15 August 2008

Universal Translator revealed

When it comes to federal politics, reporters and other observers sometimes  misunderstand the words the Premier uses.

It's really very simple. 

Whenever he says "Newfoundland and Labrador" or "we", he means "Danny Williams".

That's it.

The confusion comes from the fact that most people do not consider the entire province, all its people and their collective interest to be the same thing nor do they believe it is embodied in one person.

By contrast, he does. 

As in words after the 2007 general election to the effect that "I believe in my heart and soul that I embody the heart and soul of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians."

It was a real "l'etat? C'est moi!" kinda moment.

So take a quote like this one:

"From a Green Shift perspective, as well, Newfoundland and Labrador is just basically waiting to see where all the cards are going to fall here."

On the face of it, this is a pretty ludicrous statement given that in the same scrum, the Premier said that "[t]his election is not going to be decided strictly on Green Shift."

He's right on that point.

The election isn't going to be decided on one issue.

And the Green Shift was never intended to be the silver bullet of the next federal election.

The Green Shift is a niche policy designed to move a certain type of voter. It won't appeal to everyone, but it will appeal to enough to make a difference here and there.  Coupled with other similar niche ideas, it could tip enough ridings to propel the Liberals to a minority or majority government.

The whole concept is taken from the Conservative strategy in 2005/06.

That's why the Connies fear it so much they are  apoplectic trying to make the Green Shift some vision of the apocalypse.

But if you go back and apply the universal translator to that quote, you can see that, in fact, Danny Williams is waiting to see how the field shapes up on policies before he endorses one party or any party.

Now the quote makes perfect sense.

That's what the Premier did in 2004.  He waited to see how the offers looked and he went with the one he liked.

He did it again in 2005/06, endorsing Stephen Harper and the Conservatives even though the Layton New Democrats said yes to every single thing the Premier asked for in his Letter to Santa 2005.

But here's the thing:  in both federal elections, the Premier's impact on voters even in Newfoundland and Labrador produced a marginal effect.

In 2004, he made it tough for the local volunteers to turn out for the Conservative brethren.  They lacked party workers, but the Conservatives who won, did so in usual Conservative seats.

Individual voters still turned out and voted federally for their own choice in a secret ballot, in many cases, despite what their provincial vote may have looked like or what the Premier wanted. 

In 2005/06, it became safe for provincial Tories not only to work on Connie campaigns but to run for them as well.

But don't forget one crucial point:  the resulting seat count was exactly the same as in 2004. There were changes in voter turn-out but the overall impact of the Premier's position and intervention was marginal at best.

So while Danny Williams may like to answer reporters questions about the next federal election, it's doubtful the federal Conservatives are taking him too seriously.  Aside from the impact in his own province, Danny Williams just doesn't travel well.  Sure there are people who crop up here and there saying lovely things about him, but - as with every other provincial premier since the dawn of time - he just doesn't carry much beyond his own province. 

That's because  - fundamentally - Danny Williams is not identified as speaking on national issues from a national perspective.  He's not even really speaking on a plane that connects with voters in Dauphin or Deseronto.

He's a niche player, with a niche impact. 

Like a Green Shift.

The only difference among the federal parties is that - rightly or wrongly - the federal Conservatives have taken the measure of the niche impact based on two kicks at the can in the recent past. 

The New Democrats seem to have missed the lessons.  So too have some of the local Liberals  - candidates and back roomers alike - who want to court Danny in the  belief his blessing will be all that is needed to change their fortunes.

But the Connies? 

They've decided the impact isn't enough to worry about, either locally or nationally.  To get the point, think about that famous Stephen Harper quote from October 2006 in Gander. 

You know.

The one that came only from the Premier himself.  Something like "We don't need Newfoundland and Labrador."

Apply the Universal Translator.

Now you understand why DW is so pissed.