appointment of Tom Marshall to head the Tory Administration heralded not just
an end to a failed Dunderdale Premiership; it caused an expectation, though a modest one, among an
angry and hopeful citizenry of fundamental change in the way the Government operates
and communicates.

That sense
of hope might have engendered a belief the new, if temporary, Premier had heard
their protests; that he understood why they were angry.  It wasn’t that Tom Marshall had excelled as a
Minister.  He had not.  He had bullied critics alongside Kennedy and
Dunderdale. He had implemented no oversight procedures for Muskrat, engaged in
excessive deficit spending in Finance and asked to be relieved of the Finance
job when he found the going too rough.

The public’s
optimism was associated less with any prior manifestation of leadership than
with a belief that he could not possibly have mistaken the reason Dunderdale
was banished.

There was
another reason, too. 

The Tory
Leadership Convention, delayed until July, implies a five month hiatus before a
more permanent successor claims the reins of power. 

Marshall might use the opportunity to implement immediate and necessary change
is not entirely presumptuous.

Government has been on a joyride since the world price of oil hit $140/barrel;
government is in a fiscal mess.  Muskrat
Falls is a public relations nightmare and a potential public policy disaster; the
Government has chosen secrecy over accountability. There is little talent in the
Cabinet including in the important Finance and Natural Resources portfolios.

What was the
opportunity given Tom Marshall?

simply, he needed to address the reality that the problems which brought down
Premier Dunderdale exceeded Bill 29.
  He needed
to have informed the public the Administration is ready to admit its failures and
to do a better job.

Marshall is called
‘temporary’.  But, his title is
Premier.  Our Constitution offers no
other distinction.

As such, he
ought to have put the Government on a course that confirms the existence of a coherent
policy making apparatus, convincing the public that structurally the Government
is intact and operating cohesively across all government departments.  He ought to have assured us, with concrete
examples, that the functions of Nalcor are being carefully monitored, that
additional expertise has been employed while Muskrat is under construction and threatening
the public purse. 

Words alone
are inadequate. A new ‘Marshall Plan’ might have resuscitated public
confidence.  No one expected him to
revamp the whole Government within a week or two.  Afterall, this is Tom Marshall not Danny

Change is
always signalled with a new ‘tone’. 
Marshall has that capability.  He
exhibits few of the ‘pit-bull’ characteristics of Dunderdale and Williams even
if he is unafraid to pillory critics. He is more ‘laid-back’ and able to convey
a sense of conciliation.  It is an important
facility; but, of course, tone is merely flavouring.  It is of little consequence in the absence of

What were
some of his options?

First, he
should have started at the top.  The
Cabinet is sadly lacking heft not to mention inspiration. 

Dalley completed that unmasking a week ago having admitted to Reporter James
McLeod that he had not received a three month old Report from the Independent
Engineer on Muskrat, even though the Province had paid for it. 

Related Articles:   Derrick Dalley Unmasks Spent Government

                              A Battered P.C. Party Must Change (Part I)
                             Can the Tory Ship-Wreck Be Salvaged? (PartI I) 

On becoming Premier,
Marshall should have hired a trusted professional to work with him and the Cabinet.   New
Premiers tend to be overwhelmed; taking it on faith that the hordes of
compliments and affirmations are actually true rather just wishes from the well-intended. 

experienced advisor would keep him grounded, remind him daily why Dunderdale
was driven out and help him and senior Ministers to set an active program with
which to wow the public and the July Tory Convention. 

Second, he should
have established an oversight Committee, comprised of members of Cabinet and ‘world-class’
professionals, to review to the Muskrat Falls
Project.  Its initial role would be to
determine if the Project should be cancelled; otherwise the Committee would
continue to give the Project badly needed oversight. 

Third, he should
have immediately sent the Auditor General to commence an audit of Nalcor; it would include a review of monies paid SNC

Fourth, a
global search for an experienced Project Manager for Muskrat Falls
should have been commenced; this
Project needs the skills and experience of a manager of international repute the
lack of which dramatically increases the risk of serious cost overruns.

Fifth, he
should have instituted senior management reviews at Nalcor and Newfoundland

Sixth, all
Departments and Agencies of Government should have been instructed to immediately
use the most liberal interpretation of the Act dealing with requests for access
to information rather than wait for a Committee Review that may arrive months from now.

Seventh, he should have issued an early warning to the Minister of Finance to trim Ministerial ‘wish lists’, public expectations and deficit financing in advance of the Budget. 

measures could have been undertaken promptly; they do not require big budgets
or hordes of new personnel.  They also would
have signified a determination to change. 
They have would have constituted a good beginning for Tom Marshall.

What next?

The Premier should
have taken to the airwaves to inform the public of his immediate plans. He should have demonstrated his will not be a caretaker Administration.

It is not every day that a Premier is forced
to resign; though the unusual circumstance of Premier Dunderdale demanded an
extraordinary response from her replacement. 

already put these measures into play, Tom Marshall would have been armed with more
than just words. He would have emboldened a public that wants its government to

would have set the stage for the new Premier and infused the Tory Leadership
Convention with an energy and vitality that spoke to the noble mission of serious

He would
have sent a message to all (presumably more than one) of the Leadership Candidates
that the ground-work for re-setting this failed Tory Government has begun.  

What did Tom
Marshall put on offer?

He promised only
to review Bill 29.  A month later the
Review Committee is not appointed and Steve Kent says he doesn’t want to put
any pressure on them to hurry. 

The Premier
is sauntering around the Province doling out more money to Alderon and others.

Sounds like
more of the same, just without Dunderdale. 
A Government re-set? 

Suddenly, I have
this urge to yawn.
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. For anyone following the Muskrat Falls issue, the other blog dedicated entirely to this subject is at the site Vision 2041, by Maurice Adams, under the NEWS HEAdING. In recent months it provides links to everything Muskrat, whether from the National Post , and other mainstream media, and big problems in Manitoba with hydro projects having no markets for power sales etc,
    corruption issues with SNC lavalin, or low energy cost in the USA from cheap gas.
    Maurice is a critic of MF, but his links allows the reader to see what is happening in the energy field, and the views of others.