Divided we fall

Pam Frampton
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“Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,


German writer, artist, politician

Peter Penashue rolled the dice with his recent boast that he stalled projects in Newfoundland in order to procure funding from the provincial government for projects in Labrador.

That makes him a hero to some, a rogue to others. We’ll find out on Monday how Labrador voters, at least, feel.

But frankly, if Penashue wins, we all lose in a way. Because in his desperation to win back a seat in Parliament, he manipulated voters. And, mind you, we’re talking about a seat that we don’t even know was originally won by legitimate means.

He’s manipulated all of us.

How? By choosing that most disagreeable of political strategies: divide and conquer.

“I will tell you a secret,” he told supporters on the campaign trail last month. “I did not sign the approvals in Newfoundland until I had my $85 million for the road in Labrador, and I held their project for six months.”

Whether or not his little stratagem pays off for him politically, or whether it is even what actually happened, his motivation was nasty. He deliberately fanned decades-old embers of resentment among people in Labrador — who feel ill-used by the island of Newfoundland, and perhaps rightly so — until he got a few sparks of outrage flying on both sides of the Strait of Belle Isle.

Ask yourself this: what was Penashue’s motivation for bragging about where his allegiance lies?

The answer is pure politics, and hardly becoming of someone who was a federal cabinet minister — this province’s representative in the federal government, not just Labrador’s MP.

It was one of the most distasteful moments in politics in this province that I have ever witnessed. Clearly, if you live in Newfoundland, Penashue does not represent you, no matter what cabinet post he might be given in Ottawa.

If I was voting in Labrador, I’d be looking for someone who cares about the people of the province more than scoring cheap political points.

Let’s face it, we’re pretty insignificant in terms of the political clout we wield in this country. Why would we elect someone who would deliberately pit the people of this province against each other? That kind of small-minded, mean-spirited rhetoric is meant to stir negative emotions and does nothing to serve the greater good. It’s the kind of old-school-politics, “we’re the good guys and they’re the bad guys” mentality that fosters dissent and turns people against their neighbours.

We don’t need that here. We’re still reeling from job and service cuts from both provincial and federal governments, and this is not the time for “every man for himself.”

Besides, people should expect more from their votes than a lick of pavement — they should expect ethical, fair and vocal representation. Everyone knows Penashue was practically mute as an MP.

In his column of Jan. 1, 2013, the Toronto Star’s Michael Valpy said of the Harper administration:

“They have withdrawn from obligations to monitor employment equity and address discrimination, ended support for agencies that advocate for women’s rights, terminated scientific research, ended health care for refugee claimants, been contemptuous of Parliament and its rules. They’ve fuelled a civil society, a polity, of us and them.”

Well, it appears Penashue learned at the feet of his master, because the notion of “us and them” is precisely the tool he used to try to leverage a few votes out of disenfranchised Labradorians.

There’s a big difference between being a good constituency person and being an agitator.

We’ve already seen that Penashue blamed a campaign volunteer — a member of his own team — for bringing Elections Canada scrutiny to bear on his last election campaign.

Who will he blame if he botches this one?

Campaigning with Yvonne Jones in Labrador on April 24, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau told The Canadian Press that Monday’s byelection gives Labradorians a chance to tell Harper “that his approach, that his values focused on division and attack, is not good enough for the challenges we’re facing, not good enough for the country we want to build.”

Whether you support that sentiment or not, I think most people would agree that we have a better chance of building a better province and a better country if we pull together, rather than being encouraged to go for each other’s throats.

Pam Frampton is a columnist and

The Telegram’s associate managing editor.

She can be reached by email at


Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: Toronto Star, Elections Canada, Canadian Press

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Doug Smith
    May 16, 2013 - 20:03

    Sorry to say David, but we did not all win as you claim. With the election of Yvonne Jones we all lost and we all lost big time. First, the province now is in the unhappy position of having no member from Newfoundland and Labrador representing us at the Federal Cabinet. That fact alone makes us all losers. We have to have a MP, Peter MacKay, from a sister province speak for us. Now just where do you think this province rates in his list of priorities? Second, what are the chances Labrador will ever again have a federal cabinet minister ? Zero to none is the probable answer. Third, the leader of the federal Liberals is the son of Newfoundland’s historically biggest enemy, Pierre Trudeau. Why would a citizen from this province want to have anything to do with a Trudeau unless you believed “have not” status, forever, was what this province deserved. Fourth, Saint Yvonne, has her own bad behaviour to remember. She was one of 88 MHAs ripping off the Newfoundland and Labrador taxpayers in the constituency allowance scandal. Her total was $12,167. She got caught and agreed to pay the money back. How gullible a voter is one to again vote for one of the 88 ? A bad day for democracy when we can’t elect someone better. Fifth, who stands to benefit financially from Yvonne Jones victory? Remember, she is a member of the third party in the House of Commons and as such the only person she can help is herself. So, if she gets elected a few times more Yvonne will be in the happy economic situation of collecting a gold plated provincial pension and also a gold plated federal pension, all paid for by the tax payers of the country. Doug Smith,GFW

