4 years is a long time in politics. Issues change. Society changes. Leaders change – sometimes more than once. As we head into a provincial election this Fall, TheIndependent.ca is taking a look back at the 2007 election – a time before Danny Williams and his PCs achieved total political dominance; a time when the energy issue of the day was Hebron; a time when the MHA spending scandal was still the talk of the town.
Today we look at an interview Ivan Morgan conducted with a MUN political scientist on the state of the Liberal Party for the September 14, 2007 issue. Thus far in the 2011 election the Liberal team, despite a leadership change only a month ago, has run a relatively polished campaign. This was not the case early into the 2007 campaign.
Getting their act together
Alleged Liberal disarray threatens democracy: professor
By Ivan Morgan
The Independent | September 14, 2007
A Memorial University political scientist says the overwhelming lead of the Danny Williams Conservatives is not good for democracy, and it’s time for opposition parties to step up to the plate.
Michael Temelini says the Tory government’s 76 per cent approval rating doesn’t mean they need all 48 seats in the provincial legislature. He says the Liberal party has to get its act together and its message straight in order to protect democracy in the province.
“I don’t think it is good for democracy if we don’t have an opposition,” Temelini tells The Independent.
He says he’s reluctant to say anything negative about the opposition parties — the NDP or Liberals — because neither party needs any more bad publicity.
“The sad fact is this province needs a strong opposition and these guys have got to get organized.”
Recent Liberal party missteps — including cancelling a Gerry Reid speaking engagement with the Corner Brook Board of Trade — are fuelling rumours that the party is in free-fall.
“It makes me wonder who’s running the Liberal party,” says Temelini.
Reid says rumours of his party being in trouble, along with whispers of possible poor health, amount to negative spin from the other side.
“Everything is great, I haven’t felt healthier in the last 15 years,” Reid says.
“It sort of bothers me that they are getting into this crap,” he says. “I have been listening to it for a month now through the rumour mill.”
He says he will not run a negative campaign.
“I have always run what I call an above-board campaign, and you can ask anyone in my district in the last three elections,” says Reid. “I’ve never said a negative remark about my opponent. And when people try to bait me into doing that, I just refuse to do it.”
Temelini says the Liberals have to develop clear policy or risk confusing the public. He says they look disorganized “and that’s not a good thing.”
The Tory energy plan announcements, says Temelini, seem to have caught the Liberals off guard.
“I don’t think they really know how to respond to the government’s energy policy.”
He says the Liberals have cornered themselves in a “right-of-centre position,” which he says does not make sense.
As an example, Temelini notes some of the most vocal Liberal candidates are people from the Clyde Wells-era, candidates like Simon Lono, who Temelini says has published op-ed pieces stating a case against offshore oil royalties and ownership.
“He essentially, from a political point of view, sounds like a Conservative. In a sense it confuses the public. You have a government that is embracing this kind of centre-left position, in terms of resource ownership, and you’ve got the Liberals coming from where? Where are they coming from?”
He says the Liberals are sending out a “strange message” with a Conservative-sounding candidate like Lono and a left-of-centre leader like Reid.
“They’ve got to get their messaging straight, and focussed, otherwise this campaign is going to be a mess for them,” says Temelini.
Reid also dismisses rumours that Liberal candidates are feeling isolated from the campaign.
He says any candidate with a problem can call him, noting Bellevue candidate Denise Pike contacted him recently concerning allegations her opponent was raising issues regarding her health on the campaign trail.
“It upset the lady,” says Reid, “and I don’t blame her. But that’s just politics, but it’s not the game that we’re going to play, or at least its not the game that I‘m going to play.”