Lane says being an Independent has advantages
By Kyle Reid | Vol. 7 No. 9 (May 9 2019)
Paul Lane isn’t worried about being an election longshot as he seeks to be re-elected as the provincial representative for the Mount Pearl-Southlands district without the backing of a political party.
Lane, who is running as an independent, was unceremoniously removed from the Liberal caucus in 2016 after voting against the party’s infamous deficit-reduction budget that year. He has represented the district since 2011 after winning the seat as a Progressive Conservative.
This election, however, Lane chose to go it alone, after briefly considering running for the PC’s. It’s a decision he said he doesn’t regret.
“It doesn’t change a thing,” Lane said in a recent campaign interview. “The system is the system; regardless of whether you’re running as a party or your running as an individual, the strategy is always the same. It’s always about identifying your support and getting it out on election day.”
Lane contends that people are feeling more and more alienated from partisan party politics, potentially making him appealing to voters looking for a candidate who won’t be forced to tow the party line.
“I’ve heard from many people who are just totally disgruntled with the red and blue,” Lane said. “You hear people say that they’re all alike…at the end of the day, nothing changes. Parties are, basically, in (some voters’ view, only in it for their own self-interest.”
Given what Lane has heard on the campaign trail, he said it’s unsurprising voters are feeling apathetic towards the major political parties. He pointed to the expected higher electricity costs when Muskrat Falls comes online, and a provincial deficit that doesn’t appear to be shrinking, as major concerns for voters in this election. Lane said people are also looking to see that any jobs created in Newfoundland, go to Newfoundlanders.
And while he feels that aspects of the plans from the big political parties have some merit in addressing these issues, he’s hoping that if re-elected he’ll have the opportunity to press the government on the more fantastical elements of their plans.
“I think some of these things are pure fantasy to suggest that it’s going to happen, because it’s not,” Lane said, referring specifically to Liberal and PC plans for Muskrat Falls rate mitigation. “At the end of the day there is no magic bullet…both parties are throwing out this idea that ‘We have a plan, we’re going to solve this, and you have nothing to worry about.’ I just think that people are very, very sceptical. Quite frankly, people don’t believe that that’s going to happen.”
Lane called the recent budget released by the provincial Liberal government, which projected a nearly $2 billion surplus based on money from the recently announced Atlantic Accord deal, very misleading.”
“We’re running a deficit of somewhere around $600 million,” noted Lane. “They’ve thrown in this fictitious $2.5 billion over 38 years as an accrual accounting exercise…which is absolute BS, it really is, and I think people realize that. People are very concerned about our future and the solvency of our province.”.
Lane allowed the challenge for him in this election will be, “dispelling the myths of independent representation.” He noted that as an independent member of the House of Assembly he has, and will, continue to work diligently to help his constituents with any issues they may have.
“When it comes to my effectiveness as an MHA in my district for individualized issues and concerns that people have, I’ve been an independent for three years, nothing has changed,” said Lane. “I have the same ability to help people with their individual issues…we’ve been able to help countless people.”
And as with any provincial representative, local constituency issues are plenty for Lane. He noted that in Southlands, in particular, people have been worried about vehicle break-ins, want a new dog park and are concerned about speeding in the area.
Lane contends his ability to represent people and their concerns at the provincial level is no less as an independent either. He said that as a self-sufficient district, operated by the City of Mount Pearl and the City of St. John’s, he doesn’t need to go looking to the provincial government for subsidies for municipal services. Lane suggested that as an independent member he has more opportunities to speak in the House of Assembly than party members who share speaking time with their caucus.
“I’m the critic for every department of government,” said Lane. “And the beauty of it is I get to speak my own mind…I’ve voted with all three parties based on what I thought was the right decision.”
In fact, Lane argued, the partisan politics of the party system has gotten the province in a troubling situation. If re-elected, Lane said, he is hoping to take his freedom as an independent member to hold the government in check.
“I really think we need a few voices in the legislature with no agenda, no allegiance to anybody, other than the people they represent,” said Lane.