    • a business man
      May 17, 2013 - 19:01

      Great post! Newfoundland and Labrador IS disadvantaged because it not have an MP that is part of the governing party. That said, as a taxpayer and voter, I am absolutely okay with Newfoundland being disadvantaged because it means the government can focus on provinces that are more important to me, like Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia. Those provinces are more important to be because I have investments there that I do in Newfoundland. I would be happy if the government forgot about our province, and we are a step close to that as a result of this by-election

  • david
    May 14, 2013 - 20:32

    Doug Smith the election is not over, this was just one battle. the people in Labrador voted. penashua lost, jones won and the NDP made a very respectable showing. and the good news is, democracy seemed to be respected in the election so maybe we all won. RIP Burton Winters.

  • Doug Smith
    May 14, 2013 - 10:47

    Older and Wiser Newfoundlander, in your comments you went to great lengths complaining about negative economic issues, blaming all on Mr. Harper but then you congratulated Labrador on doing the right thing in the election of Ms. Jones. So since you claim to be wiser, I would like for you to explain how Labrador will be better off economically with Ms. Jones who can do nothing for Labrador compared to Mr. Penashue who as a cabinet minister would be able to bring economic benefits to Labrador. To me the people of Labrador have spoken loud and clear, they prefer nothing to something. Doug Smith,GFW

  • Older & Wiser Newfoundlander
    May 14, 2013 - 10:02

    Way to go NFLD & Labrador!!! Congratulations on doing the right thing in the Labrador election. Harper and his group f'd the fishermen, the seniors, the young job seekers, older job seekers, our solders, our critically ill, everyone hoping to eventually get CPP, OAS. He p'd away many of our high paying jobs and brags when they are replaced by ones paying less than half as much, and are part time/temporary. Many can't find work after 18 mths or more. Here's the rilldle: If you lose a 75K job and replace it with three part time jobs at the minimum wage, does it show up in Stats Canada as three new jobs being created??? Just one more change of policy and age 85 will be the new "65". Gee mom, I'm glad you got a new hip, because you'll have to work another 5, 10, no 20 years - thanks for everything! - Don't I look nice on tv? Here's a another picture of your son Steve for mother's day. He's appointed the most selfish and greedy pigs he could find. Did you notice that as his friend "Duffy" grows, his mouth looks smaller? Harper's formult? Dress nice, be well groomed, talk in a soothing voice with small words for the masses and you can betray them, lie to them, and suck them into voting for you again and again. We are smarter than that and we need to act smarter than that. We need to stop fighting each other and get some real leadership for this country before it crashes and burns. I'm looking forward to my turn to vote.

  • Doug Smith
    May 13, 2013 - 18:35

    Former Coaster, obviously you are having trouble thinking clearly. To say that what Pierre Trudeau did 30 years ago has no bearing on what Justin Trudeau is doing today is absurd. We couldn’t trust Pierre Trudeau to help Newfoundland then and we can’t trust his son now. Newfoundland’s one and only chance to escape “have not” status and all that that entails was control of the offshore oil resources. Pierre Trudeau said NO! He could have just as easily said yes, but he said no to Newfoundland. Prosperity was not coming to Newfoundland if he had anything to do with it. He therefore will always remain Newfoundland’s public enemy number one. What on earth makes you think that Justin Trudeau is any different ? They both came from wealthy elite backgrounds with privation an alien concept to them. There was and is not now any evidence that the concerns of this province matter or mattered to either one. Therefore, to even consider Pierre Trudeau’s son worthy of any Newfoundlander’s support for anything other than dog catcher, is for me a betrayal of Newfoundland . Regarding Peter Penashue , it should be noted that his main rival former Liberal leader Ms. Jones, was involved in the famous constituency allowance scandal. So how does that make her any better than Peter ? By voting for Peter , the people get a federal cabinet minister. Voting for anyone else gets them nothing. So what can’t you understand about that? Doug Smith, GFW

  • Doug Smith
    May 12, 2013 - 10:17

    Ms. Frampton, I was disappointed in your negative treatment of Mr. Peter Penashue. I know the current non-thinking fad of the moment is to do nothing but trash Mr. Penashue. I grant that he has made a few mistakes but it should be pointed out that he is doing what matters most for his constituents, looking out for Labrador. Now, I realize that for the most part ,the people on island Newfoundland couldn’t care less about the people of Labrador, with a record of exploiting Labrador resources and giving next to nothing back. Even our Premier Ms. Dunderdale, openly and freely admitted to that fact. So if Mr. Penashue isn’t looking out for Labrador, who will? I must also take issue with the adulation of Justin Trudeau by Pierre Neary and Cyril Rogers. Do these two remember that it was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau of the Liberal Party of Canada that would not give Newfoundland control of the offshore oil resources even though he could? No, Mr. Trudeau, was quite content to see Newfoundland remain forever a “have not” province. Now we have Mr. Neary and Mr. Rogers extolling the virtues of Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal; Party of Canada, the same party that supported Justin’s father’s treatment of Newfoundland. Of all the people in Canada to support! Can you just see Justin Trudeau saying to himself, my father beat the living daylights out of Newfoundland and yet there are Newfoundlanders willing to support me! Unbelievable indeed. Doug Smith, GFW

