Monday, 1 December 2014


Following the P.C. Party’s defeat in last Tuesday’s two by-elections, one might have had some sympathy for Premier Davis if he had not been part of the Dunderdale and Marshall Governments.  Davis had an opportunity to deal with those years of misrule. He didn’t. 
Upon winning the Tory Leadership, Davis should have dashed for the job, attempted to strike a different tone and set a new agenda. Instead, he dallied on getting sworn-in, chose a politically inexperienced Chief of Staff, made a balls of his new Cabinet, signalled the wrong public policy priorities and proceeded to confirm he was happy with the Government’s record. 

Not having caused the current Session of the House of Assembly to prorogue, he lost a strategic opportunity to assert additional ideas for a ‘fresh’ image.   He overlooked the fact that the chief function of a Throne Speech is to signal innovation and renewal to an expectant public.

Now, Davis enjoys (sic) three fewer Seats together with the perception (perhaps, the reality, too) he has brought nothing to the job. By-elections in Trinity-Bay de Verde and Humber East were lost with margins larger than those that reported when Dunderdale and Marshall were in Office. While he can’t take the responsibility for all the damage done by Dunderdale, his leadership, to date, continues to be a drag on an intellectually and financially impoverished Government.

Can Davis start over?

Not likely.

The Premier has limitations.  He sails inside a safe harbour when the destination he seeks requires navigating rough waters outside.  

He has a narrow comfort zone. He needs political expertise to compensate for his own deficiencies; but Joe Brown is a paramilitary man with the skills required for a command bureaucracy.  The justice and court house decisions do not speak to voter expectations, either.

Last week, Davis told the Telegram: “I’m never convinced that a byelection is reflective of what the people of the province are looking for…”

One by-election loss may not be reflective of much; but, three are. Seven losses equal a message shouted from the roof tops.

Former Finance Minister Charlene Johnson’s comments to a CBC reporter, last Tuesday night, might have spoken to Davis’ malady when she expressed being “completely dumbfounded” over her father’s loss in Trinity-Bay de Verde. Ms. Johnson said, “…she saw the pavement, fire trucks, municipal infrastructure…this government did so much for these communities and this is what happens in return…”

Johnson’s thinking is as archaic and as it is offensive. It speaks to an attitude which infected the Williams/Dunderdale/Marshall Cabinets and, because they constitute largely the same crowd, infects Davis and his Cabinet, too.  For them the attitude is just ‘normal’. In spite of having presided over the best funded government in history, it is not infrastructure but 'attitude' that is emblematic. 

The Tories don’t realize that most of them won their Districts on the coattails of Danny Williams. While Danny was an arrogant showman, he had a talent for connecting with voters.  Unfortunately, his admirers, including Davis, failed to understand the limitations of his skill.  They learned nothing about his ability to connect; they merely cashed in on his unseemly cache.  Voters may have interpreted Williams’ arrogance as bravado.  But, in Dunderdale and the others, the attitude had no camouflage.

That, in a nutshell, is the Tory Administration’s undoing.

Voters love new pavement; they want to see improvements in their communities and in government funded projects and services. But such gains do not trump legitimate criticism, secrecy or corruption. 

The public may be less upset with Davis, personally, than determined to chastise him for his predecessor’s sins. He had one opportunity to make large and empathetic moves in an attempt to dispel their ghosts. He tripped up at the start.

The upshot is that the public are eager to embrace the Liberals; but not because they are ready with new ideas.  In the absence of an alternative, the public just feel safer with them.
What is Premier Davis to do?

Likely, the public don’t care as long as he doesn’t get more reckless, as his woes are compounded. Falling oil prices have illuminated the government’s irresponsible fiscal management; this third budget deficit, in a row, is now in the range of $1 billion. 

The Government’s real problem is not OPEC’s failure to prop up an oil market, using monopolistic practices illegal here. It’s that drunken sailors should have no role in fiscal policy.

But to the question: what is Premier Davis to do?  Essentially, he can do nothing. 


Davis doesn’t ‘understand’ why the Government is unpopular. He doesn’t get it in the same way that Dunderdale and Marshall didn’t. Not understanding the problem means he is unable to fix it.

This Administration has earned a distain reserved for the guilty. The public want the Tories gone. 

Political Science Associate Professor Kelly Blidook commented that Davis lacked the “moral authority” to continue. He may have a point; though it will be the Caucus who will arbitrate if the Administration will survive much longer. We will look for more defections and resignations.

One other thing is clear: if Davis stays on the current path, not only his Caucus won’t win a Seat in the next general election; he won’t win his own.