Nfld. & Labrador·Weekend Briefing

Why Ches Crosbie should be sweating those latest poll numbers

It's been more than seven months since Ches Crosbie took over the Tory reins. He has less than a year to persuade voters he should be premier.

It's been more than 7 months since Ches Crosbie became Tory leader. Is he clicking with voters yet?

Ches Crosbie won the PC leadership race in April, and will take the Tories into the provincial election expected next fall. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

It's been seven and a half months since Ches Crosbie won the PC leadership

It is less than 12 months before voters decide whether he's fit to become Newfoundland and Labrador's next premier. 

Time matters a lot these days to Ches Crosbie, whose key task is to transform the Tories from opposition to a government in waiting, and in just a limited number of months. 

It's a big challenge: he'll need a strong slate of candidates in dozens of districts to turn a caucus of seven into a re-energized party that can push the Liberals out of power. 

By all rights, Crosbie should be seeing evidence that the ship is turning. 

New poll results this week, though, are not what Crosbie, 65, needed to receive. They weren't bad. The problem is that they weren't that good

Ches Crosbie trails Premier Dwight Ball, right, in a new poll on voter intentions. (CBC)

Corporate Research Associates, which canvases voter intentions four times a year, came back this week with the results of what it found out in November. In a nutshell, it found that 46 per cent of decided voters are planning to choose the Liberals.

For the PCs, that number is 35 per cent. That's the same number as a poll taken three months earlier, in August.

More concerning? It's down from the 42 per cent recorded in a poll CRA took in May, just after Crosbie became leader. 

Another worry is Crosbie's own standing as leader. He was picked by 30 per cent of respondents; granted, Premier Dwight Ball did only slightly better, at 32 per cent.

Standing has actually slipped since the spring 

But Crosbie's rating is no better than a survey done this summer, and is actually down from May, when 34 per cent of those polled then said they'd like him to be premier. 

The trend, in other words, is not in Crosbie's favour … at least, not yet. 

But as every seasoned politician knows, time can be a potent adversary, particularly when the mission is as formidable as reinventing a political party. 

Crosbie might well have expected a better result. After all, he defeated a star Liberal candidate in September to win a seat in the house. His sharp questions in the House of Assembly — about Carla Foote landing a high-paying job without competition at The Rooms and the numbered company behind Canopy Growth, to name a  few topics — had the Liberals on their feet.

Former ministers Eddie Joyce and Dale Kirby were frequently in the news this fall. (CBC)

Much more significantly, some of the predominant political storylines of the last few months involved two former Liberal cabinet ministers, and a swirling number of bullying and harassment allegations that kept the Liberals on the defensive. 

And, yet, none of the shenanigans at the house appeared to have dented the Liberals, nor affected Dwight Ball's own popularity. 

In the months ahead, the top goal for the Crosbie team will be taking some knocks against the Liberals. A key will be holding the Topsail-Paradise seat that former Tory premier Paul Davis represented until just a few weeks ago. [Paul Dinn, a former Paradise town councillor, hopes to keep that riding blue. The Liberals have Patricia Hynes-Coates, while the NDP yet to issue a call for nominations.]

[Some things to know: The CRA poll involved 800 people who were asked about their leader preferences, with a margin of error of 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20. For the question on which party decided voters would choose, there was a smaller sample size and a margin of error of 4.3 per cent.]

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks …

Or, not that busy, at least once the snow falls in St. John's.

The sidewalk situation becomes all-too-familiar to pedestrians who manage with blocked passageways, huge chunks of snow and ice, and that joyful feeling of suddenly finding yourself on asphalt, hoping that a passing car will not send you to the hospital.

Even after they are plowed, sidewalks along streets in St. John's are often covered with ice or snow. (CBC )

To get to work most mornings, I walk and take the bus. In nicer weather and when I have time, I walk the full distance. That more or less ends when (apologies to Cavendish Boyle) winter spreads her hand. 

It's not for a lack of willingness; it's just that it's not possible, or just not safe enough. 

