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EDITORIAL: Newfoundland and Labrador Liberals deserve their lumps

Surrounded by supporters and Liberal MHAs, Premier Dwight Ball kicks off the campaign Wednesday in the lobby of Confederation Building for the provincial election to be held May 16.
Premier Dwight Ball is shown during his announcement of the 2019 election date, surrounded by supporters and Liberal MHAs. — Telegram file photo

As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

And if you can’t be bothered with the sowing, perhaps you shouldn’t complain about the lack of crops to harvest.

Last Thursday, the provincial Liberals were re-elected to government, but with substantially fewer seats. And that clearly stung; senior Liberals weren’t long in pointing fingers.

“The electorate spoke tonight,” Dwight Ball said on election night. “Ches Crosbie didn’t get what he was looking for. He ran a very dirty campaign, one where the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have been exposed to robocalls on Mother’s Day.”

Another senior Liberal, cabinet minister Gerry Byrne, had similar things to say.

Well, if it was the dirtiest election ever (there’s stiff competition for that one), Byrne and Ball need look no further than the mirror.

“As of this morning we had a poll that came out, that suggested a majority Conservative government. Polling is no longer, in my opinion, a scientific process or a genuine effort to get at public opinion to determine it,” Byrne said, also on election night. “It’s now become a tool, and in some respects it’s become a weapon. It’s actually pushing a particular point of view, as opposed to reading it.”

Well, if it was the dirtiest election ever (there’s stiff competition for that one), Byrne and Ball need look no further than the mirror.

Certainly, there were plenty of new tactics — a peek on social media the day before election day and on election day would have shown you scores of cases of online ads “spontaneously” repeated by members of the public, even though political advertising is banned on election day.

That being said, the advertising rules are so antiquated that they don’t even include the internet. “Media advertising is defined to include radio, television and newspaper/periodical advertisements,” the guidelines say.

Then there was NL Strong and its carpet-bombing of robocalls. The calls may have raised Byrne’s and Ball’s ire, but there’s nothing under the existing legislation to ban the practice.

There are a whole host of tactics that Newfoundland and Labrador’s election legislation doesn’t address: there’s no problem, for example, setting up your own third-party group to get involved in an election, and collecting money to do it. Who is making the donations and how the money’s being spent is all behind a curtain — something else that could have been addressed with a meaningful examination of electoral rules.

The rules we already have don’t deliver. Party donations lists are often woefully late being released, and it seems that only opposition parties care about the risks of appearing to court access to influence through fundraising donations.

The Liberals identified that there was a problem four years ago, promised to get right on the issue, and spent four years doing nothing about it.

To hear senior Liberals bleating about it now is just a touch too precious for words.

We’re sorry that the electoral crops weren’t up to your expectations. Maybe this session, you should actually plant something.

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