24 October 2009

That’s likely to impress the hell out of them

Fisheries minister Tom Hedderson, campaigning desperately in the Straits and White Bay North tells talk show host Bill Rowe that he’s having a great time in the district.

Apparently it’s been wonderful to be reacquainted with the district and the local concerns.  In fact, it’s the first he’s been there since 2001 when Trevor Taylor won the by-election.


And this would be the same district hard hit by the economic downturn, particularly in the fishery.  Where Tom offered people make work at minimum wage in October using a form that evidently had been around since July.

First time back since 2001, eh?

Oh yeah, that’s bound to impress the hell out of the locals in the run-up to what voting day in what appears to be a very tight race.

And Tommy is not the only cabinet minister expressing his surprise at discovering there are actually people who live out beyond that overpass thing.



Chris Callahan said...

What’s puzzling to me Ed (and I suspect a few others) is why the mad scramble to win this by-election. The desperation shown by the government is almost comical. Eight cabinet ministers (at last count), scores of calls to Randy and Bill and the admission that they made a mistake by withdrawing services. Wow. It was just a few weeks ago the cuts were set in stone. Williams has been there three times himself. I bet all districts wish they could be as well served.

I understand that it is a high profile former minister’s district and the government would want to keep the seat. But why would the loss of one seat mean that much to the eighth floor?

I’m guessing that there’s a little more to this than Danny’s ego getting bruised. I think it’s about all of rural Newfoundland. It’s no secret that those beyond the overpass feel somewhat jilted at missing the economic boom being felt here on the northeast Avalon. And the rumblings from rural Newfoundland have started to get louder. Much louder.


Perhaps Williams sees a loss as a beginning of the end - that a loss could have some kind of domino effect. I doubt that, but maybe that’s what he’s reading into this.

And the irony here can’t be lost. Trevor Taylor is best serving his (former) constituents by resigning and being out of Cabinet.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Morfe than a few have commented on it publicly and privately.

Bruised ego is a huge part of it plsu there is the not-insignificant symbolism of having a rural district repudiate the current administration rather forcefully.

I thin this loss would be the beginning of the end; whether it is seen as such is another matter.

No one should mistake the fact that this by-election has shown the huge gap between claims and reality. The claim is that they pay attention and are concerned with this district and "rural Newfoundland".

The reality is that cabinet ministers like hedderson haven't bothered to go meet with people and deal with their concerns at all and wouldn't be there now except they were forced to do so.

if you look at it rather starkly, the entire Tory rural development policy seems to be a matter of how much money they spend, not whether or not there are policies and actions that actually fix problems. The fishery is a case in point.

They may well pull out a win. If they do, it can't erase the signs of rot in underneath. They'll carry on blissfully, but it will get harder and harder to persuade people and you may see more and more overt signs of dissatisfaction.

If they lose, then all bets are off. These two resignations appear to be the harbinger of something else. There are more incumbents who will not reoffer. DW himself may well pack it in.

In the short term, the Terra Nova by-election will likely become an frantic affair if the Tories lose. Of course, that would only further reinforce the appearance of desperation and panic that is coming out of the past few days.

If there were back to back losses the House won't sit again until March. In fact the House might not sit even if there is one loss.

They'll come up with some excuse but I doubt the Tories will want two solid weeks of hammering and reminding of their shortcomings.

There are signs of great stress internally caused by several factors. That stress might be enough to crack the whole thing wide open and produce some incredibly fast and dramatic shifts.

There's no over-estimating the way the Tories look at this by-election and therefore no way to over-estimate the impact of a loss. The desperation evident in their effort to win is a clear sign.

Anonymous said...

In the past, it has bothered me and will continue to do so how Williams shrugged his shoulders when discussing an issue with the news medium. While shrugging one of both shoulders watch out. The movement indicates that he's subconsciously remaining uncommitted to what he is saying. I wouldn't say that now though with this particular incident...there isn't time to shrug either shoulder given the urgent damage control needed. It is fascinating how governments can find the money to continue services when they are pushed to the limit....with their lucrative jobs in jeopardy. See what standing up to the government for justice by the people can do? This is a very valuable lesson that ought to remain in the minds of all Newfoundlanders all over the Island when a stand is taken at the right time. A. Morris

Anonymous said...

