15 November 2012

He was just not that into you #nlpoli

By now you have heard that Dean MacDonald has decided to skip the upcoming race for the Liberal Party leadership.

MacDonald told reporters that he had pressing business projects that he couldn’t get out of.  He also cited unspecified family priorities. That’s the official version.

Among people active in the party, you’ll hear other reasons being tossed around.  Among the most common is that the leadership process adopted by the party at the recent convention in Gander made it impossible for MacDonald to get the coronation as leader that he supposedly wanted.

Both of those miss a fairly obvious point:  Dean MacDonald never wanted to be leader of the Liberal Party in the first place.

Since last year when an ailing Yvonne Jones reputedly tried to get MacDonald to take over the job from her,  lots of people have talked about MacDonald as the leader-in-waiting.   But as far as leadership goes,  or even his Liberal ties,  Dean MacDonald was more the stuff of some people’s overactive imaginations than the real deal.  He showed no signs of getting ready for the race or the job.

Premier DeannyIn the year since the 2011 general election, MacDonald [Right.  Photo:  James McLeod, via Twitter] has delivered a few speeches here and there.  The speeches he delivered in the past couple of days were the same ones he has delivered in one form or another over the past dozen months.  They were as lightweight in the content and presentation in the past couple of days as they were earlier in the year. 

On Tuesday, for example, MacDonald talking about seven or eight principles he wanted to discuss and then listed six bullet points.  It’s that sort of sloppiness that betrays his lack of readiness.

The six ideas he did talk about were things like the need to spend within the province’s financial means or focus on its economic strengths.  They are fine as far as they go, but they are very general, very vague and stuff that has been around for a couple of decades.  What is particularly noticeable about them is that the current provincial government could claim they were already doing most of them. 

MacDonald’s list of six or seven or eight points the Tories could also claim were like his support of Muskrat Falls or the knife he thrust into Roger Grimes a decade ago over a tentative deal to develop Gull Island:  short on detail or explanation and definitely not something that readily distinguished him from Kathy Dunderdale or a dozen other Tories.  MacDonald could never credibly distinguish himself from the Tories who appointed him to head the Hydro board.

Crime.  Boy. I don't know.

MacDonald always sounded like he was winging it.  On Wednesday he tossed in a seventh big thing:  more money for sports.  It’s almost as thought MacDonald was intent on proving he had no sense of proportion.
People rarely become a political leader already stuffed full of the knowledge they will need to do the job.

The serious ones know they have to buckle down and study hard, quite literally reading volumes of briefing notes on every major issue in the province. They have the chance to draw on the best minds available in a process that mirrors exactly what will happen to them later on, if they get the top job.  You have to be a quick study. 

MacDonald got into a tussle with the Telegram’s James MacLeod over government budgeting in September.  It was an embarrassing display of how much MacDonald didn’t know about a basic subject for a premier-wannabe, and a vivid object lesson in how not to handle the media. It was a clear sign that MacDonald had not been boning up on anything he would need to know if he was interested at all in being Premier one day.

And if none of that convinces you, note that Dean deployed not one but both of the time honoured excuses by politicians running from something:  work and family. 

He really didn’t want the job.