Thursday, 5 December 2013


When Kathy Dunderdale told Reporters on the afternoon of the Harbour Grace - Carbonear By-election, ‘whatever happens it’s just one Seat’, you are forced to wonder just how disconnected she is from ordinary people and detached from notions of leadership.   

The CRA Poll, released on Wednesday, places the Premier’s personal popularity at only 25% (22% three months ago) against 39% for Dwight Ball and 18% for a chastened Lorraine Michael.

Why would anyone expect the Premier’s popularity to be higher? ‘Whatever happens it’s just one seat’ is declaration of ‘don’t care’ when it ought to be one of concern and distress.

If you took notice of her comments on the six o'clock news – just two hours before the Polls – why would you think the Premier could ever lift the Tories’ from the doldrums?

Though support for the P.C.’s increased to 29% (from 26%), it equates only with the Poll’s margin of error (2.9%), so even this uptick is tentative. 
The good news for Dunderdale is that the Government’s satisfaction rating has improved (42%, up from 31% three months ago).  That must be a heartwarming occurrence for which Ross Reid is no doubt taking credit.  Dunderdale will be happy to interpret the result as confirmation she ought to have had her ‘dustup’ with Jerome Kennedy long ago. 

The bad news for the Premier is that her personal popularity is a drag even on an unpopular Government. A popularity level of 25% does not constitute much political glue if the Caucus becomes fractious.

There are other interesting bits in the CRA Poll, too, but it is impossible not to note its arrival on the heels of the Harbour Grace-Carbonear by-election.    

Dunderdale’s media comments, in advance of the by-election, suggest she is more imposter than Premier. They raise the same questions the CRA Poll might pose. 

Does the Premier understand her Office? Does she think about the disparate roles of a leader? Does she know that, at times, an inspirational word transcends any display of impermeability or bravado?  That an ability to be thoughtful, even self-effacing, is an affirmation of self-confidence, strength and power?   

Undoubtedly, most people took Dunderdale’s remarks as a warning not to wait up for the by-election results, as did I.   

But, frankly, I felt sympathy for the Tory Candidate and his campaign team.  The latter would have been expecting the Party Leader to exude the utmost confidence in her Candidate and send a strong message of empathy with the residents of the Riding - even if the final result looked doubtful.

I wondered, too, what the Members of her Cabinet and Caucus were saying having witnessed that display of poor judgment. Undoubtedly, the cell phones of the Tory Members were ringing as tongues wagged.  Very likely one Member was hoping that the other could spell ‘coup’.   

Yes, the 30% (42 from 31%) uptick in the Government’s popularity, in just 3 months will give some encouragement to despairing P.C. Members. Indeed, many will properly calculate that the Liberal’s capture of 52% of voter support, in the CRA Poll, will not be sustained in the next Survey. Naturally, the Liberal surge will ‘levelize’ as the attraction of the Leadership Contest diminishes. And, yes, Ms. Dunderdale, even if momentarily, will interpret any decline in Liberal support as the dawn of her political re-birth. 

But, the Premier ought to be restrained from experiencing too much irrational exuberance.  

Unusual for most Governments, in this Province, this Premier can’t blame those Poll numbers on bad luck or economic misfortune, certainly not after her Minister of Finance’s declaration that NL is in a “golden age”. 

Each Poll result seems to just compound the evidence that Dunderdale’s lack of popular support has a different, more personal origin; one unconnected to oil or economics.

Though former Ministers Paul Oram and Sean Skinner have counselled the Premier to engage in a period of reflection, essentially a “get lost” message, the Premier is unlikely to accede without some act of heroism from her Caucus fellows.

While some Tory MHA’s may wish, given his letter writing skills, Dale Kirby had been one of them, a tired public may yet prefer the opportunity to swing a more clever ax.