Those who
think about the machinations of politics, even momentarily, must wonder what
changes occur in an Administration so challenged and unpopular, its very
survival is threatened.   

Premier’s popularity, at 20%, is the lowest of the Country’s ten First
Ministers; newspaper editors and Blogs (including this one) have called for her
resignation.  Now the Minister of Finance
has quit amidst reports of squabbling and disagreement.  

Is the
behaviour of the Premier, of her Ministers, their staff and even of senior
public servants affected when the Government is virtually under siege?

The answer
is, yes.  The behaviour of most everyone,
at the senior level, changes. 

The evidence
does not manifest quickly.  In most
governments, it is in the early months of a term, when the toughest and most
unpopular decisions are made. There is expectation that the rough spots will even
out over time. Dunderdale did not see that the Williams’ joyride had to end, that
his agenda possessed all the hallmarks of a fairy tale.  It was as if the oil price bubble could never burst.

When negative
public reaction is prolonged, and seemingly intractable, the leadership is
expected to rethink the Government’s agenda, engage in public consultation, offer
new ideas and begin the process of re-building public confidence.

When no plan
is evident and the political maelstrom only grows, concern begets fear that the
Leader is sleep-walking.

begins to creep into relationships.  Backbenchers
are paid greater deference.  Ministers,
who just a few months ago were relaxed and free-speaking, are now guarded even with
their closest allies.

Meetings, where
politicians are present, become more circumspect especially if public servants
are absent; their presence suddenly a perquisite for business-as-usual.

The antennae
of inside political operators are extended; the most innocuous conversations
are parsed for inference. The open-ended question (are we winning yet?) becomes
an art form.

and MHA’s visiting the 8th Floor, make the inevitable weather metaphor
a segue: are we going to weather this b’y? 
The Premier’s staff will listen but not confirm a single doubt.  They will edit every Press Release until it
is sanitized. Strangely, though, they seem unable to discourage this Premier from
walking into a free-wheeling ‘scrum’, knowing, as they must, another verbal
disaster awaits one so incapable of speaking ‘off-the-cuff’.   

It is,
perhaps, the best evidence that this Premier does not take advice.  She seems not to study her Brief or demand
scripting.  It simply may be the case
that she is incompetent. If, as a Premier, you have sanctioned a $7.4 billion
Project, in a Province where that is still a hell of a lot of money, you ought
to know more than a few basic lines like, “we need the power” and “Muskrat is
the lowest cost option”.  I have a
feeling her staff never need a hair-cut; they have gotten used to pulling it

It is tough
for a Government to be productive when a depressingly negative energy hangs in
the air, like a morning fog. Ministers will vent but few are strategists, their advice
more plaintiff than analytical or prescriptive.

Ardent Tory
supporters will call the Premier’s Office. 
The same ones who gave the Premier unwavering support at the Convention in
Gander, are enquiring if the Premier understands her predicament and whether “she
is going to do anything”.

This year,
summer recess and the garden party circuit failed to yield respite from Question
Period or the Opposition’s easy access to reporters.  The Government’s stumble on Muskrat, Bill 29
and an overall lousy agenda, which has been wrongly described as “poor
communications”, has only begotten worse Polls. 
The news shows and social media have been as busy as any other time. 

It is not
difficult to understand why a Premier must be a person of both superior
character and political skill.  Equally,
it is easy to see how a poor performer succumbs when failure overwhelms.  



Right now, Confederation Building is not host to a productive

Lack of popular
support causes strife and saps enormous energy. 
New initiatives are re-thought for fear they will add to the fuss.  Senior public servants are more guarded in
their advice.  The experienced ones will
spend extra time micro-managing; small problems become huge when the blame game
begins. Not wishing to be parties to desperate decisions, they will keep a safe
distance from their political masters.

It is a
corrosive environment.  The business of politics
and even some government business, too, become frozen. 

In times
like these, the Premier ought to take steps to prevent a ‘bunker mentality’ from
pervading her Office or her Cabinet.  Of
course, it is the elected ones who first look to the exits, as they re-do the math
on their pensionable status.

The Premier needs
someone who has long enjoyed her confidence, whom
she thrusts, and who is capable of sound analysis. It must be reasoned,
truthful and not spare anyone or any prior decision; it will include
politically sensible recommendations.  The
Premier’s ego may even take a bruising. 
If she is offended she may give the advisor’s ego a bruising in return. That
is the price of that privilege.

Most advisors,
asked to offer council, are well-intentioned people.  But, judgment is truly a scarce commodity.    

