Party fortunes

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Oh, how we love to prognosticate. The Tories are toast, say those blessed with the gift of precognition, and indeed the polls seem to foreshadow the inevitable every few months.

A voter places a ballot in a ballot box.

There are sound reasons to believe the PC party is opposition-bound. The Muskrat Falls project seems more and more like a costly white elephant every day — despite reassurances from the government and its Crown engineers.

More damaging, perhaps, is the perception of arrogance — something that has repelled even some Muskrat supporters. The government is arrogant, they say. Danny Williams was arrogant. Kathy Dunderdale was arrogant. Tom Marshall is arr… well, not quite as arrogant, but the cabinet is still full of the same arrogant worms.

There’s no doubt the Tories have made some big missteps, particularly when it comes to accountability and communication. But does that really mean the writing is on the wall?

Party longevity is part of our history. No one will ever top Joey Smallwood’s 23 years as premier. Between Frank Moores and Brian Peckford, however, the Tories held on for the next 17. After Tom Rideout’s footnote administration, the Liberals returned for another 14.

When you think of it, a loss by the PCs this year or next would translate into the shortest party reign since Confederation.

Much has been made of the three candidates for leadership. Steve Kent, Paul Davis and John Ottenheimer all have their crosses to bear, but no one can know for sure how the winner will fare after emerging from September’s convention.

While circumstances are different in every case, it’s instructive to look at recent elections in other provinces. B.C.’s Christy Clark and former Alberta premier Alison Redford both squeezed out majority governments when polls showed they were going down to defeat.

Most recently, Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne achieved the unachievable when she overcame a crippling Liberal legacy in that province to hold on to the government.

One can’t understate the obstacles she faced. When Dalton McGuinty resigned in October 2012, he left a long litany of scandals, including allegations of financial irregularities, cost overruns and huge salaries for managers of health agencies.

The biggest boo-boo was the cancellation of a contract for two power plants in the Toronto area, costing hundreds of millions of dollars for taxpayers. Even Wynn felt the aftershocks of that mess when it became evident that government emails may have been deliberately deleted.

One thing Wynne did have going for her was that the alternatives were dubious. NDP support remained stagnant, and Conservative Leader Tim Hudak floated austerity measures that scared away much of his soft support.

But her win was a shock nonetheless.

The lesson? Don’t assume party legacies tell the whole story. Voters aren’t always eager to try a new government on for size.

Geographic location: Alberta, Ontario, Toronto

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Recent comments

  • Pierre Neary
    July 09, 2014 - 17:57

    I agree. Whether federal or provincial politics the minute you count out your opponent you are a fool. Especially when running against an incumbent.

  • Too Funny
    July 09, 2014 - 07:34

    "a loss by the PCs this year or next would translate into the shortest party reign since Confederation". Maybe voters are finally becoming intelligent but does it really matter. The next crowd does not look very promising and it's safe to say that things will continue to get worse. They will continue with MF and keep the secrecy laws. You see, in the end they're all the same.