For Liberals, the next election is a foregone conclusion

James
James McLeod
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Ball promises to reform MHA pensions once he’s premier

Liberals are quite sure they know who’s going to win the next election. Just about everything that happened at the party’s weekend convention in Gander seemed to be driven by the assumption the party is on its way to forming the next government in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The policy resolutions passed by Liberal rank-and-file were modest, and during debate, they discussed scaling one resolution back so as to not tie the hands of the next Liberal government.

In small conversations all through the Hotel Gander, people were quietly hinting, gauging support or making connections to help them win a Liberal nomination in whichever district they call home. It was a foregone conclusion at the convention that a Liberal nomination is just about the surest ticket to a seat in the House of Assembly.

With the Liberals at 53 per cent in the polls — more than 20 points ahead of the governing Tories — party members have a hard time imagining how they could lose.

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball acknowledged the mood at the convention Friday night, and he told his followers not to get cocky.

“What I felt more than ever before coming into a convention was confidence. People, you know, you’ve just got a different swagger with you now,” he said.

“But I tell you, we’ve got to be careful. We’ve got to be careful because we are nowhere near the finish line.”

Ball delivered a similar message during his Saturday night speech, but he spent most of his time delivering a withering, relentless critique of premier-designate Frank Coleman.

The centrepiece of the speech was a promise to reform MHA pension plans — which are much more generous than civil service pensions, and the MHA pension fund has a massive unfunded liability because politicians don’t pay in nearly enough to fund their pension entitlements.

But that announcement on MHA pensions was just one small chunk of a larger speech, which was mostly about attacking Coleman for the way he won the leadership of the PC party without anybody casting a vote for him, and Coleman’s staunch defence of the Tory record of economic management.

“Not a single member of cabinet wanted to be premier. Not a single member of caucus wanted to be premier. Not one of them willing to step up and say, I want to lead,” Ball said. “As for me, I don’t want a team of followers; I want a team of leaders.”

Ball reprised the line he used at a fundraising dinner earlier this spring, when he cited economic forecast numbers from the provincial budget to say the province is “the worst, the last, the lowest” and that the Tories have mismanaged billions in oil royalties.

“Oil has made this government lazy,” Ball said. “They have shied away from the hard work of growing and diversifying the economy, and they have cashed the easy oil cheques. And the result? No unemployment growth these last five years; outside St. John’s, unemployment up three per cent to nearly 19.5 per cent — the worst in the country.”

The next election is likely a year away. Coleman will assume the role of premier shortly after the July 5 PC party convention in St. John’s, and then he will have a year to call a general election.

Ball has said he believes Coleman should go to the polls in the fall, but most political watchers think the campaign will happen in the spring of 2015.

Faced with those kinds of timelines, the party has very slowly been offering little pieces of concrete policy — like the commitment to reform MHA pensions — but most of it has been sweeping statements without much in the way of specifics.

Ball promised to run an open and transparent government. He also promised to reduce health-care spending without cutting service.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Ball acknowledged people want to see more in the way of concrete policy, but he said that will come when the party releases its platform closer to the election.

The one tantalizing policy put forward at the Liberal convention was an idea to lower the provincial voting age to 16 years old.

Ryan Steeves, the president of the MUN Liberals, was the person who put the motion forward. He said he was pleasantly surprised the idea was overwhelmingly supported by fellow Liberals.

“It allows people to start voting at a stable point in their life; they’re able to start voting at 16 years old when they’re at home,” Steeves said.

Paired with stronger youth civics education in high school, Steeves said he believes lowering the voting age can do a lot to boost citizen engagement.

Despite the party overwhelmingly voting in favour of the policy, Ball was noncommittal about whether he would actually lower the voting age if he becomes premier.

“I think it needs to be taken to the public for open disclosure public consultations, and this is something that will be one of many things that I’m sure that we’ll see around electoral reform,” Ball said.

 

 

Organizations: House of Assembly.With

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Recent comments

  • alex
    June 16, 2014 - 11:39

    Liberal supporters are simple little creatures. All you have to do is smile, say cool sounding words and say that voting liberal is cool but the other guy is a big meannie.

  • Charles Murphy
    June 16, 2014 - 11:01

    Can someone please explain something to me, Am I asking to much from our leader's to see one district with a future? Because I know this can be done. Its time for people to demanded little more, wouldn't you agree?

    • Newfoudlanders and Labradorians want an Honest and Upfront Premier.
      June 16, 2014 - 12:37

      I am imploring that whoever becomes the next Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador to be Honest and Transparent and not to pilfer our natural resources for anyone or any use other than for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador's economy. I am going to take the opportunity right here and ask whoever is vying for that Very Important job to explain in no uncertain terms why he/she wants to become Premier and what we as the electorate can we expect of him/her. We need to know before the Election Campaign begins. Please candidates do not try to hide your intentions.

