“I think of the analogy of someone who would sneak up on you, shove a knife in your back, and then glory in the opportunity that he’s the same person to actually stitch you up,” Premier Dwight Ball said Tuesday afternoon.
Ball was responding to comments by Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie on VOCM’s “Openline,” where Crosbie said his personal motto is “Never waste a good crisis.”
Ball says he took Crosbie to mean he intends to use the crisis of high electricity rates stemming from the Muskrat Falls project and unprecedented public debt to catapult himself into a seat in the House of Assembly in the byelection to be held in Windsor Lake.
“It is appalling that a party leader in this province would see the situation that we are dealing with, one that we are fixing on a weekly basis trying to rebuild this place, and someone steps up and politically the best they can come up with is ‘I don’t want to waste a good crisis,’” said Ball.
“What have we heard from him in an idea? Nothing. Not a thing. He has not come up with one thing.”
Crosbie uttered the phrase in reply to a question about whether he would be willing to make difficult decisions in order to get the province’s fiscal situation out of its current state. Crosbie said, “My motto is: Never waste a good crisis.” There was no follow up question asking Crosbie to explain what he meant.
Crosbie elaborated on his motto when reached by The Telegram.
“What I mean is in a time of crisis, which many people think we are in, there’s opportunity to change the way we do things and come out of it better off than when we went in. It requires good leadership,” said Crosbie.
“I’m not talking about personal advantage here at all. I’m talking about how our society, the place we love, Newfoundland and Labrador, can come out of what is generally believed to be a crisis, a financial crisis, a power rates crisis, and the crisis of our institutions of democracy, in better shape than the way we went in.”
A date for the Windsor Lake byelection has not been set yet. The byelection was triggered by the resignation of Liberal MHA Cathy Bennett, effective Aug. 21. The election date must be announced within 60 days of the resignation.
Crosbie says if the rhetoric leading into the byelection has already gone this far, he’s ready to get swinging himself.
“It started rather early, but I’m not sure where it’s got to go, how it can escalate from here, but bring it on,” he said.
“If I respond with vigour, I would try and make it more understandable. It’s the sort of thing that if it was in an email, you’d expect the letters LOL to be at the end of it.”
Meanwhile, New Democratic Party Leader Gerry Rogers was in Gander on Tuesday, attending a rally about the ongoing lockout at DJ Composites.
Rogers says people are sick of Liberal and PC bickering and they’re ready for a change.
“They remember, they know that the Conservatives brought up Muskrat Falls and the effects of that on the average working Newfoundlander and Labradorian and what it means for seniors,” she said.
“They also know it was the Liberals who brought us the levy, who brought us extra taxes on insurance, who tried to take away our libraries, who took away the adult dental program that really affects seniors. The people of the province know that neither of those government made decisions that were good for the province.”
So far, only Crosbie has come forth as a candidate for the byelection. The Liberals and NDP will announce their candidates at a later date.
Memorial University political science professor Russell Williams says he’s surprised to see the rhetoric get so intense this far out from the byelection.
“That really sounded like the kind of rhetoric you would expect if the writ had been dropped in an election period,” said Williams.
“I think it’s interesting. In light of Mr. Crosbie planning to run for the seat, I think the stakes in this byelection are really quite high. It will be a major test of where the government is at, at the moment.”
Speaking of the district, Williams says he expects Crosbie should be able to win it, but there’s a lot for voters to consider.
“Normally, I would expect that to be a relatively safe Conservative seat. But, again, there’s this lingering sense in the province that the mess that we’re in is a holdover from the Conservatives,” he said.
“I think that perfectly frames why the premier was so aggressive in trying to hang that on Mr. Crosbie. (Crosbie) seems to be positioning himself in a way that that has nothing to do with him, when clearly it does.”