    • FormerCoaster
      May 13, 2013 - 15:15

      While I fully understand your support of things that PP has tried to do for Labrador, or promises to continue to do. However - If you or I had made false statements and too illegal monies from a 'supplier' on our jobs, we would be not only fired but most likely face criminal charges. Yet many seem to turn a blind eye to a politician, and call it a mistake. It might just be time for ALL CANADIANS to stop forgiving these unethical and sometimes illegal 'mistakes' and start holding their feet to the fire as opposed to maybe holding our nose while we vote .... just sayin ... as far as what P.E.T. did 30 years ago - well that has no bearing on what J.T. or anyone else is doing today. Based on that logic PM Harper should be branded along with Mulroney for taking a paper sack full of cash. I only wish the best for Labrador and hope that whatever happens it benefits all of you

  • Jay
    May 11, 2013 - 17:53

    While you were correct to concentrate on Harper and Penashue, please don't forget that other parties are having trouble with their moral compass. In fact the Conservatives got elected because of the Liberal scandals. Labradorians have not served themselves well by blindly voting Liberal since Confederation, and I would bet that Penashue was counting on that feeling of isolation when he made his comments. Please remember that Yvonne Jones was a provincial cabinet minister who eagerly double dipped into her constituency allowance to the tune of $12,000.00. That, in the least, is a lot of poor judgment. She also certainly didn't go out of her way to take the high road in this campaign, and Labradorians should think carefully before they vote for the lesser of two evils.

  • Herb Morrison
    May 11, 2013 - 16:03

    Effectively written column, Ms. Frampton. However, we might do well to consider that undesirable, unethical, call it what you will, behaviour, which is prevalent in the political arena, is sadly, encountered by us within the context of other situations, which we encounter as we live our daily lives. Pity that such behaviour is not brought into the media spotlight and does not merit the same type of righteous indignation from the general populace,which the questionable behaviour of our politicians, of all political stripes, and at all levels of Government seems to arouse. Perhaps when we, the general public see what represents the underbelly of life in the political arena laid bare for all to see; we are reminded that within the context of the society in which we live, individuals and groups of people are stigmatized and ,marginalized on a daily basis, when we as a society behave in a less than ethical manner.

  • Just Sayin
    May 11, 2013 - 11:15

    Pam , you are correct ,of course. But at the same time a "lick" of pavement is a big deal, in Labrador. Most all of coastal Labrador doesn't even have a road, not to mention pavement. Nor do Coastal Labrador have hydro power. As townies, we close our eyes to the poverty of much of Labrador, and have always done so. Concern for our neighbours and fellow citizens is a two way street. Who is promising to bring the Labrador coast into the twentieth century, not alone the twenty -first century. Muskrat falls power subsidized to new |England, but not to Nain. High cost diesel for them. Regardless of the party that wins, Labrador continues to get screwed. Too bad Penashaue lost his moral compass along the way. And there is no indication he has found it.

  • Cyril Rogers
    May 11, 2013 - 10:00

    Peter Penashue represents everything that is anathema to me, while Mr. Trudeau represents a new vision and a new hope for this country. However, he needs to put, into concrete form, some of the promise of change. It is ironic that we have to use the word "reform" when Harper and his minions have almost made it a dirty word by associating it with their own corrupt party. Mr. Trudeau and the Liberals are in a unique position, just like Mr. Obama was in 2008 in the U.S. and who has, to some degree squandered a glorious opportunity. The question for me is this: Will he also squander his opportunity, after getting elected, or will it be more of the same tired old politics of the past, including that which was practiced by his own party prior to Harper getting elected.

  • Pierre Neary
    May 11, 2013 - 09:26

    Trudeau is already sounding like a good PM. The present might not seem so bright but the future is looking good for us federally.

  • Justin Flontek
    May 11, 2013 - 09:23

    harpo and his cons don't just need to be voted out, but arrested and tried as criminals, along with a lot of other politicians. Just look at what's going on in Quebec. The corruption inquiry just finished with municipal politics and one mayor, plus others are going down as gangsters, themselves, let alone their cosa nostra connections. Even the rcmp is considering investigating various senators for a housing expense scam. And the mother of all Canadian scandals, robogate. Lets face it, our very democracy has been shattered. I say it's about time to bust out the torches and pitchforks! And while we're looking into corrupt politicians, lets take a really close look at preston manning and his center for political corruption.

  • joe
    May 11, 2013 - 08:28

    Mr.Penashue also bragged about closing the Coast Guard station in St.Anthony to save 2 jobs in Labrador.No thought given to the lives of thousands of mariners who depend on this service.Harper and Penashue, a real class act.