Capital Beat column
The fall session of legislature should prove to be one of the most interesting in close to a decade.
One of the big questions, of course, is what role Morell-Mermaid MLA Olive Crane will play. It has been some time since there has been somebody inside the rail without any party affiliation. The last was Allison Ellis, a former Liberal cabinet minister who broke ranks over planned changes to Community Hospital planned by the Joe Ghiz government.
The rules for independents like Crane are very different than for Dr. Herb Dickieson. Dr. Dickieson had the title of Leader of the Third Party, and had an office and a small research budget.
Crane has been given an office but no staff. Any expenses incurred by the office must come out of her own pocket. She is also not entitled to the time for questions given to a third party leader, although Speaker Carolyn Bertram has been talking with her about a time allotment.
The only upside for Crane is the fact she will be free to criticize the actions of not only the government but the party that dumped her unceremoniously on a Friday afternoon when she was coaching a kids’ soccer team.
It will also be a new role for Tignish-Palmer Road MLA Hal Perry. When the house adjourned in May, he was Opposition house leader. Now, he is a government backbencher – the first politician in recent Island history to cross the floor. While he is likely to be a frequent target of Opposition attacks, he won’t have to take any questions as a backbencher. That doesn’t mean he won’t be the target of sniping from his three former colleagues on the Opposition benches.
However, Opposition Leader Steve Myers, James Aylward and Colin LaVie would be well-advised not to get carried away with scoring political points against Perry.
They have to begin what promises to be a long journey towards bringing the party back to respectability in the eyes of voters. It is almost a certainty the next quarterly omnibus poll by Corporate Research Associates will produce the worst showing ever for a main line party.
They have to start the rebuilding job with a strong performance in the house. They have been little more than a political sideshow for almost a year and they have to send a signal to Islanders in general that the circus is leaving town. That will help to attract potential candidates for the leadership convention next year.
One of the hot topics of debate is sure to be the planned changes to the civil service pension plan. Already the unions involved are talking about planning protests at Province House, the likes of which have not been seen since the Catherine Callbeck government reduced salaries by 7.5 per cent.
Add it all together, and it promises to be an exciting fall for Island political junkies that could possibly rival the Senate debate in Ottawa.