Monday, 10 November 2014


The Tories’ loss in the CBS by-election reflects what provincial polls have been telling us for a long time. The Party is unloved and that is being kind.  Premier Davis has done nothing to differentiate himself or his Administration’s approach to either communications or public policy from that of his recent predecessors.  

Does he not want to disassociate himself, at least, from the Dunderdale era?  Does he not understand voters are still distressed by that time?

For all the reasons that are well-known, this by-election was important to the Government and to the P.C. Party. Hoping that the bleeding was at an end and having called by-elections in Trinity-Bay de Verde and Humber East, the Premier might have wanted to proclaim: “Remember, Remember the 5th of November”! Having lost, he has no rallying cry. The voters are not inspired.  Even the most ardent partisans make no claim that theirs is a Party of renewal. 

The problem is illuminated by CBC political “Point” man, David Cochrane, who chalked up the loss to the Tories being out-hustled by a resurgent Liberal Party organization; except Cochrane has merely identified a symptom, not the source. 

The Tories’ malady is neither proven by the Liberals’ gain in the Advance Polls nor is it related to their display of backwardness having used a bristle board abacus, on election night, to track the Party's performance.  Though the Liberal’s digital scoreboard, in contrast, was hard to ignore, even if a piddling matter, at least it gave the appearance of a Party attempting to be modern and progressive.

What’s wrong with the Tories? Why can’t the Party or the Leadership change?

The answer is that the Tories are tired to the point of being fatigued.  The Party organization,  and the Government, too, are out of sorts.  In metaphorical terms, they are diseased; the Party suffers from political anemia.  The problem cannot be explained by any other diagnosis.

Anemia infiltrates all political parties who have eaten their own best talent, failed to conduct renewal carefully, and are left only with the corporeal ranks to perform a large, complicated, even cerebral mission.

Bad polls, by-elections losses, poor decision-making, and a weak Cabinet manifest the disease most evidently; but, at its core is a dire lack of new blood.  Symptoms include not just organizational lethargy but a dizziness that inhibits leadership and clear vision. There is a reliance on what worked in years past; the energy that once gave succor to courage is no longer noticed on the public register.

The brain that afforded the once great Party authority, integrity and a justifiable confidence is dying a slow death.  The Party of Brian Peckford, Bill Marshall, John C. Crosbie, Lynn Verge and Hazel McIssac is sclerotic. In the words of the Smallwood slayer, Frank Moores: “it won’t be long now”, voiced at a time when the shoe was on the other foot.

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There is no doubt that Paul Davis has good intentions. No one has reservations about his fundamental integrity.  But after only six weeks as Premier he has proven what many, including this scribe, have long concluded.  He is not up to the job.

Either Premier Davis comes to the realization he must do things far differently or he is toast.

Let’s face facts. The Premier did not inherit a dynasty as much as he did a debacle.  

The recent NTV/MQO Poll results have striking similarity with those low levels to which Premier Dunderdale determinably dragged them.  After more than two years of nuttiness, who could blame an electorate for failing to recover from the night sweats of our collective PTSD?

It is not as if Tom Marshall was fit to play hockey, let alone score.  Frank Coleman? Whoever wished to follow in his footsteps must be terminal, anyway. 

Which brings us back to Paul Davis.

Before the Lieutenant Governor had finished brunch, following the Premier’s investiture; three massive flops were placed on offer.  He is the only Premier in history to have won the coveted prize and failed to enjoy a honeymoon.  It is not justice to blame it on poor Judy Manning.

The Premier has barely mentioned the word Muskrat, cost overruns, oversight or the Government’s high spending ways. Nalcor’s Ed Martin and Gil Bennett are as smug as they ever were.

Do you still think the Tories only have a problem of organization?

Who would want to slog in wind and rain to win a by-election for an outfit whose only goal is to retain power? Decent people want to be proud not just of democratic politics, but of their political Party, too. It is tough to be a Tory right now.

As if to underscore the advanced state of the Government’s sclerosis, what does the Premier do to move the public beyond the CBS by-election? Having bemoaned the fact that the loss was due to fewer than 100 votes, it doesn't occur to him that this might be a time to engage the public and employ some intuition concerning what is biting them. 

His communications staff are at the ready: 'we need a new announcement! That ought to make them happy', they declare with the mindless empathy of the 'Borg'. The Premier agrees.

This time it’s a Court House. Who knew we needed one? It’s not just that he offers no rationale, no cost estimates, or even a rough budget; he has no plan for the old and historic Court  House and no schedule for completion of the new one.  He offers no thinking on programs for those who have a greater need of legal services than for more bricks and mortar.

The political naiveté is magnified because, just possibly, the public might want the Government to ease off profligacy for awhile. Even the Auditor General has taken notice. It’s not just about low oil prices and declining revenues; spending has been out of control for a long time.

The Premier can try as he might to put lipstick on a pig, but he seems not to understand real change has the benefit of a complete makeover. 

It is not as if Liberal Leader Dwight Ball has performed as well as he might. But, in the circumstance, he doesn’t have to do very much.

As for the Tories, the public is still waiting.

In the meantime, death comes slowly to this Government.