If you want to understand the un-understandable appeal of Donald Trump, you could do worse than begin with Stephen McNeil.
That is not as far-fetched as it might initially seem. We are not talking here about Stephen McNeil, the individual, but Stephen McNeil, the symbolic end result of far too many years of all-too-usual politics as strategic gamesmanship. Everywhere.
But let’s make this parochial, non-partisan.
Start with our last Tory premier, Rodney MacDonald. In 2006, MacDonald won his first mandate as premier by roaming the province dispensing grants to provincial libraries and hog farmers, “gripping and grinning for the cameras like an over-the-top, out-of-control John Buchanan.” Three years later, still gripping and grinning and proclaiming a budget surplus he knew did not exist, MacDonald was defeated by our first NDP premier, Darrell Dexter, who claimed to be able to walk on the water of maintaining public services while not increasing taxes. Even though he too knew better.
Four years — and one “temporary” increase in HST followed by his own fallaciously “balanced” budget — he too was replaced by our latest Liberal premier, Stephen McNeil.
McNeil had wisely declared “I will not make commitments that I cannot deliver on,” then unwisely committed to make Nova Scotia Power shareholders pay the costs of Efficiency Nova Scotia while not asking Nova Scotians to fund their profits (uh…); end corporate handouts (can you say Yarmouth-Portland ferry?); become “the most open and transparent province in Canada” (before deciding a year later we were open enough); and maintaining the film tax credit until 2020 (that sound you don’t hear is the province’s film industry).
If you believe the media punditi, McNeil is now gearing up to ask us for a new mandate — two-and-a-half years before its time — based on yet another happy-talk, election-year, faux balanced budget, based on over-stated revenues, public sector contracts not signed and enough cupboards-no-longer-bare fiscal jiggery-pokery to fund a new hospital, more money for child care and a chicken in every microwave.
It may work long enough to count the ballots, but it will not really work. And voters — who should also know better — will only become more cynical.
It’s exactly that cynicism that breeds Donald Trumps.
Thanks Stephen, Darrell, Rodney and all the rest who’ve brought us to this sorry pass.