The back room and the polls

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Some commentators have been writing or saying the Muskrat Falls project is a done deal, it’s a go, the decision has been made, the debate and vote in the House of Assembly are merely a formality.

Finance Minister Tom Marshall, usually a thoughtful, reasoning and civilized servant of the Crown, has been quoted as saying, “The Opposition will have its say and then government will have its way.”

Not so long ago in this province, the government of then-premier Clyde Wells proposed to privatize Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

There was opposition to the policy. Len Simms was leader of the Progressive Conservatives and Jack Harris was the lone New Democrat in the House of Assembly.

Can you recall that time? Perhaps a few more details will jog your memory.

Sue Kelland-Dyer, Greg Malone and others mounted an effective campaign against what they genuinely believed to be a wrong-headed policy.

MHA Walter Noel stood apart from the Liberal caucus and elicited more sympathy and approval than a basket of abandoned kittens.

Remember now? Good.

Clyde Wells was not known for whimsy or for changing his mind, yet his government’s proposal to sell off Hydro to eagerly waiting carpetbaggers was tossed in the dumpster.

What happened? Public opinion became hot and loud against the proposal. The old boys in the back room of the provincial Liberal party noticed the commotion, sniffed trouble on the political wind, polled the electorate’s rising temperature at various times and places, and determined that if the government proceeded in its plan to privatize Hydro then the voting public would inflict severe punishment on Liberal party candidates in the next provincial election. That is what happened.

Do you remember the rest? Yes. You are right. Clyde shied.

On Sept. 6, the numbers in a Corporate Research Associates poll were released. Then, on Sept. 10, Angus Reid delivered more bad polling news.

In the next few weeks, the old boys in the back room (in these politically correct times referred to as the executive) of the Progressive Conservative party will assess the impact of proceeding with Muskrat Falls on their party’s fortunes, for good or ill, in the 2015 provincial general election.

George Orwell pointed out that everything is politics. Back room operatives of political parties know that the reverse — politics is everything — is also true.


Tom Careen


Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.There, Progressive Conservatives, House of Assembly.Can Corporate Research Associates

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Recent comments

  • What's going on with the Muskrat Falls Project?
    September 19, 2012 - 08:17

    If this horrendous project is allowed to proceed that is suspected to bankrupt our province and apparently was conceived by a bunch of ex Federal and Provincial high-level politicians, who, no doubt, are expecting tens or hundreds of Millions and maybe Billions of dollars from the development of this venture, well then we should scrap the process of electing politicians in Newfoundland and Labrador and we should go ahead with hiring politicians instead. If we hire people to run the affairs of our government and we draw up contracts on employing such people with the right protections built in, we will have the right to fire them if they are corrupt or not doing what is right for our place, whether it will be called a country or a province. It is quite plain the status quo form of government has not worked for Newfoundland and Labrador for 550 years, since our natural resources have been utilized for the benefit of others whether from England or Canada or other parts of the World. I am very perplexed from the names that I hear touted who will have involvement in this project, did not have Muskrat Falls developed when the World Economy was going gangbusters and they were in active power. Strange, indeed!

  • Pierre Neary
    September 18, 2012 - 17:49

    Interesting letter.

  • Eli
    September 18, 2012 - 12:18

    The damage will have been done by 2015. Dunderdale will be taken care of, Kennedy and Marshall will go back to work and all the other Danny carpetbaggers will go looking for jobs. Most won't care one way or another, their financial futures secured by that self serving Public Accounts Commitee, wheelers-dealers in its own right.