Graham Steele quits. And the most intriguing question is…


Last week’s surprise cabinet shuffle raises are all sorts of intriguing questions.

For starters, did Finance Minister Graham Steele jump, or was he pushed? If he jumped, was it because of a tiff with Premier Darrell Dexter over the province’s fiscal future?

Does Steele want Dexter’s job? If so, is quitting just a John-Turner/Jean-Chretien/Paul-Martin/Harry-Houdini return-to-win-another-day tactic?

And—striking fear in the hearts of Chambers of Commerce presidents everywhere—does Steele’s departure now mean the socialist hordes are loose among the innocents?

Most of those questions have less to do with any objective reality than with the troubling-to-us-in-the-media truth we didn’t see this coming. We must therefore divine darker explanations.

But let’s think about it.

Graham Steele wasn’t pushed; he pushes back. If he’d been shoved aside, we’d have heard it from his own lips.

It’s equally unlikely Steele flagged from any fiscal fight. He’s still winning. Read Darrell Dexter’s I-pledge-allegiance-to-a-balanced-budget lips. Besides, Steele had the clout, inside and outside government, to continue to hold Dexter’s feet to the back-to-balance fire should he want to pull back.

And this is—to answer that question—hardly a socialist-hordes kind of administration.


As for hungering to be premier himself, read Steele’s own lips from an interview I did with him two months ago: “I know myself and I’m not capable of political leadership… My ability is to work in a supporting role to those true political leaders and help them achieve that vision.”

Federal politics seems a more likely ultimate destination. The national NDP is on the upswing. Steele, who has star potential, was a Mulcair leadership backer. And he’d have a good shot at unseating Liberal Geoff Regan in Halifax West.

For now, however, let’s accept Steele’s not unreasonable explanation. He has a wife with an equally stressful job and school-aged kids. He’s gone as far as he can, for now, in provincial politics. Since he didn’t plan to run in the next election, this was the time to step aside and allow Dexter to bring in some fresh backbench talent.

Which, of course, raises the most intriguing but unasked question from last week’s shuffle: why is Howard Epstein still the smartest NDP MLA not inside the cabinet room?

Now that is intriguing.

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