Monday, May 29, 2006

Gerry Reid - Liberal Leader

By way of disclosure, I've know Gerry Reid since 1989 when he was Executive Assistant (EA in the political pro parlance) to newly minted (now deceased) Fisheries Minister Walter Carter and I was a Special Assistant to to Premier Wells.

He was older than many of us. He had a decade on me with a much longer history in partisan politics. We shared many a smoke back when I still smoked and I always liked and respected him. He impressed me as smart, practical and hard when he needed to be. The way he took out Walter Carter in a nomination challenge, relegating this senior minister to a third place finish, is the stuff of local political legend. It showed off Gerry's logistic and political skills to good effect while underlining the weakness of the position in which Carter allowed himself to drift.

Gerry never made that mistake and he's never looked back taking on the ministries of education and fisheries in the Grimes government and managing them both competently and effectively.

Now's he leader of the Party.

While I'm not all that impressed with the way it happened, the party has definitely decided on a good and practical choice under the circumstances. Gerry does his homework and knows how to keep government on their toes.

The big question is if he can take a worn-out, lazy and exhausted caucus and weld them into a team of government-in-waiting that the province can vote for with a clear conscience. I hope that Gerry makes some changes and moves the party into a direction different from the bumpy ruts it's been struggling through.

To move the party beyond benchwarmer status, he needs to think strategically and act tactically. In practical terms he needs to:

  • Improve and sharpen it's public communications. Stop playing government-style defensive and start a real oppositional-style offense
  • Effectively present the party as a competent and viable alternative to the government in place with well-thought out and well-researched policies - be credible and proactive
  • Stop responding exclusively to government actions-of-the-day and start attacking government philosophical underpinnings and assumptions
  • "Encourage" some current caucus members to retire and aggressively recruit new faces (avg term in the House for current caucus - 10 years. Last new face elected member was R. Butler in 2001)
  • Don't ignore the urban areas in favour of pandering to the rural districts
  • Raise money and organise organise organise

We can't have good government without good opposition. It's the way our system works. Let's hope for an opposition that can fully and responsibly discharge it's duty to the people of the province.

Good luck, Mr Reid.

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