For most
political parties a leadership contest represents opportunity and renewal.  It is a time not just to listen to voters but
to re-connect with them in a way that helps to refurbish frayed nerves and
replenish lost hope. 

For some,
such competitions are only about policy; a candidate must be perceived an agent
of change. Sometimes, it will suffice that the message is believable; the
candidate is straightforward and his intentions are simple and clear.

For others, leadership
contests are about giving men and women, who have already completed modest
missions, a larger stage and to see which of them will shine.

Because each
of us has different expectations and recognizes different qualities in the same
person, such democratic competition assumes a respectful, even hopeful, multi-dimensional

At the end
of it all, each of us want to see contenders who have invested everything in
their personal pursuit of high public office; to exhibit the wear and tear of a
warrior, the exhaustion of one who has laid bare not just their body but also
their intellect and their very soul. 

Even if they
are not loved, the hope is they have, at least, engendered respect; a
foundation of goodwill on which to build.

When such
contests are characterized with such vigor and intelligence, we have reason to
believe our democracy is mature, resilient, and progressive even if we chose to
vote for the other Party.

Then, there
is the reality.

For the
three seeking to lead the P.C. Party and become Premier of the Province, their absence
from public view, suggests an electronic bracelet, for each one, ought to have
been the first order of business for the Provincial Executive. 

A brief
flurry of appearances characterized the candidates’ early days on the campaign
trail; lately, though, only the two ‘brown baggers’ from Mount Pearl and Topsail
who conspired to join forces against a Townie, on his own turf, roused the
media’s attention to democracy in action.

it’s bloody hard to blame the sleepy scribes for chasing fire trucks, instead.
wants moose fences and a Come Home Year. 
He says child care places are a priority, as is a role for the PUB on
Muskrat Falls; though, as to the first, he knows not how many and, to the
second, not how much.

Davis wants
to “reform the House of Assembly” and convene “a health summit” during his
first 120 days as Premier; but, he says, he wants to hear your ideas first;
he’s not telling you his. 

Steve Kent,
too, has contracted the ‘listening’ bug; a novelty indeed, for a Tory
Government which has exhibited all the symptoms of an Ebola virus on the corpus
of free speech. Kent wants a series of “premier’s summits” and promises to
“modernize the House of Assembly”. Funnily, had he and Paul Lane quit politics,
he, and we, might be pleasantly surprised at the sudden improvement in decorum
in the people’s House.

So far, my
antenna has not budged a micron on the inspirational scale; I see no agent of
change, no one possessing the talent to shine, capable of exciting goodwill, or
extolling the virtues of a Party determined to be re-born.

Moose fences
may, indeed, save lives; but a thousand miles of barrier, keeping either moose or
ideas at bay, will do nothing to remedy the shock to public confidence of
Administrations, badly managed, and in which all three candidates played a role.

Which of the
three possesses the courage, if not to defend the Government’s indifference to
notions of accountability and transparency, then, at least, to commit to a
style of governance based upon the virtues of common decency and common sense?

Which one of
them was able to go before the media and challenge the former Liberal Premier,
Mr. Justice Clyde Wells, Retired Judge, regarding his condemnation of the
Government’s abuses of Bill 29 or even acknowledge the truth of his remarks and
commit to doing better?

The Tories
continue to trail in successive Polls; three byelections have been lost in
which a former Premier and two senior Ministers were incumbents. The St.
George’s-Stephenville East byelection is just days away.  What better place for P.C. Leadership Candidates
to converge in an effort to stem the tide that seems, inexorably, to run
Liberal red!  

Were they
all present, complete with organizations in tow, to get the best possible voter
participation in the Advance Poll? Were they able to demonstrate, at least in
one critical District, that a demoralized Party is attempting to pick itself up?
Could they join with the Party’s candidate in a demonstration of both unity and
organization? Not a chance. 

Neither seems
to understand even the basic idea of self-preservation.

None of the
three possess the political, intellectual or moral authority to counsel renewal;
none have the ideas necessary or even the will to correct a government bereft
of enlightenment. None can say to the District of St. George’s-Stephenville we
have spent your money poorly; this is how we will do a better job. 

The truth
is, not one candidate desires to be differentiated from the other.
That is not
the way to win leadership contests or byelections. It is not the way to win
hearts, either.

I don’t know
which Party will win on August 26th

But, as to
the bigger picture, one well-known political slogan seems prescient: “It won’t
be long now!”
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. This emerging scandal with the Child and Youth services just clearly demonstrates why we in this province need to step back and look at how our government functions. We are a small province, barely grasping on to 500,000 people. On a global scale we are a small municipality. We have an enourmous government, and civil service. Are we getting the results that we require, and more importantly what we pay for? The answer is no.

    The system is broken. The politicians are more interested in re-election, than governance. The recent presentations to the ATIPA hearings clearly demonstrate that the top tier of government (both elected and more importantly unelected) have a clear priority on the main goal of protection of the elected officials, and controlling the message.

    The 26 youth who have died deserved better.

    Were the top levels of government aware of this issue? If not why? If they were why was this information not shared with the public? Why does it take the CBC to find this out? Why did the childrens advocate not file a similar access for informaiton request? Why is our system set up to such that the advocate is not automatically aware?

    Muskrat Falls has given me a glimpse of governments management and oversight of public funds… It is scary. But Muskrat Falls was not a life safety issue. Protection of the wards of the state is. 26 deaths is certainly partially the result of the leadership void, and utter lack of accountability.

    Davis, Kent, and Ottenheimer represent some form of change… but they do not appear to be agents of progress? Will they hold themselves and their teams accountable… or will they continue the main focus to hold onto power.

    We are at a crossroads in our history… We need strong leadership…. and we need vision.

    The cult of politics disuades the truly competent.