On Saturday the Tories elected a new Party leader. That’s nice. But will he lead? There has been no effective Opposition for at least a decade. Nor has leadership come from the Government benches over the same period, either.
When the economy is going well, business is booming and employment rates are high, leadership of all kinds — especially political leadership — is a commodity taken for granted. Governments play an important role in this economy, even if far too often it is with a negative effect.
Perhaps it is in the nature of societies to think that things happen for no particular reason.
Truth is, that’s rarely the case.
The inability to lead, to be proactive, to have a nose for crisis, and to be willing to undergo the stress of intervention, is at the heart of the Liberal Government’s latest crisis, too.
The Eddie Joyce affair is simply another manifestation of a Dwight Ball Government in perennial crisis.
Joyce is gone. Dale Kirby should be gone. The Premier should be gone with them.
The Premier dallies even with Dale Kirby, whose cloudy judgement was exposed long ago, as an NDPer; it seems he can only communicate in a fit of pique. Ball knows that Kirby sent an email to his colleagues, ostensibly to “smoke out” not the transgressor but the one who didn’t keep the issue a secret. Does he represent the moral or political standards the public wants to see in their senior public officials?
|Minister Dale Kirby|
The Premier feigns ignorance, but the problem has already outdistanced him. Incapable of getting “out in front” of issues that are explosive, corrosive of trust and politically damaging, he seemingly can’t rise to the most critical of occasions.
This is not just amateur hour. This is a place where expectations of leadership are so far-fetched that they are not silly as much as impossible.
The public spectacle is, naturally, around the issue of bullying. Serious as it is, the House of Assembly has survived even fisticuffs before. It will survive this time, too.
A question whose resolution is far less certain, however, and one that the Eddie Joyce issue magnifies, is whether the Province will survive this Premier, so pervasive is his flat-footed, spiritless and ineffectual leadership.
Leadership places a multitude of demands on a Premier. It is not limited to unruly Cabinet Ministers any more than it is to reckless spending or unbridled mismanagement of the province’s wealth. Being Premier requires smarts, energy, forethought, and a calculus that is focussed on order, discipline and results — in all of those manifestations.
NL is a place in enormous peril, fiscally. When we need the sharpest, toughest leader in our history, we are unfortunate enough only to be led by one of the most unsuitable.
Instead of decisiveness, this Premier offers unfounded reassurances that the “naysayers” have it wrong, that Budget balance is within sight — even as the Finance Minister moves the goal post and promises resolve, presumably by someone else.
This year, the Total Debt will exceed $18 billion with no plan to either curb spending or service what we have borrowed. When the Premier should be into serious negotiations with the Feds to ward off the coming financial storm, it seems he can’t even maintain a relationship with the 11 Ministers who are — or should be — his closet allies. His Cabinet and Caucus are fractured; insiders will tell you that it is only barely kept together, mostly by the urgency of winning a second term.
The Premier has spent months assuring the public that rate mitigation is possible when, just in the last few days, his own Minister of Natural Resources, the Nalcor CEO, and the President of Hydro have admitted that what is affordable is only rate “smoothing”.
Another recent example of Ball’s hapless leadership style involved NAPE President Gerry Earle who thought nothing of threating the livelihoods of small business types who dared question the Union’s collective agreement. The Premier was within earshot of the threats of retaliation, but remained too weak of spine to remind Earle that we live in a democratic society — and that he can choose to leave anytime he pleases, if he finds democracy irksome and inconvenient.
|Premier Dwight Ball|
The insanity is that Ball dithers over issues of common decency regarding Ministers like Joyce and Kirby as cavalierly as he deals with the solvency of the Province.
For this Premier, the easy way out is to delude, to assuage, to delay, until there is a breaking point. The Gambin-Walsh matter is simply illustrative.
For the public, there is a takeaway, and it is not just the questions that surround the behaviour of Eddie Joyce, important as they are.
The public needs to come to grips with the existential question of whether they can afford to let this Premier continue extending the same style of leadership to our economic plight.
Why would we expect him to make the big decisions necessary to protect our solvency and the wellbeing of our society?
Not just the Premier, but the public, too, needs to get a grip. If they are prepared to just watch as Ball takes us into the abyss, they should ask themselves: why?