Friday, May 11, 2018


In June, Premier Ball will face a confidence vote at the Liberal Annual General Meeting. This leadership review, like the convention has been delayed.

I would be surprised if he failed to muster up the needed votes. His minions are keeping a careful eye on the process and the delegates, often stamping out the scent of desent. 

A question that has been rattling around in my nogen is what’s the magic percentage required for the premier to claim he has the confidence of the party not only continue leading but to be the standard bearer in next years provincial election? 

Personally, I would set the bar at 70%  - as a minimum. I suppose 65% might be marketable but would it  reflect real confidence.

It would be a dangerous move to replace the premier just a year and a bit before the election. Is there someone in the wings that can step-up and bring the party to re-election after this turbulent term? How would succession work under such circumstances? The future is murky. A public humiliation would serve no one, least of all the Liberal Party.

That said, I cant help but pause and reflect on the history of leadership reviews and the good and bad impacts they have had on parties and respectability

The first one that comes to my mind is Joe Clark. He failed to meet the 70% (66.9) bar and subsequently resigned only to seek the leadership again and lose to Brian Mulroney in 1983.

Parti Quebecois leader Bernard Landry quit after winning a 76-per-cent endorsement, which he deemed insufficient.

Former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein endorsed was endorsed by just 55 per cent of delegates at a review. He resigned a few months later.

In this province, Liberal Leader Leo Barry won a confidence vote but his caucus subsequently decided he had to go. Barry fought the caucus but bowed out in the leadership which crowned Clyde Wells.

The one recent example that I would be paying attention to occurred in Edmonton when just 48 per cent of delegates to the NDP’s convention showed confidence in keeping Mulcair as leader. after he led the party to a disappointing third-place finish in last fall’s election.

Very few people saw it coming but dissension is inherently destabilizing. The membership quietly handed Mulcair a public rebuke for losing the previous election. Suddenly he was a liability to 52% of his own party. It is hard to imagine a leader not having the political smarts to see the writing on the wall, to feel the political temperature and know the hearts and minds of your supporters.

I am fairly concerned that misplays have alienated or disappointing enough folks to create a quiet rebuke for Ball who has been up against it since his election. How large that rebuke is will tell the tale. I am counting on sober deliberation about switching pitchers so close to an election. The cost of leaderships in a pre-writ period, the loss of focus on governing while the wannabes look for support and putting it all back together when it is all over is all risky business. 

However, the Liberals have a few advantages. The other parties have selected their leaders for the next election.  

The question of what percentage is acceptable should be tackled in advance of the vote. This could be a few interesting weeks in Newfoundland politics

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