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PAM FRAMPTON: Power to the people

New NDP leader Alison Coffin, who won her seat in St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi district, and St. John’s Centre district winner Jim Dinn raise their arms in victory at the NDP headquarters at the BIS building on Harvey Road following election results Thursday night.
NDP Leader Alison Coffin, who won her seat in St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi, and St. John’s Centre district winner Jim Dinn were jubilant after the votes were counted Thursday night. The NDP parlayed its two provincial seats into three. — Telegram file photo

Why the Newfoundland and Labrador election was a victory for citizens

You can read what you like into Thursday’s election results.

The Liberals, as expected — albeit somewhat chastened — are spinning it as an endorsement of their government and encouragement to keep on keeping on.

The Progressive Conservatives — equally predictably — are saying it’s a sign that people are no longer satisfied with the Liberals and are thirsting for change; blue Kool-Aid for everyone, please.

But the messages I take from it are not those.

No, what the results tell me is that people are fed up with both red and blue parties and their incessant grasping at power.

The New Democrats parlayed their two seats into three — no small feat given they only had 14 candidates and not an incumbent among them. That’s a strong signal that people want representatives who believe in social democracy, even if they had no hope of forming the government this time.

The election of independent candidates Eddie Joyce and Paul Lane tells me that people value good solid constituency representatives; people who, by throwing off their party colours, indicated they were willing to put themselves out there primarily to try and help their districts, not to polish their own personal brand and kowtow to party leaders and agendas. We could use a few more mavericks.

…what the results tell me is that people are fed up with both red and blue parties and their incessant grasping at power.

And the fact that neither the Liberals nor the PCs won by a landslide tells me this: people are sick to death of traditional party politics here, where nothing much distinguishes Grit from Tory beyond the colour of their banners and buses.

Ches Crosbie gave an angry, defiant, somewhat holier-than-thou speech once the votes were counted. He accused Dwight Ball of using every bit of leverage at his disposal to circumvent democracy by calling an election early, thereby catching other parties off-guard, rolling out budget promises on the campaign trail and timing the election during the active phase of the Muskrat Falls inquiry — long before Ball himself takes the stand in July.

And Crosbie’s absolutely right about that.

The Liberals fired the starting pistol while the in-transition NDP was doing the political equivalent of tying its sneaker laces. It didn’t have a chance of truly being in the race.

Holding an election while the Tories’ role in the Muskrat Falls boondoggle is under the surgical glare of a public inquiry didn’t hurt, either.

But where I disagree with Crosbie is his suggestion that this was the kind of sly manoeuvring you’d expect from the Liberals.

I don’t believe it’s an exclusively Liberal tactic. If the Tories had four years of power under their belts and were jonesing for more, they might be willing to use whatever weapons were in their arsenal as well.

And that’s because, Liberal or PC, it’s all about power and influence.

If either party was truly concerned about the welfare of this province and the many people in it who are staggering under the high cost of living and the mammoth burden of taxation, they would have spent a little more time on the campaign trail acknowledging the very real perils of the fiscal situation we’re in rather than promising plum pudding without explaining how they were going to pay for it.

If Ball and his Liberals want to do what’s best for this province, they will view the current standings in the House of Assembly as an opportunity for co-operation and collaboration.

And if Crosbie and his Tories sincerely care about the public good, he will quit the peevish sabre-rattling and threats of toppling the Liberals and leverage the combined strength of PCs, NDP and Independents to create a vigorous opposition that can keep the minority government accountable. Focusing on bringing down the government rather than what needs to be done on the ground is not about democracy.

Enough with the petty partisan rivalries.

The people of this province have spoken.

These election results should be rattling red and blue cages alike.

Let’s see some political altruism for once.

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Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s managing editor. Email Twitter: pam_frampton

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