16 May 2013

The Fruits of A Very Poisonous Tree #nlpoli

Premier Kathy Dunderdale said on Tuesday that the province will have problems now that it doesn’t have a federal cabinet minister from this province.

As CBC quoted her from a scrum outside the House of Assembly, Kathy said:

“It always makes it more difficult when you don't have somebody inside the tent,…”

This is not just a difficult position, it is a stupid position, but it is exactly the stupid policy that Kathy Dunderdale advocated.

In 2008, Kathy Dunderdale and her cabinet colleagues made it a matter of provincial government policy to defeat candidates in a federal election solely because they belonged to one particular party.

That was a stupid policy but not because it somehow robbed the people of the province for advocates in Ottawa. 

Not at all. 

As with all elections in our democracy, every district elects an advocate.  There are seven such advocates today in parliament, plus six more in the senate.  There is no shortage of representation for the people of the province in federal matters.  And in the case of the senate, there are several who sit in the Conservative caucus.

Dunderdale’s policy is stupid because it turns the relationship between two non-partisan governments into an entirely partisan bloodbath based not on the interests of the people but on the personal, political concerns of Dunderdale and her leader at the time.  They put their personal interests above all others.

Kathy Dunderdale told reporters that she and her Conservative colleagues  are “charged with a responsibility to advocate on behalf of the people of the province.”  They are not. Their responsibility is to manage provincial government in the best interests of the public and to be accountable to the people of Newfoundland and labrador for those affairs alone.

It’s basic civic knowledge. 

But what Dunderdale and her colleagues have done since 2003 is to confuse a great many things.  They confused their responsibilities as provincial politicians and so engaged in endless and ultimately fruitless wars with the federal government. 

They also confused their partisan interests with the wider public interest.  That was the source of the 2008 ABC campaign.  It confused the public interest with the Conservatives’ partisan need to top the polls at home. The ABC campaign, much like Dunderdale’s comment about responsibility is a version of the egomaniacal arrogance of her predecessor when he said that he believed that in his heart and soul he represented the heart and soul of the province.

In 2008, Williams gambled.  he staked his political reputation on defeating the federal Conservative Party not just in this province but nationally. All Williams and the Conservatives could muster of a national campaign was a billboard in downtown Toronto. And at home, all they could muster was to suppress their own partisans and keep them from the polls.

Not only did Stephen Harper win re-election nationally but at home, the Conservatives pushed significant numbers of their own voters to the New Democrats.  What happened federally in 2011 had its start in St. John’s South-Mount pearl in 2008. Kathy Dunderdale knocked on doors for the Liberal Siobhan Coady.  An analysis of votes suggests that Tories flipped Danny and Kathy the bird. They didn’t stay home, as Tories did in other ridings.  They moved en masse toward Cleary.

But as far as the people of the province are concerned there is not a shred of evidence that the federal Conservatives  - as the federal government - have neglected their responsibilities or otherwise punished the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

What they have done, though, is repaid Kathy Dunderdale and her colleagues on a personal basis for their characteristically relentless war of venom and pettiness against the federal Conservatives.  Recall that Kathy Dunderdale and her staff could not connect Dunderdale with Stephen Harper last year on what should have been a relatively simple issue. That’s the level on which the relationship between the two government’s is strained: personal.

Whatever problems she is facing with the federal government are entirely Kathy Dunderdale’s own fault. She is still paying for the provincial Conservatives’ display of political impotence in 2008.  They threatened a lot, delivered frig all and now reap the rewards.

But make no mistake:  whatever problems exist, they are entirely problems Kathy Dunderdale made.  They are her problems.

Like the financial problems she and her colleagues face, these political problems with the federal Conservatives are the result of fundamental, chronic incompetence and mismanagement rooted in the confusion by the provincial Conservatives of their partisan interests with the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.