In some respects, it is a threat that would strike fear only into the hearts of Danny Williams’ Tories:
If this problem is not resolved today, you can expect me to absolutely vilify your minister on Monday morning on Open Line.
No broken limbs.
No financial ruin.
A call to Open Line.
That was enough for the ruling Tories to save the voice message containing the threat and to reveal it to the world as a question of privilege in the House of Assembly at the end of the first week the legislature has been open since last spring.
The government house leader spoke of intimidation and threats and fear. In a scrum with the media after , Joan Burke – to whom the threat was directed in early February – appeared shaken. Premier Kathy Dunderdale, she of the haughty condescension and the cheap put down had a few words of derision for the Liberals and their bad words. The only thing the Tories didn’t do in all their melodramatic glory was stage a collective back-of-wrist-to-forehead swoon.
All wonderful play-acting on the part of the Tories. Former parole officer Joan Burke showed her unease with all the credibility of Rob Ford after a visit from Mary Walsh in her Princess Warrior costume one morning.
All that was vintage Danny,too. The aged drama queen could hurl any sorts of petty, vicious. mean-spirited and contemptible invective at anyone any time. Yet, a whisper of derision aimed vaguely in his direction would bring on the screams of self-righteous indignation. The bully one minute, the victim the next in the fashion of the chickenshit hockey goon who specialises in taking the dive for the ref whenever someone stands up to him.
Playing acting, hysterics, and, of course, the finest vintage hypocrisy on the planet.
Classic Danny-era politics.
But that really isn't the story here.
The story is that elected provincial politics remains the domain of the childish and immature eight years after the mean widdle kid and his allies took it there.
Danny made the House safe for buffoonery, contempt, accusation, insult and intimidation. Jerome, Darin, Paul and Steve showed how well they learned their lessons with their performance on Twitter a couple of weeks ago. On Thursday, the whole gang on the government side joined in.
This week, though, the Tories proved the old saying that in politics you don’t have to be good, you just have to be better than the alternatives.
For their part, the New Democrats display in the House this week was less about childishness than inexperience combined with basic incompetence. This is a caucus that has a long way to go and a lot to learn before they could ever be considered a political threat to anyone except themselves.
As for the Liberals, they confirmed this week that these are likely the last Liberals anyone will see sitting in a legislature in this province, at least with enough of them to occupy the official opposition benches. A couple of them might survive the next election but the Liberal Party is more an historical artifact than a viable political force.
To make clear how politically inept they are, consider Jim Bennett’s asinine phone call. Anyone who watched the Liberals in action this week would hardly be surprised by it. In making the call, Bennett showed he has no judgment. In defending the call as the enthusiastic defence of a constituent, Bennett shows he has no genuine understanding of just how ridiculous his behaviour was.
Yvonne Jones’ performance as opposition House leader on Thursday was equally cringe-worthy. In her embarrassing defence of Jim Bennett, she showed no signs of understanding parliamentary procedure despite having sat in the House for the past 16 years. During Question Period the rest of the week, she displayed little knowledge of anything else. How bad was Jones? She made John Hickey look good.
The root of the problem for the Liberals remains the same as it has been for years: no one is in charge. Generally, neither the leader, no one in the caucus, the senior caucus staff nor the party leadership has any idea of where to go or what to do to get there. They operate as a loose association of individuals lacking either a common purpose or the common sense to work together.
Dwight Ball is clearly the leader in name only. His own performance over the past few months and in the House so far could be generously described as grossly ineffective. The only good thing for Ball is that he won’t face any challengers should he decide he wants to lead the party permanently. The party is in such desperate shape that no one in his or her right mind would waste energy trying to bring the party back from the political dead.
For the rest of us, though, this week has been nothing more but a reminder that the provincial legislature and the provincial government have become little more than a very expensive day-care.
That is not merely an uncomfortable thought.
- srbp -