Tuesday, January 21, 2014

REFLECTIONS ON THE FLIGHT OF LANE


Politics is a dirty game.


That truism was reinforced yesterday when Paul Lane made the two sword length walk from the government benches to the opposition pews.


I have followed and been engaged in the “game” since my early teenage years. I studied political science, public administration and journalism remaining a passionate student of politics.


Since my late teens many people have said, “when are you going to run” or “you should be a politician”.  The truth is my desire to make a difference in the political arena has been extinguished by the reality that it is a game.  A game where being disingenuous, the seduction of power, the lure of personal benefits and bloated egos triumph over “making a difference.”


I do not know a lot about Paul Lane, except that he is a former Mount Pearl City Councilor who successfully transitioned to provincial politics as the M.H.A for Mount Pearl South.  He is civic minded and is passionate about his adopted city. He appears to be a zealot for the causes that he believes in.


Over the past couple of years, I have developed an adversarial Twitter relationship with Mr. Lane. I have met him on a couple of occasions at #nlpoli meet-ups and through government business.


As a backbench M.H.A Lane quickly carved out a role as a government pit-bull. He was a fixture on public affairs programs and the social media. No disparaging comment against the Dunderdale Administration went unchallenged. No on-line poll on popularity was safe from manipulation. Lane was a vital cog in the government’s propaganda campaign to manufacture consent for job cuts, the Lower Churchill, Bill 29 and other controversial policies.


A modern day gladiator in the coliseum of partisan politics. A long time supporter of the P.C Party, he accepted a promotion to Parliamentary Secretary while Liberal upstart turned tory, Steve Kent was appointed to Cabinet. 


Yet, from the outside, there was no more stalwart  supporter of the administration than Paul Lane.


But…there were cracks. Despite our adversarial, cat and mouse public exchanges, in private, Lane expressed many of the frustrations that he spoke of in his press conference to me. He was unhappy with the limitations imposed on backbenchers, the tyranny of some cabinet ministers, the lack of empathy at the top, the lack of respect. He was not a Conservative, but a Progressive, a Liberal. Despite these concerns he marched on paying particular attention those constituents that employed him.


I was surprised, not shocked to hear that Lane was joining the Liberal Party.  He enjoys being an MHA, but the disastrous string of missteps by the Premier combined with a paranoid caucus where expressing concerns equated to disloyalty -smothered his enthusiasm.  No doubt, as a Caucus Chair he listened to his disgruntled colleagues who bitched about what was going on but cowered in the shadows for fear of loosing their entitlements. The straw that broke the camels back was the Premier’s perceived poor performance during the recent blackout “crisis”.


Politics is a zero-sum game, you win or you lose. Lane could no longer go on watching his political capital dwindle. He proved that he was a team player, but he was not prepared to be a lemming and blindly leap over the political cliff, ending his political career prematurely.


Sure the P.C’s feel bamboozled. Should they feel surprised that government MHAs want to defect? Frankly, no. They never hesitated to poach when the opportunity presented itself. The only surprise should have been that the internal and external dissatisfaction claimed their loyal enforcer. If Paul Lane picked up and left, who is next? How deep is the caucus discontent?


The truth is that Paul Lane was no longer willing to play the game Kathy’s way and that meant he had to leave or be undermined like Tom Osborne, Jerome Kennedy and Paul Oram were.



I spent a lot of time around the House of Assembly in November and December. There appeared to be a private consensus from the government MHAs, ministers and staff that the Premier was going to announce her resignation this Winter, set a date for the convention and hand over the reigns of power when the process was over. The un-official race to succeed Dunderdale was on.


The truth is that there is a great divide in the PC caucus. The Premier best-before date has expired. She has not shared her exit plan with them. There is concern that her public pronouncements that she is not going anywhere are genuine – not the lingo of a leader that is pushing off but not wanting to become a lame duck in the interim.


Paul Lane is a thoroughly decent and credible man, who works hard for his district, his community and his province but felt the leadership of his party was no longer in step with his ideological agenda. 


Opportunist? Survivor? Principled? You are entitled to your own opinion.


He has rolled the dice.


His future will be decided by his own actions and ultimately by the voters of Mount Pearl South.

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