Cutting through the noise

James McLeod
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Premier Kathy Dunderdale brushes off ‘politically driven’ criticism

Premier Kathy Dunderdale gives a year-end interview to The Telegram. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

For Premier Kathy Dunderdale, it’s been a good year — once you get past the political noise.

On a range of issues, Dunderdale said she wished people could set aside political posturing and gamesmanship.

In a lengthy year-end interview with The Telegram, Dunderdale talked about a range of issues facing her government — including Muskrat Falls, the fishery, the province’s relationship with the federal government and her choice to leave the House of Assembly closed this fall.

On the fishery, Dunderdale dismissed a lot of the rhetoric as “foolishness” and said, “I would like to cut through all of these agendas and positions and so on.”

On the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development, she said the constant drumbeat of criticism from the Liberal Opposition was mostly picking away at tiny “snapshots” of the project, instead of considering the larger picture.

“To be completely honest with you, I don’t think they know if it’s a good deal or a bad deal because I don’t think they’ve spent enough time doing their own analysis of the information that’s been put forward,” she said. “God knows we try. We offer up briefing after briefing after briefing with Nalcor.”

The criticism for leaving the House closed, she said, was driven mostly by the NDP and a handful of pundits online.

“I’ve got a Twitter account; I know who’s making the noise. It’s the same people who are making the noise about everything else, and it’s politically driven,” she said.

“I think it’s really important to discriminate between what’s political noise driven within the machine of a party.”

Dunderdale has said repeatedly that there’s a simple reason for leaving the House closed: the government had no legislation to pass.

Following closely on the heels of an election, she said bureaucrats and politicians need time to draw up a legislative agenda which will be ready for the spring sitting of the House in early March.

Dunderdale argued that leaving the legislature closed doesn’t really matter to ordinary people.

“We’ve got more political representatives on the ground than any other political party; we have more volunteers than any other political party in this province, and we have more supporters of a dozen different ilks,” she said. “We’re not out of touch with what people are saying, and this is not an issue.”

More broadly, Dunderdale reflected on 2011 as the year she took the job as premier, and the year she won a mandate from the people in the Oct. 11 election.

What surprised her most in 2011?

“That I became premier,” Dunderdale said. “It was only this time of year that I was making my decision — over Christmas (2010).

“Once I got into 2011, the first major decision and announcement that I made was that I was gong to be seeking the leadership.”

Since then, she said the public had nearly a year to watch her as premier, and assess her capabilities. When she won a substantial majority government in the October election, Dunderdale said that gave her an added confidence.

“There’s a settling” she said. “There’s a deeper confidence as you move forward because you have gone through the most important step in terms of your leadership by going to the people and getting that affirmation about your style of leadership, about the substance of your vision and what you lay out in your platform.”

The thing about politics, Dunderdale said, is that when you fail, you fail publicly.

“There’s a lot of risk involved in it,” she said, but added that in the past year, she can’t think of any time when she’s faced that sort of public failure.

“I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what we’ve done, because I’m sure of myself in terms of where we’ve come so far, that we’re doing OK.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: NDP

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Recent comments

  • Terry
    January 24, 2012 - 23:16 Many issues exist that deserve timely discussion in the House. For example: • Democratic reforms: Instant Runoff Vote, election expense limits, etc; • Muskrat Falls: candid discussion of all reasonable options and alternatives; • Fisheries policy: retain/reclaim gov’t control of quotas; policy on transfers & cooperatives; • Health care: forward-looking measures on addictions, home care, etc. • Poverty and Housing: taxation, employment, co-op and other housing solutions; • Justice and Budget: negative implications of Bill C-10; • Transportation: highways, Strait of Belle Isle tunnel; • Sustainability: resource management, urban design, food security; • Progressive taxation policy;

  • jack
    December 30, 2011 - 21:46

    Dunderdale has said repeatedly that there’s a simple reason for leaving the House closed: the government had no legislation to pass....... Dunderdale argued that leaving the legislature closed doesn’t really matter to ordinary people. ANYONE SEE ANYTHING WRONG WITH THIS FORM OF GOVT? and btw , i m a ordinary person ,,,, so , govt only applies to people who arent ordinary ? ,,, what makes voters ordinary and not ordinary ? hummm WHAT ?

  • Phoebe Tilley
    December 30, 2011 - 15:25

    Its almost like Dictator Danny never left. Great job Premier Dunderdale you were trained by the expert to say and do nothing and be accountable to no one. Your so good at that.