The desperation shown by the government is almost comical. Eight cabinet ministers (at last count), scores of calls to Randy and Bill

Is this any different from past by elections? The other qusetion is to ask yourself if they were not desperate then what would the commentary be?? I suspect that it would be worse if they were not desperate and pulling out all stops to win the election. If this happened then we would all be on our repspective soap boxes complaining about the lack of leadership and interest in rural NL

Edward G. Hollett said...

In my experience and recollection, 1105, it is very different from by-elections before 2003.

Certainly the governing party was interested in winning but in between elections, the business was governing.

By-elections were not considered the time to show how much you cared, as some ministers said this past week. That care was demonstrated by dealing with the problems and concerns in districts around the province through the year.

That's the job government gets and, in theory, it should make by-elections easier to win for the governing party.

Carpet-bombing the living crap out of people for a few days during a by-election and then shagging off for years (a la Tom Hedderson) sends a very bad message.

If there was a genuine interest or concern, one would see ministers a fair bit

The thing is that even if the Tories win in the Straits they have sent a whole bunch of other messages that are just eating away at the positive feelings people have towards them. Whether the partisan house collapses in a wind storm suddenly or just rots to pieces over time, the end result is the same.

As for soapboxes, I have been consistently pointing out the very serious problems with this administration's policies and practices for some time. People have attacked me but in the end I have turned out to be spot on more often than not.

In this instance, I don't doubt the sincerity of ministers but I would suggest there is something fundamentally shagged up in either the organization or the perception that tells Tom Hedderson he shouldn't go or doesn't need to go out to the Straits with Trevor to deal with a huge political problem before Trevor gets fed up and leaves.

Chris Callahan said...

@Anonymous 1105

I have to agree with Ed - it is different from past by-elections. There seems to be an air of desperation here not seen – at least publicly – by the Williams administration. I’m not sure that other by-elections have received the attention this one has. Throw in the facts that health services were cut, the resulting public backlash, the government’s reversal on its “set in stone” decision and the resignation of not one, but two, high profile cabinet ministers makes this unique.

Of course, the government is in the unenviable position of being accused of buying votes. That is not unlike other by-elections – regardless of who was in power. It reminds me of Joey – vote for candidate X or you won’t see a strip of pavement. And, to varying degrees, all parties are guilty of doing this. But this one seems to mirror the desperation Smallwood showed in his final days as leader in the early seventies when he tried to cling to power. Or Williams’s fixation on winning Patty Pottle’s seat in Labrador two years ago. Vote for Patty and you might see her in cabinet.

You raise a valid point about the administrations interest and determination on winning the election. It seems they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If, as you suggested, the government doesn’t show much interest and could give a rats ass if they win the by-election in a traditionally Liberal rural district, people would be on their collective soapboxes complaining. But this “carpet bombing” seems to be a sign of desperation.

Bottom line – whether Williams wins or loses the seat, the government has already lost.

Edward G. Hollett said...

There have been a bunch of good comments guys. Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

There are two things I'd add:

1. Winston Smith made a good addition the other day with the idea of the Danny Brand being built on a myth of omnipotence and invincibility. he offers that as a (partial?) explanation for the frantic attention.

2. I disagree with the idea that if there wasn't frantic energy the governing party could be accused of ignoring one district or another. That's like saying everything is bipolar: it is either in bouts of superhuman optimism and energy or lost in the black pit of inactivity, moroseness and suicidal ideation.

There's a third spot on the continuum. it's called "normal" and it's in between the two extremes.

It's normnal for a party to fight a by-election. It's normal for there to be promises etc.

What is abnormal is the sudden, overwhelming hypermanic effort in the Straits. It is way out beyond anything even vaguely approaching normal. Hence, the absence of mania would simply be normal; it wouldn't be ignoring the place altogether.

BTW, what is also abnormal is stuff like Hedderson and others have been getting on with, Danny and jerome included. If the ministers were doing the normal sort of political work you'd expect as ministers, they'd be falling down embarrassed as hell to admit they were so grossly out of touch with any part of the province.

And linked to that and as a last point, bear in mind that even the Americans don't have elections as frequently as the current crowd here. We have basically been in a perpetual election mode sicne 2003. There has never been a year where there hasn't been an election and more often than not there have been multiple elections simultaneously.

As anyone familiar with government. Elections tend to absorb energy needed for other things like governing. They distract cabinet and they also tend to induce a sort of caution. They won't do anything until after the election is past. Well, if the election is never really over, you never really get down to the hard business of governing.