21 April 2015

The problem with no problem #nlpoli

Dwight Ball is the latest Liberal to emerge from the candidate protection program.  He popped up on NTV on Monday evening to tell us all two things:

First, he thinks there should be an inquiry into the Dunphy shooting.  He made up some nonsense about the need for an imaginary process that supposedly had to play out before he revealed the real Liberal position.  After telling us about Step One:  the Dunphy family grieving,  and then Step Two the two investigations that aren’t finished,  he could now announce Step Three, namely that he will appoint an inquiry when he is premier.

Not gonna call on the Conservatives to do it now. Nope. Gonna wait until he is on the 8th.  If that happens. And, allowing that he might not get to be Premier until October 2016, that could be a long wait for an inquiry that could begin soon and be finished by this fall.

Then, of course, you have to recall that on Friday,  the official Liberal position was that anyone calling for an inquiry now is just playing politics with this tragedy.

You can see a few pretty obvious problems with the latest Liberal position on the Dunphy inquiry. But at least  the Liberals are finally accepting the need for an inquiry.  They are going to be the butt of more than a few Conservative and New Democrat jokes but at least they are finally in the right spot.

Second, Ball told NTV’s Mike Connors that the Liberals will hold new nominations in all 36 of the new seats on the island once the seats are in place. That suggests the party has officially tossed off the ridiculous idea that the whole thing was likely to fall apart.

Unfortunately for Ball,  that won’t get rid of the re-districting as a mess that will distract the Liberals for a few months more yet.  The same day that Ball was talking to Mike Connors in St. John’s,  stalwart Ed Joyce was in Corner Brook talking to CBC’s Jeremy Eaton about the problems with the new district boundaries.  Joyce will go to the commission and look for them to re-work the districts around Corner Brook so the one that Joyce represents won’t disappear.

Good luck with that, Ed Joyce.  The commission will be listening to all comers when they start their hearings.  But people won;t be able to get off with just pointing out the problems.  The commission will expect people to propose adjustments to fix the problem they find.  And those adjustments won’t be able to screw up something else. 

You see,  the media already have the narrative set that the cut to the House that Ball has cheerily claimed credit for is now producing a raft of problems for the Liberals.  Joyce fits tidily into the thread begun with Jim Bennett and continued last week  - via CBC’s Terry Roberts - with the promise of a bloodbath in the northwest part of Conception Bay.

Truth be told, there is no bloodbath coming.  To see the proof of it, you only have to read Roberts’ story.

First paragraph, i.e. the first sentence. The redistricting “could” lead to a fight between the two.

Second paragraph, i.e. the second sentence. Only one “could” be left standing.

Third sentence tells us about the redistricting and the fourth paragraph says that new boundaries “will leave Sam Slade, MHA for Carbonear-Harbour Grace, and Trinity-Bay de Verde MHA Steve Crocker in a Liberal versus Liberal battle for the nomination.”

But will it? Must it inevitably lead to the bloodbath, as that fourth sentence says?

Well, no, not if you look at all the conditional language in the front end of Roberts’ story.

And certainly not if you look at the map of the districts in the area. There is enough room for Crocker, Slade, and Pam Parsons in the area where all three are now either incumbent members of the House or - in Parsons case – a candidate for a seat.

Crocker and Slade have made the rookie mistake of venting their thoughts in front of reporters. Yes they are pissed off and lots of Liberals are pissed off at the redistricting exercise. Some of them are very pissed off. The whole thing was entirely unnecessary.

But aside from venting the frustration there’s actually no sign – no firm evidence – of any donnybrook-in-the-making, if we are to carry on Terry Roberts’ use of highly emotive political clichés to make this whole thing look like more than it is. What both Crocker and Slade say is that they intend to run. They talk about running in the current district, which doesn’t exist any more for all intents and purposes. They talk about complaining to the boundaries commission.


that’s about it.

Crocker even makes it plain that no matter what happens “"I can guarantee you one thing, and one thing only, in the fall of 2015, I will be campaigning to make sure that Dwight Ball is the next premier of Newfoundland and Labrador."

That is sooo not an imminent bloodbath.

And while the people of the province generally don’t give a tinker’s damn about the number of seats,  there is enough interest in this within the province’s political echo chamber that the appearance of great strife becomes the reality.

Let us remember, friends how this began.  Back in January, after the Conservatives had announced their plans,  the reporters gathered around Liberal leader Dwight Ball and asked him about cutting the number of seats down to 38. That was the original Conservative idea, in case you had forgotten.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” said Ball, as easy as one might please.

And with that off-hand endorsement of the government’s plan,  Ball committed the Liberal’s to endure the media stories and all the angst that is going on. 

The phrase is rapidly becoming a Ballism and it is one that seems destined to get the Liberals in trouble again and again.

Another political story Monday night was the revelation that the fellow the finance department has hired to help seniors pay back the million dollars they collectively owe due to a pension miscalculation.  The new twist on the story is that the fellow hired by the department is none other than the fellow who handles the cash for finance minister Ross Wiseman’s district association. 

Let us hope that if the fellow is getting paid that he is not making more than what any one of the poor seniors will have to pay back.  Let us hope, by the same token, that they do not mind trying to work out their debts with Wiseman’s bagman. 

Monday’s story on CBC was that NDP boss Earle McCurdy was troubled by the story of Wiseman’s political friend getting a tidy little job to help Wiseman out with a mess that Wiseman had mad a balls of from the start. McCurdy, not surprisingly,  would have the pensioners deal with one of the public sector unions to sort out the mess.  And while he didn’t doubt the fellow’s integrity,  McCurdy noted that there would be a very difficult conflict of interest given his political tie to the minister

For some reason the Liberals couldn’t offer up an actual person to speak on camera about this.  Instead, CBC wound up with a quote from a Liberal spokesperson.  The Liberals “were fine” with the fellow –that is, they had no problem with him - and were confident in his ability to treat the pensioners fairly. 

The Liberals should have lots of problems with the appointment of Wiseman’s district association executive member to a job such as this one. They should have noted that the government ought not to be causing hardship to pensioners in the first place by making them pay back money due to the government’s mistake.   That is, after all, what Cathy Bennett had already said about this travesty.

Instead, they supported the government line and had no problem with Wiseman’s patronage. In that one line, the Liberals made a mockery of their pledge to do things better if they become government. They also repeated their bizarre love of agreeing with the Conservatives and affirming the New Democrat line that there is no difference between the Red and the Blue teams. 

The truth is that there is a difference.  Cathy Bennett has said so before.  And, as Peter Cowan noted, Liberal MHA Dale Kirby took a poke on Twitter at the Conservatives for this conflict of interest on Monday afternoon. 

The truth is that far from there being no problem for the Liberals, they have made a bunch of problems for themselves, one after the other after the other. They should quit saying “no problem” before it is too late.