One of the hallmarks of the Conservative political method since 2003 has been the suppression of public dissent.
Anyone who wants to raise a problem for public discussion is attacked for being “negative.” It is part of the aggressive campaign the Tories have waged to eliminate political opposition and stifle anything that was not approved by the Premier’s Office.
No surprise, then, that Bonavista mayor Betty Fitzgerald went to her local MHA to get a letter she could sign attacking one of her councillors who had violated the iron Conservative law against dissent.
No surprise either that the letter – written by a Tory political staffer - included these words:
The town of Bonavista has a good relationship with our provincial government and is grateful for the continued support we receive. We do not wish to jeopardize our standing by going to the media with this type of negativity.
It’s a Conservative code-word.
Danny Williams loved it when describing what his enemies said or attacking them for what they were up to. In the letter, Fitzgerald and her partisan friends tried to marginalize the councillor as being nothing more than a concerned citizen. That, in itself, is an insult to the people who voted the guy into office to do exactly what Fitzgerald and her Tory friends found so distressing.
New Democrat Gerry Rogers had a good word for this practice: nefarious. CBC has her comments online:
"That's a problem of the politics of fear," said Rogers.
"That's a problem of groups or in this case municipalities being worried that if they look like they're in opposition to the government in any way shape or form, or if they have a good relationship with their elected MHA who may not be part of the governing party, then that may impact them negatively," she said.
Democracy is threatened when people are afraid they will be punished for daring to disagree with the party in power. It’s also jeopardized by the sorts of things Rogers has experienced since the last election: having invitations to public events withdrawn apparently at the behest of government officials.