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Editorial: Summer shakeup

Provincial Finance Minister Cathy Bennett reacts to the federal budget announced on Wednesday.
Cathy Bennett’s decision to step down as the MHA for Windsor Lake has stirred the pot in Newfoundland and Labrador politics. — Telegram file photo

It may be the absolute dog days of summer in Newfoundland and Labrador, but politically, things just got a little more interesting.

Cathy Bennett, the Liberal member of the House of Assembly who entered politics by winning a byelection where even Danny Williams came out to campaign against her, has decided to return to private life, and will be leaving the House on Aug. 21.

There are a lot of interesting issues here, not the least that Bennett, who served as Finance minister for one of the toughest budgets brought down in recent memory, has spoken up widely about facing bullying in her job.

To be blunt, Bennett’s district of Windsor Lake is a race no one can afford to lose. It’s also one that many might suggest none of the parties are keen on having surface during the summer doldrums.

As a private citizen instead of a Liberal backbencher, Bennett may be more willing to talk frankly about her experiences in office. That, should it come, would probably be an interview that the government Liberals might not want to happen.

Then, there’s the byelection itself.

Bennett’s original byelection win was something of a symbol of the vulnerability of the then-governing Progressive Conservatives. Should the Liberals lose the seat in the upcoming byelection, it could be a sign of weakness they don’t want to show.

Then there’s Ches Crosbie. The new leader of the Tories, who has been making his way across the province on a mini leader’s tour, wants a seat in the House for himself, but is running in the seat of a departing Liberal incumbent. He might well have a few butterflies: there is no greater dead politician walking than a leader who runs and loses on the first shot.

On the other hand, if he hadn’t announced he was running for the seat, there would have been questions about whether he and his party have any confidence in their own ability to take on the Liberals in the next election, barely a year away.

Next, there’s the NDP, with their own new leader, Gerry Rogers. The NDP will want a good showing against both the Liberals and the Tories, if for no other reason than to prove they have some momentum in the year-long run up to the next general election. That means spending rare political and financial capital in the race at a time when you can argue the party is rebuilding.

To be blunt, Bennett’s district of Windsor Lake is a race no one can afford to lose. It’s also one that many might suggest none of the parties are keen on having surface during the summer doldrums.

That’s especially the case when there are gentle rumblings that the provincial Liberals might want to pull the pin early and call a surprise fall election, lest they find themselves in a worse spot politically a year from now.

If Cathy Bennett wanted to upset a whole bunch of apple carts, she’s done so admirably.

Stick, meet spokes.

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