Predicting Premier Dunderdale’s downfall

Brian Jones
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Seeing former premier Danny Williams out this week at a public event that wasn’t a hockey game may have kindled nostalgia among Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians).

It was just like the old days, when what Danny said, went.

There he was again, at a Rotary club luncheon Tuesday, figuratively patting his protégé, Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy, on the head for boosting, defending and justifying the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric megaproject before all the facts are even in.

Kennedy’s lackey-like loyalty to his former boss’s legacy “file” — a word Williams used to describe the most important issue facing several generations, current and future, of Newfoundlanders — might inspire confidence among his friends and colleagues, but anyone who looks at the situation objectively must surely entertain an obvious question: will Muskrat Falls be the downfall of the Tories?

It was fitting Williams made his appearance, and Kennedy made his speech, on Valentine’s Day. The flipside of love and romance is heartbreak, and the flipside of political power is political decline. In romance as in politics, you can look back, often years later, and pinpoint a single statement, event or action that signalled the beginning of the end.

In the case of Muskrat Falls, if it goes through, a few decades will probably pass before Newfoundlanders come to the heartbreaking realization it isn’t the love of their life, but rather an overpriced streetwalker.

Pool picks

People who like sports and politics might find fun in having a political pool as well as a hockey pool.

The intent of the political pool would be to challenge your friends, coworkers and fellow voters to predict what will cause the downfall of the ruling Tories, and when that cause occurred.

Start by creating a table; the vertical column on the left can be labelled “what”; the horizontal row along the top can be labelled “when.”

Bear in mind that today’s monolithic administration eventually becomes tomorrow’s has-been. It was only some years ago, for example, that the Liberals under Clyde Wells and then under Brian Tobin seemed unbeatable.

The Tories under Premier Kathy Dunderdale still enjoy a healthy and respectable amount of support. Whether or not that majority support is the leftovers of Dannymania is immaterial. It is there, proven in polls.

But the Tories’ second mistake would be to assume their support is timeless and open-ended.

Their first mistake — and this is where I’m putting my money in the political pool — has been to continue with a ruling style that is arrogant, obstinate and condescending.

In the “when” box, I’m marking, “Election night, 2011.” That was when Dunderdale, newly minted as premier-elect, declared — on the very day of democracy in action — the House of Assembly wouldn’t open in the fall and would resume sitting months away, in the spring.

There’s nothing like rushing right in to an authoritarian regime. If and when the Newfoundland electorate ever rebels against this, you can reliably trace it back to Oct. 11, 2011.

There are a variety of other issues worthy of your wager. You couldn’t go far wrong betting on “government secrecy/lack of transparency.”

Even the provincial auditor general has complained the government isn’t forthcoming enough with information. If he can’t find satisfaction, it’s highly unlikely many regular citizens can. But will their dissatisfaction be enough to turn them against the Tories? The political pool beckons your guess.

How about the coming cuts to health-care spending? Mark your X.

The Muskrat Falls “file,” being so thick, should be broken down into subsections for the purposes of a political pool. Some suggestions: “Similarity to Upper Churchill deal”; “cost overruns”; “subsidizing Nova Scotians’ power bills”; and “ignoring obvious downsides.”

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached via

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Well jumpins
    February 21, 2012 - 10:12

    I guess id rather live one day as a Leafs fan then a life time as a stupid muskrat

  • steve marshall
    February 19, 2012 - 09:24

    "arrogant, obstinate and condescending".....pretty much sums up every Brian Jones article I have read. Except the one about the dory he and his family use, that was a nice article. Maybe someone else in his family wrote that one?

  • William Daniels
    February 18, 2012 - 18:48

    I think Mr. Jones brings up some excellent points. Well said.

  • MBC
    February 18, 2012 - 07:53

    Right on Mr Jones. The PC are now their own worst enemy. I have spoken to many who voted PC and said "never again"; next election they will vote NDP if Mr Kirby becomes the new leader.

