They say a friend is someone you know everything about and still like.
I don’t know that to be completely true, but it helps explain some things. I guess that is why friends stand by friends when it seems much of the world has turned on them. And it doesn’t really matter why things have turned on them. We have this inclination, to borrow from George Stromboulopoulos, “to see the good in everyone.”
I met Kathy Dunderdale when she was a member and then chairperson of the Northern Cod Adjustment and Recovery Program’s (NCARP) appeal board.
The appeal board was charged with reviewing the cases of fishermen, fisherwomen and fish plant workers who had failed to provide the appropriate documentation to qualify for the compensation program. I was working for the fishermen’s union at the time, representing people in front of the appeal board.
It was a hard time for a lot of people, and going before the appeal board was stressful for many. I have to say Dunderdale and I didn’t get off to the best start.
Frankly, and this might not surprise you, I thought she was hard-nosed and demanding.
But I also found that there was a deep appreciation for the people who were coming in front of her, and with her support many people who otherwise would have fallen through the cracks were helped.
And we became friends.
So, when she and I ended up in politics together years later, we ended up many times on the same side of issues.
Maybe it was because of the NCARP days that many times in cabinet meetings someone around the table would call us out for what appeared to be communicating without saying anything.
The late Jack Byrne, when minister of Municipal Affairs, was particularly good at picking up on it.
You might say, who cares? Fair enough, I suppose.
Well, I care, and too often in public life, not just in politics, people get a harder ride than they deserve.
As Randy Simms rightly pointed out, Dunderdale was judged as a woman in a man’s world. She was judged as the person who came after Danny. She was judged as the premier of a government 10 years old.
And as much as we like to portray ourselves as compassionate and caring, we can be really, really hard on people.
As a radio commentator observed to me during the power outage — a.k.a. crisis — the level of rhetoric was bad even by Newfoundland standards.
Communications missteps aside, Dunderdale had a good run. She carried some of the heaviest files ever held by a cabinet minister in this province.
She led the negotiations on some of the biggest deals ever done in this province. She held the respect of her colleagues both in government and outside. She stepped up when she thought it was right to do so and she stepped down when she thought the same. History will be good to her.
But don’t think you have heard the last of her. She has been kicking around and kicked around since the days of the Burin Action Committee in the early ’80s and she will be kicking around and kicked around again. Because the province needs people like Kathy Dunderdale, and she won’t be able to avoid playing a part. It is in her nature.
So, Kathy, go home, take a break, catch your breath and get on with life. Your story is not done yet, because you can’t keep a good man down … I mean woman.
Trevor Taylor is a former cabinet minister under the Danny Williams administration. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.