  • Jedford
    December 30, 2011 - 13:11

    Ms, or Premier Dunderdale i cant bbelieve what you are saying,, if you dont consider the little things ,, Forget it.

  • Harvey
    December 30, 2011 - 12:40

    To pass this the sole purpose for opening the House? What about debating provincial issues like Muskrat Falls, the Fishery, OCI's plan in MARYSTOWN, etc / And are we reaching a point where people are not allowed to express an opinion/ Ms dunderdale, don't start looking pathetic.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 30, 2011 - 11:27

    With respect Premier,,,,,,,,, actual growth in demand over the last 20 years has been less than 0.1% per year (10 times less than Nalcor's go-foreward average compound 50-year, 0.8% forecast demand growth rate). ++++++ At the same time, last year alone, NL Hydro spilled from the island's existing reservoirs the water equivalent of 694 GWh of energy. That one time spillage alone is enough (at little or no cost) to meet the island's 0.1% growth rate for the next 92 years, or even at Nalcor's excessive 0.8% rate, enough for the next 15 years. ++++ Now also consider that demand for 2010 was down more than 1,100 GWh from our high of around 8,600 GWh in 2004. If we do nothing, it will take us 10-15 (even at nalcor' rates) to get back to 8,600 GWh demand, and several decades more if their forecast were more in line with reality. +++++ Their own PUB submission states that there is NO forecast increase in demand from Industrial Customers after 2015, and a lessening in residential demand as well, after around 2020. Revenues from Muskrat Falls can only come in to the level needed to pay for this project ---- ONLY IF demand ON THE ISLAND actually continues to increase at Nalcor's unrealistic forecast rates. Revenues to pay for this project will only come from the voters you represent (sales to Nova Scotia will be at about 10 times less than cost) --- but too many factors need to be in alignment for this project to work -- at this time. Oil prices need to soar, demand needs to soar, interest rates need to stay low, project costs need to stay low. Any significant change in just one of these 'forecasts' or a less significant combination of any of these, will be catastrophic for NL ratepayers/voters. This project has, in effect, been 'reverse engineered' to show Muskrat Falls as 'least cost'.

  • Seamus
    December 30, 2011 - 11:09

    Wow YAH, you are really positive aren't you. First of all, I am no big fan of Dunderdale, but your original comments are laughable and uneducated. So, her critics are allowed free reign but she is not allowed to rebut them> is the the freedom of speech you are preaching? And to say that it is the oil money and not the government is ludicrous as well. Newfoundland has always been rich in resources and we have been consistently poor and in a downward spiral while other governments gave them away for nothing (such as Joey Smallwood). This is coming from someone who has previously campaigned and volunteered with the Liberals. The liberal party is dead right now. Need a clean sweep of representatives and a new party voice before they can even consider moving up.

    • yah
      December 30, 2011 - 12:22

      Hey Seamus, there's a difference between regular Joes levelling criticism at government policies and actions, especially those of its head, and that same person making ugly remarks towards these citizens who happen to take to social media and blogs to express their views and concerns, and criticisms! She doesn't like "personal attacks", but then goes on to launch one of her own! Watch the Cochrane interview. Saying bloggers and social media types in this province have "inadequacies in their own lives" for daring to criticize her as Premier? Sure. How arrogant! I agree with you on the Liberals, however.

  • Scott
    December 30, 2011 - 11:05

    The only reason the PC did good. Because the Liberal and the NDP had poor leadership.Just Like when 2015 round around.

  • Mun Poli Sci
    December 30, 2011 - 10:54

    It is amazing she is Premier. No one has yet to explain why after she was chosen as an interim leader with no desire for the top job that absolutely no one came forward to become Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. Political people are ambitous people, but no one from caucus came forward. No one from the private business sector either. Yet, their party was miles ahead in the polls, the Treasury was awash with money but still no one wanted to become Premier. Astounding. Perhaps James MacLeod should investigate any reasons as to why this happened.

