Maybe, now that the “interim” is out of his job title, provincial Liberal Leader Dwight Ball will lean into the traces and actually start to leave a mark.
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Up to now, he’s been capable but relatively ineffectual — chances are, outside the political realm, he’s a bit of a cipher. Ask an ordinary citizen on the street about any of his policies and you’d likely come up blank.
Not only that, there are few areas where the opposition Liberals are actually hitting on all cylinders, and picking a leader from inside a party that’s hardly performing at the top of its game is not a great example of recognizing the need for change.
Take question period in the House of Assembly: the Liberals read questions by rote from notes, not even listening to the non-answers they are being given by the government before moving to the next portion of scripted question.
Honestly, if a government minister stood up and barked instead of answering, the Liberals would just go on reading their prepared questions.
It makes it seem like the Liberals are doing their darnedest to touch on hot-button issues without ever going any further or any deeper — but the opposition seems to come more from whoever is writing the questions than those standing to mouth them. Question period right now is like watching a particularly lengthy ping-pong volley where even the players can hardly summon enough interest to care who gets the point.
The House is the opposition’s biggest pulpit; the Liberals have to get beyond dull if they plan to get any attention.
The party’s finances are in a mess, while the governing Conservatives are sitting on fat packs of cash. The Liberal organization seems to be composed of remnants that don’t even realize why it was that they lost the past few elections, and think that pulling the same old levers might have a different result.
We’re not talking about arm-waving and false hard-nosed, dog-whistle positions to stir up the electorate. We’ve seen histrionics in opposition before, and it’s a waste of time and energy.
Making it look like you’re ready to govern is not a matter of waiting for Kathy Dunderdale to implode or suffer an NDP-like putsch. Without your own skills, you could be waiting for ages. That being said, the NDP’s stellar implosion is the best gift an incoming Ball could possibly wish for. But just as there are words that spring to your lips about the NDP’s recent performance — grade-school and lightweight, for example — there is a clear word for the current Liberal opposition.
And that has to change.
Because if Dwight Ball, for some reason, believes he’s already a premier-in-waiting, he’s delusional.
He has to be a clear option — and he has to be more than a pleasant fellow who does a fine job of reading a question.
There’s a lot of work to be done — and it starts now.