The provincial Conservative Party is in the midst of such an intense revival of interest only about a dozen people turned out on Wednesday night for the annual general meeting of the district association in Mount Pearl South.
They were there to elect delegates to the party convention in July. Even though there’s no leadership contest, you’d expect that a party on the rebound might manage to attract more than 12 or so to a delegate selection meeting.
A few weeks ago all of 126 people turned out in Charlene Johnson’s district and that was when they actually still had a leadership race. That’s 10 times the number that showed up in Mount Pearl. It is still a far cry from what the Liberals – in about the same spot in 2001 as the Conservatives these days - managed to turn out in their leadership contest at the time. It’s also a far cry from what Conservatives turned out in their past either.
Renewal and revival just aren’t what they used to be or what they seem or something.
A more telling sign of the problems inside the Conservative Party these days has been the strange absence of Danny Williams from any media outlet in the province. The Old Man’s normal habit the past couple of years was to stage some sort of excuse to get himself close to reporters.
This was especially the case when he wanted to get his two cents worth on the news about some provincial political happening. He’d have held a newser to open an envelope if that’s what it took for someone to ask him about whatever as peeving him.
Since his candidate went down in flames in Virginia Waters and especially since his chosen successor has proven to be a dismal failure, Williams is hiding out. Anything to do with his hockey team was usually a good excuse for Williams to talk to reporters. That’s why it was so strange to see Glenn Stanford live on the Ceeb Wednesday night talking about the Ice Caps and the playoffs even though Danny was in the building.
When the Old Man shuns media coverage you know something is seriously wrong.
Another sign of the troubled times in Tory Town lately was the surprise May Day cabinet shuffle.
Tom Marshall told reporters that he always planned one but had waited until the leadership started and none of his ministers were involved. If that was really the case, Tom could have shuffled his cabinet weeks ago.
The real reason Tom held off on the shuffle was because he was holding a spot for Danny Breen. Since that didn’t work out so well, though, Marshall didn’t need to have the shuffle. There was also no need to have a shuffle since Frank Coleman will have to shake everything up in July, anyway.
Tom needed a shuffle, though, in order to manage a few internal problems. Getting Clyde Jackman out of Education and Darin King out of Justice moves them away from departments where they have been embarrassing because of their lousy behaviour (Jackman) or sheer incompetence (King).
Moving Susan Sullivan out of Health allows the Tories to announce a new PET scanner for Corner Brook, something which Sullivan has resisted all along but which they now have to promise to make sure that Premier Frank can win his by-election. Shuffling Sullivan allows her to save face.
Moving Paul Davis into Health replaces a competent minister with another competent minister. Sullivan deserved a break after handling that heavy department for a couple years. Replacing her with Davis gives him needed experience in a tough, line department. It’s a sign of Davis’ growing importance.
Sandy Collins goes into cabinet and gets the ministry that has the second-largest amount of sheer pork and patronage after public works. That’s interesting in itself, given that Terry French has seemed to have a lock on Tourism, Culture, and Recreation. It’s been a long trip for Collins to the cabinet table, despite his years of loyal service. Maybe Collins was rotted that Dan Crummell got to cabinet before him. The promotion keeps him loyal if his disgruntlement was becoming a bit too obvious.
Certainly, Collins’ promotion allowed Marshall to lash a couple of long-time backbenchers closer to the hull of the Conservative ship. Clayton Forsey and Tracy Perry haven’t been part of the vocal crowd of Tories over the years. In fact, even though Forsey won Exploits in 2005, he’s been languishing for a longer time than just about anyone in the Conservative caucus. Both are in seats that the Liberals stand a good chance of taking in the next election. Giving them nice little jobs as parliamentary secretaries makes it less likely the pair will cross the floor any time soon.
Well, at least until Frank comes along - eventually - to shuffle the cabinet again.