This is Andrew Furey at the kick-off to his Liberal Leadership
bid: “I want to make a difference. I know the province is facing some tough
times right now… I think I have something to offer.”

The Address, attended by all but one Member of the provincial
Liberal Caucus, continued with this assertion: “I think everyone realizes the
budget crunch that we’re under. My top priority is going to be to get in there,
get fully up to speed on the fiscal situation… get a better understanding of
the economic pressures, upward or downward, and the levers that have been
pulled or not pulled.” What codswallop! “Upward or downward”… “pulled or not
pulled”. This is a Premier-in-waiting who is not “up to speed” in more ways
than one.

Both Furey’s kick-off speech and his June podcast contain line
after line of equal oratorical bombast. Such flourish easily finds a home in politics helping to raise passions, describe values and assure earnestness. Excessively used, it becomes little more than camouflage, a confusion of words promising ideas in the absence of the real thing, all of which, especially in today’s economic environment, are underlain with political risk. As justification for the omission, Furey promises not to “patronize you with
quick fix plans and false optimism” and to “listen” while assuring that his
vision “includes short, medium and long term strategies”. Apart from mention of
seeking an undefined “new collaborative deal with Ottawa,” he doesn’t define any
strategy — the “quick fix”, the “long term”, or any other. Seemingly, with no
ideas of his own, he resorts to offering to “bring the brightest minds to the
table” instead.

This is not the fresh, young, intelligent surgeon brimming
with ideas many people expected at the start of the “race”. Rather than putting
something in the window now, Furey promises to get “a better understanding” of
fiscal issues later — after he becomes Premier. He is oblivious, it seems, to
the fact that a full blown economic and fiscal crisis is underway.
I expected better of him, too — essentially for three reasons.

First, the “take no risks, commit to nothing” approach to
politics is not a construction of a thoughtful person. Furey’s rhetoric is familiar,
if only because it is inherently guileless, a commitment only “to listen”. John
Crosbie delighted in invoking the refrain attributed to other hapless
leadership: “There goes my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.” Furey doesn’t as much as invoke the standards of the public administration that he
will command. Does the Nalcor-infused institutional lie work for him as it did
his predecessor, and those who came and went earlier?

So far, the Medical Doctor has placed on offer only stuff “made
up” by a PR team. Based on what they have written, it seems that they are better
schooled in the business of sounds than of ideas. It is the kind of fluffy penmanship
that promises consultation without leadership, good intentions without a
strategy, hope without a vision. It is all very “Dwightian”; the alchemy of

Furey disappoints, secondly, because of his age, medical
career, and perceived acclaimed NGO success, as founder of Team Broken Earth. Likely,
he doesn’t perform surgery without knowledge of the patient or the intended
procedure. What formula, then, does he bring to the sickest of all the
Provinces? The person running for the most difficult job of political
leadership, at least since the pre-Commission of Government days, displays
nothing of himself. He affords us no glimpse of who he is either as a “politician”,
a “fixer”, or as an “alchemist” possessed of, at least, some of the knowledge and
certainty a measured brew must contain in order to calm the Province’s existential
— and frightening — fiscal and economic storm. What wannabe leader hasn’t
voiced the hope of creating “a path to long term prosperity?” Presently, it
would be good to know why Furey thinks he will succeed where others have not.

What is this new “collaboration” with Ottawa? What are his expectations of the Feds to assist the Province survive this debacle? Will he seek massive
revisions to the Equalization Program or to Ottawa’s Fiscal Stabilization
Program?  Does he even understand the
magnitude of the economic hole that this Province has dug for itself, not just
with respect to Muskrat but in the program spending arena, too? Is he prepared
to conduct wage roll-backs, if necessary? Cut program expenditure, including on
health? How far will he go? How much courage does he possess? 

He doesn’t talk
about any of those things as fundamental as they are.

Thirdly, Furey fails to elevate the particular challenges that
distinguish this era in our history from more “normal” times. His reference to
“Budget crunch” is not an acknowledgment of a place on its economic knees; it
is a vague reference lacking either context or consequence. The failure to
depict our “real” circumstance diminishes him, if only because our problem
finds us less in a “crunch” than on a “precipice”.    

Let’s be even clearer. No one is naïve enough to think that,
in this leadership contest, political self-interest should be completely abandoned
in favour of educating voters as to their fiscal predicament or of the pain
they will have to endure to ward off economic and fiscal calamity. But it is
precisely for those reasons that the province needs a gorilla, not a weakling. If
Andrew is interested only in becoming Premier, he risks going out much as does
Dwight Ball, the Liberal Party telling him: “Here’s your hat, what’s your
hurry?” Why would he waste his time on such an ignominious journey if he has
nothing in particular to offer? Just to have “Premier” on his resume?

Furey will likely win this contest, even having so far served
up colourful, if tasteless, pablum. He is inside the partisan tent, John Abbott
is not; few, except the most flamboyant, can thwart such a head of steam.

For that reason, he should be worried less about the contest
than what will count as success a few years from now. He will require trust and
respect — that essential alchemy that will get him through the dark days. Now
is the time to show courage, exhibit conviction, confirm that he wants the job —
and for the right reasons. A good place to begin is by demonstrating that he has
ideas of his own. 
Otherwise, we are left to assume that, consistent with the
advice of those whom he is surrounded, he awaits the political safety and protection
of Majority Government. A bigger man would instruct them on the importance of political
integrity and how it will always be his hallmark.

Safely tucked away for four years, and short on credibility in
a province even more desperate than it is now, Andrew Furey is likely to
discover that the public cares not a whit that he was a great humanitarian — in

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?