Farewell, Madame Premier

Pam Frampton
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As a younger colleague of mine noted, en route to Confederation Building for Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s resignation, it was “pretty epic.”

Inside, loud chatter bounced off the hard surfaces of the legislature lobby, made colder and more austere by the construction underway. A phalanx of TV cameras stood at the ready, as media-types held urgent, last-minute phone conversations or sent microcosmic observations out into the twittersphere.

The sense of anticipation was strong when a guy stepped forward to perform an interminable soundcheck. “Test, one, two. Test.”

I stood in the wings, old-school notebook in hand, feeling incredibly old-school myself as 20-something social media journos milled about, knapsacks on their backs, thumbs furiously working their smart phones or else holding them aloft to snap “before” pictures.

“Test, one two. Test.”

Outside, scaffolding surrounded the entrance, the snow fell sideways and a massive crane dominated the front parking lot, creating a sense of everything being in slings.

When I had quipped to my husband on the drive home Tuesday night that the crane was probably brought in to resurrect Dunderdale’s sagging political career, I did not expect to hear later that same evening that she was stepping down the next day.

Arriving on Confederation Hill to hear her farewell speech, the joke suddenly didn’t seem that funny anymore.

Not because Dunderdale’s popularity wasn’t waning, because it had. Not because I didn’t think she should go, because I did. And, frankly, I thought she should have stepped aside sooner for the good of her party.

But when you stand there and watch someone’s political aspirations being dashed to the ground, you realize what a tough decision it must have been.

To go from the bright, shiny moment when you get to wear the mantle of first female premier to having to acknowledge you’re no longer the right person for the job cannot be an easy journey.

And even though I’ve spilled plenty of ink propounding my views about what was wrong with Dunderdale’s leadership, I took no pleasure in seeing her secede.

It’s not an easy job to hold and must be a harder one still to give up.

When Dunderdale emerged to join the members of her caucus — a group dominated by men in sombre suits — you realize how few women there are in positions of political power in this province and what a blow it must have been for Dunderdale to acknowledge it would be best to step aside.

It remains to be seen whether she did so in time for her party to regroup and gain new strength or whether she waited too long to go.

My money’s on the latter, but politics is nothing if not unpredictable.

On Wednesday, the rumour mill was whispering that she had had no choice but to go; that she was being pressured to step aside with the threat of further defections.

The truth of that, too, may be revealed in time.

The only truth that mattered on Wednesday, though, was that Dunderdale was giving up her premiership when she was good and ready, and not one minute sooner.

She’s stubborn, I’ll give her that — though that may very well have been her fatal flaw.

But she was gracious in her leave-taking, saying, “there is no greater honour than to serve the public” and “no greater reward than knowing your service has made a difference.”

Dunderdale has not said whether she will keep her seat in Virginia Waters until the next election or whether she will even run again.

I suspect the answer to both those questions is no.

Let’s face it. Once you’ve reached the pinnacle, it can’t be a lot of fun to find yourself back at base camp.

But Dunderdale is nothing if not a survivor, and chances are she will resurface before too long — reinvented, reinvigorated and taking on a new role in some aspect of public life.

In what were likely the final moments of her final speech as premier, Kathy Dunderdale thanked the people from the bottom of her heart, then turned and walked towards the elevators on a wave of thundering applause.

Next to me, Nalcor CEO Ed Martin smiled enigmatically, cap tucked under his arm and clapping politely, looking for all the world like a man who had just dodged a bullet.



Geographic location: Virginia Waters

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Recent comments

  • Just sayin
    January 24, 2014 - 13:21

    Great piece and great ending. In Japan, the likes of Martin would fall on his sword, or there would reports of that following Dunderdale"s departure. We all know honest Ed show little honestly, but spins , twirls, and jumps loops, and hides, to keep the myth alive. Now he must scratch Tom Marshall's back to continue the farce. Think Marshall will fir him? Not likely. So we'll carry on: Walking the yellow Brick Road.

  • Just a reader
    January 23, 2014 - 20:09

    Wow! Great read and I certainly didn't expect the ending...but I did wonder where he was... I think KD now knows who her enemies are...she was a puppet...

  • Bob
    January 23, 2014 - 13:14

    I don't believe for one moment that the author or her colleagues didn't take pleasure in watching Dunderdale secede. A sentiment and opinion not only I share I guarantee. I have a look at the on line edition. I'll never buy a hardcopy.....never.

  • wavy
    January 23, 2014 - 11:40

    Wow, that was a chilly ending Pam and one I didn't see coming so first off, kudos for that. I too noticed the sombre, if not outright repulsive, aura of the occassion and the procession of corpse/robotic/pallbearer-like pale men in sweaty dark suits. I thought Tom Hedderson was going to keel over. All jokes aside, like yourself, I don't take pleasure in other's pain and you can't help but feel bad for both Kathy the person and Kathy the Premier who fell short of expectations. Which is why, I guess, the whole thing felt like someone or at least something, had died.

  • gordon
    January 23, 2014 - 10:07

    nfld politics has been very tough on female leaders. YVONNE JONES pushed out. LORRIANE MICHAEL ,badly wouned and now DUNDERDALE gently removed.

    • Frank
      January 23, 2014 - 12:24

      ...and don't forget Lynn Verge.

  • Noputis Phul
    January 23, 2014 - 09:49

    A very well-written eulogy, now where do I sign the condolences book?

  • Guy Incognito
    January 23, 2014 - 08:13

    She gave her pretty speech and left through the back door without taking questions..... typical

  • Virginia Waters
    January 23, 2014 - 08:00

    'The man who just dodged a bullet' - For now perhaps, but for how long? Writing this in the dark for the second day of outages in the centre part of the capital, I'm convinced that any new leader in this province will be looking for a gesture to show the electorate that - A.D. (After Dunderdale) - this Tory government finally gets it! It's about accountability. Dunderdale has fallen on her sword, but her lieutenant (no not the deputy premier, but the real 'power' behind the throne) thus far remains unscathed. How long before disgruntled government members and ministers, who could never get the ear of the leader because her 2IC had both of them bent - will want a sacrifice to the gods. How might it go. Even as interim leader, Marshall will want to signal a change of attitude if not direction. He will announce that 'his' government will defer to the PUB for an independent inquiry on the collapse of NALCOR's NL Hydro. With that report in hand, his successor will announce shortly after assuming office that he has accepted the resignation of its CEO. Call it a good first start. Marshall will not remove Martin at this point. He will leave it to the next premier. That person - whoever he/she might be - will probably recognize the need for

  • tobecontinued
    January 23, 2014 - 06:56

    I can't believe it... Actual journalism. Seems to be a lost art in this place. Good read.

    • saelcove
      January 23, 2014 - 10:31

      tobecontinued, it,s called yellow journalism

    • Frank
      January 24, 2014 - 17:51

      She should send a copy to Brian Jones. He needs a few journalism pointers.