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)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Death of the PC Empire in Newfoundland and Labrador

In 2011, when I left the Newfoundland Conservatives, their reign was supreme. A well oiled, impenetrable machine. A dynasty in the making. There was no other, and no other was in sight. Their popularity in the polls was hovering around 75%. They controlled all but 4 seats in the House of Assembly. It was a closed shop, and they went to great pains to keep it that way.

Four years later things have changed - sort of. In 2011 the Province had the worst, most oppressive access to information law in the country. Serious dissent now runs like the wind. People have become engaged and are forcing the political agenda in many ways. The PC Party has not. It simply has become worse at the tactics it used to suppress opposition and change in the Province. The people's core values have shifted, while the Party's tools of control remained entrenched in lip-service and really bad acting.

Four years later the Province has gone through five, count them five PC Party leaders - that must be a Canadian political record. Nothing remains of their "all-star cast" of Ministers that dominated the headlines of the Province. All that remains are the "Omega and the Alpha" - the "End and the Beginning". Current Premier Davis is the "end', and Stephen Kent hopes to be the "beginning". That is to say that while those forces that hovered within the PC Party shuffle over to the Liberal Party ever so quietly, people like Kent remain to be the caretakers that rebuild the PC Party after its defeat.

Yet, throughout its death spiral, the PC Party has operated itself as it operated the government - without accountability. There have been no lessons learned, because there has been no accountability rendered. There is a reason for that. Avoiding accountability of any type for actions has dominated Newfoundland politics, and in some ways Newfoundland culture for some time. What remains obvious to anyone who has been anywhere else, but cloaked within the political culture on the Island, is the immature way politics plays itself out here. Some have referred to it as "high-school politics". Others have been less generous. Whatever the case, it is the nature of the politics here that allows for a party like the PCs to do what they have done.

Let's call it the "It wasn't Me" mentality. It is always some other person, or organization, or province, or country's fault - never our own. To even suggest it was our own is to invite calls of "traitor". That's why politics here is referred to as "high school" or "immature", because adults take responsibility for their actions. The accountability allows them to grow and not repeat the same mistakes over, and over, while blaming others for all their short comings. The failure to accept criticism and mature is the birthplace of systemic immaturity. That's what we have here. The PC Party wasn't some kind of one-off government of despots. It was merely the latest reincarnation of a political culture that has refused to grow. It lies in the face of this place's 500 year existence.

The PC Party has not been able to change, because it doesn't know any other game. PCs aren't stupid. They aren't unusually corrupt. They are a product of their environment. The latest example being Davis's blaming of future cuts on the Liberals impending political victory. Ditto for his warnings to the Province's business community. "They will cut your jobs" he tells the unions. "They will take your customers money, and cause you to fail" he tells the St. John's Board of Trade. The reality is the actions of the PCs in power has left any future government no choice but to cut spending and jobs. Yet, Davis is already playing the "it wasn't me" card, and the election isn't even started yet. He is in fact laying the ground work for the same immature politics to continue a new cycle.

What we have here is not a "failure to communicate". What we have is a failure to learn. A failure to accept that: with great power comes great responsibility; accountability and accepting responsibility are the key stones of personal and systemic growth; and that public office is a sacred trust on behalf of your citizens. We see these things played out on TV and the Province's three radio shows every day of the year. They take different forms, and they involve different issues, but they are all related to the problems outlined above. Many suggest the Liberals will repeat the cycle, and be no different in their approach than the PCs were. In fact I would say that is the dominant opinion among people. What people fail to realize is the accountability for that lays with them. If no accountability is demanded for failings as they happen, then none will be voluntarily accepted. Therein lies the key.

So, while the PC Party twists in its death throws, and the Liberals quietly organize to take their place at the helm of power, it remains to be seen if either the people or the politicians have learned anything from their four year trial of fire. Time will tell.

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