“What is it
that we have to do down here to get your attention?  We try to co-operate; it doesn’t work.  We vote for you; it doesn’t work. What is

That was Premier
Cathy Dunderdale, quoted verbatim from The Telegram Editorial page, Saturday,
May 19, 2012, edition entitled “Fracas With the Feds”.    Of
course, the lament was directed at the Prime Minister.

From the
time Newfoundland entered Confederation, every Premier has felt ignored by the federal
government; Smallwood had a running battle with Diefenbaker, Peckford with
Trudeau and Chretien, Wells with Mulroney and now, Dunderdale with Harper. Do
you see a trend?

and Labradorians seem to think that Ottawa wakes up every morning hell bent on
screwing us.  Somehow, we can’t seem to figure
this out:  Ottawa simply wakes up.  That’s it. 
They are not hell bent on ‘screwing us’; Ottawa just doesn’t think of us,
at all!

After more
than sixty years in confederation, we still don’t get it.  Well, it’s time that you get it!  Think of this as boot-camp for the
politically naïve.

Let’s start at
the beginning.

doesn’t think about us because we simply don’t matter, OK?  Our whole population is barely equal to a
Toronto city block, our GNP is barely noticeable on the national register and
politically we are rarely in sync with the governing party in Ottawa. If, you
are feeling nauseous about your sudden loss of perceived self-worth, save your
blood pressure pills for another day.

Now, every
time you get upset that Ottawa, (where 308 MPs meet), is not listening to
Newfoundland and Labrador, repeat after me: “NL has only eight seats, only one
is Tory.  NL has only eight seats; only
one is Tory”. It’s best that it is used as an incantation, and repeated several
times. You must, by now, realize that you have discovered a simple statistical truism.
The math does not lie.  

province is not a tour-de-force in the country.

Likely, all
of a sudden, you are starting to feel as if you have been rather silly!  Well, come to think of it, yes, you have.

Now, a
warning!  You will have to swallow
tougher medicine, yet.

Work with
me. For this question, the older you are, the better luck you will have with
the answer. 

Who were the
Newfoundland Cabinet Ministers who got the most stuff for NL, when they
represented us in the Federal Cabinet?  I
know what you’re thinking.  It’s a trick
question, right?  You think the answer is,
zero.  No, no, it isn’t.  We actually had a few MPs who upon becoming
Cabinet Ministers, performed some very good work.  Still, knowing the odds were so poor that you
might actually know their names, I came prepared to help out.

Confederation, there have been only four outstanding NL federal cabinet
ministers. No, it wasn’t the Admiral. 
No, no, it wasn’t Rompkey, or Simmons or Reid, or Byrne or Baker or
Efford or Hearn.  Now, you seem really

Let me help
you out.  The four most successful NL
cabinets Ministers were Pickersgill (it seems unfair having to go back to
ancient Greece to find this guy, but it’s not easy for me either), then
Jamieson, next was Crosbie followed by Tobin. 
There! Yes, only four; four successful NL Cabinet Ministers in sixty
three years!

No matter
how aggrieved you may feel, this is not a good record.  Indeed, much of the blame that has been
directed at Ottawa, over the years, might have been put to better use
right  here, at home.

Now, don’t
jump ahead of me! I know what you are thinking already.  I didn’t mention the current Federal Cabinet
Minister, Peter Penashue.  Actually, that
was deliberate.

If a
Province doesn’t have enough seats to matter in 
Parliament, and if you have elected only one rookie to operate within a 165
seat majority government, and even if that rookie gets to sit around the big federal
cabinet table, where he is only one of 39, and many of them are smart, more
experienced, hold bigger portfolios, come from larger and more powerful
provinces, some of their buddies hold those big powerful portfolios, too; now, let
me ask you, why are your expectations of Peter Penashue bigger than those of
Bono at a rock concert? 

You need
reminding that Peter is a rookie, has never been to Ottawa, likely still can’t
find the parliamentary washroom,  got no
friends, certainly not in Cabinet.  He has
a Cabinet post because he was the only one elected from this province and all
Prime Ministers, if they possibly can, want every province represented.  So, essentially, if you had sent a cocker
spaniel to Ottawa the PM would have placed him/her in some minor post in
Cabinet.  And that’s what Penashue
got!  A minor post.  Nothing to trade and, as a result, no one with
whom to make friends.  And you want Peter
to do what? 

else?  You, my friends, have committed
the cardinal sin.  Because you fell for
Danny’s silly ABC Campaign, you allowed Peter McKay to become regional Minister
for Atlantic Canada; you let Peter get a look at our tiny candy jar.  It’s a bloody wonder that the Taxation Centre
isn’t already pitched in Central Nova along with the Coast Guard Center and a
few fisheries offices.  What were you
thinking!!!!!  Peter McKay, with the big
Defense portfolio, regional Minister, lots of buddies in Cabinet.  That’s called ‘fair trade’ to a Nova Scotian.

The fact
that Peter McKay is from Nova Scotia is no minor matter.  It is a fact of Canadian history, that every
Nova Scotian Cabinet Minister would screw NL, (or any other Province, except
Quebec, who would screw them first), if it meant having the Feds pave an extra mile
of road, or offer up a big military contract. 
Just ask Brian Peckford, how many times Nova Scotia tried to screw NL on
the Atlantic Accord, allowing Chretien and co. to use a lesser offshore oil agreement,
against us, knowing all the time, if we won more, they would get it too!  For Pete’s sake, people!

Now, let’s
go back to the beginning.  What was
Dunderdale’s frustrated response again…rrroolll the tape:  “We try to co-operate; it doesn’t work.  We vote for you; it doesn’t work. What is
it?” Stop the tape, stop the tape, god, stop the tape!  “We vote for you”?!!!  Well, folks, we didn’t vote for him.   We sent
one lone MP from Labrador, for which Bono could claim as much credit as
Dunderdale.  How many MPs went to Ottawa from
the island? NONE! 

“We try to
co-operate…”, and we are letting this Premier make a $5 billion decision on
Muskrat Falls.  Cathy, let me help you
out. If the PM is not returning your calls, don’t just blame your service

Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.


Bill left public life shortly after the signing of the Atlantic Accord and became a member of the Court of Appeal until his retirement in 2003. During his time on the court he was involved in a number of successful appeals which overturned wrongful convictions, for which he was recognized by Innocence Canada. Bill had a special place in his heart for the underdog.

Churchill Falls Explainer (Coles Notes version)

If CFLCo is required to maximize its profit, then CFLCo should sell its electricity to the highest bidder(s) on the most advantageous terms available.


This is the most important set of negotiations we have engaged in since the Atlantic Accord and Hibernia. Despite being a small jurisdiction we proved to be smart and nimble enough to negotiate good deals on both. They have stood the test of time and have resulted in billions of dollars in royalties and created an industry which represents over a quarter of our economy. Will we prove to be smart and nimble enough to do the same with the Upper Churchill?