    • Bill
      February 18, 2012 - 09:56

      Well i have spoken to lots who said they voted NDP for the 1st time, and the last time, in the past election. Especially if Dale Kirby is the leader...he is the most disappointing MHA so far since the election. Can't wait to see Kirby in the HoA! He is sad so far...can only imagine what he will be like there.

  • Jordan
    February 17, 2012 - 23:24

    Dunderdale announced the day of the election, before most people voted, that she would not open the House of Assembly, just as Williams did.

    • sam
      February 18, 2012 - 07:41

      And how many people in the province do you think actually watches the HoA? And its the same people over and over who are complaining about it. Its getting old! The province is still running along fine. I for one do not want to watch a bunch of kindergarden kids argue...i can go to my local school yard if i want to see that. I would rather see my MHA in the district, where i elected him to be.

  • Sean
    February 17, 2012 - 21:21

    Wow...why didnt Jones just run for office in October? He didnt have the guts to do it. By far the worst reported article i have seen in ages. I guess we can see the bias of the the Telegram. I, like many, think Kathy is doing a fine job in governing the province. Will she satisfy everyone, not hardly. But with idiots like Brian Jones reporting, who would want to anyways. What a tool!

  • Windswept
    February 17, 2012 - 20:27

    One only needs to look at who is buying into this particular piece of drivel to see it's validity or lack there of. When former Liberal candidates are "sharing" it on social media, that speaks volumes. If Government is doing something then it must be wrong. This is nothing more than anti government trash. And, for the benefit of those in opposition both Provincially and Federally, there's more to effective opposition than merely taking up a contradictory position. Sometimes you need to be the bigger person and give government credit for good decisions. We NEED Muskrat Falls....why not just admit it and save the rhetoric??

  • Mark
    February 17, 2012 - 11:35

    The description of the Muskrat Fall Deal as the 'the most important issue facing several generations, current and future, of Newfoundlanders' is an obvious miss of what is truly a more pressing and financially dangerous government investment/expenditure; the provision of socialized medicine. The insatiable and occassionaly irrational appetite of our citizens for new and greater medical treatments and procedures, the ever escalating cost of their delivery, and our politicians unwillingness to address these issues regarding what has become the most sacred of cows in our province and country is financially the most significant issue of our time. The government spends almost $3 Billion per year in Newfoundland to provide healthcare with no decrease in spending or even stabilization in site. To make the numbers relevant, we spend a Muskrat Falls Development every 3 years on the health system. Does anyone think this is sustainable? The public is crying over their light bills while ignoring the fact that they will have to pay more in fees and taxes when the oil windfall we are enjoying dries up. This is the issue of our times but our electorate is once again distracted by lesser and perhaps easier developments to address.

  • Terry Murphy
    February 17, 2012 - 10:56

    Brian Jones article today is such a biased and typical response that I've come to expect from him. Does he feel that his 'prediction' makes him a luminary of some kind or that he has brought some insight into the readers mind by writing this piece of trivial doggerel? I reiterate what Jenny has said and encourage this journalist to make his articles more well rounded and less biased towards this Premier and government. The fact of the matter is Premier Dunderdale is leading in the polls with a huge majority over the opposition parties, because the people of this province believe in her. That's why they voted her in with a resounding majority.

  • John Smith
    February 17, 2012 - 10:55

    This is great. I hope Mr. Jones keeps writing drivel like this as it bolsters support for the project. The more lies innuendo and BS that individuals like Mr. Jones publishes, the more people will easily see right through the hyperbole, and recognize that this development is by far the best choice to deliver power to the province for the next 100 years or so. How is this project similar to the upper churchill? Just by making that statement it proves to me that Mr. Jones knows little about either development. There is over a billion dollars set aside to handle cost overruns, MHI sadi they don't expect that the overruns will be higher than 20%. We are hardly subsidizing NS power consumers. We are building a dam to supply power to the province of NL, and we have excess power to sell...would it be better if we just let the water spill over the dam? What are the "obvious downsides" you speak of? I have read all I can on the subject, and I can't see any obvious downsides. At least none that would not come from any attempt to suplly an 824 megawatt power development. I have to say, I have read many of Mr. Jones' articles in the past, but this one really goes beyond the pale. Not one bit of concrete proof as to why the deal is bad. Just badmouthing the Minister, calling him childish names, and badmouthing the most popular Premier in Canadian history. Mr. Jones is not fit to shine Mr. Williams shoes, let alone inform us about, his intentions or personality. Keep up the writing Mr. it helps us all see what the naysayers are all about.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    February 17, 2012 - 10:48

