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Here are two interesting sets of numbers: Dwight Ball, the new leader of the provincial Liberals, spent a whopping $312,733 to win the leadership of an opposition party.

Of that, $223,321 — or perilously close to a quarter of a million dollars — was his own money.

Paul Antle also ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

He didn’t win, coming in as the runner-up, but spent a whopping $438,000, including $274,426 of his own money — more than a quarter of a million dollars — in the effort.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, it’s an awful lot of money to cough up, just to show that you want a role in public service.

You have to start by asking the obvious question: is there any chance of running a major political party, even on the provincial stage, if you don’t have a pocketful of cash?

And does that necessarily mean we’re getting the best candidates we can to run for elected office, or simply the best equipped to pay the piper?

There are, of course, exceptions.

You could point to Premier Kathy Dunderdale as an example of how deep pockets aren’t necessary to take over as leader of a political party — but you’d have a hard time reproducing the particular set of circumstances that put Dunderdale in the job.

First, have a wildly popular premier unexpectedly resign.

Then, agree to take the job of premier solely on an interim basis, saying you’re not interested in the job.

Then, after a period of time in place, decide you want the job after all. Not only that, but have every other potentially interested candidate bail out and stay on the sidelines.

You’d have to admit that’s more than just being in the right place at the right time with the right skills — that’s a cosmic long shot set of circumstances.

But back to the expense train.

It’s certainly not unusual for leadership battles to be costly.

There are plenty of examples on the national stage where even winning campaigns have ended up being veritable cash millstones for the winners, let alone the also-rans.

It sets up an interesting composite picture of the kind of person likely to win: you have to be willing to risk barrels of cash for a job that, even if you get it, should take years (if not more) before your increased salary can ever top up your bank account again.

In other words, people willing to roll the dice with big money, confident that their choice is the right one.

Some would argue that particular set of attributes (or compulsions) is already over-represented in many levels of government. But without that  set of traits you’re unlikely to get a seat at the table.

And the voters?

It looks like we get what you pay for.

Organizations: Liberal Party

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Recent comments

  • Scott
    December 17, 2013 - 17:04

    @ Maggy Carter, How do we know Dwight Ball make the best choice for leader, when six came forward, and one was turn away, but on two difference occasion the liberals excepts Mr Murphy paper. They had no problem then, with the man, or is it they said no, because of his article of June 24/2013. Because it show leadership materials? Ball stood in Marystown, told the people there he see a future in their community, but in his own district he only see make work project, follow by starvation. You call this leadership?

  • Stephen  Redgrave
    Stephen Redgrave
    December 17, 2013 - 11:56

    Granted , Dwight Ball is an excellent politician. He knows exactly how to say nothing in a 20 minute interview except words like "energized, and "momentum" . There's your sign! Kathy, on the otherhand is not a very good politician, but she knows how to say what's on her mind, admit having a flaw or two and talk to us without the 'double talking' daytime drama expertise of Mr Ball. I didn't much like Kathy in those first few years, but have grown to respect her treating us like adults , and not like viewers of our favourite daytime soap. She is the only one with the experience to to handle what's heading our way. I don't wan't to see everything get all 'Balled' up over silly pride. The PC parties rating sank due to the public and their fear , not due to common sense ;. Otherwise Kathy would be right on top where she belongs. Mr Ball can't buy me, but I can most certainly help KD absolutely free of charge.

    • Corporate Psycho
      December 17, 2013 - 14:42

      For someone who is a citizen reporter for the Telegram you obviously do not read it. I am referring to this weeks Cheers and Jeers. Second Cheer by the way. Pretty embarrassing stuff Stephen.

    • Corporate Psycho
      December 18, 2013 - 07:13

      How come you won't print comments on your submissions to the Telegram?

