How and why did avuncular, reasonable-man-trying-to-do-the-right-thing Opposition leader Darrell Dexter morph into prickly, why-should-I-answer-your-reasonable-question Premier Darrell Dexter?
Last week, as the House of Assembly wrapped up its fall sitting, Dexter announced—not in the legislature where you might have expected it, but in a puffed up State-of-the-Province speech to an audience of 400 Chamber-of-Commerce types—that his government had commissioned an independent study on the economics of importing electricity from the proposed Lower Churchill hydroelectric project in Labrador.
It turns out his government signed an untendered $85,000 contract with Power Advisory, a Massachusetts-based consultant, on Sept. 24, 2012. The company’s final report is expected within weeks.
What makes that announcement so intriguing, of course, is the premier had said nothing about the report before—despite ongoing opposition calls for exactly such a study and two emergency debates in the legislature.
The opposition, understandably, sniffed something nefarious. Dexter, suggested Tory leader Jamie Baillie, “has determined what he wants the outcome to be, and he wants to make sure that’s what it is before he releases the report.”
Dexter was airily dismissive. He hadn’t seen the report, he told reporters.
So why had he waited so long to mention it?
“I told you about it when it was appropriate to tell you,” he non answered.
No, but really? Why not announce it … any time before now?
“It’s not a riddle,” Dexter said. “I’m not trying to be anything but forthright,” he said, being everything but.
It’s hard to remember now but Dexter—before he discovered the perks of premier power—was once considered a straight-talking, sense-making pragmatist.
As his government gears up for re-election, its real problem is not what Dexter called our “fractured political landscape of successive governments going from majority to minority status and then being replaced,” or even—generally speaking—its policies. Its record, though far from inspiring, is defensible, especially in these straitened economic times. And some of its big picture, down-the-road plans—including the Lower Churchill and the shipbuilding contract—offer at least the prospect of a better tomorrow.
But until—and unless—Dexter rediscovers what brought him to power in the first place, his party’s own short-term political prospects seem unlikely to improve.