Reporter John Gushue wrote a Post on his Notebook, April 28th,
regarding the Dunderdale Government’s Core Mandate review and its refusal to
release the Report.  NDP Leader Lorraine
Michael had been asking for it in Question Period and has been getting nowhere.
Of course, that issue was not Gushue’s entire preoccupation.  His Article segued to the matter of the behaviour
of certain Government Ministers, their manner of answering Opposition questions
and their deprecating tone of voice.   

When I
wrote, “NOW ITS DARIN KINGS TURN”, I had truly expected, perhaps naively, that
the Minister of Justice would apologize to MHA Gerry Rogers for his contrived
allegations in the Facebook affair.  Given
the sheer volume of public indignation expressed against the Government’s and
the Speaker’s handling of the matter, the Speaker having recanted, one might
have legitimately expected the Minister would also apologize.  I had thought, perhaps, the Premier might recognize
that her Administration needed ‘behavioural’ reform.  

Premier and her Ministers are the ones who put a public ‘face’ on Government. It
is an important matter that the Administration commands respect for its
leadership; words like dignity, self-control and decency come to mind.  The Minister didn’t apologize and the Premier
failed to tell him to step forward.

outburst of frustration in the House by Lorraine Michael, during Question
Period, and John Gushue’s comments confirm that Government’s condescending,
arrogant, insulting and generally boorish behaviour towards Opposition Members,
is continuing. It needs to be dealt with. 
The problem is deep; it has gone too far.

excerpt from Gushue’s piece is instructive; referring to the Government, he

“Indeed, they’ve
been nothing less than cranky — right crooked, even — when asked any questions
at all. Day after day, the Opposition has been hammering away at the government
in Question Period, with the effect that fatigue has been setting in. You can
see in the eye rolling and exasperated non-sequiturs that come out of
ministers’ mouths.

“Or, sometimes, the
tone says it all.

“Earlier this week,
Michael asked Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy to update the figures of job
losses by department.

“If she would
stop pontificating and do some reading then she would perhaps find the
information right under her nose,” said Kennedy, who is grumpy frequently
enough in the legislature to be in a class by himself. (Last week, during a
routine debate, Kennedy called out the word “liar” while the NDP’s
Gerry Rogers was speaking. That’s one of the best-known prohibited words in
parliamentary language, and while Kennedy may have wanted to make a point, it’s
telling that he went ahead and did it anyway … and had to be asked twice to
make the apology he knew he would have to.)”

What John
Gushue describes, is not the ordinary “cut and thrust” of debate in a
legislature.  From time to time, Members
will lose composure and forget that the House ought to be a place of decorum;
the presence of television cameras and omnipresent microphones attest to
the fact that what they say and how their remarks are presented are matters of
public record. That misspeak or intemperate comment fails to be a concern,
suggests the problem has become ingrained. What was once a relatively rare
event has become the norm.

debate including Question Period provides an opportunity for Cabinet Ministers
to strut their debating skills, to exhibit intellectual prowess over their
Opposition quarry and to demonstrate their potential for extemporaneous,
thoughtful speak and even to inform (warn) Caucus competitors of their superior

frontbench represent the antithesis of proud legislators; they seek only to
prove their compatibility with pit-bulls.

The poor
behaviour did not begin with this Budget debate, however. The problem stretches
back to the time of Danny Williams’ leadership (writing in the Telegram, Russell Wangersky referred to it as “tantrum based politics”) and the lingo has only
gotten more petulant under the Dunderdale Administration.

Last year, an
Opposition Member could barely ask a question on Muskrat Falls without being
derided by either the Premier, the Ministers of Finance and Natural Resources
as uninformed, as ignorant and as stupid. Every degrading word, whether within
the rules of parliament or not, has been thrown at them.  Often, the Premier and her Ministers have no
regard for the accuracy of what they say. (See “UNCLE GNARLEY: WHAT THE MEMBERS OPPOSITE DON’T UNDERSTAND). Even Backbench Members enjoy unfettered liberty to engage in the
same bullyboy behaviour, often with the Premier sitting in her place.  Some of them then go on Twitter to continue
what time does not afford in the House. 

In short,
Question Period is a mess and the House of Assembly has become a place where a
particular brand of Ministers strut the stuff of bullies and ignoramuses rather
than the counselled depth and demeanor of lawmakers; with the Premier’s
approval and engagement, low brow misfits can get away what would not be
countenanced in any other forum. 

It has
gone on so long that the Speaker is either unwilling to deal with it or he just
doesn’t notice.

What is
the alternative?  None, unless the media
are prepared to ‘call out’ the culprits and expose them for the miscreants they
truly are.  If these repeated behaviours
were exhibited in any other work place the instigators would be in Court on
charges of abuse.

I have
heard some pretty rough stuff uttered in the House of Assembly during my eleven years
on the ‘Hill’, from both sides of the House, but this group has taken bad
behaviour to a whole new level. 

From the
Premier down, they need to be chastised; the occasional reference by the media
is important but simply insufficient.  Hopefully,
John Gushue has started something.
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. We need to reboot democracy in this province. The shift of power from the House of Assembly to the Premiers office and Nalcor is very alarming. Nalcor is the biggest policy decision in a decade. Ed Martin has considerable power in the province. The province through either deferred dividend payments (about 100 million a year since 2006) or equity investments (more than 1 billion for Muskrat alone) will have invested billions of dollars into Nalcor. There is talk of how this is a great investment to the people of the province. However, I am yet to see any documentary evidence of this return. Sure Nalcor will make a 9% return on Muskrat Falls. But this is on the backs of Newfoundlanders (a.k.a. a tax). There has been nothing in the general public which outlines how the returns (when and how much) will return back to the province. It is time that Nalcor are cut loose, and expected to function on their own 2 feet. It is time for Ed Martin to earn his CEO's salary. As a taxpayer the province has invested ~2.5 Billion in equity to Nalcor. When will this ever be payed back, and what is return on our investment. This is what the PC back benchers should be asking of their own government. They should earn their pensions.

  2. I think NL should relax about Muskrat Falls and it being a bad idea. If it does turn out to be a bad idea, there is a VERY simple process that will fix everything. Expropriate all the companies that lobbied for it. Alderon? Yoink! Property of the people of NL. If they lobbied for MF, and MF fails, pay up. Danny's subdivision? One signature and it is now property of NL. Danny set the precedent for it, it is only the logical evolution of this concept. There should be a list of companies that lobbied, and they should be on the hook for it. The other option more likely in mind of these megacorps lobbying for MF is that it does fail, and they scoop it up for cheap at auction. I think all people of NL deserve to get their money's worth for MF, even if that means taking it from companies that pushed it down our throats.