08 May 2006

Liberal caucus charts course for oblivion

For those who may have missed the machinations within the provincial Liberal Party, Jim Bennett's idea of a two-tier minimum wage had nothing to do with his resignation today as party leader.

The minimum wage issue was just the pretext used by some Liberal members of the House of Assembly to get rid of the newly minted leader.

Let's get that out of the way up front.

So now Bennett is gone, although the Liberals did manage to get their hooks into Bennett's fund-raising ability with a promise he will still support the party.

Likely the only leader that will be acceptable to the caucus is one of their own and so it will turn out that one of the eleven who just three months ago couldn't work up the cajones or the cash to run in a proper race will have the job fall into their lap for free. Perhaps that was the real motive all along for some of the would be leaders.

One person who shouldn't party leader be is House leader Kelvin Parsons. Even by his own account, Parsons conversation with attorney general Tom Marshall was so far outside the bounds of acceptability that the only honourable recourse would be for Parsons to resign from the legislature.

At the very least, he should be wandering out the door of the Liberal caucus room and under no circumstances should he be continuing as House leader. No one should hold their breath waiting for that to happen, though; on the day the story broke, Opposition leader Gerry Reid rushed to defend Parsons, and by extension the patently indefensible.

No matter which one of the Caucus Eleven gets the job, the Liberal Party is headed for almost certain devastation in the next election. Short of cash, devoid of energy and so painfully short of any ideas - let alone fresh ones - this caucus will offer Newfoundlanders and Labradorians voters a choice between Danny Williams and a crowd of Parsons.

The choice will be obvious in all but perhaps four or five seats. In those cases, local candidates will hang on to their seat only by dint of their personal reputation or an especially nasty hatred for Danny Williams. No one can reasonably propose that Danny Williams, full of cash if nothing else, cannot spend enough oil cash to float into office with ease in October 2007.

In the meantime, though, the Liberal caucus has usurped the power of the executive and the members to chose a leader. In the same way that the absence of an energetic, effective Opposition undermines the democratic process in our province, the coup staged by the caucus undermines democracy within the Liberal Party. The caucus may sit smugly satisfied with itself today, but the course they have charted for the Liberal Party will almost certainly put the whole affair up on the rocks.

Perhaps after the next election, the hulk can be salvaged. Perhaps it can be rejuvenated in the best interests both of the Liberal Party and the electorate as a whole.

But in the meantime, there is likely nothing that can be done save brushing up on the words to "Nearer my God to Thee" while looking for a life ring.