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Monday 13 October 2014


Premier Paul Davis knows the sting of political whiplash. Just four weeks ago he experienced the euphoria of victory.  Minutes after his investiture, he discovered no honeymoon awaited him with either the pundits or the public.

It is not Davis’ fault the Auditor-General chose to dump the HVP Report on him, rather than on Tom Marshall, who is as much deserving of blame as Nick McGrath. But Paul Davis is entirely responsible for not ordering a deeper investigation into its odious contents.

As to his other decisions, what does it say about him that he would elevate an uncouth backbencher, Keith Russell, and award him Ministerial status?

The public may not understand the importance of political convention vis a vis the unelected Ms. Manning, but the Premier should.  

Similarly, even a police constable should know that changing the Department of Justice to the Department of Public Safety is akin to replacing an ‘ideal’ with a ‘cop car’. 

If people are not ready to picket Confederation Building, having been stirred by the utterances of commonly disengaged lawyers or the derisive roar of the pundits, they must surely be saying: here we go again!   

How is it possible that the Premier’s first days do not constitute, for him, the best of times?
Given all that has occurred under Dunderdale and since, does he have no empathy for a dispirited public? 

A skilful leader will anticipate and assess, in advance of an action, the public’s likely reaction. Decision-making, at that level, is a minefield. Every issue must be carefully weighed. If they are important enough and are part of a larger plan, the Premier will take the decisions even if they are unpopular, because they are in the public interest.  He will know that the political balance will be returned as the full plan unfolds. 

But Mr. Davis announced no plan, no course of leadership, no suggestion the past will not be repeated.  The political hit he took was both large and self-inflicted. We have seen it before.  There is no counterweight to amateur hour.

The Premier told David Cochrane on his CBC On-Point Show he wants to look at “how we deliver services”.  He said he wants to “do a piece” around rural development, protection of children and youth, seniors and the new profile of crime.  These issues possibly need attention. But he is putting the cart before the horse.

Mr. Davis’ recent decisions appear to be an extension of two fundamentally wrong views.  One is that previous Tory Administrations have done nothing wrong; they have erred only in the delivery of their message.  Second, he believes the next election can be won if Government just beefs up programs and services or adds more of them.

That thinking lacks insight. 

Does the ‘justice vs. public safety’ decision, for example, exhibit a shift in a long held philosophy of the administration of justice or is it a knee jerk reaction to a few recent highly publicized incidents? 

Is the decision to override convention, in the case of Ms. Manning, part of an accelerated and larger plan for gender equity in the P.C. Caucus or is it a 'one of'?

All Governments need to communicate with the public but at the start of any new Administration, motives and ideas need to be explained.

Mr. Davis should know the Province has had no capable political leadership for a long time. 
The Province is heading into its fourth ‘annus horribilis’ highlighted by the early departure of our first female Premier, by the incompetence that gave rise to DarkNL, by budget deficits in excess of half billion dollars in a time of the high revenues, by the HVP saga, by Muskrat Falls, and by an absence of ‘oversight’ on that project, by Bill 29 and by meddling in the choice of Leader.  The list could easily be lengthened.

How is it possible that the Premier is unable to see that his new start is overshadowed by those issues and events?  

What would motivate him to ignore such catastrophically failed leadership, to not place that recent painful history in context with his own thoughts as to how he will use the one year left in the Tory mandate? 

For whom would disassociation with Dunderdale and Marshall not be a worthy and painless exercise?

The Premier’s announcement, last Friday, partially reverses the name change to the Department of Public Safety. The decision only proves Mr. Davis, compared with former Premier Dunderdale, is less obstinate; but he remains on the wrong track.

We await signs of a talent for serious leadership from this Premier, bold moves that reflect how he intends to help rebuild respect for and strengthen the role of Members of the House of Assembly, bring sanity to public spending, stop the erosion and pay deference to fundamental institutions like the PUB and the Public Service Commission, and deal with the largest public funded project in the history of the Province, Muskrat Falls.  

We need to know if he will install the ‘oversight’ his two predecessors refused to secure, if he has the will to reign in Nalcor CEO Ed Martin.

It is fine for a Constable to become Captain; but Premier Davis must remember he is now judged to a higher standard.  

He says he intends to lead by listening which, if not used to make any decisions, may have appeal for some. But soon or later, he will be expected to lead by taking charge.  The decisions taken in his first days do not suggest Davis is a man of big ideas.  If that is the case we are left to find encouragement in the fact that leadership has many manifestations.  

The Premier will need to show us one of those soon.