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Some post-PC leadership convention thoughts, Part 2

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Thoughout this whole campaign right up to the candidate speeches at the convention, civility ruled. No cheap shots, in fact not even mild criticism of each other. At least not in public. Privately, there was buzz of one rival team not being made to feel welcome at another’s hospitality suite the night before but that’s pretty normal stuff.

And also as is normal, emotions surfaced at the end, and just before it.

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One thing I and I don’t think anybody saw coming, was Jake Stewart throwing his support behind Monica Barley after he was eliminated. Keep in mind a good number of Jake’s supporters were of the People’s Alliance persuasion, with bilingualism and duality atop their agenda, and they were not about to follow their candidate into the camp of a French woman who came out of the University of Moncton. I overheard a huddle of them after this intriguing development and to say the least they were not happy campers. Jake best clear up some time in his schedule for some fence mending, including in his own riding.

Emotions ran raw when it was down to the final two, Mel Norton and Blaine Higgs, the two camps whom more than any others did not like each other.

As I stood chatting with some folks at the main Aitken Centre doors as those who had hung in until the end were leaving, a friend still wearing a Mel Norton tee shirt said to me as he was going by “Know who is happiest this evening? – Brian Gallant”.

It’s understandable that when you pour your effort, energy and emotion into getting your guy (or gal) elected, and it doesn’t happen, there’s a tremendous letdown, and there’s bitterness. It usually subsides, but that comment, and others like it, speaks to the huge task facing Blaine Higgs.

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There are those who feel the party blew it because they don’t believe a unilingual leader can win an election in New Brunswick. Higgs has to try to convince them that his approach focused on returning New Brunswick to economic stability will appeal to the whole province and that they shouldn’t give up on the party’s chances to form government in 2018.

Then there are those fellow PC MLAs who he has alienated. Note that neither of the contenders who are sitting MLAs went to him after they were eliminated. Not saying it is because they felt alienated, but...

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Other Tory MLAs I spoke with mentioned how much they felt Higgs bashed them with his comments that he couldn’t do what he wanted to fix our economy when he was Finance Minister because they held him back.

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I also couldn’t help but notice there was no outward sign of solidarity after the vote was announced. No Mel Norton or any other candidate on stage to congratulate Higgs and ask that the vote be made unanimous. Maybe because it was late and everyone was anxious to leave, but such a gesture is often an unspoken convention at these things.

So aside from learning how to speak French, he’s got his work cut out for him getting his own caucus on side. Realize he won this thing with grass roots support, not the support of his fellow MLAs. So while the grass roots may share dissatisfaction with the traditional political status quo and share an appetite for a different, less political approach, that’s not to say his fellow Tories who have to get elected share that view.

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Higgs, who is quick to identify himself as not being a career politician, needs to convince his caucus, some of whom are just that, to stop thinking only of delivering goodies to their own ridings and think more of what is best for the province. Some though, might see this departure from the status quo as reducing their odds of winning. There are some strong personalities in that caucus, so it could be a tough sell.

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This “doing politics differently” is much more than a slogan or cliché for Higgs. If you are interested in knowing what that is all about, I recommend a detailed interview on Dennis Atchison’s The Dennis Report. Be forewarned though that it is an hour long, apparently because Dennis never got the memo that these things have to be short to attract viewers. That’s half in jest, the interview really does offer great insight if you want to take the time. You can find it here.  

But politics is the art of compromise, and so it will be telling to see how much he will have to compromise on doing politics differently in order to build a united team. Oh, what I would give to be a fly on the wall at their next caucus meeting.

Thanks for reading. Now if you feel so inclined, please forward within your networks. ReTweets always appreciated.

 

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