17 February 2012

Fishery reform: the deeper story #nlpoli

NTV’s Thursday report on Loyola Sullivan focused on the union protests and accusations of a conflict of interest from Liberal Jim Bennett.

But the more interesting news on Thursday came from Michael Connors’ tweets about Sullivan’s speech to the employer’s council.

Sullivan is now talking about the economic problems in Europe. He says world's faltering economies are a result of living beyond means.

He's veering back to the debt issue now.

Sullivan talks about governments spending irresponsibly so they could get re-elected.

Sullivan now talking about his own tenure as finance minister. Proud that he brought down first balanced budget in 2006.

Now talking about how province can bring down per capita debt. Dunderdale wants to cut that number in half in 10 years

Sullivan raising concerns about province's debt to GDP ratio.

Sullivan says government should commit to balanced budgets and debt reduction.

Connors called it surreal but what he was really seeing here is a clue to some pretty big political backstories.

Go back in time and it doesn’t take too much imagination to think that Sullivan left the Tory cabinet abruptly in 2006 as a result of a huge disagreement over financial policy.  The 2007 budget – an election year budget  - that they would have been discussing when Sullivan quit saw a huge increase in pork-barrel spending and set the tone for the rest of Danny Williams’ tenure.

Sullivan wasn’t any great shakes when it came to sound fiscal [planning but his couple of years as finance minister are a model of tight-fistedness compared to the Dipper-esque spending sprees of the Danny Williams/Tom Marshall era.

There was something serious on the go at the time.  Danny Williams announced his resignation around the same time. In the months after Sullivan left, Williams got increasingly testier.  That’s when the Old man tossed a public threat at your humble e-scribbler and started musing about getting rid of free speech in the legislature.

Slide forward in time to the current day and you can see signs of a pretty big split in the local Tory party that just got a whole lot wider.  This OCI versus the government story is about more than the fishery.  The Sullivans are a crowd of Big Tories. The family has lots of friends and supporters across the province. Loyola’s a former leader of the party.

When Sullivan made some pointed comments about the current crowd’s lack of financial prowess, he was likely speaking for a large number of local Tories.  His comment about the debt was a very clear shot at Tom Marshall and Kathy Dunderdale.  You could also add a poke at the Muskrat Falls plan into Sullivan’s comment about the public debt.  Muskrat Falls, after all, is about increasing the public debt.

Things are not sunshine and roses inside Tory circles and they haven’t been for some time.

Loyola Sullivan’s speech on Thursday is a sign of how big a rift there is

- srbp -