21 June 2011

Kremlinology 36: Thinking with your ass

We’d all like to think that political ideas come out of politicians’ heads after careful thought and lots of research.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, government ideas tend to spring from the ass.

A whole bunch of people in the province are not happy with federal plans to close a coast guard emergency call centre and shift the work to the Joint Regional Search and Rescue Centre in Halifax.  Those people think the federal Conservatives pulled that idea out of someone’s ass.

Organized labour in the province is screaming blue murder about the decision.  The opposition parties in the provincial legislature are raising a stink.    They wanted to have an emergency session of the legislature and pass a resolution condemning the action.  Kathy wouldn’t do it.

Meanwhile, Premier Kathy Dunderdale has been taking her time trying to figure out out to get in front of this issue politically while not pissing off the guy on whom she is dependant for a loan guarantee to help finance her mega-debt project slash election gimmick, better known as Muskrat Falls.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale told reporters last week that someone in her office was trying to get a telephone call through to the Prime Minister. 

And a week later, she had to stand in front of reporters and tell them she was still trying to speak with her pal Steve on the telephone.

Well, either that or arrange a meeting whichever came first.

But on that most 19th century of technologies?

Nada on the telephone hooking up thingy.

The message is getting through, though, Kathy assures us.

And pressure is being applied using that passively voice sentence.

How, exactly is it getting through asked the brazen fish broadcast host Brian Callahan of fish minister Clyde Jackman?  No call.  No meeting.  How is the word getting through from the provincial government to the federals?

Jackman didn’t know.

He just said we’d all know soon what the feds decided to do for sure on the call centre. 

Now just to put that in perspective for those unfamiliar with anything that happened in the world before say 1999, that isn’t the way these things work usually. 

Even in the darkest hours after the collapse of the Meech Lake Accord, Brian Mulroney would still answer the phone even if he knew Clyde Wells was on the other end. 

The day Igor ripped through the province, Stephen Harper called Danny Williams to offer up whatever help Dan-o wanted.  That’s right.  Dan didn’t even have to wait to get his call returned.  he got one free from Steve.  Now Dan might have reportedly said no thanks because he didn’t want Peter Mackay to horn in on the credit for saving Danny’s bacon, but at least he actually did get the Prime Minister himself on the horn.

So Kathy’s message obviously isn’t getting through to the federal government on anything.  Her loan guarantee is looking a bit more dodgy than before, she doesn’t really have anything to offer as a distraction and her poll results are still sucking worse than the St. John’s sewerage treatment plant on full reverse.

Not a good place to be in politically, especially for a party that used to thrive on issues just like this. 

So what to do?

Offer to take over some bits of search and rescue in the province from the federal government.

Never mind the constitution.

Never mind that for decades provincial premiers have been fighting to keep the feds from dumping their responsibilities into provincial laps free of federal charge.

Never mind the cost to the public purse.

Never mind the fact mismanagement by Kath and her predecessor have left the government in a rough financial spot despite unprecedented government revenues  such that the next decade could make everyone look longingly on the 1930s.

Never mind, even, that Kath and her mates buggered up the Igor thing that looked suspiciously like an emergency of the searching and rescuing type so that you’d wonder if they could actually find each other in the dark, in a closet with both hands and a flashlight.


Faced with being outflanked politically by her local opponents, Kath opted to show how much she is different from every other politician in a long, sorry line of politicians in this province.

She decided to think with her ass.

In the past week, she could have fired off a strongly worded letter to Ottawa.

She could have sent a fax to Peter Penashue, the regional minister who is also the intergovernmental affairs minister.

She could have told reporters that she had made clear the views of her government that this was just not on.

When asked about it, she could have gone for the sophisticated answer and pointed out that the loan guarantee was another issue and that she would always look out for the best interests yada, yada, yada.

Instead, she opted for the ass-thought.

And to make matters worse, Kathy blathered on in public to reporters about her blatant political impotence by telling them that she has been a week trying to figure out how to get Steve to call her back but without success.

You don’t have to look at her possible motives for offering to take federal responsibilities off their hands and pay for them with provincial cash to boot.  Nor do you have to look very hard to find the considerable numbers of flaws in her political bungling of what should have been a relatively small political issue.

What you can see pretty clearly is that Kathy Dunderdale and her political staff came up with this idea on the fly in a desperate attempt to be seen to be doing something on the issue.  All they’ve really done in the process is show seasoned observers that they really don’t have a clue.

It is also pretty clear that they really don’t have any sense of direction, generally.  That’s not surprising, mind you, given that when Danny did a runner, Kathy was only supposed to keep the office warm for a few months until his permanent replacement showed up. They’ve been coasting for a while.

But you would think that when the governing Tories decided to keep Kathy on a bit longer than originally planned, they’d have given her a set of ideas and some people who could actually manage these sorts of issues for her. That’s what experienced, seasoned political parties should be able to do after only seven years in office.

Should be able to do, but can’t in this case.

And just other other governments that couldn’t manage the small stuff, they went to the usual repository of Newfoundland political brilliance:  the ass.

After a mere seven years in office.

Not a good sign.

Not a good sign at all.

- srbp -