Politics is an interesting chess game — especially now, as a formerly imperious Progressive Conservative party, currently under the leadership of Premier Tom Marshall, trots out its touchy-feely side and tries to come across as a friend to pretty much all the electorate.
The budget sprinkles money throughout the province, with only smokers feeling pain from new taxes. There have been promises of new legislation and more open government, with the premier admitting that his party has to reconnect with voters who have turned away.
Meanwhile, the provincial Liberals, who have benefited in polls from the Tory slide as well as in actual bodies from defections from the Tories and the NDP, have been marching along, saying very little about their policy plans.
There might be reasons for that. From their side of the chess board, they may feel that telling voters now what they would do could lead the Tories to gobble up their policy platform. After all, that’s already happened with all-day kindergarten; what was a solid NDP plank has been commandeered by the Tories.
That’s what can happen in a province where all three parties are different in name but remarkably close in political ethos. We don’t so much have parties that are right, left and centre as we have parties that, in practical terms, are all to the left of the political spectrum.
So, the Liberals might well be afraid of showing their hand too soon and tipping off the Tories. The Liberals might also be happy to just let the Tories muddle along, especially since the public has reacted to the Progressive Conservatives’ sudden change of direction with skepticism.
But there are pitfalls to that strategy, because people are starting to ask just what it is the Liberals stand for. Waiting for the government to fall on its face doesn’t work so well when the government, in some ways, is moving in the right direction — not to mention the fact that the government will, by default, get more coverage than opposition parties because they can actually move their agenda forward.
Opposition parties can only talk about what they’d do differently if they got to form government.
An election could come sooner than October 2015, and might well be next summer. That means there isn’t much time left to make a mark. Eventually, political parties have to prove they have fresh ideas.
It’s not enough to keep harping on the fact that your opponents are tired and long in the tooth.
So far, though? We’re not seeing much of anything from the Liberals.