“Alice in
Wonderland” has achieved a power in local politics one would not normally ascribe
to the renderings of Lewis Carroll. 

the behaviour of Kathy Dunderdale, Richard Cashin has frequently invoked Carroll’s
unforgettable Novel to explain the Premier’s illogical behaviour and strange

Other pundits
have spoken the name “Alice”, as metaphor, too. 

It suddenly
seems appropriate to consider the powerful imagery to which all of them,
especially Cashin, has drawn attention. 
To be clear, we ought to assume it is not our beloved Alice, but the Wonderland
she came to inhabit, that gives the parody context.

It is hard
to blame Mr. Cashin, or anyone else, for attempting to make sense of a place
gone mad.  The Premier’s behaviour seldom
fits the reality; public policies have been turned upside down, she lets her
Ministers say one thing when the opposite is true; ‘what’s one seat?’ she
informs the voters of Harbour Grace-Carbonear as they head to the Polls.   At
times, you would think it was she, and not the Mad Hatter, who intoned: “You
would have to be half mad to dream me up.”

Still, no
one likes to have their youthful fantasies corrupted by ‘adult’ thoughts,
however absurd.  Having dismissed a host
of metaphoric possibilities, from The Emperor’s New Clothes to Pinocchio, though
they contain amazingly suitable elements, none seems as all-encompassing as
Wonderland. Therefore, it is difficult to fault Cashin for having eschewed the
alternatives and to have settled for the consistency Carroll offers. 

Who would
have thought that “Alice in Wonderland” might sate the search for reason in one
who would have us walk over a fiscal cliff?  Permitting Cashin to default to allegory;
allowing him to sacrifice, not just any, but one of our most cherished childhood
fantasies on the altar of metaphoric expediency, seems a high price for
Dunderdale’s school of inverse thought. Has Cashin gone too far?

Like truth,
parody has its place, in literature as in politics.  That, alone, is reason to suggest even
childish innocence cannot be allowed to suppress an explanation for unctuous leadership.

When you
place the Dunderdale Administration in the context of a ‘Wonderland-sized’ cauldron of twisted logic (we’ll build it for 30 cents per KWh sell it to Nova
Scotia for 4 cents and make a profit) perhaps this is a better question: is ‘too
far’ actually far enough? 

Few of us possess
the cool clarity of the grinning Cheshire cat or the quietude of the March Hare
but any call to reason, inside a world where Dunderdale, Marshall and until
recently Kennedy are present, confirm that the Cabinet Room contains all the
characters of a Mad Tea Party.   There’s also the Duck, the Lory, and the
Eaglet, Wonderland creatures who participated in the Caucus race, in which they
keep running around in circles.  The
Dunderdale’s Cabinet has its share of lesser actors, too.

Alice was a
confident, rational and sensible girl who simply found herself “in a strange
world ruled by imagination and fantasy”.  
While it would be fair to say the Premier is a resident of fantasia,
unlike Alice who encountered odd characters who loved silly rules and senseless
logic, the Premier is her own conjurer. 
She is an illusionist who creates secret walls with strange names like
Bill 29, builds a Nalcorian empire based upon either blind ignorance or blind
faith and sanctions a mega project whose riddles and contradictions make us as
mad as Alice’s made Dormouse.

Lewis Carroll
eventually got around to answering:  “why
is a raven like a writing desk?” But Dunderdale won’t tell us why she will
spend at least $4 billion before the Quebec Superior Court gives us an answer on
water management.

Cashin might
have implied, with greater specificity, which of Wonderland’s characters is
most useful to the allegorical task. In the tradition of a unionist he gives
deference to an appropriate division of labour permitting those more technical to
employ their skills with singular application.

The Mad
Hatter, for example, is a straight giveaway. 
Angry one minute and happy the next, no one better exemplifies challenged
notions of order and endless confusion.  Who among us cannot name the one who engages
in a kind of ‘dunder-speak’, mixing up facts, mistaking good business for bad
economics (if you got the juice…we got the use) all the while telling the
Opposition it is they who don’t understand. 

The Queen of
Hearts offers allegory, too. 

 “Off with their heads” was the Queen’s
favourite order indicating arbitrariness that is all too familiar.  Yes, the Premier is dismissive of advice, pillories
critics, and is overly sensitive to criticism.  But, like the subjects of Wonderland, we know her
power is fully contained within her own rhetoric.  
The Cheshire
cat demands special prominence.  He is
the only one who can explain Wonderland’s madness.  No such source of wisdom resides on the
eighth floor; not a soul in her office can figure out the public agenda or what
turns the Premier’s private world.  The
Premier’s timepiece seems broken.  She is
trapped, like the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, in a perpetual tea time.

that’s why, in Confederation Building, each day starts over much as the one
before. It may be uncivil to say, but it was also that way when the government
was headed by the former King, Danny.  Even
then public servants were used to the idea, just as Alice discovered, time is a
“him” not an “it”.

Ed Martin,
too, earns a role in Kathy’s Wonderland. 
How could one possibly ignore the nasty Knave of Hearts? Yes, he stole
those tarts! But, who took one-half of Muskrat Falls and gave it away to the
crafty Scotians?  For a pittance! For 24
years!  Oh my! This surely must be an “off
with his head” moment.  Echoing the Queen
of Hearts: “sentence first – verdict afterwards”. 

The perfectly
suited invocation of “Alice in Wonderland” suggests Richard Cashin had some advantage
over most readers of the story.  Of
course, Cashin has a history.  He would
understand that the NDP is much about “muchness” just as he might the grand but
mistrustful words of the “Dodos” in the House of Commons.  To be sure, he enjoys insight into how things,
entirely senseless, could be entirely logical. 

I am betting,
though, he has not considered the possibility the Premier is attempting to out-Carroll
Lewis Carroll.  The Premier is parodying
a parody.  Says the Author:

“If I had a
world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is,
because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it
wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

Isn’t it
perfect?  Carroll has merely dreamed up Wonderland.  The Premier lives it!

How much more
can we take?  Isn’t the Premier’s
creation just a big deck of cards? Have we all gone mad?

I know what
the Mad Hatter would say…

“I’m afraid
so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”

You are invited to read: GIVE THAT MAN AN OSCAR

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?