    Here is a well-rounded point. +++++ Nalcor changed the way, and by how much, each group of ratepayers will pay for this project --- from what is called the traditional Cost of Service method to an Escalating Supply Price method. +++++ Nalcor has said that this keeps rates lower for you and for me (in the early years). But Nalcor has also said that they are not 'foregoing' the return on the costs/equity, etc. that they are entitled to--- they are merely "deferring" it to future generations ---- to our children and grand children ---- who will have to pay more than if 'we' paid our fair share early on. ++++++ So "we" are paying less now so our children and grand children will have to make up the difference in future years. ++++ It has been asked (through the Consumer Advocate) for a graph that would show over the entire 57 year period the difference between who-pays-what using the normal utility practice (cost of service) approach as compared to Nalcor's escalating supply price method. ++++ And guess what, Nalcor's response is "The requested analysis does not assist consideration of the Reference Question." ++++++ In other words, Nalcor won't say, +++++ Nalcor relies on the very narrow and strict limitations imposed by the Reference Question to avoid telling ratepayers how much burden we are imposing on our children and grand children in order to make this project palatable and appear as though it were a good deal for us and for future generations. ++++ This project is a pig in a poke (but Nalcor's economic wizardry and high paid lawyers are preventing us from seeing the pig). +++++++ If it is so good for future generations, why do they refuse to show me and you the costs on a yearly basis, every year over the full 57 year cost comparison period, that is, using a cost of service method as compared to an escaltaing supply price method? They keep providing only different versions using ONLY their escalating supply price method for Muskrat Falls generation. I want to see the PIG ---- but I am not allowed. PERIOD---- and Nalcor wants to keep it from the view of the public.

  • Simple Question
    February 17, 2012 - 09:34

    If Danny Williams believes that his Muskrat Falls represents ''the most important issue facing several generations, current and future, of Newfoundlanders'', then why did he cut and run from it a month after his photo op?

  • sheddiegale
    February 17, 2012 - 08:31

    The PC Government is about protecting and strengthening our wonderful Province. As a young person I stand firmly with the PC Government and their decisions. We have seen our Province grow and finally get the respect it deserves from our country and around the world. Muskrat Falls is a needed development for our future(my future). Lets invest now in something that will be beneficial to the people of this province. I for one want my future children to be able to live in the province in which they are born and investment like this will help make that happen!

  • Maurice E. Adams
    February 17, 2012 - 08:16

    If "our" government, "our" elected officials, "our" Premier had any respect for our bureaucratic institutions, such as the PUB, who's job it is to do a thorough, objective, unbiased analysis and review of this Muskrat Falls project and other possible lowest cost (not least cost) options, they would not be prejudicing the PUB's work by limiting the scope of their review, limiting the time they need to do their review, limiting both the scope and time that citizens/voters/ratepayers have to make presentations and submit comments and questions, --- and they certainly would not be making public statements pushing for the quick review and sanction/approval/support for one option over the other. +++++ Any public pressure by government on these institutions (and/or on the public) is undemocratic and prejudicial to a fair, objective and thorough project review by those who are supposed to just that.

    • Jenny
      February 17, 2012 - 08:53

      Mr. Jones, I think it is very easy to make government decisions appear to be 'bad' when you speak with bias. It would be easy for me to make anything appear negative if I choose to repeat only those things other people have said that compliment the point I am trying to make. Seriously, perhaps you should make your articles a little more well rounded. How has your little rant helped the reader's knowledge of what Muskrat Falls is actually about? It hasn't. It also does not contribute to an intelligent debate on how government is performing. Hopefully the people reading this article will recognize a one-sided, bias article when they read one.