For most political parties a leadership contest represents opportunity and renewal. It is a time not just to listen to voters but to re-connect with them in a way that helps to refurbish frayed nerves and replenish lost hope.
For some, such competitions are only about policy; a candidate must be perceived an agent of change. Sometimes, it will suffice that the message is believable; the candidate is straightforward and his intentions are simple and clear.
For others, leadership contests are about giving men and women, who have already completed modest missions, a larger stage and to see which of them will shine.
Because each of us has different expectations and recognizes different qualities in the same person, such democratic competition assumes a respectful, even hopeful, multi-dimensional character.
At the end of it all, each of us want to see contenders who have invested everything in their personal pursuit of high public office; to exhibit the wear and tear of a warrior, the exhaustion of one who has laid bare not just their body but also their intellect and their very soul.
Even if they are not loved, the hope is they have, at least, engendered respect; a foundation of goodwill on which to build.
When such contests are characterized with such vigor and intelligence, we have reason to believe our democracy is mature, resilient, and progressive even if we chose to vote for the other Party.
Then, there is the reality.
For the three seeking to lead the P.C. Party and become Premier of the Province, their absence from public view, suggests an electronic bracelet, for each one, ought to have been the first order of business for the Provincial Executive.
A brief flurry of appearances characterized the candidates’ early days on the campaign trail; lately, though, only the two ‘brown baggers’ from Mount Pearl and Topsail who conspired to join forces against a Townie, on his own turf, roused the media’s attention to democracy in action.
Sometimes, it’s bloody hard to blame the sleepy scribes for chasing fire trucks, instead.
Ottenheimer wants moose fences and a Come Home Year. He says child care places are a priority, as is a role for the PUB on Muskrat Falls; though, as to the first, he knows not how many and, to the second, not how much.
Davis wants to “reform the House of Assembly” and convene “a health summit” during his first 120 days as Premier; but, he says, he wants to hear your ideas first; he’s not telling you his.
Steve Kent, too, has contracted the ‘listening’ bug; a novelty indeed, for a Tory Government which has exhibited all the symptoms of an Ebola virus on the corpus of free speech. Kent wants a series of “premier’s summits” and promises to “modernize the House of Assembly”. Funnily, had he and Paul Lane quit politics, he, and we, might be pleasantly surprised at the sudden improvement in decorum in the people’s House.
So far, my antenna has not budged a micron on the inspirational scale; I see no agent of change, no one possessing the talent to shine, capable of exciting goodwill, or extolling the virtues of a Party determined to be re-born.
Moose fences may, indeed, save lives; but a thousand miles of barrier, keeping either moose or ideas at bay, will do nothing to remedy the shock to public confidence of Administrations, badly managed, and in which all three candidates played a role.
Which of the three possesses the courage, if not to defend the Government’s indifference to notions of accountability and transparency, then, at least, to commit to a style of governance based upon the virtues of common decency and common sense?
Which one of them was able to go before the media and challenge the former Liberal Premier, Mr. Justice Clyde Wells, Retired Judge, regarding his condemnation of the Government’s abuses of Bill 29 or even acknowledge the truth of his remarks and commit to doing better?
The Tories continue to trail in successive Polls; three byelections have been lost in which a former Premier and two senior Ministers were incumbents. The St. George’s-Stephenville East byelection is just days away. What better place for P.C. Leadership Candidates to converge in an effort to stem the tide that seems, inexorably, to run Liberal red!
Were they all present, complete with organizations in tow, to get the best possible voter participation in the Advance Poll? Were they able to demonstrate, at least in one critical District, that a demoralized Party is attempting to pick itself up? Could they join with the Party’s candidate in a demonstration of both unity and organization? Not a chance.
Neither seems to understand even the basic idea of self-preservation.
None of the three possess the political, intellectual or moral authority to counsel renewal; none have the ideas necessary or even the will to correct a government bereft of enlightenment. None can say to the District of St. George’s-Stephenville we have spent your money poorly; this is how we will do a better job.
The truth is, not one candidate desires to be differentiated from the other.
That is not the way to win leadership contests or byelections. It is not the way to win hearts, either.
I don’t know which Party will win on August 26th.
But, as to the bigger picture, one well-known political slogan seems prescient: “It won’t be long now!”