Thursday, 3 December 2015


The two cousins of conversation, politics and weather, seemed to converge for Monday’s vote as the wind that blew the Liberals into power possessed a bite that may be felt for a long time.  

Disenchantment with the Tories ought to have caused the popular vote to soar when the biggest surprise of the night was that it declined.

Even the Liberal sweep the Polls had forecast, found the mechanism of reverse polarity the very instant the Party had something to say.

The idea of saving $380 million without costing a public service job contained the logic of a former a former Premier promoting hydro at a New England Governors Conference.

It wasn’t that this was one of the few Liberal ideas that possessed some specificity; rather it was that this one held the symbolism for why the voters were mad in the first place.

Davis even showed some moxie, using the item to an advantage that might account for his own political survival and that of a few more Tory candidates. A benefit to such liveiness is that, together with the two experienced NDippers, Lorraine Michaels and Gerry Rogers, we might get an effective Opposition, unless they follow the Liberal's recent parliamentary tradition and choose hibernation.

Still, the Tory rebound from the Pollsters’ worse predictions suggests the public are hyper-sensitive and skeptical of purely political machinations.

Having achieved 57% of the popular vote on Monday, winning 31 Seats, the Liberals ought to have been able to have expected a mild euphoria.  Yet, they seem not to have earned the courtesy of even a brief honeymoon.

Perhaps, that is because they did not so much earn the mantle of leadership as have it handed to them. Little political capital was put at risk these past four years, so the Liberals should not be surprised if the returns, expressed as confidence and goodwill, are just as paltry.

This is not a minor point and one to which I will return.

But, first, Dwight Ball may need reminding he has made commitments regarding the Burton Winters and Don Dunphy tragedies. These are nightmares that transcend even the fiscal variety. The soul of any society is found in its compassion for families and loved ones seeking relief for perceived wrongs. In those two cases, an entire province seeks closure.

Recently, I wrote that the Party leaders were "prisoners of their own deception"each having embraced a fundamentally incorrect, if not dishonest, appraisal of the province’s financial well-being. 

I am referring, of course, to the “Wiseman Plan”, a prescriptive folly of over-spending, persistent debt and deficit that was the basis for their promises and programs. 

It will be difficult for the Liberals to now claim they were misled because Finance Minister Ross Wiseman failed to release the Fall update; that is, unless Ball is also prepared to say he’s doesn’t read the paper.

Willful blindness, whether over weak commodity prices or the Tories’ treatment of capital account and Muskrat Falls overruns as a special category of debt separate from the operating deficit, can’t pass the smell test anymore than does high balling revenues and feigning surprise when the operating deficit is found out of whack.Everyone in this province, reporters, pundits, and politicians should begin reporting the more correct combined figure. 

Perhaps, Ball will acknowledge, at least to himself, the Liberal Red Book represented a failure of leadership akin to that which characterized the Tories. 

He will need the discipline they avoided. Ball can continue ‘kicking the can down the road’ but he risks hitting the wall, too. 

There is one area in which there is cause for optimism, even if it has the taint of cynicism.

“Opening the books on Muskrat Falls” was another of the Red Book’s non-specific commitments. But, in a perverse way, it doesn’t matter (except to the public).

The Liberals will “own” Muskrat, be blamed for its poor execution and cost overruns, too, if they don’t conduct a thorough review.

If Dwight Ball is a fool he will give an inadequate mandate to an inadequate review team. He will give less than a full report to an already skeptical public. He will defer to CEO Ed Martin, and he will permit him to bamboozle us, as he has done from the beginning.

It will cost the Liberals dearly.

And, while on matters Muskrat, Ball should address the admission by Premier Davis, that he held talks with a potential buyer for assets of NL Hydro. Is that how Ross Wiseman intended to finance the additional $800 million for Muskrat, announced in June? Does the admission not have the ring of “energy warehouse” renounced? 

There are a good many outstanding questions on Muskrat, on the budget, and on Balls plans to provide transparency. But the biggest problem Ball will have to address is whether he will be able to escape the comfort zone which deception affords; the same one that brought down the Tories.

I think the public knows it will have to be content with less.

Mr. Ball’s job will be to tell them what he will do differently; honestly and early.

Within weeks of his inauguration, Ball should be ready to initiate the process of transparency and change that will signal a new beginning.

If he is true to his word, the cold, biting air that descended on voting day may well have been the last gasp of a once great P.C. Party; one disgraced and demoted, in need of re-birth.

But if deception continues to reign don't be surprised if, in four years, the two cousins of conversation put a new chill on our politics.