Inside the P.C.
Convention Hall, on Saturday, Progressive Conservatives did their very best to
display the intense excitement for which delegated leadership conventions enjoy a special distinction.  As the meeting
headed into the second ballot Tories must have felt that, finally, the acrimony
of the Dunderdale leadership and the Frank Coleman fiasco had passed into

But when
the second ballot was counted and a one vote lead by Paul Davis still did not afford
him victory, Tories must surely have felt under a curse.  Luckily, the third ballot confirmed what the
second intended.  An incorrect and
untimely interpretation of a ‘majority’ came close to splitting a Party already

Mr. Davis
deserves our congratulations; his two competitors, John Ottenheimer and Steve
Kent, can be proud of their participation in an important endeavor; after all, political
parties are the foundation of our democratic system. Even when the process
delivers a leader of questionable choice, but functions without self-interested
interference, we are at least left with the confidence the system is still

Paul Davis is also Danny’s man will eventually become clear.

Inside the
Convention Hall, the process unfolding certainly seemed to matter to the people
there. Outside, however, the air appeared bereft of any such gravitas.

That may be
because it is tough to take seriously any of the contenders, each having
genuflected to Coleman just a few months earlier.

A lot is
expected of leaders who aspire to be Premier. 
Politics is a game in which victors are rewarded for their courage,
ideas or specific personal achievements, especially their exemplary good judgement.  On this occasion few disagreed when, at the
outset, a wit quickly dubbed them the “B Team”.

Mr. Davis has
been afforded the opportunity to prove his doubters wrong.  

A battered
Party has a new leader; but the Province does not have a new Premier, at least
not yet. Davis has indicated he will not be sworn in for some weeks. Tom
Marshall, expecting that the new Premier might be anxious to take office, has
already said good bye to his staff, to the media and to the public.  Does Davis not care that Tom Marshall had
wanted out from the very day he was sworn in?

Davis is
not coming out of the gate running. 

For that reason he risks
being portrayed as the dog that caught the bus. Having won the mantle, he may wonder,
like the rest of us, what he will do with it. 

certainty, he will be accused of flogging the intent of Section 3.1 of the House
of Assembly Act which obligates the government to an election within one year
of his investiture.  Davis may well be
attempting to procure as much time and flexibility as he can muster to turn a
reluctant electorate.   

But, having
caught the bus, should we have any expectations of him?

Davis has
limited experience.  He entered the
Constabulary, as a Constable, and retired holding no promotion.

He attained,
as a Minister, no recognition as a policy wonk. 
His pronouncements, during the leadership contest, did little to improve
his standing.

Davis spoke
of change in his Speech to the delegates on Saturday morning, assuring them he
had a winning formula with which to reverse an ebb tide. But his rhetoric
failed to offer an articulation of whether he understood the nature of voters’
dissatisfaction or of the skills he possessed to assuage their surliness.

If one tries
to characterise the policy framework of all three contenders it might be
described in this way: whatever it is you want, we’ll give you even more of the

That is
hardly a winning formula for a Party 24% in the Polls in a Province experiencing
the best economy in its history.
Related to this story:    


Davis will
have to do more than express good intentions or to offer consultation.

Of course, he will
need to connect with ordinary people but he must do better than suggest uncontrolled spending equates with good governance. He, like
the other two contenders, believes the Government is doing all the right
things; it is just their communications that has failed.  That is a wrong assessment.

The Province needs fundamental change; but it don’t so much need more policies as better ones.  It could use less smugness or tones of righteousness, too. Such attitudes find no equivalence with even the worst policies. Indeed, some as
simple as paved roads or those harder to achieve, like better health care, all have their place. But, no honest citizen will
submit to unbridled arrogance of the kind for which recent Administrations have demonstrated a remarkable capacity.  

Even if
the public supports an unwise megaproject, like Muskrat Falls, that is not the same as
submission to the condescension of senior people at Nalcor.  No one respects politicians or public
servants who are afraid of scrutiny, who have engaged in a deception, or who live by the mantra: we know what is best for you.   

Nalcor is another place that needs leadership change. 

All things taken together, the Party’s status in the Polls is not accidental. 

Then, too, policies are only one part of a complex set of public
expectations.  No one has a
monopoly on ideas.  The public has come
to the conclusion the Liberals may have a few.

Davis is
not a charismatic figure though he hopes to connect with a society that is very
leader-centric.  In that department he
will face little competition from Dwight Ball, even if the Liberal leader is far more popular. Of course, boredom is not the issue keeping people awake.

is the one with the mantle to lose.  Coming
off a lacklustre leadership race, he must hope that, merely by the act of
winning, he has garnered some goodwill.

Three impending byelections could quickly end this doubtful new beginning.  If he believes he has the right stuff he may wish to strut it soon.

Finally, Mr. Davis should know this: even the critics want him to succeed.  The issues they raise are not about him or
them.  They are about creating better
Government and strengthening our institutions. They are about reducing the enormous risk to which the Government has exposed our economy and society. 

I don’t think the public has big expectations of Mr. Davis but we would sure like to be surprised.

Unfortunately, that sure sounds just a bit too much like serendipity.
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. What ever qualifications Dwight Ball may have, he has taken the Liberal party in the right direction. And I might add that the liberal party is ecstatic about the fact that Paul Davis won the leadership race. As to why that is, don't waste too much time thinking about it because it will become more apparent over the next few weeks and months. It's one thing to be comfortable in front of a camera and another to run a provincial government.