Having a member on the government side continues to be an over arching theme in provincial politics.
Frankly, it sickens me that so many people mark their "X" on election day based on what party is expected to win verses the ability of the individual candidate to represent the best interests of the district. It is even more annoying than the dyed-in-the-wool party supporter who could care less about the candidate because the vote for a party because their father did.
My introduction to party politics came at an early age. I realized the man who ran government was in "control" and if you were offside with him - you might as well not have an MHA. Partisan politics dictated what districts received provincial money for road upgrades, community enhancement projects like playgrounds and the like.
In my mind, the province was gripped by machine politics
run out of St. John's by Brian Peckford. (not that Joey Smallwood
had not run things with a stronger iron fist) This is how my notion of
good and bad, of provincial partisan politics began. The Liberals wore
the white hats and the tories wore the black ones.
Need was second to loyalty to the governing party which was measured by support at election time. Growing up, more often than not, Fortune-Hermitage elected a member on the opposition side. Despite picture of kids like me sitting in huge pools of water filled potholes, concerns from our Liberal district were ignored by the governing Tories in the 1970's. The message was clear, vote tory or your kids can drown in those potholes.
In 1979, we elected a Tory. For a few years roads were upgraded and paved, water & sewer projects began and playgrounds were repaired. In 1985, a Liberal was elected and the door to government funding was slammed shut again.
I would like to think this foolishness was abandoned between 1989 and 1996 when Clyde Wells took a pragmatic and less partisan approach to governance. Wells preached that public money should be spent on the greatest need, no matter what side of the house that your MHA sat on. That genuine commitment to addressing our expenditures and living as best we could within our means conflicted with the hyper-partisans who wanted the spoils of power. Wells was more or less forced out and the civil service and governance became more politicized.
At some point in the post Clyde Wells period, it became clear that
getting the party, and its candidates re-elected was more important than
anything else. I was part of the machine politics that I had previously despised.
Loyalty trumped competency, you never question those in control (a sign
of disloyalty) and you rewarded the faithful.
Now the PC Party's cry of the last two elections about putting a member on the government side is about to backfire because the polls suggest they will not be the governing party after Oct 2015. If you want a member on the governing side with access to the levers of power and the ears of the cabinet, the choice is Liberal.
The bandwagon is a strong draw. Folks that had shunned the party or ran for other parties are gunning for nominations under the prevailing wisdom that the tories are on the verge of receiving an apocalyptic rejection by the voters. The Liberal ticket is a sure way into the House of Assembly. The Heinz 57 Liberal Party of Newfoundland is a big tent party, come one, come all.
The public see it, but for the most part do not care. The Liberals are not the PCs and for most that is all that matters. There is a strong ABC undercurrent that is bolstered by dumb decisions which continue to undermine confidence in those that govern us.
What will change when the current tenant of the Premier's office is thrown to the curb remains to be seen. All we can hope for is less patronage and more merit in appointments to boards and senior government positions. That capital works funding will be awarded based on need not partisan considerations. That we will begin to live within our means.
High, but worthy expectations.