18 February 2014

Holding Pattern #nlpoli

Justice minister Darin King bailed out of the Conservative Party leadership contest on Monday.

King did it unceremoniously, on Twitter, despite having had a bunch of reporters ask him about it earlier in the afternoon during a media availability.   That way he didn’t have to answer any questions and try to come up with some comment that didn’t make look either like he wasn’t interested in the job or that there was yet another backroom deal coming along to frustrate his ambitions.  Last time around, King was organizing his own run for the top job when he ran headlong into the backroom crowd twisting arms and patting backs for the Dunderdale fix-up.

The reason King had met reporters was in response to a protest about conditions at the penitentiary in St. John’s. Guards protested on Monday.  Last week, one of the inmates had been on the receiving end of a vicious attack by other inmates.

The government trotted out King and the superintendent of prisons to chat with reporters.  King told them that the government would be announcing later this week that they’d be paying for some design work on a new prison. 

King announced last October that the provincial government was going to issue a request for proposals “in the near future.”  In November, King told the House of Assembly that the government had already issued the request for proposals in order to come up with an idea of what the prison would look like as well as a cost estimate for the building.  What he announced on Monday was a tender award for design and site selection. Sounds like much the same thing.

king pictureThings in the provincial cabinet seem to be much more relaxed these days than they ever were.  You can see that not only in the sort of loosey-goosey way King dropped out the news of the prison announcement, but also in the way King was dressed when he showed up for work on Monday.

Then there’s the very casual way King let slip the news about the leadership.  King and all his caucus colleagues seem to be setting up for a long slide out the door after the next election.  No one among the caucus crowd is interested in taking on the Premier’s job and, as it seems likely, they’ll be lining up behind yet another leader who isn’t likely to do much beyond hold the place until the clock runs out. 

The Premier’s job is one for someone much younger than 60-odd. it aged Danny Williams dramatically.  Look at what the job did to Kathy Dunderdale.  Does anyone seriously think Frank Coleman  - born in 1953 – is going to be a two-termer?

If Coleman winds up as Premier we can expect two things.  First, the Liberals will start chanting “Drop the writ!” as soon as the Conservatives count the last leadership ballot.  Second,  the Conservatives will go to the polls much closer to the constitutional deadline of October 2016 than to the legislated one of sometime in 2015.

Knock Two More off the List Update:

With news of the backroom deal favouring Frank Coleman surfacing, it’s not surprising that two other putative candidates for the Conservative leadership are getting ready to bow out.

From Tuesday’s Telegram,  former natural resources minister Shawn Skinner told the Telly that ‘I want to be in this race.”  And then comes the killer:
“But I’m only going into it if I feel I have support of the people.”
People who are running don't have “buts” in their statements.  If that one wasn’t enough, Skinner also whines about the cash limits on the campaign publicly doubting his ability to raise the money.  Then he adds that he is not a “rich man” and, according to the Telly, said he’s “worried he won’t be able to drum up as much money” as other candidates.

Cross Skinner off your list.

And while you’ve got the pencil out, put an big “X” through the picture of Steve Kent.
“Ultimately, I want to do what’s best for the party and what’s best for the province,” he said. “In some ways, I feel I have the luxury of time, in the sense that I hope that I’m in the early stages of my career.”
That’s code for “now isn’t the time for me.” 

And just to seal the withdrawal, Kent added his hope that the race will have strong candidates in it. he also apparently is looking forward to what the Telly calls “a really lively discussion about what it stands for and what its principles are.”

Remember what Danny Williams – one of the key guys behind the Coleman puppet candidacy – was on about when he condemned Bill Barry.  Doesn’t stand for anything I believe in.  Kent’s comments are code for what the backroom faction expect to be a fight between Bill Barry and Coleman, framed as a battle of values.

Kent does not sound like someone who is running but someone who is already out, waiting only for the moment to declare his loyalty to Frank Coleman:
I think it’s healthy that there’s talks of multiple candidates still to come. I hope that’s the case. I hope we have strong internal and external candidates at the end of the day…
All Bill needs to do is wait until all the others have bailed and then drop out at the last minute.  He couldn’t win anyway, in the face of another backroom deal.  Without a race framed on a battle of “principles”, the backroom boys would be left scrambling to find a way to re-imagine the Conservative Party.