The decision
by St. John’s South MHA, Tom Osborne’s to join the Liberal Party, contains
elements of surprise, risk and intrigue. 
We’ll get to those in a moment.

Tom Osborne
feels emboldened.  He believes the high vote that his St. John’s South
District awarded him, over the past seventeen years, is a personal achievement;
that it is not connected with his Tory affiliation. He may be correct; but,
only in part. The Party Leader, the Party, the prevailing issues, the opposing
candidates, as well as timing, all play a role in any electoral outcome.

Opposition Party likes to steal an elected Member from the Government.  Though Osborne had already left the Tories,
either Party he joined still had something to gain.  For the winner, it is a public display
of strength and credibility. For maximum effect it is best to get the timing
right.  Tom didn’t or couldn’t. Likely,
he had received a higher calling and decided to make his move now.

Besides, the
Liberal Party, far too long in the political wilderness, for its own good, is in
no position to contemplate more effective strategies or to say, no, to anyone.

From a
different perspective, Osborne could have waited until mere weeks or months
before the next election.  By then, the
very open question, as to whether Dunderdale will exit the Office of Premier, will
have also been answered.

But waiting
would have demanded a logic that did not fit immediate political demands.

Don’t get
too caught up in matters of political ideology, either, or any argument that
the NDP was far too left of center for the MHA. When you spend public money, as
have Williams/Dunderdale Governments, piled up large deficits and undertaken
the largest public sector involvement in the economy, since the construction of
the Reid Newfoundland Railway, any talk of right and left wing is, of
necessity, moot.  Osborne was a part of that group.  Who is kidding whom?

So why does
Osborne’s decision include surprise, risk and intrigue?

surprise? Because St. John’s South, like the balance of metro St. John’s, is not
exactly known as a hotbed of support for the Liberal Party; in 2011, the
Liberal Candidate won 3% of the vote and just 9% in the election prior.  Surprising, too, because Osborne made this
move in the midst of the Liberal Leadership contest; he would have had nothing
to lose had he waited to see which of the five leadership contenders won.  He could have given the winner a large boost heading
into the House of Assembly, in the fall.

risk?  Because, notwithstanding evidence
of a nascent revival of the Liberal Party in recent Opinion Polls, there is, as
yet, no basis for the suggestion that any of this change is occurring in the
St. John’s area.   While, in politics, as
much can change in one week as in two years, the NDP juggernaut, in the Capital
City, stands a strong chance of being solidified.   Osborne will not just be an ‘island in a
storm’; he will be a target.
Remember, the NDP took 38% of the vote, in the
last election.  Little wonder, as Osborne
acknowledged, on CBC Here and Now, last evening, that he attempted to negotiate
not being challenged for the NDP Nomination, next time, but that Leader
Lorraine Michael refused. 

Why intrigue?
The answer is only somewhat speculative.  
The very fact that Osborne could not contain himself, until after the
Liberal Leadership contest is over, is a key to understanding that ‘the game is

A Liberal
Leadership Candidate needs Osborne’s endorsement; just as badly, the Candidate
needs Tom Osborne’s considerable organizational skills and those of his large
extended political family.

The Liberals
have no idea the skill-set that has just been unleashed to take possession of
its open selection process.

We know that
a group of old Williams’ Tories, lawyers and businesspeople, have lost faith in
Premier Dunderdale’s ability to regain the enormous political capital she has
squandered, and are up to their armpits supporting a particular leadership candidate.
They don’t want to be on the outside looking in.  Not now.

We know Osborne
voted for Muskrat Falls.

The Liberals
sent Brad Cabana packing, at an earlier time, when they determined that
that leadership hopeful was from another nest. They should have done the same with
Cathy Bennett, who had no affiliation with the Party, and only wanted the top job.  But Cathy had the $20,000 nomination fee and powerful friends.

The Liberals
were right to want to accept Mr. Osborne’s offer of joining up. But a more
prudent Liberal Party would have informed him that his application would be
processed as soon as the new leader is chosen, who having been given a minute
to size him up, would present him to the Liberal caucus.    

The Party did not
possess that reserve.

A wide open Liberal
leadership contest is, yes, so wide open, as to permit a good hi-jacking by outside

One of the
leadership candidates needs Tom’s endorsement and organization.

We will soon see
which one. 
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. I would like to see him join Paul Antle who is my choice for the Liberal leadership. My second choice for leadership would be Mr. Ball.
    Mr Dumersque is stuck on Muskrat Falls and can speak on NO OTHER topic.
    Mr. Bennett looks so out of place and uncomfortable.
    Ms. Cathy Bennett should be running against Ms. Dunderdale as 110% PC tru and tru. Anyone who can't see that, has no clue about politics!!

  2. Very sharp insight Des. The part that confuses me the most is that when Cathy is certainly rumored to be a PC in a red coat, and backed by the not to distant PC cronies and such, why is she getting such support from old school Liberals? And lots of them.