20 February 2017

The Tory Race #nlpoli

Ches Crosbie announced last week he is going to take another shot at entering the family business. The son of former Mulroney cabinet minister John Crosbie will spend some time travelling the province, getting to know provincial Conservatives and building a campaign for the party leadership in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ches, whose grandfather was a delegate to the national convention, tried for a federal nomination for the 2015 election.  The federal party rejected him, apparently because of some donations he'd made to the Liberal party federally.

That's really no nevermind as Ches has as good a shot at anyone of taking the party leadership.  If he did so,  Ches also has a shot at succeeding his father and his great grandfather.  They were both named John, both were cabinet ministers in St. John's and elder of the two Johns served briefly as Prime Minister of Newfoundland in 1918.  The younger John wanted the job but never got it.

Ches' launch last week was not accompanied by great hoopla but his media interviews were as polished as one might expect of a professional political family.  Crosbie undoubtedly had some help in getting ready from veteran political consultant John Laschinger.  He's an old family friend, having run John's campaign for the Tory leadership in the 1970s and later helped provincial Progressive Conservatives win general election after general election.

Crosbie is off to a good start.  His initial campaign messages hit squarely on what people think of the current fellow running the place and tie Ches to what they feel.  "Professional" is the word that keeps coming to mind about Crosbie's launch, in stark contrast to the relentless amateurism that has dominated local politics for too long in both the Liberal and Conservative circles.

People shouldn't discount Steve Kent. The veteran self-promoter has a following and he did very well in the local Tory leadership fight in which Kent cut a deal with Paul Davis to fend off John Ottenheimer. He wants to replace Davis but it will really come down to a test of whether Kent has the ability to organize and attract cash.

Ultimately,  it will be a test of whether Kent really wants the top job or whether he will trade his campaign for a guaranteed role in the administration of someone connected better than Kent is. After all,  he quickly bailed out of the Frank Coleman leadership in favour of Danny's boy and Kent will readily do the same thing again, should Danny's boy - whoever that is - emerge with a lot of juice behind him.

Crosbie's low key approach fits with the sort of open party leadership the executive is likely to embrace when they finally make a decision on the convention later this year.  The party insiders saw how it worked for the Liberals and parties in this province tend to follow along behind what worked most recently.

There's plenty of time.  The party brass, still dominated by Williams acolytes, are not likely to call the convention yet for a bunch of reasons.  Not the least of it will be opinions, much like the one held by the Liberals, that you can hold the convention at the last minute and then use the polling bump from that to head into the election in 2019.

The Conservative decision will also likely be tied to what the Liberals are doing.  Their current plan seems to be to put the biggest cuts in the government budget coming right before the 2019 election. They seem to think the unions will agree to layoffs and wage freezes or roll backs.  The Liberals don't seem to think they will have to face a huge strike and have to legislate whatever cuts they want.

For their part, the Liberals are likely to look at the recent polls and be badly misled about the place they hold in the public heart.  Their current leader remains the best asset the Conservatives have. There's no sign that situation is going to get any better in the near term and it certainly won;t get any better if Ball continues to leader the Liberals through a bitter public sector strike heading into the 2019 election.

At the same time,  two recent announcements in Corner Brook might indicate the potential for change in the future.  A pharmacist from Deer Lake who wanted to head out of politics could do worse than leave behind what he claims is a long-term plan for the future as well as two sorely-needed projects in Corner Brook that will mean a great deal to improving health care for people in western Newfoundland.

Keep an eye on Dwight Ball's messaging over the next six months.  You might get a clue to the future if he seems to be speaking more about what he has already done than what he plans to do tomorrow.  You can bet that folks like Ches and Steve will be paying very close attention because it will affect their future, too.