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BRIAN JONES: Newfoundland socialists may as well give it up

Gerry Rogers is resigning as leader the province's NDP and won't be seeking re-election in the upcoming Newfoundland and Labrador general election. She will stay on as a leader until a new one is elected.
Gerry Rogers has announced her resignation as leader the province's NDP and that she won't be seeking re-election in the upcoming Newfoundland and Labrador general election. She will stay on as a leader until a new one is elected. - Joe Gibbons
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Admit it: if you were Gerry Rogers, you would have quit, too.

Even if you disagree with their leftish ideology — and the most recent poll says about 90 per cent of Newfoundlanders do — you can sort of admire NDPers’ persistence and determination. They are like a hockey team that loses and loses and loses, but still gathers around their goalie for a raucous pre-game cheer.

Listening to hopeful, optimistic NDP activists brings to mind the medieval monks who enjoyed self-flagellation to feel closer to God. In the modern incarnation, leftist politicos suffer for their ideals, and their pain strengthens their resolve.

Surely, though, there must be a limit to the rejection and failure a person can experience and still keep smiling and working under the self-delusion that there is any chance of success.

If Newfoundlanders really were as kind as they are depicted in “Come From Away,” the electorate would issue a collective thank you to the NDP for all its futile efforts over the years, and encourage them to go do something productive with their lives, because their best political efforts will perennially be tossed aside like fish guts at a splitting table.

The NDP’s most recent defeat, in the Topsail-Paradise byelection, was impressive, even by last-place left-wing standards: the party’s candidate received a paltry five per cent of the vote.

Let’s say adieu to the NDP, wish its members good luck and hope they find some other way of getting meaning out of life, because advocating for better politics in Newfoundland is pursuing a fantasy.

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the political spectrum, the victorious party, the one that gifted the province with the economy-busting Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, received 61 per cent of the vote.

The remaining 34 per cent of voters opted for the party that could have, and should have, cancelled Muskrat Falls when it attained power in 2015, but didn’t because it put its own interests ahead of the interests of the province.

The irony of Newfoundland politics borders on unfathomable. At a time when socialism should be ascendant, voters instead push it to oblivion.

Why ascendant? Let’s count the ways: unemployment, low pay, out-migration, income disparity, crumbling schools, food banks, incompetent governance, rule by the rich and so on.

Political scientists earn a good living trying to explain this stuff. Ultimately, it is due to political culture. Some people say it is a leftover effect of colonialism. That’s possible, but it more likely has deeper historical roots: “feudal culture” aptly describes Newfoundland politics. The lords pronounce and the peasants obey.

Kathleen Burt, the NDP’s five per center who finished third in the Topsail-Paradise byelection in January, made some interesting comments afterward.

“I’m not sure what you can do, strategy-wise,” Burt told reporters. “There’s obvious differences between our party and the Liberal and the PC party. If people are continuing to put their support behind parties that make terrible decisions for the province, I don’t know what we can do about that.”

That is the crux of it. There is nothing the leftists can say or do that will convince Newfoundlanders to vote for them. By any rational standard, 2019 is the year the electorate should send both the Tories and the Liberals for an extended hike in the wilderness.

Whether that means voters should opt for the NDP or the newly invented Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance is immaterial, because the likelihood of it happening is about the same as the chances of Greenpeacers buying hakapiks.

So, let’s say adieu to the NDP, wish its members good luck and hope they find some other way of getting meaning out of life, because advocating for better politics in Newfoundland is pursuing a fantasy.

It is a fitting irony that the last woman standing is Lorraine Michael, the best premier Newfoundland never had, an NDP leader whose potential was cut down by her own colleagues (“Et tu, Gerry?”).

But there is an upside. With perpetual Liberal/Tory governance, Newfoundlanders can continue one of their favourite pastimes: whining.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at brian.jones@thetelegram.com.


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