Who but the most ardent partisan would not be ‘gob smacked’ by the recent
implosion of the NDP? 

As charges, criticisms, apologies, denials and mistrust entangled after each newscast it was tempting to conduct a recount of the NDP
Caucus.  Was it possible that the rancor was
coming from just five people?

If one word had to describe public reaction to the dirty laundry, so
publicly aired, it might simply be “disappointment”. 

I think it is the right word; it neither exaggerates nor diminishes the
importance of what has occurred. It speaks to a loss of trust.  It conveys recognition that high hopes were,
in fact, too high.

It is not just that the NDP claims a higher moral standard than the
traditional parties or that its supporters unwittingly assert the potential to perform
fiscally implausible feats. There are other considerations, too.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael
Photo: The Canadian Press/.Paul Daly

The people who comprise the NDP Caucus seem normal, reasonably
intelligent, decent and honest folk, representative of the new middle class
that the Party largely attracts.

In the last election, success coincided with Jack Layton’s deification,
while still among us, and the election of two MPs to the House of Commons.  Yet, no one will deny that Lorraine Michael also
attracted voters and inspired them with the confidence of one who is skillful,
passionate and an able communicator. 

Though the NDP earned five seats the Liberal Party, which has been in
and out of power, won only one seat more.

In addition, after the election the cataclysmic demise of the Dunderdale
Tories saw public support migrate not to the Liberals, at least not early on,
but to the party of Lorraine Michael whom successive Polls confirmed as
enjoying high personal popularity. 

Michael became a leader to be taken seriously.  Talk of her Party’s potential, especially on
the North-east Avalon, was entertained; a seat in The Straits-White Bay North
suggested a larger rural foothold was not beyond reach.  Long days in the political wilderness were seemingly
at an end.

But recent Polls suggested an emerging problem. The fortunes of the
Liberal Party, moribund and uninspired, had begun to turn-around.   

Whether credit for that nascent trend can be credited to Dwight Ball who
inspires trust, or if the whimsical youthfulness of Pierre Trudeau’s son has
stolen the ‘Layton effect’ or that Kathy Dunderdale has driven away even core Tory supporters, all are debatable. 


What is certain is that the ascension of the NDP trend line had come to a
halt.  The question being asked,
including by this Blog, is whether support for the NDP has stalled or that, possibly,  its potential has been reached for now. 


When I posted THE LIBERAL LEADERSHIP, THE NDP AND THE EFFECTS OF BOREDOM one week ago the implication suitably headlined, I had no idea that things
were so unwell inside the NDP Caucus.  Silence
had characterized their media relations lately.   


Then the sky fell. 

The questions invoked, following the debacle, are these: can NDP Caucus
unity be mended? What does the ruckus imply for the future of Lorraine
Michael?  What does it mean for the
Province and for the New Democratic Party?

I suggest the NDP has served notice that it is not ready for high office.  

The NDP should already be proving that it is a magnet for more and
stronger candidates, for greater financial support, a place where a larger
organization is being sculpted. Readiness suggests the leader is better prepared,
scripted, disciplined and is supported, not just by her Caucus, but by an
increasing groundswell confirmed by pollsters, pundits and the media. 

Readiness constitutes a certainty that the Party can pass
inspection.  It must not be just able to win.  It must show a capacity to govern. 
Unfortunately, for the NDP, it has barely gotten beyond good Polls.

If last week’s kerfuffle was the result of an unfortunate leak, properly
handled, the public might have forgiven Members’ high spirits. A letter of demand,
sent by email, to the Leader, leaked to the media, its intent disavowed by two,
supported by the two others, apologies, regrets, cries of intimidation and
betrayal, all make great television – if you are into soap operas.


But, what was most obvious was that none of the four possessed courage
or good judgment. The very idea of emailing Ms. Michael, what in essence was a
letter of rebuke, is its own sad appraisal.


Ms. Michael is not without blame. The first reaction of the NDP Leader,
just back after a month in India, ought to have been an invocation of the
“high-souled” qualities of Mahatma Ghandi. 
Instead, she expressed unbridled outrage through the media.  There is no one who believes the broadside was unexpected.  She ought to have invited enumeration of her
own shortcomings, assuaged bruised egos and moderated unbounded expectations in
the more collegial and private chamber of the caucus room. 


All that was placed on offer was a mediator and a meeting five days too
late.  Talk about amateur hour! 

If the Dunderdale Administration were anything but an arrogant,
unaccountable, and intellectually bankrupt administration, unworthy of
governing a decent people in a democratic society, why would we even notice the
five member caucus of the NDP? 

Why would we care if a film producer, a development officer, a taxi
driver and two teachers suddenly and collectively confirmed their incapacity to
meet the minimum expectations of running a political party?  We would not.
But, the Dunderdale Government is in a bad state of repair.  And we still do not know who the new Liberal
leader will be or how much baggage will follow him/her in the contest’s aftermath.

There are lots of people who do not embrace the NDP as an ideological
home.  That is not the same as saying
they would not vote NDP.  Against a
Liberal Party of uncertain outlook why wouldn’t voters give the NDP a chance? At
a minimum, public desperation over the alternatives may drive them to seek a
quantum of solace. There is no dishonor in that calculation, though the Party
should rightly feel the sting of missed opportunity.

As it stands, a couple of basic facts are inescapable.  In a Caucus of five, the four that are not leader are unhappy and want the leadership to step down.  Two Members have flinched.  Two are unyielding. 

Had Ms. Michaels ‘offered’ to resign, in the interest of the
Party, her admirers may have refused to accept and lauded her selflessness.

On Saturday she indicated that she would ask the Executive to conduct a Leadership review at the Party’s next convention.   In so doing Ms. Michael has only invited disunity and mistrust to fester for another full year.  This Caucus, already a spent force, will not last that long.  She compounds an earlier bad decision.  
Should she step down now? 

promise of the NDP evaporated one week ago.   

The question is now passé.
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. The response of Ms. Michaels was all about survival… even if it meant the demise of the party she has spent a considerable amount of her time building. There were concerns within her party, her membership.

    Just as the group of 4 should have talked to Lorraine first, so too should Lorraine have talked to them. Instead she went to the media, and effectively branded the group of rebels as Judas himself.

    This was all about survival. She may have won the war, but her actions to maintain her position, at the expense of her peers, and her party, will undermine her in the future.

    She is done.

  2. The NDP, as a political entity, became a spent force with the revelations of the past week. Many had privately wondered about the wisdom of an older, although passionate and articulate debater, being at the forefront of a party whose star had risen. Ms Michaels is indeed a strong voice but, as the events of last week demonstrated, yet another in a long line of politicians and political entities who fail to give opportunities for full disclosure to their followers.

    It is partly the fault of members and the electorate, as we deify these leaders and let them operate in a vacuum that excludes any soul-searching on a regular basis. It is seen as a sign of weakness when the leader elicits the opinions and ideas of the mere ranks….an absolute abomination for a dictator….but anathema to real leadership. We not only elect leaders with dictatorial tendencies, we want dictatorial leaders who will be decisive and bold.

    While this may makes us feel good and confident in their bold decisive style….when they are so frequently wrong or biased in a certain way….we ultimately pay the price. This was never more apparent than during the tenure of Danny Williams and the leadership vacuum he left behind. His followers tried to emulate what was, for him, a winning formula, but have come off looking like idiots. The fact that they display dictatorial powers while having none of the wisdom of a Gandhi is more than troubling. Hence, we get a disaster in the making in the form of Muskrat Falls and the squandering of untold billions to puff up the legacy of a former party leader.