So it was interesting to read some of the reaction to Steve Kent announcing he was running for the PC's in Mount Pearl North, Waterford Valley or whatever they're calling it these day. Liberals are having a finally tuned sense of outrage that Kent appeared to be a Liberal for the past several years and now, in the last few months, has apparently had a change of heart. He's now not a Liberal, but instead a Danny Williams Tory. They're citing political opportunism.
If it is political opportunism, then Kent is in good company. As in, the history of politics in Newfoundland for decades has been that it is far easier to back an apparent winner than a sure loser. How many people discovered their Liberal stripes when Tobin looked unbeatable? Or when Wells was crowned? Or Peckford?
I honestly don't know the difference between the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party in Newfoundland, and haven't for years. I honestly don't know if most of the sitting MHAs do either. Where's the difference in economic or social policy? I don't know. On taxes? On business development? I haven't seen it.
One party gets a strong leader, gets in power, a bunch of people flock to that party sensing and opportunity, that party begins to outlast it's stay, the opposition gets their own carasimatic leader and the balance shifts. And then we start all over again.
Where's the difference in policy? Got me beat.
So do I blame Kent for being one of the hordes of people who view winning the Conservative nomination being as good as winning the election itself? No. He's just joining a very long line.
But here's the thing, I really thought Kent was smarter than that. Whatever his pros and cons, I thought he had better insight than that. Maybe I'm missing something. But Kent will, in all probability, will win the seat. The combination of Danny's coattails and his own personal popularity will see to that.
And then? Well, maybe he gets a cabinet position. I'm not really sure you need two former Mount Pearl mayors in cabinet (Denine is a parlimentary secretary, as I recall) in cabinet. So maybe he sits in the backbenches. And Dannyworld will only last so much longer. He's not talking about seeking a third term, which means he's probably stepping down in 2009 or so. And all bets are off after that. Maybe the new leader isn't as popular. God knows what happens. Maybe the tide shifts and the Conservatives get turfed.
Honestly, I think I'm disappointed because the bold move was there for Kent. He could have stuck with the Liberals and ran for them in the coming provincial election. It would have been a damn sight harder to win, going against the Danny tide, but I think he could have done it.
And then Kent is part of a new, young wave of Liberals, who can stand up in the House of Assembly and inject some blood into the opposition. And assuming he does his job, he's the presumptive favourite to lead the provincial Liberals into the 2011 election.
But instead, he followed the heard over to the Conservatives. Disappointing, really.
Perhaps this was asked to him at the press conference and I didn't see it or read it, but I'm genuinely curious about the following questions:
1. What are Steve Kent's views on how the economy should be handled in Newfoundland and Labrador.
2. What are his views on matters of social policy?
3. How do they mesh with the current social and economic platforms in the Conservative Party?
4, How do they differ with the ones offered by the Liberal Party? Or for that matter the NDP?
Maybe he does have them thought out. Maybe the Conservatives genuinely do mesh better with his views than the Liberals. If so, good for him and he made the right move.
If not and it's just following the herd...well, that's disappointing.