One thing’s for sure in Newfoundland politics: when the floor-crossing starts in earnest, the best analogy has to do with sinking ships.
Because other departures are few and far between. Sure, an individual MHA — Tom Osborne, for example — might find he can’t sit as a government member anymore.
But by and large, when MHAs move house in this province, it’s because they feel there’s a strong chance they might just get evicted at the next election.
Monday morning, former Tory Paul Lane joined the Liberals, saying the government of Premier Kathy Dunderdale has lost its way.
Well, actually, he said that and a whole lot more.
“I’ve heard our premier say we need to remember who hired us, and why. These are wise words, but words alone do not go far enough. They must be backed up by actions,” Lane told reporters.
“I say to the premier that while her intentions may be honourable, I believe that our government has lost its way, and has indeed forgotten to listen to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I believe that our government has become very complacent and has indeed lost touch.”
Lane also criticized the government for refusing to try and fix past mistakes — like Bill 29, still a familiar touch-point for many opponents of the government — and Dunderdale herself, for her slow response to island-wide power failures.
Lane’s departure does one thing for sure — it moves the festering frustration felt by more than a few PC MHAs and party faithful from the back burner to the very front of the stove. In the coming weeks, there will either be a major shakeup in the Tories — like a resignation by Dunderdale — or even more of the now-constant death of a thousand cuts.
Two defections, two byelection losses, any number of sets of truly horrendous polling numbers, communications misstep after communications misstep — Telegram columnist Russell Wangersky made this point back in September, and things have only gotten worse: “Take the small successes that have come with a long political career and get off the stage — or else run the real risk of driving your entire party over an electoral cliff.”
Even the power blackouts didn’t have to do the political damage they did.
If Dunderdale had gotten out in front of that mess — calling for calm and taking action quickly instead of waiting days to come out and tell people that if they felt they were in a crisis, they were wrong — she might have even been able to go some small way towards rehabilitating her floundering image.
Instead, we get to watch a train wreck in progress, characterized Monday by one of the rail crew flinging himself out of the train rather than riding it off the end of the rails.
If anyone in the PCs feels the writing isn’t on the wall, they’d better get new glasses.