Paul Lane (no relation) has made the news again today by essentially changing parties one more time. He did it back in 2014 when he left the PCs for the Liberals, and today he did it, not entirely by his own choosing, after being very public about his concern over the current Liberal budget.
As some disclosure up front I know Paul a little, starting back in his municipal days on the Mount Pearl Council and leading into his entry into the Liberal Party, of which I was active at the time.
Check out the CBC article here and if you have a few minutes to checkout the peanut gallery (i.e. the comments section), you will get two very diametrically opposed viewpoints on this development. In the minority are those who feel Lane is a political opportunist who is merely exploiting the current disgust with the aforementioned budget: heretic. The vast majority of the comments are quite the opposite, literally praising Lane's courage at representing the views of his constituents, the loud ones at least. I'd like to look at these two sides and then pose another question that seems to be rarely asked.
Paul the Heretic.
It is certainly true that Lane has ditched a sinking party in the past. But does that make him smart or an opportunist, or maybe both? Lane has stated that he has had concerns about the budget and specifically the hated levy. He says he raised his concerns within proper channels but heard no acceptable response and felt this was the only option. Premier Ball on the other hand says he knew of no such concerns raised by Lane. Of course Lane knew what the fallout would be for threatening to vote against a budget his party had developed. Kicked out both for not supporting his party and as a warning to others who may be considering similar action.
The party/Government already has a few folks out there painting Lane as a bit of an opportunist to deflect their responsibility and focus on the message that the budget is a necessary evil. The calls of heretic are however quite few and far between, and they are being overshadowed by the cries of a frustrated people happy to have "one brave soul" who will "stand up for the people."
Paul the Hero.
I'm sure It is not necessary to go into detail here about the level of frustration surrounding this budget. And as a result anyone who stands against it will automatically gain support and cheers. Except for poor Paul Davis of course. So it is no surprise to see Lane being heralded as the only voice of reason in a den of elitist fools who pray on the poor and support the rich. At least that's what I've read.
Lane is the most popular man in the province for today and likely a few days with plenty of cheers of support and calls for other Liberal MHAs to join him. Even if it means that they will sit as independents, just like Lane. My Face Book feed is full of praise for his "bravery" and "courage" in "support of democracy" and little poor people everywhere.
Paul the MHA.
Lane will get lots of support for this right now simply because of the current frustration with the budget but who knows where it will put him in the future. People forget very quickly in this province and after a year or so has gone by this story will be one of those "hey you remember that time when that MHA..."
I propose a different level of question that is getting passed over in all the cheers and boos of late. What is the responsibility of an MHA? Seriously. Is that person responsible to act on the views of the majority of constituents, or at least the vocal ones? Or is it to make and support decisions that are in the long term best interests of those same people? Very rarely are those two the same and the dilemma must be a difficult one to reconcile.
The most stressful profession currently in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has to be that of a Liberal MHA. Hands down. I know a couple of them and I can say that the completely ridiculous comments made against some of them is certainly defamation and boarders on harassment in some cases. Stories of family members, wives and daughters who are bombarded with ignorant vitriol are enough to make me ashamed and I'm just an observer.
Sure there are parts of this budget that are damn hard to swallow or understand. But I have to say that at least on some level I have to think that some of the people who were involved in its development were exposed to information that I have not been. So While I do think there are parts of the budget that should be scrapped or changed, like the levy, and the library budget. And I think that the PR machine for Government has completely fallen flat, and I mean hard. I still have some degree of faith that the majority of the fees and taxes and cuts are necessary.
In the end I respect Paul's decision. I know he has integrity and works very hard for his district, but I'm not sure this was the move I would have made. I do hope to see him back in the Liberal ranks again in the future. For now he is following what he feels is right and no one can fault him for that.