Now that Muskrat Falls is sanctioned, it is only a matter of time before Kathy Dunderdale quits politics.
How long will we wait?
Remember: Kathy Dunderdale was set to retire from politics. She was finished. As he sprinted from the Premier’s Office, Danny Williams picked her to fill in for him until the party could find a permanent replacement.
By Christmas 2010, the Conservative caucus had cooked up a deal to avoid a potentially messy leadership fight before the 2011 election. Kathy Dunderdale would stay.
She had no plans of her own, nor did she have any goals of her own she desperately needed to finish.
And now the provincial government has sanctioned Danny Williams’ legacy project. Nalcor started construction already and by the summer of 2013, it will be in high gear.
The provincial government is facing serious financial problems in the years ahead. Dunderdale has talked about them but so far, she and her colleagues have done nothing to deal with them. She and her colleagues appear to be marking time, waiting for some trigger to begin the leadership race to find Danny Williams’ real successor.
Muskrat Falls could well be that trigger.
With the project sanctioned, Dunderdale can introduce a motion on Muskrat Falls in the House of Assembly on December 5. With that vote passed, she and her colleagues can hold a celebration of some kind, if they want.
But will they? As it seems, the only big Muskrat Falls announcement was Danny’s. Signing the final agreements with Emera should have been a gigantic show, if Hebron was any indication. Instead it was a quickie photo op. Conclusion of the loan guarantee will be an equally quick photo op, this time with the Prime Minister and Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter.
So it may well be that next week’s vote in the House will be the last act, accompanied with a hypocritical claim or two about democracy. And when the House recesses for Christmas, Dunderdale is free to announce her departure. The first elected woman Premier can head for the history books.
More often than not, Newfoundland and Labrador premiers have announced their retirement in December or January. The timing would fit that pattern.
The Conservatives can organize a leadership race for the spring if need be, or for the early fall. Either way, the party will dominate the political news for most of next year. With the leadership selection finished, Dunderdale’s replacement can go to the polls to seek a mandate of his or her own.
Kathy’s replacement would face a Liberal Party that is unorganized, heavily indebted and years away from being ready for a major election. They would be a marginal threat consisting of individual candidates the Tories could pick off one by one. In fact, one of the Liberals – Yvonne Jones – probably will not run again.
The Tories’ major opponent would be the NDP. A 2013 election would be a pre-emptive strike to hit the NDP while they are gearing up. A new leader could reinvigorate the Tories and lure back some metro Tory voters lost to the NDP. Whether they won a majority or minority, the Tories would gain four years in which to deal with some problems and get ready for 2017.
The Year of the Muskrat.
How wonderfully convenient that would be.
But still, folks, the only serious political question in the province is how long will it be before Kathy Dunderdale leaves.