Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Liberal Conundrum

When I left the PC Party, and joined the Liberals in 2011, the PC's were at 75% in the polls and the Liberals barely registered 15%. Yvonne Jones was the Liberal leader at the time, and a fierce opponent of the Muskrat Falls project. In fact, the party was wholly opposed to Muskrat Falls, and fought the 2011 election based on that belief. After that election the leadership changed, and Dwight Ball took over. He too was against the Muskrat Falls project. When, in 2012, the governing PCs passed the final two pieces of legislation authorizing the project, the Liberals attempted to shut it down with a filibuster. The opinion of the Liberal Party was Muskrat Falls was a disaster in the making. We even had a mascot - Winston.

That was then, and this is now. Muskrat Falls has become more than a dam. It has become a state of mind. It has become the symbol of government secrecy and manipulation. For two years former premier Dunderdale was wore down by the maintenance and defending of that manipulation and secrecy. The PCs dropped from 75% to 25% in the polls. Moral high ground was thrown from the window, and survival was brought through the back door. They hunkered down until it became obvious Dunderdale symbolized Muskrat Falls, which in turn symbolized dishonesty with the people.The first premier in Newfoundland and Labrador to be essentially over thrown. The lesson for all parties in the province was, and is, so blatantly obvious - the old school is dead.

However, I fear, the lesson may have been lost even quicker than it was taught. Certainly the PCs have learned the lesson - to an extent. They've placed a humble Tom Marshall in as interim leader, promised to revisit Bill 29 (the other symbol of government secrecy), and even fired off MHA Paul Lane (most known for organizing the fixing of on-line polls in the government's favour) over to of all people - the Liberals. And that is the essence of this blog. The Liberals.

The Liberals were the designated benefactors of the PCs decline. They were catapulted into a dominant position when the NDP blew apart after a failed coup, launched in secret, while the party leader was on holidays. The NDP regrouped, slightly, and two MHAs who refused to regroup went independent and then joined - the Liberals. Now, almost by default, the Liberals reached 52% and the PCs a lowly 25%, with 25% undecided. The fall was steady and appeared not to have a floor, but the latest  CRA poll shows a new trend which should cause concern to the Liberals. The mild mannered, gentle grandfather image of Marshall has halted the PCs fall, and even increased their popularity to 33%. The Liberals remained essentially the same, as did the undecided at 25%.

In terms of warfare, you can not defeat your enemy until you stop his advance. So, first you are on defence, and then you counter attack. If your counter attack is successful, you advance. This is where things are at. The PCs have stopped the Liberals advance. Now they are in a position to counter attack. Of course there are still many opportunities for the PCs to blow their legs off, but all things remaining equal, you can expect a counter attack and soon. The problem is, and the reason for this post is, the Liberals don't have a defence to ward off that counter attack.

After distinguishing itself as a defender of openness and accountability in the early battles over Muskrat Falls and Bill 29, the Liberal Party was viewed as an alternative that reflected what people want. People knew where the Liberal Party stood. Now? Not so much.

Case in point: Cathy Bennett. Without question, a 100% supporter of Muskrat Falls and everything it took to get it there - including Bill 29. A Danny Williams' appointee to the board of Nalcor and eventually the chairmanship. A founding member of the business pro-Muskrat Falls group, fondly known as "Millionaires for Muskrat Falls." A large financial contributor to the PC Party. Really, despite her claims otherwise, a died in the wool Williams PC. A woman who was openly berated by the audience in Gander during the Liberal leadership race for her position on Muskrat Falls and Bill 29. Now, having lost the leadership, she is welcomed into the Liberal fold as a candidate in the Virginia Waters by-election without any change in her position.

Case in point 2: Yvonne Jones. Former leader of the provincial party from Labrador that was ridiculed by her own party, and whose leadership was constantly under attack from within. She did, however, put up a brave fight over Muskrat Falls until she left that leadership. The CBC openly speculated she was offered a deal by Liberal, pro Muskrat Falls businessman Dean MacDonald, to give up the leadership for a soft landing. That was denied, but a few months later she suddenly left the leadership, became very pro Muskrat Falls, was elected as an MP, and cheer led the case for powering mining developments in Labrador with Muskrat Falls. A more stark turn of face could hardly be imagined.

Case in point 3: Dale Kirby and Chris Mitchelmore. While both were sincere and dedicated MHAs, they got caught knifing their own leader - very publicly. Unable to rally their Party's support, they both sat as Independents and then crossed the floor to the Liberals mere weeks after Lane. Given their actions against their former leader, it is hard to imagine these gents are interested in openness and accountability. More accurately, they represent the oldest of old political ideals - opportunism.

Case in point 4: Paul Lane. Lane has to be, or better put was seen to be, the most rabid PC there ever was, and that's saying something. He was caught red handed fixing online polls on VOCM, among others. He regularly called open line radio shows trashing the Liberals, and promoting Bill 29 and Muskrat Falls. He claims that he walked the floor to the Liberals, because Dunderdale's leadership was no longer tolerable, and he just couldn't live with Bill 29 after all. If it wasn't real life you could laugh for a year, but it is real life. He is the exact opposite of openness and accountability.

Just like any cake, the secret is in the ingredients. What makes a chocolate cake is chocolate. It looks like chocolate, and it tastes like chocolate. The problem for the Liberal Party in this province is the taste is being lost in the ingredients. It is becoming bland and without definition, or at least the definition it wants. In other words, people are rapidly having a hard time seeing what it stands for. Many people who I know for a fact that were considering voting Liberal just months ago are now looking elsewhere. It's disturbing.

 What does the Party stand for? That is the question, and it's only going to be honed in on by the PCs as they counter attack. What it appears to stand for is getting elected. That's not a good enough reason to exist in today's political world. People are looking for a serious, alternative way of being governed. They want to be respected, have their views respected, and have a government with a vision that is respectful enough not to harm its own people. Somehow, whether in perhaps premature confidence, the Liberal Party has become willing to accept almost anything to further its march toward power. That is where I, and many others, are staring to have an issue. It isn't sufficient to simply represent more of the same, just in a less offensive way. It is necessary to bring far more than that to the table. The old political saying is if you try to out Tory the Tories the people will choose the real Tories.

Of course, I will take a lot of heat for writing such a post. After all, criticism is considered disloyalty in the fish bowl of Newfoundland politics. But, I don't care. I'm not interested in simply replacing this government. I want a new government with a new way of doing things, that represents its people and not its own interests. Otherwise, what's the point. Power for the sake of power? Nothing could be more lukewarm than that. And you know what happens to things that are lukewarm.

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