  • Be as Loud as You Can Newfoundlanders and Labradorians
    December 30, 2011 - 10:50

    Please don't grumble Premier Dunderdale, there wouldn't be any NOISE at all if you and the other Newfoundland and Labrador Politicians, over the past 62 years ,ruled with the most honest attribute that a politician can hold , that being TRANSPARENCY in your dealings with the people's natural resources. We, the electorate of Newfoundland and Labrador, were SILENT for far too long and it shows up prominently in our province, given the vast natural resource base we were endowed with by nature that is working for other locations in Canada, and as a result, the LACK OF economy and infrastructure that were created from them in our province, because of the practice of Silence and the Habit of putting our politicians on Auto Pilot once they were elected. Be as Loud as You Can Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, our Politicians need to be sent a message on what we will expect from them from now on.

  • lonenewfwolf
    December 30, 2011 - 08:47

    someone should let her in on the joke that her outfit for on point looked like something the wicked witch of the west would wear. fitting though it may be to compare the woman to a witch, she in no way compares to the bully who just won't let go of it. seems williams is in the news more than her these days with his reflections, ice hockey show and now his very own city of all things. interesting year 2012 will be, wonder who'll be standing when it all hits the fan?

  • yah
    December 30, 2011 - 08:42

    It's part of the big job you have, Dunderdale, which Danny Boy handed to you on a silver platter. Or is it a poisoned chalice? Anyhow, critical comments and opponents to your mandate and agenda are going to be out there. Social media is a new forum for people to express their views: positive, negative, and dare people express them, critical! It comes with the territory. It shows a weakness for this Premier to single out a handful of the same critics instead of highlighting her governance. Not good. And it sends the wrong message regarding the democratic rights and freedoms we all have and are all allowed to express publicly. She should know this and stop looking for pity.

    • Bill
      December 30, 2011 - 10:46

      She may have been handed the premiership at first but she certainly held her own and won a STRONG majority in the Oct election. And as for expressing our views and opinions...we are all allowed to do that. The question is how credible those opinions are and who really listens? As for the social media...things come and go. People express their views and move on...or at least some people do.

    • yah
      December 30, 2011 - 11:25

      She was handed the job. And if you recall, another contender was deliberately shut out and the rest of caucus rallied around Danny's choice. She won a strong majority in October not based on who she is, the force of her personality, or any kind of political savvy. She won resoundingly because she was riding Danny's coattails and because the other two parties were still in poor shape compared to the mighty PC's. People can express their views, whether those views are seen as "credible" or not, which is ultimately up to individuals to determine, isn't it? People express their views, but as the head of this gov't, she needs to be more careful of what she is saying than the average Joe. At the very least, it was very unbecoming of a Premier to say.

    • Bill
      December 30, 2011 - 13:19

      Danny retired, and gave Dunderdale the Premiership. Obviously he, and other cabinet and caucus members, agreed with the choice. But she ran in October on her own merits. Sure there were some caucus members that were there when Danny was there, but they showed their confidence in Dunderdale that she could continue on the road of the past 8 years. As for the contender against her for the leadership, if he had his information in place he could have run against her. But you think any caucus members or any members of the party were going to vote for him. That was a joke for the whole province. The Liberals didnt want him either. And its not her fault that the other 2 parties were weak in to control your own fortunes, not someone elses. Maybe thats what the Liberals should have been doing over the past few years, instead of infighting among themselves. And yes we can all express our opinions...but in the end in politics it is the people who decide. And they decided that Dunderdale was the best choice to run the province. As for being more careful with what she says, if she did that people would complain that she had no substance. WE all speak on a whim sometimes...remember Roger in New York? Oh yeah and he was Premier at the time.

  • sam
    December 30, 2011 - 07:53

    With all the ups and downs, it really has been a pretty good year for the Premier. Lets not forget she had big boots to fill when she took over from Danny. But i think the October election results show that she has the support of a large majority of the people in the province. While everything might not be positive, people should take a look around other areas of this country and realize we are doing pretty good. If we all pulled on the same oar it would be awesome. So Premier while there maybe some 'nay sayers'...continue on with what this government has been doing for the past 8 years. The place i live looks alot better now than 8 years ago...and thats a great measuring tool. In the scheme of things that should be what each of us would hope for.

    • yah
      December 30, 2011 - 10:47

      Sam, thank you oil. That is what has us where we are and the PC's were just in the right place at the right time.

    • sam
      December 30, 2011 - 13:26

      Hey YAH...sometimes you have to be good to be lucky, and lucky to be good. And yes thank god for the oil too...whoever was in power, its the way you handle that money!

  • Maurice Rogers
    December 30, 2011 - 07:40

    Cue the clowns.