It would be
an understatement to say public interest in the Humber Valley Paving (HVP) affair
is building fast. Just look at the column to the left.  Monday’s Post “Disturbing Questions Raised By Frank Coleman’s Disclosure” became the most read spot in just two days.  

One of the greatest public concerns, now, is that Frank Coleman will take
over the Office of Premier without the benefit of the opinion of the Auditor
General.  Some believe the issue requires
an investigation by the RCMP, too.

I don’t
think the public is solely troubled by HVP, though it is the biggest issue and is top of

It seems
Coleman is not ready and the public are not ready for him.

Coleman is relatively
unknown, possesses no history as a policy wonk or politician and sports none of
the virtues one would look for in a political leader.
  He might have arrived, as incoming
Premier, only because Danny Williams has hijacked the Progressive Conservative Party.

Churchill once said democracy is the worse system, except for all the
others.  We may have come to realize that
a key to its success is the public’s willingness not just to exercise its vote,
but its patience as well.  Coleman is
certainly trying that virtue.

After all, he
has arrived without election and absent any process of screening, even one that
suggests minimal acceptance by the body politic. Evidently, Williams’ blessing
is enough.
When you
consider the seriousness and the ramifications of the Humber Valley Paving
affair, it is not difficult to understand people’s bewilderment over his easy
presumption to the 8th Floor. 

Likely, the
electorate could care less that the P.C. Party has been hijacked but, it does care
that their Government has been hijacked, too. 

If Frank
Coleman, Danny Williams, the Tory Caucus, the media or anyone else cannot
understand that the public is alarmed because a stranger may become Premier, one
under an immense cloud right now, they truly are detached.

The issue of
Coleman’s suitability is compressed, like tectonic plates, against the HVP

co-incidence of having Bonds worth $19 million released with the collapse of
the Leadership Contest is far too great to contemplate.  Little wonder it is being investigated. Indeed, there may well be a role here for the RCMP.

This is not
a matter contrived by the Opposition or by some vexed third party.  It has arisen because the Minister conferred on Coleman an unprecedented benefit.  Both have been disingenuous.   

and contradictions abound.  
First, the
Minister said he cancelled the Contract due to forest fires in the area of
HVP’s work.  He moved off that rationale
when it was shown him the forest fires had affected roadwork for only 2 or 3 days.

Then, McGrath
says it was to save HVP from bankruptcy, but Frank Coleman told CBC On Point the
work could be sold and that HVP had other alternatives.

It was the most
the economical thing to do for taxpayers, according to McGrath, yet the Canadian
Surety Association says that is preposterous; the most efficient way to deal
with any delay, it said, is to call the Bonds.

When the
story first broke Frank Coleman told us he did not benefit personally from the
release of the Bonds.  Weeks later he admits
he was on the hook for the security and that he benefited personally.

To these and
other inconsistencies we add the fact that, in respect of both Minister McGrath
and Mr. Coleman, any information had to be literally squeezed out of them. 

In the
beginning McGrath made reference to only one Bond of $9.5 million.  This scribe tweeted that two Bonds worth $19
million amount were released, not one.  It
should have been Frank Coleman who corrected the Minister and the media. 

It should
have been Frank Coleman who demanded a thorough investigation and offered his
participation in the kind of transparency needed when political leaders fall
under suspicion, unwarranted or otherwise.

In place of
Frank Coleman’s intercession it took a week of tying up Question Period in the
House of Assembly and widespread anger, on social media, before the Premier
broke down.

Now, we are
informed that the cancellation of a second contract associated with HVP is
under active consideration.

credibility of Minister Nick McGrath is shot. 
Can anyone say Frank Coleman’s is not shot right along with him?

It ought to be said, if
HVP was in as poor financial shape as Minister McGrath would have us believe,
Mr. Coleman cannot even make claim to the status of business titan for which
reason, we are led to believe, he is thrust onto the public stage.

