24 June 2011

Like Momma says, stupid is…

It takes an especially keen political genius to take someone else’s political problem and make it yours.

It takes an even rarer form of political genius to take a guaranteed loser issue and stake your entire political future to it with loopy rhetoric.

But that is exactly what Kathy Dunderdale has done with a decision by the federal Conservatives to shift 12 jobs at a search and rescue call centre from St. John’s to Halifax.

The Premier spent almost 19 minutes today scrumming with reporters to discuss a 15 to 20 minute telephone conversation she had with Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the transfer.

You can see the raw video of the scrum embedded in CBC’s online story.

Dunderdale told reporters that the “full force” of the provincial government will now be brought to bear to get the Prime Minister and his cabinet to change their minds.  She said she has tasked two cabinet ministers and their senior staff to take “every opportunity” to pursue the issue with their federal counterparts over the next year.  In addition, Dunderdale said she is also going to be doing the same thing, spending every available minute of the next year fighting to keep the 12 jobs in the province.

Now while Dunderdale acknowledges that she didn’t make this decision, she has decided to make this the singularly most important issue of her administration.  In effect, she is staking her political reputation on this single issue.

And for that reason, she has now taken what could be Stephen Harper’s problem and made it her own.  Dunderdale appears to be doing this for the same reason that Roger Grimes tried to foment political rows with the federal government before 2003:  she has the naive understanding that people will park their brains and back a Premier who is fighting a foreign oppression. 

What’s worse she seems to think this will bolster her political standing in rural areas.  That the sense you get when you hear Dunderdale tell reporters that “the vast majority of the people working in this province” making their living on the water.

That simply isn’t true.

Dunderdale should know and you can bet the Prime Minister and his officials know it as well.

But consider for a minute that Dunderdale has effectively made this the single issue that will occupy – using her own words – every minute of her time over the next year.

This trumps fishery reform.

It trumps talks to implement the Wells inquiry report recommendations into offshore safety.  Just think about that for a second when Dunderdale says “safety trumps all.”

And it trumps her precious loan guarantee for Muskrat Falls.

How did she get into this mess, aside from the naive belief about local politics?  Well, it’s the sort of ass-thinking that led Dunderdale to offer to pay the federal government to keep the jobs in the province.

That’s despite a point Dunderdale acknowledged during the scrum, namely that the federal government has been accused of offloading federal responsibilities for years.

It’s despite the fact that when pushed on it, Dunderdale had to admit that taking over the role 12 months from now is a big, complex issue that needs further study.

And that’s despite the fact that this is clearly a federal responsibility. 

Think about it:  if there’s a tragedy that can be linked to the decision, Harper and his people will wear it. That risk alone would cause politicians to run from the decision. odds are that if they’ve already ruled out the idea that where a phone gets answered won’t materially change the time it takes a helicopter to fly or for a ship to steam to a rescue site.

And if you look at the comments coming from this province since the feds made the decision, no one has yet pointed to how this decision would threaten lives.  Even Dunderdale hasn’t been able to explain simply and clearly how this puts lives at risk.

The best they’ve come up with is the rather silly claim that mainlanders can’t understand our incomprehensible dialect or that mainlanders might be too stupid or irresponsible to know which North Harbour someone might be talking about.

If a mainlander relied on such racist stereotypes of dumb newfies, we’d be manning the barricades and running up the battle flags. Why should we treat it any differently when locals use the same garbage?

Both of these arguments rely on preposterous claims. If you are to believe them, search and rescue professionals who already routinely deal with people from this province cannot understand their impenetrable accents or be bothered to learn what towns or headlands are where on the map.

If this was actually the case, then we could turn the former AbitibiBowater mill at Grand Falls-Windsor into a coffin factory the work would be that steady. Not only would the locals be drowning in droves but  so too would the Chinese, Filipinos, Bulgarians, Japanese, Russians, Portuguese and a world of other seafarers who don’t even speak English in the first place, let alone who have a local dialect and an accent to boot. and who pass our shores daily.

And when Dunderdale adds the laughable claim about the vast majority working on the water – check the labour stats – then you know that there is no comment too silly for Dunderdale to make.

Where these 12 jobs get done might be an important issue.  But Kathy Dunderdale knows the federal government will not change its decision.  As a result she knows the outcome is failure before she pledges to put this issue before all others on her agenda for dealing with Uncle Ottawa and fight it every second of every minute of every day in the full glare of the media who will be following it intently for the whole time.

What a better position could she be in with an election coming this fall?

We will get to see her evident political impotence. every day

The voters will be reminded of her poor judgment every day.

And Dunderdale runs the very serious risk of being goaded by her self-imposed impotence of having to ramp up the rhetoric to ever more ludicrous levels.


Forrest Gump’s mom had it right.

- srbp -