Case in point: last week, after a major dump of snow, I found myself navigating a series of city streets — including Torbay Road, a major thoroughfare by any definition — to get to my bus stop. Along the way, and once I got on board, I noticed that every sidewalk I saw was uncleared, even those near schools. I watched one father hold the hands of small children as they scurried along a busy road that was very much occupied by cars. 

By contrast, I saw a completely different situation when I got to the campus of Memorial University. I cut through there every day on my way to CBC. 

Here's the thing: every single sidewalk and passageway had been cleared and salted. My speed picked up as I realized I could walk normally. 

I did see some improvement around the city the next day on my trek. Sidewalk plows had at least made walking possible on some key stretches — albeit on just one side of the street. 

A whole lot of sidewalks to be cleared

In case you were curious, the standard that the city sets for itself is to clear designated sidewalks in a range of four to seven days. 

The city does indeed look after a lot of sidewalk: about 147 kilometres' worth, according to Ward 4 Coun. Ian Froude. To put that in perspective, that's effectively the driving distance between Clarenville and Gander. 

Froude knows people are irritated by having to walk over small hills of snow to get around. 

Coun. Ian Froude says he is sympathetic to complaints from St. John's residents about the quality of sidewalks. (CBC)

"I have similar concerns," he told Here & Now this week. "It's one of the reasons I ran for city council in the first place, a year and a bit ago." 

On Monday, council passed a new budget that includes an extra $150,000 for sidewalk clearing in winter. 

Froude noted the city is doing a couple of new things. One, sidewalk clearing will move to a seven-day schedule, rather than just weekdays. (Yes, it's true; storms can happen on weekends!)

Another change: the city, Froude said, is subcontracting some of the sidewalks on the list, so that city crews can direct their efforts to more frequent turns on major strips. 

Those do sound like improvements. The proof, though, will be in the mornings after major snowfalls. 

Quote of the week 

"I've had it, Mr. Martin. You're not being the witness here. You're trying to run the show. It's going to stop right now."

— Commissioner Richard LeBlanc, who dressed down former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin on Wednesday for how he was (and was not) answering questions 

Some things you may like to read 

It's been a hectic week. Here are some things we've published over the last seven days that you may like to take a look at. 

A concerned mom fights back tears as she describes how difficult the court process was on her daughter who accused a male teenager of sexual assault. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

The mother of a complainant in a sexual assault case that resulted in an acquittal gave us a powerful interview: "A bruise will heal in time. Psychological trauma from sexual assault never heals."'

A new review found some contradictory things: people feel there aren't enough resources for things like health care. In the same breath, they feel they're overtaxed. 

A scoop from Ariana Kelland and Fred Hutton this week: sources tell CBC that the RNC officer who fatally shot Jorden McKay was a rookie. 

Moving to N.L.? Welcome! (But check on the medicare thing first.) 

A curious detail in the St. John's budget? More money for when City Hall gets sued. (Good news: the courts are all down the street.) 

Kanani Davis's essay on raising a son, while still being a teenager, resonated deeply with many in our audience. 

Twenty-four days later, Husky Energy said it was sorry over the oil spill at the SeaRose FPSO. 

Yikes! Dashcam video of the week

Fans of Bad Bones Ramen in downtown St. John's flocked to the restaurant for dishes like this. (Facebook/Bad Bones Ramen )

Two restaurants are closing in St. John's. Bacalao is blaming the economy. Over at Bad Bones Ramen, it's because of high rent. (The latter may reopen somewhere else.) 

Christmas can be tough when you live on social assistance. An organization in St. John's has opened a shop to make it easier. 

A way to get kids to think more about the environment? For one mom, the solution is Santa.

We love Willow, the dog that stole the show at Holyrood's Christmas parade. 

He got our goat 

One of our favourite photos this week? Charlie the goat, who proves the seasonal spirit is soaring in Spaniard's Bay. 

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and a better week.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Gushue

CBC News

John Gushue is the digital senior producer with CBC News in St. John's.

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