  • Maggy Carter
    December 17, 2013 - 11:37

    Dunderdale becoming premier was less the result of cosmic chance and more that of an all powerful departing leader handpicking his successor. All would be challengers were quickly dissuaded. The expectation no doubt was that she would be exceedingly appreciative, malleable and - above all - committed to her predecessor's signature development. Sadly Dunderdale did not take the opportunity to have a fresh look at the economics of Muskrat. It was damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead. As a result, we now face an economic nightmare that could haunt our children and grandchildren for decades to come. And yet in a final twist of irony the mining company, whose board of directors include the ex-premier, is now worried that it might not get access to any of that Muskrat power - or at least that it will play second fiddle to Nova Scotia's needs that could account for as much as 60% of the total output. So worried is Alderon Iron Ore Corporation that it today went public with its criticism of Dunderdale's government for not signing a power contract with the company. So yes - getting back to the editorial - money has always been and continues to be the dominant influence on virtually all aspects of the management of this province. It is why we were so impoverished for centuries, why that have-not status continued long after Confederation despite the wealth that accrued to others from the development of our resources, and why the manner in which leaders are elected/selected in this province is therefore so important. Dwight Ball was the best choice by far among those offering for the Liberal party. He has already shown integrity not evidenced in others by voluntarily disclosing the source of his contributions. I will look to him to follow through on his promise to reform leadership finance rules in this province. That reform should include a cap on the level of spending enforced by the Chief Electoral Office. That cap should be such that it does not preclude people from running who are not independently wealthy.

    • Corporate Psycho
      December 17, 2013 - 14:52

      Outstanding post.

    • david
      December 17, 2013 - 15:17

      One correction: 'Money' per se has not been the problem in this province.....being screwed over for money because of sheer government incompetence has been the problem. Never before has a place with such natural resource wealth been governed by an by an unbroken littany of incompetent, uneducated, economic stunnarses. And you really can't blame the'd be like you walking by a $50 bill on the ground. At the same time, our government would come across the same $50 bill, add $20 to it, and put an ad in the paper for mainlanders to come to Newfoundland to clean money off the road for a big tax break.

  • keith kent
    December 17, 2013 - 11:04

    Mr. Ball played by the rules, yet as usual, The Telegram found some fault with this. Of course, you also found a way to connect Ms. Dunderdale and attempt to tarnish her selection as Premier. Somewhere/sometime, the present Government must have done something worth being congratulated on but The Telegram and it's editorial group continue it's obsession with negative comment......You should take your responsibility with having a journalistic monopoly more seriously.

    • Donald
      December 17, 2013 - 13:08

      Maybe the rules are questionable and need to be discussed as to how they impinge on democracy.

  • david
    December 17, 2013 - 09:32

    Politics is a corrupt, dirty, wasteful endeavor pursued by selfish, incompetent, lying egotists. Some places worse than others.

    • Steve
      December 17, 2013 - 12:13

      David, This is the wrong position to take. The more this type of sentiment is repeated, the fewer good upstanding citizens will offer themselves for election. I believe that we have major problems with our political system, but tarring every individual with the same brush only makes things worse.

    • david
      December 17, 2013 - 18:07

      Prove me wrong. Whose career in the last 50 years of Canadian politics doesn't fit this description to a Tee? You are simply living in a Disneyesque construct....fantasyland. I'm just not afraid to face it.

  • steve
    December 17, 2013 - 09:13

    When money rules, politics is rotten. There are two options here. Someone independently wealthy who can pay for most of their own leadership campaign, or someone who needs to raise a lot of money. In the former case, we can only hope that we're getting a good candidate, because they are automatic contenders for the title, and in the second case so many favours will be owed that corruption is almost a guarantee.

  • Ambrose
    December 17, 2013 - 08:07

    We the people lost out on a good leader for the people, was the man from corner brook, That man did show leadership materials, but the liberals wasn't going to let that happen, because they would have to admits to the people once more, by making Mr Ball leader.

  • Too Funny
    December 17, 2013 - 07:57

    "What’s wrong with this picture?" Well, given that all the contenders were business people, who make decisions based on getting a return on their investment, then you have to wonder what kind of a return are they expecting from their quarter million dollar investment.

  • Ken Collis
    December 17, 2013 - 07:48

    The payback is usually years down the road with seats on boards of big businesses who know that the only legal way to pay off politicians is to let them see what has happened to those before them. Every single political race should be financed with taxpayer dollars with no exceptions. As well, when a question is asked in the house the answer should have to be given or the member banned until it is. It should be easier to have a politician removed from office by the voters. 50% plus one should require a new election in any district.

  • Joe
    December 17, 2013 - 07:44

    Very superficial discussion of a much larger subject. How does the individual voter get to pay to play in the governing sweep stakes. Also Stevie is eliminating the automatic support of parties based on their vote in the previous election. Making a contribution to a political party who will make laws to help you is a little difficult when you are living from hand to mouth. This is all part of the new "thinking" about how a society should work. Whether this new society is a democracy is questionable.

  • Pierre Neary
    December 17, 2013 - 06:42

    I'd like to know how much Danny Williams spent out of pocket while he was in?