10 September 2012

That and a buck fifty… #nlpoli

Former natural resources minister Shawn Skinner thinks that the Progressive Conservatives can turn around their current abysmal polling numbers if once they get beyond Muskrat Falls and turn their attention to other things.

Skinner was part of the political panel this weekend for On Point with David Cochrane.

Well,  that and a buck fifty and you have a cup of coffee.

You see, the major problem with Skinner’s theory is that it assumes the issue goes away.  If the Tories approve Muskrat Falls by Christmas – as they seem ready to do – that doesn’t end the Muskrat Falls project as a political issue.


They will then start spending billions upon billions for it.

And they will keep spending those billions for the next five or six years.

The more they borrow, the more the issue carries on.

Then there are the decision points, like the one at the end of July 2014.  Emera still hasn’t decided to build the Maritime Link. They have until 2014 to opt in.

That’s right.

Emera still has to opt in to the Maritime link.

All that will happen this fall is that the provincial government in Newfoundland and Labrador will decide to start spending billions in order to build the dam and the power line to the island.

There isn’t just one decision.  There are lots of them.

Skinner’s comments also assume that Muskrat Falls is the only drag.

It isn’t.

There’s the financial problem that the Tories created for themselves starting back when Danny Williams was running the place. If the Tories decide to spend billions on Muskrat Falls, then they will have to explain freezes and cuts to public spending at the same time.

If, by some miracle, the Tories ditch the Muskrat Falls stinker, they’ll still have to face the difficult task of making the spending match the declining provincial revenues. Their bond raters already warned them about this pretty sharply.  Cuts and freezes won’t be popular after the years of Tory pork-barrelling.

And if they keep up the spending, the financial mess just gets worse and they’ll have to face that too.
Times are going to be tough politically no matter how you slice it.

Skinner talked about changes in communications.  Some happened very hastily in late July.  More are coming, according to Skinner, who included hints that we will see changes to who speaks on behalf of government or how government communicates.  It will need to be more than a new Twitter account.
Right now we have seen cabinet ministers do the talking, when they are allowed.  Increasingly they aren’t allowed to say much.  The most vocal spokespeople are backbenchers like Steve Kent and Paul Lane, neither of whom are helping matters.

On that last point, by the way, here’s a chart of Twitter activity by the duo from Mount Pearl, via labradore.

And by not helping, we are referring to the continued downward trend in the polls for the Conservatives.
Changes to who speaks for government.

Interesting idea.

Could be everything from changes to cabinet – shuffle, resignations etc – to an American-style spokesperson to a re-vamped government website.

It will be interesting to see what they do.