31 March 2011

Don’t step in the media spin: 2011 election version

Check the conventional media and you’ll see plenty of unfounded media torquing of what is really nothing other than a return to normal in Newfoundland and Labrador after Danny Williams one-time effort to suppress federal Conservative votes.

Take, for example, this breathless line from a posting on CBC’s politics blog with a title that talks about a “political sea change” (give us all a frickin’ break):

The big question now is whether Newfoundland and Labrador voters will embrace Harper's party once more. The provincial Tories may be on board, but the real test is the voters who abandoned the Conservatives two years ago.

Anyone who has looked seriously at Williams’ family feud in 2008 will see  - in a heartbeat – that his ABC campaign was really just focused on his own Blue-type voters.  Your humble e-scribbler has been making that point since 2008.  You’ll find a generally similar analysis from Memorial University political scientist Alex Marland in the Thursday Telegram.

The 2008 general election did not involve  - on any level at all  - a general rejection by voters in Newfoundland and Labrador in the way that last sentence from the CBC blog post suggests.

Nor did Danny Williams actually shift local voting behaviour outside of the Blue people who suppressed.  As Marland puts it, Williams’ effort would have been much more impressive if he had turned seven seats blue.  All he really did is feed general suspicions about the Conservatives and Stephen Harper.

And that’s what makes that other comment – about embracing “Harper’s party once more”  - nothing other than complete, unadulterated bullshit.

To go step further, voters in Newfoundland and Labrador have really never embraced the federal Conservatives in the current for progressive variant.  The Tories picked up three seats in 1997 compared to their usual two but that was tied to problems with the provincial government government.  Brian Mulroney did exceptionally well in this province in the 1980s but three of seven seems to be about the best the Tories have done in Newfoundland and Labrador since 1949.

The one exception is 1968.  Normally safe red seats went blue en masse as the country as a whole bathed in the gushing hot springs of Trudeaumania.

But there again, the federal vote was actually nothing more than a reflection of the brooding rebellion against Joe Smallwood.

As for the speculation about what Stephen Harper may announce on his campaign stop in St. John’s on Thursday, that’s actually nothing more than what one might expect from a bunch of provincial and federal Conservatives who are campaigning very hard for their usual, mutual benefit.

There is nothing odd or bizarre about it.  There is no shift in the political plate tectonics, no orgasmic outpourings for Steve nor any sign of an impending tsunami of pent-up anything that would clear the landscape of politics within the province.

All that is happening is that voting patterns are returning to normal.  The fact the Tories have lined up a raft of former provincial cabinet ministers plus a couple of others is really nothing other than a sign that Danny Williams no longer sits stuffed link a bung in the cask of political ambition among people who run with the Conservative Party in Newfoundland and Labrador.

And any pledges Stephen Harper makes in the province on his campaign swing?

It will just put him in line with the other party leaders all of whom have already made the same commitment to a loan guarantee for Muskrat Falls.

That project is no closer to reality, though.  The decision to double provincial electricity rates  - guaranteed- for local ratepayers, saddle them with a 50% increase in gross public debt  and ship power outside the province at taxpayer-funded discounts rests solely on the shoulders of provincial Conservatives.

- srbp -