The question
is: does the Premier possess the judgment to assess advice, good or bad?  She has not built a reputation for skilfulness.

This week,
the Premier will shuffle her Cabinet.  She
must find a replacement for the Minister of Finance.  As far as Cabinet material goes, put bluntly,
she is ‘short-staffed’.

Still, a
Cabinet shuffle alone is inadequate. The Government requires a serious re-set of
its agenda. The Premier must promise to change her ways and acknowledge that
she will respect the messages the public has sent.  If only a shuffle, the Premier will confirm her
incapacity to countenance advice. 

I predict more
bad weather.
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. Des… Trevor Taylor stint on On Point was very telling. He did not mince words, and effectively sent daggers through the heart of many Tories. But go to 8 minutes into this link.

    At 8 minutes into the interview Cochrane asked Taylor who does he think should be Finance Minister. His shrug of his eyebrows clearly communicated what many in the province think. The talent pool is very shallow in the conservative party. Who is qualified?

    This party is struggling because they lived off the coat tails of Danny Williams. They did not recruit talent, to keep the party going when the wave of 2003 MHA's would step away. The talent they did have was pushed out by Williams himself. It is poor political planning. To survive political parties must continually recruit successors.

    This is not only a lame duck premier, it is a lame duck political dynasty.

    They are finished, and will be best remembered for being the architects of the decade of squandered opportunity. Muskrat Falls will mark their epitath.

  2. This Premier is a sitting duck, and is likely in the cross hairs of her own party, despite public shows of solidarity and affection. It is painfully obvious that she…..and her Ministers….. have dropped the ball on nearly every file of significance. This is not surprising, and as the above comment suggested, it all goes back to a poor recruiting effort when Danny was in power.

    Most of the members rode in on his coat tails and he did not have the sound leadership skills to nurture good people. He was "it" and did not want any real resistance to his half-baked plan to get the Muskrat Falls project in place. Consequently, we are still facing a demoralized and unpopular group that is afraid to come out in defiance of the one-time prince. The PC administration and their supporters want to believe in the omnipotence of the former leader. Hence, they are sniping away at Cathy because she is not Danny, despite his having created a hopeless scenario for those who followed.

    They will get buried in the next election and, indirectly people will be sending Danny a message, but that will only become apparent further down the road. Sadly, for the people of the province, we will be stuck with a broken legacy and a financial mess in the form of Muskrat Falls.

  3. memo to Ross Reid "it's NOT the economy stupid"

    The premier is stumping the standard lines about how great the economy is. Her cabinet do not understand how they can be so unpopular when the economy is so strong. It is the fact that the premier and the PC party take credit for an economy they did nothing to nuture which pisses so many people off. It is not the economy, it is the complete lack of respect this government shows to the collective intellect of this province. People are tired of the patronizing crap coming from this government communications departments.

    If the government want to turn things around, start by hiring communications people who produce more than drivel.

  4. Dunderdale can shuffle her cabinet as many times as she likes….you can't fix STUPID! Everyone knows it's bad when you have to call in 'the fixer' in the form of Ross Reid! It appears to be much worse, as his attempts aren't working either!!! She was at a 26% popularity rating before he got there. Now she's at a dismal 20%! Does that say more for Dunderdale or Reid? The incompetence of this government is incredible! True, there is little talent in government, but what little is there, is not being utilized to full potential. Dunderdale's insecurity won't allow that little amount of talent to shine, for fear of losing the stronghold she has over cabinet. She has finally allowed two of her 'lapdogs' out of the puppy kennel to play with the big dogs, but in minor portfolios or 'entry level' positions, if you like. Right now, they are no threat to her, and Kent and Crummell are just glad to be there, and don't have the experience or gumption to speak against her. Basically, it comes down to the fact that Dunderdale has her head stuck in the sand, refusing to accept the dire position, she, her government, and her party is. (I won't say where she really has it!) It's only a matter of time before the electorate, and possibly the PC Party, will come up to her and give her a swift kick in the arse, and send her reeling into what the rest of us are living….REALITY!!! I'm convinced that this woman has no pride, because she is too power hungry. It's amazing what some people would sell their soul for! I look forward to the day when we, as a province, can elect representatives who speak for the people who elect them, instead of hiding behind the leader of a party who treats them and the people of the province with utter contempt, under the guise of democracy. Dunderdale will bring this party, and the province, to it's knees, and it will be a VERY long recovery period. You just can't fix STUPID!