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ON THE 11th HOUR: when the war went quiet
“…I am not conceding victory to the Liberals…” — Ches Crosbie, May 16, 2019
“I will look at it at the time.” — Donald Trump, Oct. 19, 2016, on whether he would accept the results of the U.S. presidential election if Hillary Clinton won
In the few minutes that he addressed his supporters on election night, Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie showed Newfoundlanders why they should never elect him as premier.
Crosbie’s post-election speech was, in a word, obnoxious. When graciousness and class were called for, Crosbie was instead rude, condescending and insulting — not only to the Liberals, but, more importantly, to the public.
Even if you loathe Dwight Ball — and there are plenty of reasons to be in that camp — Crosbie’s comments were so boorish and anti-democratic that even some people who voted for him must have regretted it.
Crosbie ignored the good advice that has been given to election losers everywhere since the fine idea of democracy was invented: “Stay calm, and be conciliatory and congratulatory.”
“The Ball Liberals are on their way out, the tide is receding, and I am not conceding victory to the Liberals — they will have to struggle for the next months and years to hang on to power,” Crosbie said in his speech.
“It will not end up with Dwight Ball as premier of Newfoundland in one year from now.”
In trying to talk tough, Crosbie merely succeeded in sounding like a fool, and a dangerous one at that. Someone who says things like that about the victor — even a minority victor — so soon after the balloting is not someone who reasonable people will want in the premier’s office.
Will the Tory faithful do the right thing and get the proverbial knives out, and start looking for a new leader who is credible and electable? No. To expect them to do that is to mistakenly believe the May 16 election changed anything in Newfoundland politics.
It is widely being suggested the election result signals some sort of momentous change in the way politics works in the province. If only it were so. The unfortunate and far less dramatic truth is that the 2019 election had one major characteristic: indecision.
The peasants couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be lorded over by the Liberals or lorded over by the Progressive Conservatives. Any other interpretation is but wishful thinking.
The Liberals won 44 per cent of the popular vote. The Tories won 43 per cent. An impressive 87 per cent of Newfoundlanders are just fine with carrying on the decades-long practice of electing Liberal/Tory/Liberal/Tory. Only 13 per cent of voters selected another option.
The supposed backlash from a fed-up electorate did not happen, and don’t expect it to occur within your lifetime. The results of May 16 prove Newfoundlanders are happy with bad governance, thank you very much.
Having a minority government means the mechanics of politicking might change somewhat — no more royal decrees about putting a 16th-century “deficit-reduction” levy on the peasantry — but the substance will remain the same.
Crosbie proved it. So did Ball, by giving a short speech at his campaign headquarters and then dashing out without bothering to stay for the traditional handshakes and hellos to his supporters. His eagerness to get to the door revealed he had nothing in his prepared notes to address a result that didn’t give him a resounding or satisfying victory.
A minority government? Both leaders were at a loss. They didn’t know what to say, or they said exactly the wrong things. The veneer of democracy among the province’s ruling class is as thin as Newfoundland’s topsoil.
Speaking of the ruling class, the supposed backlash from a fed-up electorate did not happen, and don’t expect it to occur within your lifetime. The results of May 16 prove Newfoundlanders are happy with bad governance, thank you very much.
A voter rebellion would have given the upstart Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance more than two per cent of the popular vote, even with its tiny slate of nine candidates. The NDP garnered a pathetic six per cent of the popular vote. Dreamy socialists will point out the leftists had only 14 candidates, and elected three. Indeed. But outside of St. John’s Centre, St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi and Labrador West, satisfaction with bad governance is solid.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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