13 April 2006

Food for thought: the need for realism and statesmanship

Ever since it became self-governing in the mid-nineteeth century, political leadership in Newfoundland and Labrador has rotated between representatives of the dominant social class and populists who appeal directly to the "people" directly, with party labels meaning very little...

What Newfoundland and Labrador needs, however, is neither populist nor merchant. It needs a leader - or leadership if you include the whole of Cabinet [sic] - who can transcend both the exaggerated rhetoric of the populist and the restricted conservatism of the merchant. It needs men and women who exhibit statesmanship, by which I mean leadership that both transcends the interests of a single class and is grounded in a deep understanding of the issues, problems and potential rather than superficial rhetoric. [Italics in original]
J.D. [Doug] House, Against the tide: battling for economic renewal in Newfoundland and Labrador, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), p. 239.

Doug House's account of his involvement in shaping government economic development policy in the period between 1986 and 1996 caused a stir in the local political community when it appeared toward the end of Brian Tobin's administration.

House had been appointed by the populist Brian Peckford to chair what emerged as a landmark economic policy task force the final report. It fell to Clyde Wells, whom House described as the epitome of the 'sensible' good government approach of the "official class leaders", to implement the task force report. As a testament to its soundness and to the sensibility of what House implemented as chair of the Wells' administrations' Economic Recovery Commission that Wells' 1992 Strategic Economic Plan remains the basis of government economic development policy through four subsequent administrations of two different political parties.

House's characterization of the alternating cycle of post-Confederation first ministers in Newfoundland and Labrador is both obvious and generally understood.

Danny Williams appointed House toa deputy minister position in his current administration.

The question for today is this: Does Danny Williams continue the alternating cycle of populist versus merchant or does he represent the statesmanship House proposed?