When Danny Williams finally landed the Atlantic Accord I quipped that he was a lock to win the next provincial election until they found kiddie porn on his computer or something. Which is a good line and all, but not entirely true. Granted, it would be very difficult at this point for Williams to lose the next election.
However, I'm pretty certain one of the provincial ferries sinking with all hands aboard might just do it. They're getting lucky so far. This incident could have been much worse. Lives could have been lost. And having your Transportation Minister on record as saying something like this...
"We're going to have to deal with the fact that we only have so many ferries in the fleet. We have a very old fleet...We just can't go out and pick up a ferry down alongside the wharf that's waiting to be leased. That's just not available."
Which is essentially saying "We know people could die because our ferries are decrepit, but we're certainly not going to take an extraordinary measures and spend money."
It's the political equivalent of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. It's worked so far. It might keep working for quite some time. But if one of those ferries sink and people die, what with a report out there critical of the fleet, the Transportation Minister shrugging his shoulders and the Premier apparently uninterested, well, if it wasn't terminal for the current government then it certainly would be very damaging.
I appreciate that speculating on a disaster that would cost lives and its political impact is a touch cold. But somewhere in the halls of government that calculation has already been made, I'm sure. And yeah, the Liberals are just as guilty as the Conservatives for the state of the ferry fleet. They ignored it for the better part of the 14 years they were in power.
But people aren't going to remember the Liberals, although I'm sure the Conservatives would try awfully hard to spin in that way. They'll remember a report came out saying the fleet was in terrible shape and that the government went basically said there was nothing they could do for a couple more years.
So if a ferry goes down, it might just take a government with it.