Monday, 16 June 2014

IS DWIGHT BALL PLAYING IT TOO SAFE?

When the Liberal Party Tweeted policy statements from its Annual General Meeting, this past weekend, Dwight Ball was essentially telegraphing a message to voters he had no intention of going near the  minefield chosen by Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.  

While Hudak may never win any awards as a strategist, he has also made sure no political leader in Canada will ever advance risqué ideas when the opposing Party is already on the ropes.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath brought down the Liberal Government of Kathleen Wynne even though it proposed a huge deficit which would be added to a large debt. Then, in a measure akin to ritualistic Harikiri, Conservative Leader Tim Hudak kicked off the ensuing election campaign by proposing tax cuts of 30% and axing of 100,000 public sector workers.  

The Ontario Liberal Party was exceedingly unpopular.  Referring to a Study conducted for the Paper, The Globe and Mail reported that “61 per cent of people who cast ballots agreed it was “time for a change in the Ontario government,” next to only 21 per cent who disagreed.” 

Former Premier Dalton McGuinty chalked up a record of lost jobs and lost industry, deficit spending, a costly and failed energy strategy as well as charges of corruption that saw the police search his former offices.  McGuinty’s low polling numbers fit well when placed alongside those of former Premier Kathy Dunderdale. 

But when the election was held last Thursday 12 June the Liberals were returned with a majority Government. 

When so many Ontario Liberals, who thought it “time for a change” stuck with the Party it wanted to be rid of you know that the Tory Opposition had seriously miscalculated.

Hudak might have let the Liberals fall on their sword.  That's exactly the strategy Dwight Ball has been working on, with the Tories, since he became Leader. 

While the Tories have steeped Ball in opportunity he has always been reluctant to take the bridle of leadership even when marginal issues offered advantage.  

Never one to condemn the Muskrat Falls Project, he skirted around even peripheral issues having either bought Ed Martin’s “spin” or felt conflicted by pro-Muskrat insiders. He was careful to recognize that two-thirds of the population support the Project; most of them without a sweet clue how it might impact them. 

He has spent a short time on the “Oversight” issue but has given it no staying power.

Even on the Humber Valley Paving scandal, Ball gave it little attention once the Auditor General was engaged, possibly seeing no merit in causing political damage to transitional Premier Tom Marshall.

Ball has simply never differentiated issues when it comes to an assessment of political risk.  He eschews all risk.

It is one thing to avoid the advancement of ideas that might mortally wound one’s political survival, as in the case of Tim Hudak, but those issues should never be confused with the importance of advancing others that demonstrate talent, prove leadership or that simply keep the Government honest. 

Ball may be savvy enough not to rain on the public’s parade of ‘good times’; debt and deficit notwithstanding. The question is: will he ever be able to communicate bad news when that is the right thing to do. Will he be able to prescribe bitter medicine?

The following policy Tweets from the Liberal Convention demonstrate Ball's 'soft’ approach, one that might command more accurate descriptions like 'mushy' and 'mother-hood':

Ball – Liberals believe in the dream we all share, that home will always be home. #nlpoli #nlliberals #AGM2014
Ball – We will take mental health as seriously as physical health. #nlpoli #nlliberals #AGM2014
Ball – Liberals will move province away from reliance on mega-projects. #nlpoli #nlliberals #AGM2014
Ball - Our policy will ensure the people of #Labrador share equally in the benefits of their resources. #nlpoli #nlliberals #AGM2014
Ball – A Liberal government will never give up on our fishery. #nlpoli #nlliberals  #AGM 2014
Ball – Health care providers say money already in the system – we just need to spend it smarter #nlpoli #nlliberals #AGM2014
Ball – Over time we will lower cost of health care & improve quality with NO CUTS. #nlpoli #nlliberals #AGM2014

Don’t they make you you feel emboldened! “Never give up on the fishery”, lowering the costs of health care with “NO CUTS”, “move… away from reliance on mega projects”; wouldn’t you just wish a ballot box were close by!

Of course, besides the Tories' unpopularity, Ball has one other advantage which will compound his propensity to pull him back from any experiment with much needed (forget risky) public policy change. The Ontario Liberal Party chose a Leader who proved to be intuitive and even “likeable”.  For certain, Wynne is a skilful communicator capable of embracing rather than isolating her electorate. 

The Tories have Frank Coleman, a recluse tainted by the HVP affair, whom the SRB Papers Blog has already dubbed the ‘peek-a-boo’ Premier.

