Nfld. & Labrador

Dwight Ball needs to change tack to win back public trust, says political scientist

Stephen Tomblin says the premier should become more clear with the public and more aggressive in defining his actions and plans if he’s hoping to turn the tide of bad news.
Stephen Tomblin, a political scientist at Memorial University, says Dwight Ball should change his approach if he wants to regain control of his government's first bumpy months in office. (CBC)

After months of controversies, Premier Dwight Ball needs to switch tactics to get his young administration back on track, according to a Memorial University political scientist.

Stephen Tomblin says the premier should become more clear with the public and more aggressive in defining his actions and plans if he's hoping to turn the tide of bad news.

"The premier has inherited a mess, but he's now brought focus upon himself as opposed to defining the issue in a way that would actually help his government." he said.

The premier's term in office has been plagued by controversies surrounding the Christian flag raising, the budget and the departure of former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin.

Tomblin says these issues are minor compared to the structural financial problem in the province, and the "series of bad decisions in the past."

He claims the government could return focus to those issues if they struck the right chord with the public.

Honest, aggressive

Tomblin believes that the government has made several communication errors, all of which make it seem like Ball's credibility is at question.

A number of election promises were broken, and the recent he-said, he-said controversy surrounding Martin's departure from Nalcor is not helping.

Tomblin believes that Ball needs to shed the "ambiguity" and take an upfront approach — just like former Alberta premier Ralph Klein.

"The narrative now is really the integrity and the honesty of the premier. That shouldn't be a problem," he said.

"The public shouldn't be confused. The government should have a very clear position."

The premier showed a glimpse of that side on Tuesday afternoon, when he forcefully denied allegations by Ed Martin that he was personally involved in the severance approval. 

Dwight Ball responds to Ed Martin's severance comments 4:18

Trading blame

Then, Tomblin says the premier should switch attention back to the legacy they received from the PC governments of the past — blame them more often for "the mess of Muskrat Falls."

"Politics is really about gaining credit and avoiding blame, that's the first rule," he said.

"He needs to focus on Danny Williams, he needs to focus on the problems that were created by another administration which he's inherited and he hasn't done that."

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