No one expected the District of Virginia Waters to be a cakewalk for any of the Candidates and it wasn’t. Still, a 40 vote margin of victory by Liberal Cathy Bennett must feel like Everest climbed. In so doing, she has executed an almost miraculous repetition of the Harbour Grace-Carbonear byelection. She has proven beyond a doubt there are no safe Tory seats in the Province.
It is a tough loss for Danny Breen; he deserves our congratulations, as does Sheilagh O’Leary.
But it is the Liberal Party’s and Cathy Bennett’s victory. She has confirmed that a quiet political revolution, one insistent and possibly inexorable, is working its way through the political fabric of the Province. The Liberals are coming!
Still, there is finality to every democratic vote. Likely, the Tories long ago forgot that it is also within the purview of the voters to be arbitrary.
Many people will want to read the entrails of this byelection. I have the following observations:
The first is that Kathy Dunderdale has likely buried the P.C. Party for a generation; though she is gone the sorry Administration that supported her and her unwise, unyielding and unsuccessful style of leadership remains.
Who is not relieved that one of the worse budgetary examples of ‘buy the voter with their own money’ did not succeed as a viable strategy in Virginia Waters?
Indeed, that the Government was content to announce a review of Bill 29, offer a Committee and nothing else, as it sought effusive praise for that mere gesture, is proof of its vacuous calculations and its limited moral capacity.
The Committee on Oversight of Muskrat Falls constituted an even worse deception. Four busy senior public servants, lacking time, expertise or external qualified support are asked to act as camouflage for the $7.7 billion Project. The public was expected to buy in. How stunned do they think people really are! Yes, the media lapped it up and promptly forgot the issue. No credit is due them. But, a more expectant public were not quite so impressed. No one likes to be played for a fool.
I sense the people of Virginia Waters saw in Premier Tom Marshall’s pleasantries, smiles and feel-good mutterings a level of hypocrisy that offended them; though he and his predecessor have done that many times.
After three years of egregious behaviour, bad attitude and unwise public policy, why would the voters feel that the Government deserved anything but a severe public lashing?
That is not all.
The byelection result cannot be viewed in its proper context unless one is reminded that the Liberals have broken through what the Tories have long regarded as ‘Fortress’ St. John’s. They have beaten down the doors of a region that, more than any, enjoys the very best of Tom Marshall’s version of the “Golden Age”.
Only a few months ago such a possibility was beyond imagining. The ‘fortress’ myth has been slayed; so has any expectation that the Government’s credibility or poll numbers can rebound.
An additional caution (especially to Tory MHA’s) deserves mention. You now have it on good authority that even if Danny Williams slogs side-by-side with you, day-in day-out, he cannot win you your Seat. The magic is gone. He is mortal, too, like the rest of us.
This is a fellow who took possession of extra ordinary power, even having left the Office of Premier. He demanded that Cabinet Ministers and MHA’s perform his bidding and that he be permitted to choose his own replacement and her successor, too. He thought Newfoundland and Labrador his personal fiefdom. The residents of Virginia Waters have shown him the door.
All Danny has left is his swagger.
Sometime before 9PM, last night, as the cold reality of what had occurred in Virginia Waters descended, a chill must have run down the spine of neophyte politician and likely Premier, Frank Coleman. Losing is never pleasant.
But if Mr. Coleman is as shrewd as his reputation affords, he will pay heed to the message of Virginia Waters. He will eschew Mr. Williams as mentor. He will craft an agenda of real change; one that contains integrity, possessing hallmarks, not of deception as is Tom Marshall’s wont, but of real leadership. If he plans to waste the next twelve months, he should let us know.
Dwight Ball must be both emboldened and relieved. He has maintained the momentum his Party has built, even if it is in consequence of the Government’s bungling. He is on a roll. Perhaps his strategy of letting the Government fall on its own sword will work; though that approach is very discouraging.
The NDP and Lorraine Michael have a re-building job to do. We will check in with them, in due course.
The Tories are a spent force.
They may even lack the moral authority to govern.
A General Election will clear the stench of miserable leadership.
The message of Virginia Waters cannot be clearer.