03 September 2011

Looking beyond normal

labradore wasted no time in converting the numbers from Friday’s editorial in the Telegram into a chart to show the number of money announcements issued by the provincial government in each week in August for the past four years.

The Telegram editorial uses these numbers to refute Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s claim that:

“There’s nothing going on here now that hasn’t gone on every year since we’ve brought down a budget, no matter who formed the government,..”

She made the comment.  They counted the news releases.  Way more, finds the Telegram, so therefore “liar, liar pants on fire.”

Or words to that effect.

In defence of Kathy Dunderdale, there is nothing that her provincial Conservatives did in August 2011 that is different in kind from anything the provincial Conservatives did in any other one of the four polling months each year since 2004..

The fact that there are more money announcements in 2011 is really much ado about nothing.  Sure the whole thing is so outrageous in August 2011 that the local media couldn’t ignore it any more, but other than that this is just another Tory poll-goosing month.

And the fact this is an election year doesn’t really make the Dunderdale version stand out.  Scroll back through the archives list of these e-scribblers for the summer of 2007.

Summer of Love.  On August 18, your humble e-scribbler note that the Tories seemed to be inventing excuses to issue happy-news releases.  25 additional campsites at a provincial park, for example.

Toward the end of July 2007, you’ll find a post about the spate of announcements comparing July to previous Julys:

Note, however, that cash announcement in the 25 days of July 2007 already done are already at the same level of 2004 and they are double those of 2005 and almost quadruple those of 2006.

The post starts off with a quote from Danny Williams that will look awfully familiar:

Flanked by two Progressive Conservative candidates in Bay Roberts, Premier Danny Williams told reporters on Wednesday that what government has been doing over the past couple of weeks is just government "carrying on business."

What really stands out in the Telegram figures is the big jump in 2010 and the larger jump in 2011. Poll goosing and the pre-election impetus – the Telegram’s point – are just penetrating insights into the stunningly obvious. Something else is going on.

It’s the trending that shows up when you look beyond the polls as most people misinterpret them. In May this year, your humble e-scribbler pointed out that the Tory polling numbers have been slipping pretty significantly.

This chart shows CRA polling as a percentage of actual respondents not of “decideds”.  That second hard point from the right shows the results of last August’s jump in cash announcements.  And the reason for it is the slide the quarter before.

But then look what happened over the next three months before Danny Williams left abruptly.

Big slide.

And in the months since then, the Tories have continued to slide downward.

They were at a point in May where losing a raft of seats in October looked like a very real possibility.  As noted around these parts last May, if the trends continued the Tories would be even weaker in August.  The leader numbers could also continue their downward trend to the point where all three party leaders shared the same distinct lack of interest from voters.

So if you were the incumbent party headed into an election with public support apparently weakening,  you’d pretty much be guaranteed to do the only political thing you know how to do:  take as many spending announcements as you can type up and e-mail them out to try desperately to stop the spiral in the polls.

As far as Kathy Dunderdale and her crowd are concerned this is normal.  For the rest of us, though, you have to look a little beyond the obvious to figure out why their “normal”  is even more “normal” than usual.

- srbp -