  • Nadine Lumley
    June 16, 2014 - 09:58

    The Speaker: Mr. Todd Russell, The Hon. Member for Labrador Mr. Speaker, Canadians speculated for months whether the PM was sporting enough eyeliner to make an '80s rock band proud. Today we learn he has been consulting the stars, looking into a crystal ball, all with help from his personal clairvoyant, his psychic makeup artist, our own northern Zsa Zsa Gabor. It is enough to make one blush. The Prime Minister of Canada goes from the Canadian Alliance to the psychic alliance. Why are Conservatives not telling taxpayers their T4s go a long way for the Prime Minister's powder, mascara and daily palm readings? Hon. Peter Van Loan(Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I knew he was going to ask that question. Nobody in this government is consulting JoJo, but I have had suggestions that perhaps I should consult Cojo. Mr. Russell: Mr. Speaker, we now know the Prime Minister's personal stylist and spiritualist is on the public payroll. He thought this blemish would stay concealed. One would think the Prime Minister would blush with embarrassment at being caught out on such inconsistency. It strikes at the foundation of everything he supposedly ever stood for. It contradicts the makeup of his supposed fiscal responsibility. It just does not gel with the Canadian public. How can the Prime Minister justify stiffing the Canadian taxpayer for his vanity? Hon. Peter Van Loan: Mr. Speaker, the fact that I am answering this question tells you what a great country this is, because I know that my mother would never have dreamed, and certainly very few people would have ever believed, that a person like myself could rise to the vaulted position of minister of fashion and style for Canada. http://web.archive.org/web/20080228232414/http://www.macleans.ca/canada/features/article.jsp?content=20070420_144631_2860 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usvJbYBMhZs #cdnpoli

  • Samuel J.
    June 16, 2014 - 08:56

    Ball is right, of course, to insist that the party not take the electorate for granted - that it not show any of the arrogance that has gotten the Tories so low in the polls. Tory hacks keep asking why anyone would vote for Ball or the Liberals. They don't seem to realize that, for many former Tory supporters, the logic is quite simple. That organization has become disreputable, dishonest, incompetent, arrogant, abusive and downright loathsome. Poll after poll has shown that a large majority of Newfoundlanders can no longer vote Tory in good conscience. They could vote NDP but for most the swing is too far. It's pretty clear that Lorraine Michaels lacks a sound understanding of the fiscal realities facing the province and the hard choices that will be needed when it comes to future spending - a future badly compromised by the billions wasted on pipe dreams like Muskrat Falls. So, by elimination, that leaves Mr. Ball and the Liberals. Do I have any reservations about Mr. Ball? Yes. There is never any guarantee that a new administration will do the things, such as adopting a culture of transparency and accountability, that would restore faith in government. But any uncertainty about the Liberals pales in comparison with our certainty that the Tories, if re-elected, would continue to treat the public purse as their own private bank account - that they would continue to treat people who voted for them as suckers. We could choose - like 40% or more of the electorate - not to vote at all. But that cop-out changes nothing. It puts us in the category of Newfoundlanders who constantly complain about government but, when given a chance, do absolutely nothing about it. Hopefully there will be fewer of those this time around. As for me, I'm pretty well decided. There is one small request I have of Mr. Ball. I want him to commit publicly to disclosing the terms of the public relations contracts that were put in place not only to defend Muskrat but to launch personal attacks on its critics. I want him to out those people and organizations. I want a name attached publicly, for example, to the alias John Smith. Is that too much to ask?

  • By Acclamation
    June 16, 2014 - 06:34

    I would like to know why so many positions of the Executive Board and MUN Liberals are filled by acclamation? No one prepared to step in and lead? Sounds familiar, doesn't it? A week is a lifetime in plitics and if the Liberals think they are just going to coast back to the trough, I say "Remember 2003".

  • Barb
    June 16, 2014 - 06:26

    LOL..Really, Its got to be the biggest joke in N & L politics, Dwight and Libs are in the hole of $800.000.00, and they wanted to take over the purse string of the people. This got to be a JOKE right?

  • John Smith
    June 16, 2014 - 06:19

    Yeah, and Lorraine Michael was the most popular opposition leader in the country a year ago...now she is at the bottom. A lot can happen in a month, let alone several. The Liberals talk about bike helmets and moose meat while they wallow in debt because of their own incompetence. They offer nothing in policy, nothin, other than to keep their heads down, and hope no one notices how inept they really are. Ball talks about no one in the PC caucus wanting to be Primier...well I can only pray that the likes of Eddy Joyce, Lisa Demster, and Sam Slade feel the same way....God help us all if they ever come to power, it will be ruinous for the province....

    • Robb
      June 16, 2014 - 10:11

      Well John Smith, I could not have said it better. What is difficult to understand is how some forget the previous liberal govt's. I mean, Clyde lied, and Tobin flew the coop, and let grimes, someone who was not elected as premier at the helm. So the liberal banter now is that Frank Coleman was not elected, so I guess that means that for grimes, a few votes in one district is OK to be placed into the premiership....and then he made a big deal with Vale in Labrador...?? So, when you look at it without the liberal lens, they are a joke. They have nothing except trashing a man who has yet to step into the Confederation building. Of course they have to try and trash the man with a pre-emptive strike, as their biggest fear is that people will like Coleman for who he is, and what he stands for...certainly not name calling and party bashing.

  • Laughable
    June 16, 2014 - 05:17

    How can the Liberal criticize Mr Coleman, and how he becoming our next premier, When we all know how Ball got to be leader of Libs. Just that no one will say its out loud.

  • Susan
    June 16, 2014 - 05:04

    How can this man stand there, and talk about the PC's mismanaged billions in oil royalties, When they even pay of their debt of 800.000, Mr Ball tell us about your district? " Please" how many family in your district living a good life, sense you became MHA.