Nick Whalen killed a giant.
That’s the story of the 2015 federal election in Newfoundland and Labrador, bar none.
People told Whalen he was crazy to run against the popular NDP incumbent. No one gave him a chance. But Whalen wound up defeating the NDP heavyweight.
Like the rest of the Liberals, Whalen got the fundamentals right. The Liberals have a highly efficient voter management system. They can find supporters, keep in contact with them, and get them to the polls. Whalen used it, just like all the other candidates.
And just like the other successful candidates, Whalen had strong support from his provincial cousins. Anyone following social media will know that Whalen and St. John’s North MHA Dale Kirby campaigned together a lot. The same sort of thing happened in St. John’s South – Mount Pearl, where provincial candidates like Siobhan Coady went door to door on behalf of Seamus O’Regan.
That’s the kind of organization that allowed the Liberals to capitalise on the changes in public opinion. it is the type of organization that the NDP lack. It’s also the kind of organization that would have allowed the NDP to fight against a slide in the polls.
Instead of having a solid organization, the NDP were reduced to sending their candidate out to campaign at supermarkets, evidently without checking with the manager to see if it was okay. The story in the Telegram on Monday about Jack Harris’ unfortunate episode at Sobey’s said much about Harris’ desperate efforts to stave off defeat.
The fact Jack didn’t see it coming just confirms how poor is the NDP organization.
There were other factors in the Liberal victory, but the one to watch was that basic organization. That’s the one that will tell the tale in the provincial election in November.
As we’ve said in this corner for some time, the NDP and the provincial Conservatives just don’t have the basic organizational capacity. Election readiness – or more specifically, Lorraine Michael’s chronic neglect of electoral basics - was a huge factor in the NDP split in 2013. NDP stalwarts ignored the truth and carried on as if nothing was wrong. These big losses are a logical consequence of those chronic NDP problems and they are a sign of things to come.
On the Conservatives side, they have the same problems. The stories from Virginia Waters are of a disjointed, disorganized mess. That mess is directly attributable to Danny Williams, whose war against his party’s federal cousins left the provincial Conservatives bereft of modern campaign techniques. The Old Man may be able to stroke his ego with some media attention for an imaginary ABC campaign but the truth is the party he still dominates is poised for a Kim Campbell-like disaster in November.
The surest sign of how bad things are in the provincial Conservative Party was the sudden announcement Monday that Vaughn Granter would leave politics and go back to teaching. Granter won in 2010 in Danny Williams’ old seat. He should have been running again but evidently, thought better of trying.
As in the federal election, the battle in the upcoming provincial election will be in S John’s. The Liberals might be able to translate this federal success into provincial success. The real question we should all ponder is whether the NDP and the Conservatives can hold onto what they have in metro. After Monday’s federal result, we should put a question mark over that.