COLUMN: Cold weather not kind to Newfoundland politicians

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“Statistics show that …” You hear these words often in the lead paragraph of news stories.

Peter Pickersgill

Another favourite is, “As scientific studies reveal …”

There are numerous variations. A journalist who is declaring a notion to be this or that, despite not having the first clue whether it is true, might find these useful words to throw out there.

So, here goes. According to studies just released, there is a direct and important link between the weather and the public’s acceptance of the political party in power. In times of sunny skies and gentle breezes, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are prepared to forgive their leaders their shortcomings. When bitter blizzards of snow and ice sweep the land politicians become the targets of a frozen public seeking revenge. This should be a warning to those seeking power or hoping to hang onto it.

This has been a harsh, long winter, that started too early, brutalized the population for too long and just refuses to quit. Don’t be fooled by this recent warming trend. Statistics show that taking off your snow tires before Victoria Day is as foolish as believing a politician six months before an election.

It is unlikely that folk in Newfoundland and Labrador will be fooled.

They understand what their televisions and radios ought to be announcing now is: “Spring has come to the mainland, half-a-season later in Newfoundland."

The long winter has left us grumpy and short-tempered. People are fed up. We are unlikely to accept happily the latest manipulation by the backroom henchpersons of ex-premier Danny Williams to place in the premier’s chair the third consecutive uncontested, unelected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

For the record, when he quit abruptly with mere minutes notice, and then, without wasting valuable time on a leadership contest, he anointed Kathy Dunderdale with the sacred oil of power, the public was prepared to ignore whatever weather prevailed. After all, it was Danny. What wrong could he possibly do?

When Queen Kathy began to see what was expected of her after the coronation, she noticed she didn’t really enjoy the scent of the sacred oil of power the ex-premier had slathered over her. At the perfume counter in the mall she picked up something more to her liking and then, you can check the weather statistics for this, the skies began to darken.

There followed a period of increasingly unstable meteorological events. The polls dropped steadily until she was declared the least popular premier in all of Canada at a time of record low temperatures and heavy snow. You can look it up. That forced the hapless management at Nalcor and Newfoundland Hydro to crank the provincial thermostat up to bust. And bust it did. Rolling blackouts followed. In the darkness of her unlit Confederation Building office Kathy Dunderdale pulled on her snowboots, and exiting into a raging blizzard, cried out over her shoulder: "You can't fire me. I quit!"

The fingerprint experts are still analyzing the data so we can't confirm if ex-premier Williams and his henchpersons were entirely responsible for Tom Marshall’s appointment as the second unelected premier in a row. It’s important to note, however, that the sunny stretch of post-NewYear’s weather when he assumed office coincided with the hydro blackouts rolling to to an end. In any case the big shambling aw-shucks teddy bear only has the job temporarily, so whatever effect this eternal winter has on the voter’s opinion of him won’t last.

Waiting almost entirely mute in the wings is Frank Coleman, the one and only person left standing after all the potential candidates had finished milling about, waiting for ex-premier Williams to declare the winner.

In truth, not all of them were milling about. For a brief period it seemed there might be a contest for the Tory leadership when Bill Barry proclaimed first. He decided damn the the weather and full speed ahead. He set out to make it clear to the public and members of PC party his unique views on how to govern the province.

But any debate about what kind of government the Tories will propose to the voters must wait for another time. Ex-premier Williams, a former hockey player, delivered a vicious check to Barry, sending him head first into the boards, then straight to the showers. No penalty.

That leaves Frank Coleman waiting unopposed. He will be acclaimed premier without ever having been elected to anything, ever. The third straight unelected Tory party leader on the top floor of the Confederation building.

All thanks to ex-premier Williams, former hockey player, now official coach. A hat trick.

Despite the grumbling, Spring will arrive eventually. With it hockey will be replaced by baseball.

In baseball, three strikes and you’re out.

Keeping a weather eye out for turbulence ahead, Frank stands alone. No one can predict what the weather might be next July when he ascends to the throne. Today, what a winter-weary public really wants to know is: "Can Coleman cut the mustard?"

— Peter Pickersgill is an artist and writer in Salvage, Bonavista Bay. He can be reached by email at the following: pickersgill@mac.com

Organizations: Progressive Conservative Party, Tory

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Bonavista Bay

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