The fun begins

Somebody from the Miramichi told me “never mess with Tanker”. In fact, the rumours were swirling during the hospital cuts that he would leave the Tory ranks. He didn’t then, but he does now.

There is starting to be a bit of trend here. It has taken 6.5 years but it seems clear to me that Premier Lord doesn’t engender a lot of loyalty. When Elvy quit, he said ‘nobody’s replaceable’. I have heard through the grapevine that a number of staffers were let go with equal nonchalance. Work like a dog for me and then don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out.

Leaving Malley out of Cabinet is one thing. Telling the Canadian Press that the guy who holds the balance of power asked for bribes to stay in the party is another:

Lord told the Canadian Press he could’ve have held onto Malley as a Conservative if he had agreed to a series of demands Malley made after being left out of the latest cabinet shuffle.

Lord said Malley asked him for several political favours. They included the appointment of a friend as a judge and more money for his Miramichi constituency office.

The friend, Fredericton lawyer Cleveland Allaby, told CP: “This whole thing about a judicial appointment is bull**.”

It’s obvious the Lord wants an election, soon. That’s why Elvy, Mesheau, et. al. announced their intention not to run almost two years in advance – they knew this was coming.

Actually, as I have mentioned before, this is not a bad time for Lord to call an election. It is well in advance of the potentially devastating Census data that will start coming out early in 2007. He can run as a good friend of the “Prime Minister” and there is no guarantee he could say that in 2007. He will be running in advanced of a power rate increase that we will all feel acutely in our wallets (a so-called pocket book issue). Imagine the average NBer figuring out they spent several hundred dollars more on electricity and having that tied by the media and the Liberals to Lepreau, Orimulsion, etc. (rightly or wrongly). He will be running before the mill closes in the Miramichi – likely in 2007 – unless there is a miracle. All in all, a spring or even summer election in 2006 (when does the house sit?) would be about the best time for him.

*He could run on the low unemployment rate (the opposition still hasn’t figured out how to say our unemployment rate is second highest in North America and that Saskatchewan has a 4% unemployment rate and is freaking out about population decline).

*He could run on his friendship to Stephen Harper and maybe even have old Peter Mackay do a swing or two through the province.

*The Opposition may be caught off guard and still not ready. Has Claudette agreed to run?

Bottom line – it won’t be any better next year. If the public buys these little statistic slights of hand and wants to align their Premier with the PM, then maybe he can win. He then can manage through all these upcoming crises (Census, pulp mill closures, etc.) and then bow out after 10-11 years in power and still be a teenybopper politically speaking. Heck, by then the Federal Tories may be looking around again. If he loses, he has a lot more political options with the PCs in power federally as they are now (patronage, crown corps., biding his time until he can run federally, etc.).

As of right now, my prediction would be that he will get hammered. Claudette will run and hug everybody to death. Graham can dole out promises like any opposition party. Lord will probably still win most of Moncton and Fredericton seats but nowhere else. The Tories may be reduced to 15 seats or so.

Then the Desseruds, Savoies, et. al. will weigh in on what went wrong. He was too arrogant some ex ministers will say. He was too indecisive some local economic development officials will say. He was too young some pompous blogger will write.

Then the cycle will start over again. Out with the old, in with the new.

But in 2013 or so, will things have substantially changed? Will prosperity abound? Will Al Hogan continue to sing Lord’s praises – in whatever capacity he finds himself?

The only question now is when Tanker will pull the trigger. Based on my limited exposure to the Miramichi, he will look like a hero in that community. Lord’s comments about ‘political favours’ are obviously to sully this image of Tanker but I don’t think it will work. He (Tanker)will look courageous to most Miramichiers who are understandably worried about the future and who legitimately feel that nothing is being done. Lord’s message of small business tax cuts, ‘sound’ fiscal management, etc. don’t matter much when your community is ‘Tanking’ – no pun intended.