizen of this province, when a premier walks in the door on Day 1, we all want them to succeed,” MacDonald said in a speech to the St. John’s Board of Trade. “Unfortunately for the premier, it’s been an unmitigated disaster. There isn’t a file that you can show me that she’s handled well — she really hasn’t.”
Nice stump speech for someone who still claims not to be stumping.
Then, later, MacDonald responded to the departure of Tom Osborne from the Tory caucus, saying he’d like to convince Osborne to join the Liberals.
“I’d love to,” MacDonald told reporters. “I will definitely reach out. … Tom is a well-educated worker in the political system that has accomplished a lot in his lifetime. Look, who wouldn’t want him?”
Right now, MacDonald is part of a travelling Liberal renewal committee which is expected to table a report at the party’s next convention. There’s been a suggestion that he’s unwilling to make any formal announcement about his personal plans until the committee tables its report.
But still, he’s making the rounds, saying this at an April fundraising dinner in Port de Grave: “I’m happy to be active. … There’s no leadership race. I’ve said I’m interested at some point in the future, but I’m still a very young man, and I really like what Dwight (Ball) is doing to rebuild the party. He’s to be commended.”
As letter-writer Marjorie Doyle ably pointed out in Tuesday’s Telegram, comments like the ones spelling out MacDonald’s intention to try to reel in Osborne suggest that MacDonald already views himself as having a larger role than just being an ordinary Liberal party member. And, with every speech attacking the governing Tories, it seems more and more like the MacDonald die is cast, and the only reason he hasn’t declared his candidacy is to suit the party’s strategic timing issues.
If this is the machinations of some invisible hand, some device designed to build political momentum for an inevitable leadership campaign, it’s time for the puppetry to end.
Run or don’t run. We need a lot of things in this province, especially as we lurch towards spending billions of dollars on a massively expensive hydroelectric project that MacDonald apparently supports. Questioning him on that support is, at this point, neither here nor there, because, oh right, he isn’t running for anything yet.
To repeat: there are plenty of things this province needs. More old-school political gamesmanship isn’t one of them.