It would be interesting, just now, to be a fly on the wall inside the confines of the provincial Progressive Conservatives.
Why? Because, even with the possibility of a new leader lifting their political brand, they can’t seem to find their way out of controversy. Not that long ago, the Tories were looking for a new leader, with plenty of potential candidates nosing around both inside and outside the party establishment, and plans were in the works for the kind of leadership convention designed to lifts spirits and profiles.
Now, the party is heading towards a leadership convention with a single candidate — and that candidate’s political inexperience has become anything but a selling point. The convention can now only be a rubber-stamp for Frank Coleman, and that means it’s unlikely to even pull in more than the most perfunctory of media coverage — especially because, in the last couple of weeks, Coleman has preferred to deal with the media at arm’s length, sending out written statements on everything from the departure of Bill Barry from the leadership campaign to explanations about Coleman’s own personal views on abortion.
No one’s going to spend money for live television coverage of an event when the decision’s already made. And that means a leader who has done relatively little to clearly explain his plans for this province will have lost a critical chance to gain an advantage on his main political competitor, Dwight Ball — who also, as far as that goes, has been remarkably slow to explain just where he and his party would take the province, if the Liberals were to win an election.
At this point, it’s like watching a boxing match where both combatants have decided to play rope-a-dope, offering up nothing and waiting to see what punches their competitor will throw.
Meanwhile, the NDP are doing … something. And after their remarkable nest-soiling last fall, they’re likely to stay well out on the fringe for the foreseeable future.
It’s like nobody really wants the job.
For the Tories, it must be particularly frustrating — many feel they’ve been unfairly characterized in recent years, and believe they deserve more credit for their record of governance.
Now, the opportunity for the time and space to sell themselves politically through the leadership campaign has collapsed, and the survivor hasn’t done much to help himself look like an approachable contender.
Where exactly is a voter supposed to look?
Well, politics is a funny business, and it’s remarkable how quickly voters forget a whole variety of things.
Maybe Dwight Ball actually has policy plans and can put them forward. Maybe Frank Coleman will suddenly emerge, phoenix-like, from the ashes of a party that has almost single-handedly immolated its advantages at every turn, a party that’s been the victim of its own internal machinations for two premiers now. And maybe we’ll all forget the NDP’s singular ability to pull the pin out of the grenade and then drop the bomb on the floor of its own headquarters.
But no one’s on their “A” game right now. And the clock is ticking.