While no one
wants to see an untested, unproven, unknown person ascend to the Office of
First Minister, Coleman can walk right in. 
In effect,
Mr. Coleman has executed a coup d’etat.
  The Premier’s Office is wide open to him. Even his Swearing-In, by the Lieutenant Governor, has none except ceremonial
value in respect of that Office.

Mr. Coleman
may be entirely innocent of any allegations of conflict or of being the
recipient of multi-million dollar political favouritism.  The controversy may be related to nothing
more than to the incompetence of a single Minister and to a Premier too weak to
fire him.
Whatever the
case, the Office of Premier demands that no one take occupancy under a cloud. 

It would
constitute the ultimate disrespect, to that Office and to the institution of

In short,
the “in-coming” Premier should not be directing staff changes in the Premier’s
Office, as a private citizen.  Rather, he should only
be preoccupied with sharing every single detail of the HVP affair with a
waiting public; he should be awaiting the results of the A-G’s investigation
and encouraging the Premier to include the RCMP.

The public should rightly expect that the person who takes occupancy of that Office is beyond reproach and enjoys that perception, too.

It is
interesting to listen to the troubles in Ukraine these days. Some of us seem to
think just because we haven’t raised our guns, all is just fine.

We have no
reason to be smug.
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. I totally agree with the points being made.

    Mr. Coleman is under a very darkening cloud. Who can feel that his becoming Premier is right.? Confusion, misinformation, corrections, admissions, contradictions, fumbling, incompetence, misleading statements, secrecy, cover-up, mistakes etc etc coming from the Premier, The Minister and Mr. Coleman are sickening and infuriating. The display of arrogance is almost unbelievable except for the fact that it is really happening. Who do they think they are?….What is happening to our govenrment!!….. The PC party has received its LAST vote from me.

  2. Its been a Progressive approach by the SS… first the Secrecy Act, and then Screw any voice of reason. It seems we have progressed little in the past century: how the business elite can run our affairs for personal benefit and bring us to ruin. Weak conflict of interest rules. A century ago we had few that could read. Now we have too few that care. Thanks Des for your straight talk. It should make them squirm.

  3. When Williams took over there was the issue of the constituency allowances. There was uproar, and then there was action. The reason is that people could understand and fathom wine, paintings and womens underware.

    The common man does not understand surity bonds. But what we have seen here done by this government is equally obtuse. We need to understand if anything illegal has been done.

    Des I agree with you… send in the RCMP.

  4. First of all, I really enjoy the coverage you have given on this issue. And I find the comments made by others interesting as well. I see the current situation as just an extension of the past bumbling and lack of leadership by the executive of the PC party. This due to a large degree by the unwise direction and control by the backroom leadership of Danny Williams. One would have thought that the Kathy Dunderdale affair would have been a clear enough example for the PC party to once and for all, tell Danny to go away, yet hear we go again with the coronation of Frank Coleman. Danny set him up and eliminated any possibility of a democratic leadership race. Then you have Frank Coleman who allowed this to happen, which to me speaks volumes as to what he's like as a person.

    Frank Coleman may have been a successful business person, but to hold public office and to take over the top job with no previous political experience is just another train wreck waiting to happen. If he's unhappy with the media coverage he's receiving, then he should do himself and the people of this province a favour and walk away. It's one thing to own a company and your the boss and a completely different matter to run the province and work for the people. Doesn't he have enough foresight to see that his chances of winning an election in 2015 is at best slim. Do people really think he's going to stick around as leader of an opposition party. I have no doubt in my mind that when the train goes off the tracks in 2015, Frank Coleman has no intention of sticking around to try and rebuild the party.

    Given the current state of affairs and the whole Kathy Dundrdale fiasco, when is someone going to take a stand within the party and tell Danny to move aside to allow party members to once again form a solid foundation to rebuild the party and set new direction. There should also be an uproar about Nick McGrath. The man is incompetent and an embarrassment to the party.

    Look forward to your next article.