Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Out of Touch

This morning VOCM is carrying the type of story I discussed yesterday:
Loggers' Protest May Resume Thursday
June 24, 2009

"The protest on the Northern Peninsula is over - at least for now. Forestry workers blocked part of the Northern Peninsula Highway to draw attention to their plight. Many jobs in their industry have disappeared over the last while, and they're asking government to step in and help. One of the protestors, Ralph Payne of the Loggers Association, says they haven't been able to get much of an ear from area MHA's Trevor Taylor and Wally Young. On VOCM BackTalk with Bill Rowe, Payne said they will give government a day or so, then take to the streets again tomorrow if they don't get a satisfactory answer."

While the Premier attacks anyone who dares to doubt his messianic campaign against skepticism, many of the people in NL (certainly the majority outside of St. John's) do not share his optimistic correctness. They know that there is a global recession going on, but they're frustrated by the government's lack of understanding, empathy, or even dialogue about the stressful situation facing many people in rural communities. With everything running through the 8th floor, Tory MHA's are unable to respond to local problems as they arise.

The Liberals need to target the Tories' regional weaknesses and expose the government's reluctance to deal honestly, directly, and sincerely with the genuine concerns of people living in rural communities. They need to point out that Danny Williams has never understood rural NL. There is a growing disconnect between Williams' flashy rhetoric about being the centre of the universe and the hard reality of local communities facing difficult choices. In my view, this disconnect should be the Liberals' primary political target.

While Williams' meltdown on VOCM attracted the lion's share of the media coverage (for understandable reasons), the story about loggers who cannot get the government's attention is the real canary in the coal mine. For the Liberals, the message is clear: the Tories are out of touch.

If you look at the fall of Smallwood and Peckford, arguably the most effective argument used against them is that they had become arrogant and had lost touch with the needs and attitudes of ordinary people. Williams' oversized personality, his wealth and business connections, and his slick pizzazz may be his greatest political assets, but they're also potentially his greatest weaknesses. Since 2003 he has used populist nationalism to mask the fact that he is the epitome of the St. John's elite; but as the VOCM story and others illustrate, chinks in the armour are starting to appear with greater regularity, and the Liberals need to exploit this opportunity.

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