19 October 2008

What's up now, Doc?

A policy windsock, that's what.

Supposedly the chief Family Feud campaigner, Danny Williams, and the entire Provincial Conservative caucus understood that if no Conservative seats in Newfoundland and Labrador meant that there would be no member of parliament would take up the cabinet job of being the province's regional representative in the event the Conservatives were re-elected.

Of course, Williams understood:

But Williams is not worried about the lack of representation. He said the three previous government MPs failed to advance major issues such as custodial management of the fishery and a loan guarantee for the Lower Churchill River hydroelectric project in Labrador.

He said the province will now have seven strong Opposition MPs at the federal level.

People who supported the Family Feud - including Provincial Conservatives like St. John's mayor Doc O'Keefe - understood that as well.

So how come Doc is now trying to orchestrate a campaign to undo the situation that he and his party leader created in the first place?

If Doc feels some obligation to stick his municipal nose into federal/provincial relations now that the election is over, he had an obligation to his honker into the campaign a few weeks ago pointing out the gigantic problem - apparently as he finds it now - inherent in the campaign against the federal Conservatives run by their Provincial Conservative confreres.

Instead of that, O'Keefe and his Provincial Conservative mates on council were doing their own little bit of partisan campaigning against the Liberal Party.

No one should be surprised by this at all, given O'Keefe's record on council for shifting positions more often than most of us change underwear.

Nor, for that matter, should anyone be surprised that the Premier himself appears to be taking an entirely new position on the issue of cabinet representation from the one he held a few days ago:

Premier Williams says it is the Prime Minister's perogative to make cabinet appointments. However he notes, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a couple of options. He says the Prime Minister could appoint Senator Ethel Cochrane to the Senate or he could fill the vacancy in the Senate and then appoint that person to cabinet.

For his part, the Prime Minister has already said he will appoint a regional minister from among the elected members of his caucus. in other words: no senate appointments.

That makes eminent sense, given that this is exactly what defence minister Peter MacKay said plainly during the campaign and the Prime Minister has spoken about senate reform as a priority for his new administration.

Now five years into the current provincial administration, one gets the sense that major items of public policy are made up on the fly. Positions are shifted based on something other than a sound and detailed analysis.

If memory serves, this is a point made before here at Bond Papers and elsewhere.

This tendency for policy to follow the whim of the moment is ultimately what undermines the effectiveness of the provincial government. People don't know which statement is the real statement.

Is the Prime Minister a man not to be trusted, as Danny Williams said up until Tuesday's vote or is the war over, as he said on the day immediately after the vote?

Is it now possible for the Premier to do business on Wednesday with a kitten-eating lizard from outer space who had to be stopped on Tuesday?

It doesn't take much imagination to realize there is a,problem with consistency here. That problem - and it isn't new - causes people to tune out. They stop listening. If they aren't listening, then the Premier has a gigantic problem.

It's a problem entirely of his own making however.

What's more the rest of us have to hope we all don't pay a price for the windsock follies. The Premier worked the Feud to make sure he was the only spokesperson for the province.

He got what he wanted.

So we must all wonder why he and his political associates are suddenly uncomfortable with their victory.

Hang on a second.

Check the wind.

It might not be such a problem after all.


It shifted direction again.

Problem back.

Ooooh. Hang on.

No problem, again.

You get the picture.