Tonight's debate on the proposed Muskrat Fall's power development has the potential to be a defining moment for interim (wannabe) Liberal Party Leader, Dwight Ball. It is not quite the televised leader's debate, but for the post-election leader of the fledgling grits, much is on the line.
The Liberals, frankly have not been clear on what their position is, or at least they have not articulated it well. There is a hesitation, there is criticism but there is not alternative plan. It has been a scatter gun approach at best.
Now the leader, freshly back from a month of the Florida sun, has to articulate the party's criticism of the process in an informed, passionate and direct way. While the ears of the province are tuned in, Ball has an opportunity to define himself.
So far, Ball has not ignited the party. Frankly, I think it is much too early to pass judgement on him. The House of Assembly has not even opened yet. However, the word from many liberal observers is that he represents the status quo and has the charisma of a door-to-door vacuum salesman. Fair, perhaps not, but in the political world perception is reality. So, here is a chance to adjust that perception, to be viewed as a leader that is up to the task of being a premier in waiting.
I imagine that Dwight is getting the best advice possible for a radio debate. He has world class debater Simon Lono on staff and the Opposition Office has been availing of Cathy Dornan Public Affairs for media training. I imagine that he will also have some advice from former Consumer Advocate Dennis Browne. He should know his file and be prepared.
Radio is forum that he should have a slight edge in. If there is one communication reality about the Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy, it is that radio and TV are not kind to him. He has a pitchy voice, that does not work well on radio. He sounds angry, indifferent and often arrogant. NDP Leader Lorraine Micheal, can be pushy, aggressive and focused - like a dog to a bone. Ball needs to be articulate, informed, respectful, insightful and back up his points.
Jerome's voice may be off-putting, but he is a skilled debater, who knows how to make a point, and he will have a thorough knowledge of the proposed arrangement. He will not hesitate, he will sound articulate, he will come off as knowledgeable.
My advice to the opposition, float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Stick it to the government on the PUB extension issue. If it is a good deal and the Emera piece is still not settled, why not let the PUB have the time it needs to do a through job? I think that message will resonate as a sensible approach with listeners.
This is not a night for helping of political rhetoric.
The debate will take place at the VOCM
Studios in St. John’s, airing on stations in
Marystown, Gander, GFW, Corner Brook, Stephenville, and across Labrador. It will begin at Wednesday night, 7pm (630 in
This is an opportunity to shine, or fail. It is an opportunity to define the issues, to point out the differences on approach, and make articulate concerns.
It is not a night for mediocrity.