Wednesday, April 24, 2013

THE BIG LAND DEBATE PRODUCES A CUNNING POISON PILL

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I have watched/listened to plenty of political debates over the years, seldom do they determine the outcome of the campaign. 

I can think of only a couple. Brian Mulroney destroyed John Turner over patronage appointments when he said “you had a choice”. It was a game changer that brought Mulroney to the PMO, a knockout punch that robbed Turner of his credibility and integrity. 

The other game changing comment actually took place in the closing statements of the mayoral race for the city of St. John’s.  In his closing comment, Jack Harris made an uncharacteristic jab at Andy Wells, I paraphrase “It takes more than hanging out on the deck at the Sundance with a beer in one hand and a cell phone in the other to be mayor”. The comment landed flat. The room booed and Harris went down to a narrow defeat on election night. 

The big questions coming out of the Big Land Debate are: Who won? Who lost and most importantly, will the debate impact how people vote. 

The messages of Labrador first, of hostility towards the island have been strategically deployed to fan the fires of Labrador nationalism. Penashue's best hope of re-election is to been seen as the best chance Labrador has at escaping the leash of St. John’s and the colonial exploitation of it’s precious resources.  

From the outside perspective as a spectator, one would think that Peter Penashue’s last minute allegations that Yvonne Jones had robbed the public purse and had her MHA salary garnisheed would be the game ender. Such a slanderous comment should lead to legal litigation that will cost Peter The Cheater dearly. His swipe should be the final nail in the coffin that is his political career.

What he has attempted to do is layout a simple message. We all make mistakes. Often those we trust to look after the rules such as our financial accounting, make mistakes. It is hypocritical to single me out. The truth of the allegation of attached wages is not nearly as important as the fact that Jones did have repay money resulting from the investigations into spending at the House of Assembly. She was not alone. She did not commit fraud. It was an honest mistake by staff. Right down to signing off on the expenses.  Underlings make mistakes. See where this is going?

The message for the people of Labrador is, we all make mistakes, some of us apologize for them, some of us resign our seats to clear the air. The gambit is clear, are Labradorian’s prepared to toss out a Cabinet Minister over mistakes made by staff, when the Liberal candidate has weathered “similar” financial issues.  It would be awful hypocritical.

I am not saying Peter the Cheater’s violations of the Federal Elections Act are justifiable, or that the approach taken by Penashue is ethical. I am saying that now journalist will have to focus on Yvonne Jones ethical record and alleged overspending.  She will have to discuss issues related to double billing, that up to this point had been buried, or at the very least forgotten. 

Peter will have leveled the playing field for votes in Goose Bay, where this election will be decided.
This is Labrador politics exposed and in the raw. 

Penashue is Labrador’s Spartacus. He is leading a slave revolt. It is all or nothing. 

It is a heck of a Hail Mary play, but in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king!

Who won the debate? Yvonne Jones, hands down. 

The only question remaining, will Penashue’s poison pill make a difference to the outcome of the race? Will it send votes his way or send votes to the NDP?

If it does, than this debate changed the course of this by-election.

Stay tuned.

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