Infrastructure, jobs in general, and health care are matters of similarly high concern. Just possibly the public possesses fewer expectations of their political leadership than even the politicians believe. Scepticism seems to underscore the new Abacus Poll, and for this reason alone it a refreshing read.
Polls are frequently less a reflection on the subjects assessed than of the populace whose views are being aggregated. It is hard not to sense in the Abacus data that NL is in a state of readiness for change.
Evidence is the Poll’s confirmation that a “majority (53%) of residents think the province is headed in the wrong direction while only one in four think it’s headed in the right direction.”
Even partisan Liberals, on whom the current Liberal Administration depends, believe that the Government is lost in some obscure economic wilderness. A “majority (48%) of those who voted Liberal in 2014 think the province is off on the wrong track.”
Abacus states that “majorities point to the provincial deficit and finances and future opportunities for young people in the province as very big problems.”
Some may think that the Poll results are a distressing and fearful outcome when, in fact, they ought to see the numbers as revealing a hallelujah moment. There is no better opportunity to fix problems than when people overcome the mistaken belief that there are none. Of course, awareness is not a prescription or even a demand that the pain should begin. That is the job of leadership anyway.
The Abacus Poll also assesses the public’s views with respect to how the Premier has handled allegations of bullying and harassment in the Liberal Caucus. The response, I believe, constitutes a reminder to pundits and pollsters of the brutal scepticism with which people view all matters touched by politics. Abacus states that: “91% of residents think the allegations of bullying and harassment in the Liberal caucus and cabinet are likely to be true but 44% think they are likely exaggerated.”
The public’s penchant for bluntness is extended to issues of the Premier’s popularity and that of the three political Parties. Abacus reports that 1 in 3 believe that Premier Ball should step down; only 24% view him positively against 44% who hold a negative impression of him.
The figures still have to be weighed against those of political neophyte Ches Crosbie. Only 16% view him negatively, but then it is hard to assess someone that you don’t know. Hence, any conclusions are terribly premature until Crosbie earns a presence in public kitchens.
Political watchers will no doubt direct their attention to the fact that, if an election were already underway, it would be a horse race between the Tories (24%) and the Liberals (22%). The problem for the Grits is that the Tories possess the most growth potential, having picked up 6 points just in the last Quarter according to Abacus. Crosbie’s election is the only event that might reasonably account for the gain.Liberals need to assess not just the Party’s current standing, but why it is so low given the Tories’ dreadful legacy.
Politics in NL seems now a story of transition and re-assessment. No other number proves the point as does the “undecided” group of Poll respondents, which represents a fairly lofty 41% — albeit a decline from 48%. But get this: 6 points out of the 7-point difference went to the Tories. The message is unmistakeable; that is, if anyone is interested.
The NDP picked up no traction following Gerry Rogers’ win. Based on the numbers one has to conclude that, if an election were held today, Gerry Rogers — no differently than Premier Ball — would be a ‘dead person walking’.
Partisans often hold onto their leader long after their ‘best before’ date has expired. Prone to error are mistakes of the heart.
A wiser Liberal Party should see Dwight Ball much as some view the North Spur’s relationship to Muskrat Falls: perennially in a state of imminent collapse. That’s why the Liberal Party should, in mid-June, keep a rein on their passions and conduct what engineers call a “Cold-Eyes Review”.
Denial won’t help either if the Liberals can’t parse why the size of the “undecided” group of voters is so high. But elections will dissolve those blind spots.
Abacus has shown that the Premier and the Liberal Caucus are out of step. Even Liberals won’t buy into Ball’s much-heralded economic platform. The Poll’s assertion of a government “on the wrong track” confirms that “The Way Forward” is not just a journey into an economic abyss; it is a roadmap to political defeat.
Someone should pay a price for that.