THE LIBERALS: NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY

Last week, the
public saw Premier Paul Davis appoint an unelected female Minister of Public Safety
arguing, among others things, the Government suffers a gender deficiency.  



Meanwhile, an intelligent and successful
woman, a fine communicator, the MHA for Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune, Tracey Perry is
left out of the Davis Cabinet.  She
failed to make the list of the Williams, Dunderdale and the Marshall Cabinets,
too.  

But the
Tories aren’t the only ‘lug heads’ in politics when it comes to promoting women
and levelling the scales of gender equality. 
The tricks played by the Liberals in the District of Humber East, to
discourage Corner Brook businesswoman Donna Thistle from running, do little to
give the Party a legitimate claim to enhancing female representation in the
House of Assembly. 

It seems Thistle
was a cause celeb when the Liberals thought her a sacrificial lamb.  But when Frank Coleman’s departure from the
P.C Leadership also removed him from a planned by-election, the Liberals
decided they didn’t want a political neophyte to challenge the Tories in the
District after all. 


According to
a time line established by some of her supporters, Donna Thistle filed papers to
contest the Liberal nomination early in May. 
Evidently, Leader Dwight Ball encouraged her “to get them in”. The date
of the nomination process was set for June 18th.   No other contender was in sight and there
was every indication she would win by acclamation.

The story goes
that when Thistle attended the Liberal Convention in Gander on June 13th Liberal Party organizers, Paul Antle and
Jamie O’Dea, informed her that the Party wanted to first conduct a Poll and that nominations
would now open Friday, June 20. The purpose of the Poll was not clear. 

Thistle
returned to Corner Brook, only to discover the following Monday June 16th
, like everyone else in the Province, that Frank Coleman had stepped away from
the Tory Leadership. 

On June 18th
Jamie O’Dea called from Liberal Party Headquarters to inform Thistle they had cancelled the nomination for the time being because there being no imminent
byelection.  Apparently, the Party was
taking the action because Dwight wanted to be deferential to Coleman’s ‘family’ situation.

By the end
of June the Liberals called at least three other nominations.  They took care of Jeff Marshall, Paul Antle
and Shioban Coady allowing only the minimum period for others to enter the
contest.  None of the ridings were
threatened by an imminent byelection, as was Humber West. Everyone knew Marshall
did not enjoy being forced to cool his jets as a second Tory leadership contest
played out.

Time slid into July; still Thistle received no call from
Liberal Headquarters. But by mid-July a new Candidate for Humber West, the long-time
Liberal and Labrador resident Stelman Flynn, announced he was in the running.  

The Humber East nomination was suddenly back on and Thistle was no longer the Liberal Party’s darling.  A September 19th vote resulted in
Flynn being declared winner.


It seems the Liberal Party establishment in Corner Brook
coalesced around Flynn; even MP Gerry Byrne sent his troops out to secure
Flynn’s nomination. Liberal MP Yvonne Jones and MHA Lisa Dempster took to Flynn’s
Facebook Page to endorse him.

Sucker-punched by Provincial Liberal Headquarters who
arbitrarily moved the Nomination dates, and now ignored by the establishment types, Thistle was welcomed when she was almost
certain to lose and no other candidate was available.  But with Coleman gone and the threat of a
byelection having dissipated, the goal of encouraging female candidates to run
for the Liberal Party melted just as quickly.

“There needs to be further support and encouragement to
address the barriers facing women who are considering a life in politics”, said
MHA Cathy Bennett in a Press Release on her way to represent the Liberal Caucus
at a Gathering of Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, held in St. John’s this
past September. 

These are noble words that suggest good intentions.  But they accomplish little when men and women are
permitted to manipulate nominations; the key point of entry into the electoral
process. They are of little use, too, when women of influence, Bennett, Dempster, and Jones, are content that
the greater good is equivalent to what is best for the Liberal Party.  In the process, a more seasoned and male
Party stalwart is given easy advance; the female newbie, eager to take her
chances and give counterweight to a long held male domain, is tripped up.

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‘Change’, anywhere self-interest reigns, is a tough business. For that reason if  women are merely content being insiders, change will be slow.  Exactly because change is hard, a singleness of purpose is demanded; successful Liberal Party women have to be prepared to make
trouble when the rules don’t apply to men and women equally.  They have to be prepared to be unpopular in their
own Liberal tribe.  



Ann Bell, also of
Corner Brook, and an early member of the Advisory Council on the Status of
Women and a female who kicked up hell inside the Tory tribe to get the Council established, could give them some lessons in obstinacy. 

Contacted by phone and asked to comment, Thistle was stoic. “I’m moving on” she
said. “The immediate goal is to get rid of the Tories; but the Liberal Party
needs to change, too.”

Thistle should be disappointed but not discouraged.  She might think of Tracey Perry and what she must
feel with one as unsuitable, as Keith Russell, going in the Cabinet ahead of
her.

Is there anything to be learned from this narrative? 

We know the pursuit of power will continue to conflict with
high ideals.  Men and women seek power. It is a goal we share in common.  Still, gender equality must not be sacrificed, and women must not be shut out every time a male is perceived to be a sure shot.  Leaders, including Dwight Ball and Paul Davis, must
be pushed to do more.  If men won’t, women must push them. 

Women won’t win the battle for gender equality until more
women help fight it. 
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.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. A little research would make this credible. Humber West has not been called, it is the current seat held by Vaughn Granter, and Gerry Byrne has decided to run in this district. You are referring to Humber East. The Liberals NEVER called for nominations in Humber East. Thistle just announced she would SEEK nomination, and did so early on. When the Liberals DID CALL for nominations, there were a few people who put their name forward. Try doing some research.

    • In the interest of balanced commentary…Thistle did announce she would seek the nomination before there was a call. Gerry Byrne did exactly the same thing – many times? I don't believe there has YET been a nomination call for Humber WEST however, Mr Byrne has had a full on press conference, attended by all available members of caucus and the party leader to announce his intention to SEEK it. You seem to imply that Thistle acted outside Liberal expectations but Mr Byrne has not? Are you speaking for the Liberal Party? If so, may I suggest you recognize that Thistle did nothing different from Mr Byrne, she just didn't have the political power to scare off all other contenders.

  2. Small correction; the district is Humber East not Humber West. I was very disappointed that Donna did not get the Liberal nomination. She is an accomplished business person and volunteer in the community who would have been a strong representative for the district. I am not so convinced by Mr. Flynn's ability to represent THAT district well.

  3. It's Humber East, and while the nomination may have had a tentative date it was never officially called. I think Humber East had three great candidates vying for it, would have loved to see Donna pull through as well. But while I won't say he didn't have support from elected officials (won't say he did either, I'm unaware) I don't believe he got special treatment.

  4. wow ; not really nice for long time resident of humber east and her whole family big liberal supporters get kicked to curb by liberals ; one time no one wanted to run in then humber east; had to get fellow from baie verte; the opne line guy morris budgell where was all liberals then ; including thistle