No one
expected the District of Virginia Waters to be a cakewalk for any of the Candidates
and it wasn’t.   Still, a 40 vote margin
of victory by Liberal Cathy Bennett must feel like Everest climbed.  In so doing, she has executed an almost
miraculous repetition of the Harbour Grace-Carbonear byelection.  She has proven beyond a doubt there are no safe
Tory seats in the Province.

It is a
tough loss for Danny Breen; he deserves our congratulations, as does Sheilagh O’Leary.

But it is
the Liberal Party’s and Cathy Bennett’s victory.  She has confirmed that a quiet political
revolution, one insistent and possibly inexorable, is working its way through
the political fabric of the Province. 
The Liberals are coming!

Still, there
is finality to every democratic vote. 
Likely, the Tories long ago forgot that it is also within the purview of
the voters to be arbitrary.

Many people
will want to read the entrails of this byelection.  I have the following observations:

The first is
that Kathy Dunderdale has likely buried the P.C. Party for a generation; though
she is gone the sorry Administration that supported her and her unwise,
unyielding and unsuccessful style of leadership remains.

Who is not relieved
that one of the worse budgetary examples of ‘buy the voter with their own money’
did not succeed as a viable strategy in Virginia Waters? 

Indeed, that
the Government was content to announce a review of Bill 29, offer a Committee
and nothing else, as it sought effusive praise for that mere gesture, is proof of
its vacuous calculations and its limited moral capacity. 

Committee on Oversight of Muskrat Falls constituted an even worse
deception.  Four busy senior public
servants, lacking time, expertise or external qualified support are asked to
act as camouflage for the $7.7 billion Project. 
The public was expected to buy in. How stunned do they think people
really are!  Yes, the media lapped it up
and promptly forgot the issue.  No credit
is due them.  But, a more expectant public
were not quite so impressed.  No one
likes to be played for a fool.

I sense the
people of Virginia Waters saw in Premier Tom Marshall’s pleasantries, smiles
and feel-good mutterings a level of hypocrisy that offended them; though he and
his predecessor have done that many times. 

After three
years of egregious behaviour, bad attitude and unwise public policy, why would
the voters feel that the Government deserved anything but a severe public

That is not

byelection result cannot be viewed in its proper context unless one is reminded
that the Liberals have broken through what the Tories have long regarded as ‘Fortress’
St. John’s.  They have beaten down the
doors of a region that, more than any, enjoys the very best of Tom Marshall’s
version of the “Golden Age”.   

Only a few
months ago such a possibility was beyond imagining.  The ‘fortress’ myth has been slayed; so has
any expectation that the Government’s credibility or poll numbers can rebound.

additional caution (especially to Tory MHA’s) deserves mention.  You now have it on good authority that even
if Danny Williams slogs side-by-side with you, day-in day-out, he cannot win
you your Seat.   The magic is gone.  He is mortal, too, like the rest of us. 

This is a
fellow who took possession of extra ordinary power, even having left the Office
of Premier.  He demanded that Cabinet
Ministers and MHA’s perform his bidding and that he be permitted to choose his
own replacement and her successor, too.  He
thought Newfoundland and Labrador his personal fiefdom.  The residents of Virginia Waters have shown
him the door.

All Danny has
left is his swagger.     

before 9PM, last night, as the cold reality of what had occurred in Virginia
Waters descended, a chill must have run down the spine of neophyte politician
and likely Premier, Frank Coleman. 
Losing is never pleasant.

But if Mr. Coleman
is as shrewd as his reputation affords, he will pay heed to the message of Virginia
Waters.  He will eschew Mr. Williams as
mentor.  He will craft an agenda of real
change; one that contains integrity, possessing hallmarks, not of deception as
is Tom Marshall’s wont, but of real leadership. 
If he plans to waste the next twelve months, he should let us know.

Dwight Ball must
be both emboldened and relieved.  He has maintained
the momentum his Party has built, even if it is in consequence of the
Government’s bungling.  He is on a roll.
Perhaps his strategy of letting the Government fall on its own sword will work;
though that approach is very discouraging. 

The NDP and
Lorraine Michael have a re-building job to do.    We will check in with them, in due course.

The Tories
are a spent force. 

They may
even lack the moral authority to govern. 

A General
Election will clear the stench of miserable leadership.

The message
of Virginia Waters cannot be clearer.
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… the PC's have buried themselves, but it is at the hand of Mr. Williams.

    Bill Barry added both a profile and fresh ideas to a leadership contest. He legitamized the contest, much like Cathy Bennet did for the liberal race when she ented. It was not a threat, but a great opportunity for the PC's to reconnect with voters, to inject fresh ideas. A race with Barry, Coleman, Hutchings, Davis would have been interesting. It would have lead to renewal, and it would have been legitimate.

    When Williams went for the throat of Barry he has initiated the downfall of the PC's, which will take a decade to recover. His support of Coleman, precluded others from entering the race. Now the leadership is a joke, and the party is about there as well. This is the product of Williams meddling.

    I live in VW. In the past three elections I have voted for three different parties. This time I voted for Cathy Bennett. She deserved the win as she works hard, is intelligent and will be the most capabable politician in the HOA.

    But I have waited since 2011 to cast my ballot. Because I am pissed with the poor fiscal management of the province at the hands of the PC's. They have been short sighted, and recklass in growing the public service, running deficits, and simply spending well beyond our structural capacity.

    They are a spent political force. Their success was because of DW, and so will be their downfall. Sometimes past premiers should just go away. For this you must give credit to Madame Dunderdale.

  2. "the PC's have buried themselves, but it is at the hand of Mr. Williams." DW's destruction of the PC party started the day that the PCs agreed to his coronation. That was the beginning of the "No power other than Danny" period in the PC party as well as the province. No decisions were made without him, no alternative power centres were permitted (hence no strong ministers) so that no viable leadership candidates could emerge. Yes indeed, the PCs brought this on themselves.

  3. As I have stated before, DW destroyed the whole notion of leadership in this province for a full decade and is still trying to dictate who leads his own party. Mr. Williams, I think it is high time you butt out and give people some credit….although some of them still mistakenly worship your excesses.

    The Liberals are indeed on a roll but I fear for the future of the province still, given the profligate spending habits of one DW and his cronies…who are nothing but poor disciples of a failed dream. Muskrat Falls was to be his legacy but it will be the epithet of both him and the PC Party. The unfortunate aspect of that epithet is that it will bury the province in a mountain of debt that will cause severe repercussions for every resident.

    The Liberals need to reassert themselves and call for a halt to further wasting of taxpayers' money. As Ed Hollett reports in his blog this morning, the cost of the dam itself has apparently gone from $1 BILLION TO 1.24 BILLION, with no real oversight yet in place. Come on, Mr. Ball, it's time to revisit this monstrosity….even if your candidate/new member is an avid supporter!