08 September 2008

Cloverfield 2

In 1988,  Jack Harris was the lively little mammal who emerged amid a battle between a Godzilla and a Mothra of local politics to head off to Ottawa as member of parliament for St. John's East.

How ironic that 20 years later, Harris is one of two political dinosaurs resurrected by the nuclear explosions of the Premier's Family Feud to wage battle across the streets and hills of St. John's East.

The lively mammal in this latest really bad remake of really bad old political horror movies turns out, to everyone's surprise, to be the Conservative candidate, former journalist Craig Westcott.

Odds are the Provincial Conservatives never saw that one coming.  They could have predicted Harris' return like the rest of us did, as far back as six or eight months ago.  Danny Williams' former law partner spent his last few years spending way more time siding with the government and asking softball questions for the Provincial Conservatives to be the least bit worried that as a federal member of parliament he might somehow dare to contradict the Premier or pose any other form of challenge. To some, Harris spent his last years in the legislature sounding more like a Tory backbencher angling for an appointment to cabinet than the leader of the province's social democrats.

And after all, that is really what the ABC campaign is about on one level:  ensuring that there are no federal politicians able to challenge the Premier as the undeniable spokesperson for the heart and soul of the nation.  Some of the Commentariat has asked what Williams would do if there was another Harper administration with no elected Conservative members in his caucus.  Rub his hands in glee would be the answer.

To get his wish, Williams only has to hope the federal Liberals wind up in second place.  If Dion forms a new Liberal administration in mid October, either Judy Foote or Todd Russell would stand a chance of a cabinet seat.  They sit in safe Liberal seats and have no contenders against them as it current stands.

Cynthia Downey is rumoured by some to thinking of running in Random Burin St. George's.  If she does crop up, then you can bet the Provincial Conservatives are behind it.   Downey won't matter much though, since any opponent can simply point to her political blindness in her run for the federal Conservatives last time as proof she lacks anything resembling political judgment.  After all, what person concerned about refugees under a deportation order would run for a political party committed to the rapid execution of deportation orders?

But all that is digression.  As it stands right now, the only real political battles in this federal election are on the Avalon and the most interesting is in the East.

The race will likely see Jack Harris in the lead early on.  He is generally popular, even though the bulk of his old provincial seat is in St. John's South-Mount Pearl. In addition though, the New Democrats can count on support from the Provincial Conservatives - i.e. Jack's old law partner - who can funnel money if needed but more importantly workers and voters into the Orange camp.  The local Dippers will likely be amazed at seeing such political riches to use.

Confirmation of strong Williams support came in the form of Ed Buckingham, a longtime Tory organizer and current member of the provincial legislature, at Harris' campaign launch late Monday afternoon. Buckingham is connected and if he is there, then others are behind the scenes knocking doors to send Danny's man to Ottawa.

Craig Westcott's appearance in the campaign will serve chiefly to get up the Premier's nose and to draw whatever resources will go into the ABC campaign from the Provincial Conservative side into two ridings instead of the one they'd counted on.  Given the history between the two - and the new chapters to be written during the campaign - Williams cannot take the chance of Westcott doing anything but being crushed utterly.

The Provincial Conservatives won't be able to take any chances in that respect, either. The federal Conservatives in the riding can count on some workers and come polling day they can likely count on more votes than some currently give them credit for. The ballot boxes are secret, after all. With no way of precisely polling the district - people lie to pollsters when they want to do something a dominant force wouldn't like - Williams will be fighting the East campaign partially blinded.

As for Walter Noel, he will be struggling to find relevance. The heat of the campaign will be somewhere else and there is simply no way by which Noel can inject himself into the row.  Should he try and step in, one of his opponents will likely deliver him some perfume, women's clothes and a camera so that he can stay busy and stay out of the way.

If voters in St. John's East want an alternative to the Conservatives, they have it in Jack Harris.  The way the votes will likely run in the East, traditional NDP voters, hard core Conservatives who haven't gotten over 1949, provincial Tories and both federal and provincial Liberals who wish that Walter would just know when to stop - a disease that affects too many old politicians - can all find an amenable choice in Jack Harris.  He is offensive to none.

For those who are staunchly Conservative or who like their politicians to be somewhat offensive to the scared cows of provincial politics sometimes, they can chose Westcott.

If nothing else, Westcott's trademark sharp tongue will lash Danny Williams every time he enters the campaign.  If the first few days are any indication, Westcott may likely lash the old boy a few more times just to get a rise out of him.

And every time Williams does rise to the bait - he conspicuously didn't make himself available at all on Monday - Westcott's stock goes up making him potentially even more electable than he is at the start of the campaign.

What a mess this Family Feud could turn out to be.