Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Next Battle

As the Glib is reporting, there appears to be a new front opening up in Danwar:

The local media have been slow to pick up the story. I suspect that Bond Papers and especially Labradore will weigh in soon with the facts. But for Dangovt -- which, in a strange inversion of Clausewitz, sees politics as war by other means -- the facts won't matter as much as the politics.

So let's consider the politics. According to the Glib:

1) "Simply by participating in the joint Quebec-Ottawa environmental assessment panel, the federal government appears to have given tacit approval to Quebec's claim."

2) ..."a constitutional battle may be in the making if Ottawa doesn't act soon to support Newfoundland and Labrador's claim to the land."

3) "A spokesperson for Mr. Williams said yesterday the Premier refuses to say whether he will act to stop Premier Jean Charest from proceeding with the Romaine River hydroelectric project."

Though the first two assertions have to be substantiated, we can take the third as a fact, at least for now. While DW has been on a national media binge, he is refusing to say anything publicly. It's not like Dangovt to keep its powder dry, but DW may have little choice in the short-term.

Let's look at Dangovt's political options:

1) Appeal directly to Harpoid

2) Use cabinet representation [Mackay] within Tory caucus

3) Use MP's to lobby Feds

4) Appeal to Charest

5) Appeal to Ig

6) Wild card

The first three are so dead on arrival that the bodies are blue.

The fourth is at least possibe, but it's hard to see how it would work, since there is little incentive for Charest to negotiate at this stage. DW's letter to the NP implicitly called Charest a coward for failing to join DW's anti-Harpoid campaign. Hard to see what Charest, who has to cover his own nationalist flank, would gain for risking a Duffy-style rendezvous.

The fifth is also possible, but I doubt whether Ig would waste political capital on something that's a vote-loser in Quebec. And as the lastest Danfit illustrated, DW has Ig's Liberal MP's on the speed-dial.

This leaves only the Wild Cards, which could run from some sort of legal challenge to a mass mobilization of Wingnut Nation. The upside of rallying the wingnuts is that it would provide a useful distraction from Dangovts failings, from Prezgate to Harpoid's cash grab, and it would provide yet another rallying cry for the upcoming April Fools Party.

The trouble is not only that the wingnut option might not work; it could also spin out of DW's control. For two generations, the road to Newfoundland nationalism has run through Labrador's hydroelectric resources, and stirring up the boundary dispute would stoke populist sentiments that could spin out of control. It's one thing to pit the province against the feds, something all premiers do from time to time (though it's usually more extreme in NL than the rest of English Canada); it's quite another thing to pit Newfoundland nationalists against Quebec nationalists.

But if past patterns are any indication, DW will pick the wild card and squeeze it for all its worth. The amount of national media coverage DW has attacted over the past month has been remarkable (including a NP editorial yesterday), but it's not sustainable, especially given an economy in free-fall. And whipping Wingnut Nation into another frenzy will backfire if DW cannot deliver. If he mounts another Danwar on this front and it doesn't work, the end-game won't be pretty for anyone. It's no accident, I suspect, that DW has started musing so publicly about separatism.

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