MQO Poll Darkens Dunderdale’s Destiny

The recent MQO
Poll, on the performance and popularity of the current Dunderdale Government
and the other two Parties, has been dissected by others.  A few additional observations are on offer.

First, to
state the obvious, the NDP strength in the St. John’s area is the main story
with 48% of those polled indicating support for that Party, if an election were
called, against 35% for the Tories and 16% for the Liberals.  A three way split greets the Tories in the rural
areas, giving them a slim lead (37%), against 34% for the Liberals and 28% for
the NDP. On a province wide basis the Tories and the NDP are in a statistical
dead heat with 36% indicating support for the PCs, 35% NDP and 28% Liberal.

As to which leader
would make the best Premier, Dwight Ball is a washout in St. John’s (12%)
against 37% for Premier Dunderdale and 51% for Lorraine Michael. In rural
districts, Dunderdale is on top with 51%, followed by Ball 30% and Michael 19%.
The numbers,
should they stay the same or deteriorate further, suggest the Government is in
trouble, Dwight Ball is in a tough spot (even if the Liberals’ rural roots are
still strong) and the NDP is the real challenge to the current leadership. The
Government’s advantage, chiefly, is that it is still early in the mandate.

Context is important
as much, perhaps, to a single group of numbers as it is to a trend; so, what is
the backdrop to this Poll?  The last
general election was held only 16 months ago. 
The P.C Government was returned with 37 seats, the Liberals 6 and the
NDP 5.  The then popular vote completes the
picture.  The Tories received 56.1%, the
NDP 24.6% and the Liberals 19.1%.

If, on the
basis of the last election, you were thinking ‘Tory fortress’, you could not be
faulted.   But, then, if those last 16
months seemed long for the electorate; likely, they were an eternity for the
Government as it watched voter preference for the P.C Party drop by 19%.  It used its large majority, like a battering
ram, to achieve Muskrat Falls sanction. Would anyone argue that the bloody nose
inflicted on itself, for this Project and for Bill 29, was a classic example of
a pyrrhic victory?

Imagine that
your perch is the 8th Floor, Confederation Building and the Premier’s
chief advisor and strategist had received those Poll numbers.  He (or she) has just gotten a call to digest
them with the Premier and to offer an assessment.  What might he be thinking?

For this
purpose, he would have looked at earlier poll data, assessed whether a trend is
taking hold (a little early to draw a certain conclusion) and thought about the
issues which may have influenced this result. 
He would be thinking about the Government’s current agenda, the strengths
and weaknesses, not just of the Premier, but of the whole leadership.  He would be divining a Plan.

Heading into
the meeting the Advisor might, first, curse Danny Williams. Why?  He is one of the major reasons for this mess
(context).  His ABC campaign, in 2011,
caused not just the defeat of two very well placed Federal Tory MPs; his fit of
pique permitted the election of one additional NDP and a Liberal MP in the traditional
Tory stronghold of the St. John’s Metropolitan Region.    Together
with NDP Jack Harris, all are articulate spokespeople.  They understand that St. John’s is the chief
media center of the Province; it is a Tory vacuum few currently associate with
the credibility creep of the NDP.

As strong as
Lorraine Michael may be, and don’t underestimate her, it was Williams who laid
the groundwork, wittingly or otherwise, for the rubber booters to find traction,
just as a younger, educated, wealthier, less fearful demographic were being
shorn of the stranglehold of political tradition.  Saddled with two choices, no more! The NDP
reflects and articulates the liberal democratic views of that increasingly
large group, a fact evident with the surge of popular support for the NDP and
the election of three new NDP Members, in St. John’s, in the last Provincial General

Secondly, the
Advisor might consider the possibility that the Government’s best days are
behind it.  He might even realize that
the bloated bureaucracy which the Williams/Dunderdale Governments funded, for
the past eight years, likely will not even vote for them! 

Yes, the
Government has taken a pretty good pummelling on Muskrat Falls (note the
chief concern  on voters’ minds in the above graphic) and likely, on Bill 29, too. But, on a statistical level,
at least, NL has never been better off.  Shouldn’t
this be the best of times for a Government?

the context, however, is that barring some miracle of a dramatic increase in
the price of oil, the Budget cupboard is bare; nothing new and politically sexy
can be afforded without a dramatic improvement in the forecast price of oil or
higher taxes (or both); the voters will have to be satisfied with the boring
grind of construction cranes and the Government with the public’s underwhelming
appreciation of a nouveau prosperity.

Thirdly, it
is impossible to go back and invoke program expansion that contains elements of
‘gradualism’ and ‘fiscal prudence’.  The
Government has acted like pigs at a bottomless trough. Worse than nothing new,
in a new Budget, is fiscal austerity (cutbacks) combined with the rancor of
collective bargaining.  As much as the
public dislikes an oversized public service, they abhor layoffs, which they
associate with hard times and insecurity. And, who can blame them.
This is already
not an easy narrative to have to explain to the Boss. And, there is more.  The Premier is popular, but chiefly in the
problematic hinterland where needs are as plentiful as they are
intractable.  While the Party is trailing
the Leader in the Polls, that may be little comfort if, in the absence of a
substantial Tory uptick, the three parties divide the rural spoils.  Most significantly, Tory St. John’s is awash
in “orange”.  The Premier’s own seat is
located where?  Even, Tory Independent
MHA is now planning to repaint his house; with certainty, the colour will be
neither blue nor red.

This is a
Government that needs an early term makeover, though that prospect seems remote.  The Government’s missteps have lately been compounded
by an imprudent switch of the two portfolios of Finance and Natural Resources;
these Ministers offer nothing to enhance the credibility of the Government and
the Premier has so far, at least, failed to show she understands that empathy trumps
obstinacy.  Leadership is a combination
of complex qualities; the ability to close files, whether Muskrat Falls or
contentious legislation, using poorly scripted bravado, is not one of them. 

A female
Premier, one who made much of being the first, ought to understand when female
strengths need be employed and, equally, when men should be given lesser
positions. Switching Marshall and Kennedy is the action of one who defers
rather than of one who decides.  If she
can’t make tough choices now, what will she do when the candle on her mandate burns
shorter without burning brighter?  

The Premier
cannot win back the folks who believe that Muskrat Falls represents a serious
error of judgement and an imperiled Treasury.  She must hope that the group now gravitating
to the NDP, in metro St. John’s, are more upset than they are intransigent.

The Advisor’s
long walk to the Premier’s Office contains but a few steps. Likely, he wishes
that it was located in a remote rural town, as far away as St. Anthony; though,
even this may seem an imprudent idea, given that region’s current NDP
incumbency.  It is, however, a blunt
reminder, as the MQO Poll confirms, rural politics, no differently than other
spheres of rural life, has not stayed stuck.

Premier’s political honeymoon has been brought to an early end; likely, a more
decisive, more careful, more thoughtful leader would not have squandered so
much political capital so quickly. 

A Plan is
called for.  But, a Plan alone won’t do!

The Premier
must learn that, in matters of political survival, there is no such thing as a
sympathetic public.

To the

Leader Dwight Ball, sincere and dedicated, must realize his leadership
aspirations are misguided. Another Poll, like this one, will conscript him to the
panel of the seekers rather than of the sought. 

As for NDP
Leader, Lorraine Michael, whatever she is doing, she ought to do more of it. 

NL politics about to get entertaining again, whose gonna have time to watch

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?