CALL ME “MY PREMIER”. The Speech From the Throne

The Government should be relieve
that the public is not being asked to grade the 2013 “Speech From The Throne”.   No election looms.

The bad script is
really symptomatic of larger problems.  After
all that has been said in the media, these past few months, regarding poor
governance, poor leadership and profligate spending, it might have been
a reasonabe expectation that the Government would signal, in a new Session of the
Legislature, that it was ready to take responsibility for the our fiscal mess.  The Dunderdale,
together with the former Williams’ Government, largely helped create it.  As a precursor to the Budget, we might have expected
the broad strokes of a plan to invoke change and earn the public trust.

What was on offer was
disappointing.  It eschewed any
responsibility for the predicament in which the Government finds itself.   It contained none of the markers that
suggest the Administration is trying to rehabilitate itself from a very shaky
beginning or that it is learning from the messages sent via a series of bad
Polls. The Speech confirms that the Premier lacks an understanding of the
demands of public administration or of the themes and ideas that underpin a
Government’s heft.

I don’t think a Lieutenant
Governor has ever been asked to refer to the First Minister as “My Premier”.  “My Government” has a constitutional basis;
“My Premier” does not. In Cabinet Government, the Premier is merely the “First” among
equals.  Perhaps, this First Minister feels
some sense of déjà vu for the heel clicking Latvian, Dr. Alfred Valdmanis, who
paid deference to former Premier Smallwood, with the same boot licking salutation.
“My Premier”; indeed. 

Irksome, yes, but the
Speech had greater shortcomings.

The Government recounts
the financial condition of the Province before oil; then, it proceeds to take
credit for rescuing us from the worse statistics.  States the Speech: “
Thanks to the
leadership of My Premier and My Government, and the deliberate efforts we have
taken together since 2003, all that has changed”.  N
ot oil
revenue, not the Atlantic Accord, not the leadership of the Peckford
Administration, almost three decades ago, and not the perseverance of ordinary
contends the Premier; it was
her leadership that has gotten us where we are, today.

Note, too, that no attempt
by this Premier was made to differentiate her Administration from that of Danny Williams. Perhaps, the two are peas in the same pod. Though Danny,
likely, would not see himself, as Dunderdale’s equal.

When oil is mentioned, the
Speech notes that prices have experienced “…large and unpredictable price
fluctuations on the world market” and states that Ottawa and the western
provinces have been equally side swiped. 
Of course, there is no mention of Alberta’s huge discount to the WTI
price (the benchmark for western Canadian crude) caused by its inadequate pipeline system to the U.S. and the enormous cost
of sending oil on rails.  Nor was there
any reference to the fact that Newfoundland’s oil is priced, not on the basis
of WTI, at all, but on the Brent crude price, affording NL oil a substantially
higher valuation.  And, it doesn’t
mention that her Administration failed to include a discount, to the forecast
estimate last year, and essentially using the estimate of $124/barrel as a
budget ‘plug’.

Some lines, in the Throne
Speech, are just plain silly. As an example, on page 5, we are treated to a
piece of fiction over the Government’s attempts to control public
spending.  States the Speech, “Still,
there are some voices in this province calling loudly for us to take this other
path – to grow the size and cost of the public sector and raise taxes and public
debt levels to pay for it. These same voices have also disagreed with My
Government’s decision to develop Muskrat Falls”.
This statement is not credible. Only the Public Sector
Unions have been opposed to Budget cuts and lay-offs. None of them have called
for higher taxes; all the Unions have been in favour of Muskrat Falls (which I believe, they will all come to regret).

The next train of thought has
a humorous side.  I don’t know if His Honor was able to maintain a straight face:   “We are running the government the way a sound
business is run – in accordance with effective management principles” (page 6).

I believe I am on safe
ground if I postulated that business simply would not survive if it emulated
the spending practices of this Administration.

Still, the Government
evidently thought it a credible proposition. 
The Speech offers this additional comment: “We cannot dismiss
out-of-hand the suggestion that there might be better approaches worth trying
just because things have been done a certain way year after year”.  Peter Drucker, the guru of business management
would cringe at the thought that unbridled spending followed by drastic job
cuts constituted any management style, at all.  Recklessness is not a strategy favoured, in any
of his books, dealing with the subject.

Later, on page 6, we are informed
that, ““Thinking outside the box” is not just a catch phrase: it is a principle
we are embracing…”

No, Premier, it is not a
principle.  It is a good idea. But, it is
not a principle.  I am not going to
explain the difference.

On Page 7, we finally see
a glimpse that the Government may be entering the light: “Good governance means
serving the people as effectively as possible while living within our means. It
means making choices that will leave our people better off than they would
otherwise be. That is the essence of sustainability”.

Premier, why not just do

Much too quickly, on page
9, the Throne Speech disappoints again. It states, “My Government is fulfilling
its Blue Book commitment…”

Velcro must have kept the
Lieutenant Governor in his seat!

His Honor had to have been
horrified being placed in a position where he was forced to endorse the Tory
Blue Book…in the Throne Speech, no less! No class among this crowd, Your Honor.

I have a single piece of
advice for the new Lieutenant Governor: whether or not you invite anyone from “Your
Government” to Government House, any time soon, the fine China won’t be
required. I suggest, given Budget constraints, His Honor might trade a cup and
saucer for a red marker. 
Next year, keep sending back the edits until the Premier gets it right!
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?


  1. At the sanctioning of Muskrat Falls, the premier's actions ( hands and arm movements) reminded me of a certain German dictator. Now that she requires the Lt Governor to address her as My Premier, well …. , and she is without doubt in the soundness of her foolish decisions. The German people paid dearly. Lucky we have no military capability.