If you had thought there might be some public policy options advanced by the Liberal Party in the next election, that is less likely than ever.  The Tories have the support of just 29% of voters and they have Frank Coleman. 

The Liberals are not just careful; they are content.  While Ball told his troops not to get too "cocky" the bigger problem may be his own: his claim to caution suggests he stands for little.

His caution many cause a fickle electorate to see him as too weak just as Ontario’s voters thought Hudak over the top.

Dwight Ball needs to dig deeper. The Ontario electorate certainly did.

9 comments:

  1. Clyde Wells once said he knew exactly what had to be done for Newfoundland, but he just did not have the political will to do it. The next 5-10 years will be critical in Newfoundland's history as the discussion will have to change from the survival of rural Newfoundland, to how do we effectiently euthanize the many small communities that now only home seniors and the unemployed. This is the discussion that no one wants to have, but is one that we must start to consider. The social impacts of caring for communities of 80 year olds, whose children live thousands of kilometers away, is just starting to manifest itself. It will be a major issue in a decade, in 2 decades it will be a crisis.

    Aside from our demographics we also need someone to wake up and look at our irrational spending habit. From 400 million investments for new science buildings at MUN, to the unpredcendented increase in the size of the public service we need to have a full stop. We need to objectively look at the sustainability of our spending. It is not sustainable.

    This PC government of the past 10 years has been a disaster on almost every major file. they have spent like sailors, with little to show.

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    1. How about the University's acquisition of the former Battery Hotel? For what purpose?

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  2. Who is "Catherine" Wynne?

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  3. I agree with the views you have put forward. At the very least, Dwight Ball needs to make sure the people of the province will have an opportunity to see the full story on such disastrous projects as Muskrat Fall. While canning the project may not be feasible, he should at the very lease provide full disclosure on the financial and other impacts for the province. And where it is shown that incompetence and miss management by individuals behind the project brought on this array of problems, they will be dealt with in due course.

    There is no magic bullet to solve the many problems that face the province, but an open and steady resolve to grapple the issues, will go a long way in trying to improve the current situation and lesson the pain for all. The PC party has squandered hundreds of millions of dollars and where did that get us. It's time to regroup and set a course that is sustainable and one that will hopefully show promise for the many graduates who want to work and make a life at home.

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  4. Dwight Ball, (Newfoundland's own Dash Riprock) and Frank Coleman ( Barney Rubble's portrayal of Sleepy Dwarf) have certainly have one thing in common! "Boring politicians" - if I can use that term "politician" very loosely, most especially in Coleman's case.

    OMG! Seriously, can you imagine the four years of politics in Newfoundland after the next general election? Dwight's makeup and wardrobe people give him the thumbs up and he stands, looks directly at the House cameras, to tell all Newfoundlanders that Foggy and Snowy weather is lovely and he is looking at selling some of our Fog and Snow to less privileged people on our wonderful earth. Dwight sits down and the cameras turn and zoom in on Coleman who is sound asleep, with his cell phone at his ear and he can be heard mumbling something like, "Dam Dominion and Sobeys!"

    This is not going to be fun and the astute politician minding Newfoundlanders will be no more!

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    1. Boring politicians?

      It's about time NLpoli had a few. It's had too many Glorious Leaders, White Knights, and Saviours in the past.

      Bring on the boring.

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  5. Anonymous, Clyde Wells did not say that. Brian Peckford did. In fact, what Peckford said was that he knew what had to be done, but did not have the "necessary ruthlessness" to do it. Wells, however, did have the necessary ruthlessness for the needed cuts, as well as the creative vision to establish the Economic Recovery Commission.

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  6. Dwight Ball is a good man but needs to grow a backbone!!

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    1. And a set of "balls" would be an asset. How can Ball or anyone for that matter, say that the Muskrat Falls project can't be stopped...when not a single person outside the pc CAUCUS (AND I DOUBT EVEN MANY OF THEM) know what the actual expenditure is up to now, and what it is proposed to be in the end. Until we know that, no one can say whether or not muskrat falls can or should be stopped. Which, my friends, is exactly why the PC's and Danny Williams enacted the laws to prevent us from knowing. Ball will be as bad, if not worse, than Dunderdale... What a fiasco! I wonder if true leadership will EVER return to Newfoundland. Time for Labrador to opt out and get on with our own mistakes... at least we would only have ourselves to blame!

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