Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Is Steve Kent Planning to Make NL Great Again?

Is Steve Kent Planning to Make NL Great Again?

By: Ryan Young

Despite all of the media hype and wishful thinking, the race is over and the bad man has won. There is a lot of shock going around on social media today, with people shaking their heads and asking how this could have happened? I tried my best to avoid this marathon election like the plague. With all of the problems we are facing here in Newfoundland and Labrador, it was hard to justify expending energy on a foreign election that had gone so far off the rails. But should people really be surprised at the result?

It was easy to get caught up in all of the media hype and spin. From emails to assault, there has been no shortage of side shows to distract people from what was really happening among the electorate. None of the pundits seemed able to recognize the growing discontent in America towards the establishment, and the media ignored all but the most hard-core Trump supporters, painting them all as hillbilly “deplorable's.” They failed to take into account how many closet Trump voters were waiting in the wings. These voters decided the election. They didn’t want to be publicly associated with Trump’s “crazy” views, but they were fed up enough with the status quo that they were willing to take a chance on him, rather than deal with another for years of business as usual in Washington.

All throughout the campaign the narrative was about how Trump’s support came from the dark, uneducated underbelly of America. He was endorsed by both the Christian right and the KKK, and he threw a rock into the hornet’s nest of immigration with his stance on Mexicans and Muslims. He was shown to be a racist, a bigot, a sexist, and a man who has no qualms about mocking people with disabilities, yet he was elected without much difficulty at all by a large majority of the American People. His promises to build walls and ban Muslims were met with a sympathetic ear by millions of people, but the truth lies in the demographic numbers. Despite the claims about the identity of his support base, Trump was able to carry 52% of educated white men and 30% of women voters. This is a clear indication that there is something very wrong with the US political system and people wanted change, no matter how crude that change might be. For many voters, anything was better than the status quo. This should be a wake-up call to political leaders everywhere, that people are waking up and they want the power back.

What effects this election may have on Newfoundland and Labrador are yet to be seen. Trump’s promises to break down free trade deals are met with conflicting views. Some believe it could be a great thing for our economy, while others caution that it would be regressive. We will have to wait and see how things play out policy-wise, but we have certainly witnessed a further awakening of our own political extreme right with the rise of Donald Trump. Many people in this province are also fed up with the establishment and the status quo. We keep changing back from red to blue but nothing really seems to improve for the people. Even though most local pundits would not admit it, there has been quite a political awakening in this province in the past year, and people here are ready for real change. Plenty of people agree with Trump’s views on things like immigration and it is not that unbelievable to think that we might find ourselves with a similar personality running for leadership before long.

One interesting thing of note on the twitter feed on election night was PC MHA, and leadership hopeful, Steve Kent. Kent posted, and then quickly deleted a photo of him wearing a Trump “Make America Great Again” hat. He didn’t delete it before someone grabbed a screenshot, however, and the image was shared widely on twitter. With his recent support for federal Conservative Party leadership candidate, Kellie Leitch and her “Canadian Values” platform, we must wonder where Mr. Kent stands on the political spectrum. Many in the PC party have been hoping for a return to traditional conservative values and maybe Kent is getting ready to play that role in the hopes that he will become the next premier.

Let’s face it, as much as people hate to admit it, much of the Trump-style rhetoric would go over very well with a large segment of NL voters, especially conservatives. Is it too much of a leap to think that Kent’s far right leanings in recent months could be an indication of the path he intends to take to the eighth floor of Confederation Building? The PC’s are convinced that their time in opposition is no more than a four-year sabbatical until they are ushered back in to fix all the blunders made by the dastardly Liberals. As far as they are concerned they will have little opposition in reclaiming the throne in 2019, but Kent knows that to become premier with his baggage, he will need to change the narrative.

Now I am certainly not saying that Steve Kent is any of the things that Donald Trump has been accused of being. I have never heard him use racist, sexist, or bigoted words during his time as an MHA and I certainly have no reason to believe that he is anything but a good, hard-working public servant. But if Kent does not hold the same type of conservative values as Trump and Leitch, then why the support? Why would you venture out into that political wilderness? Steve Kent may be a lot of things, but stupid is not one of them. He says that he supports Leitch because she is his friend, but I think there is more to the story than that. During the last federal election, we endured former Prime Minister Stephen Harper telling the country that it was okay to be racist towards your neighbors, and even though he lost, the conservative base that resonated with that message was strong. The siren song of legal marijuana was just stronger, allowing the Liberals to get out the youth vote that put them over the top. The federal Conservative strategy was well thought out, and they proved that millions of Canadians were willing to vote for the Leitch style of Canadian Values.

With Newfoundland in so much political turmoil, the PC’s are looking for something to turn the tide in their favor. Despite the plummeting Liberal polling numbers, the Tories have been unable to capitalize on public discontent, and their own numbers have remained very low. They are still seen as out of touch and people have not forgotten the mess they left behind when they were given the boot last fall.  Any logical thinking conservative would be well aware of how well the values game went for Harper, and with the election of Donald Trump, the timing may be perfect for that type of extreme right leader to swoop in and be the pied piper that NL voters are always waiting for.

If this is indeed the road that Steve Kent is planning to go down, it will be a bitter pill to swallow for Newfoundland and Labrador. We are in the midst of a unity crisis right now as it is, even though most people don’t realize it. If we get a party leader that is willing to stir up that same dark underbelly of our province to further his or her own political fortunes, it could very well do irreparable damage to our social fabric. What we need is a leader that can unite us. Further division will be our downfall. Would our province vote for a Canadian Values style campaign? I don’t know, but people are so angry at the Liberals right now that even those who don’t support those values might be willing to vote blue, just to get rid of the red boogeyman.

I have no idea what Steve Kent’s intentions are, but when it comes time for the PC party to pick a new leader, I hope that people will ask him what his support for both Donald Trump and Kellie Leitch means. What are the values that Mr. Kent intends to bring to Newfoundland and Labrador if he is given the premier’s chair? Political strategy is one thing, but if Kent is planning on dragging our province down the same road that Donald Trump just dragged the US down, we should know about it.  

There are many problems in this province right now and we need a party and a leader that can unite us. We can’t afford the divisional politics that have dominated the political landscape of North America for the past couple of years. As tempting as it is to follow down this proven political path, it will be up to us to keep our potential leaders in check and remind them of what real Newfoundland Values are. Kindness, generosity, and the ability to work together to get things done are the traits that have guided the people of this province for five hundred years. Maybe it is time that we flipped the narrative back on its head to start applying these values to our politics, instead of preying on fear and uncertainty and always pointing the finger of blame. So, instead of taking the easy political road, let’s leave the politics of fear and hate behind and start working together to build a united Newfoundland and Labrador that will work for everyone. What are we waiting for?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Ryan Young, for writing must have read my mind!