Shame, Premier Dunderdale

Bob Wakeham
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This is an easy one. A slam dunk, a gaping net, a hanging curve ball, arguably one of the bigger bonehead plays in recent Newfoundland political history.

And, yes, I’ll bring the sports metaphors to a close, but it should be duly noted: the Dunderdale administration deserves the enormous crap-knocking it’s getting over its deplorable decision to dramatically curtail the flow of information to its very own citizens, its own constituents, the very people who brought it to power, whose trust it has now betrayed.  

Hyperbolic language on my part, some might suggest, a bit melodramatic, a dose of heavy handed moralizing.

Well, in this case, it’s impossible, in my estimation, not to play the condemnation card.

The news of the legislation was so shocking, in fact, that the headlines alone said it all.  

“Clamp down” on access to information, the CBC website shouted. “Cabinet secrecy extended,” legislation “bars” auditor general from access to more records.

And on the front page of The Telegram: “Justice minister limits access to information,” on page four, “Cabinet ministers will be able to ignore requests for information,” while an editorial on page six was headlined “Blackout” and a Russell Wangersky column was bitterly entitled: “You’ll know only what they want you to know.”

Ironically, you may have noticed in that same edition on page three a picture of the architect of this Stephen-Harper-like, backward legislation (if not the architect, certainly the person to whom the plans were delivered for final approval), Premier Kathy Dunderdale herself, reading to a group of school children, introducing democracy to the youth of our province even as her ministers were trying to defend the indefensible.

I don’t know what Dunderdale was reading to those impressionable youngsters.  

But here’s what she might have been saying:

“Now, boys and girls, I should let you in a little secret, secrets being a big part of my government,” she might have said. “We’ve decided that your mommies and daddies are not capable of handling all the information we, as the governors of this province, have at our disposal.”

There may have even been a brief shout: “They can’t handle the truth.” And then a brief apology: “Sorry, boys and girls, you’re not old enough for a Jack Nicholson bit.

“But what I’m trying to say to you is that we’re going to treat the adults of this province as if they were your age, gullible and naïve, unable to decide what’s important and what’s not important, unable to think for themselves.

“We’ll handle everything from now on,” she might have said. “Just call me Grandma Josephine Smallwood.”    

There’s been so much said and written about what NDP Leader Lorraine Michael accurately described as the “most regressive” piece of legislation she had ever seen that words almost escape me.

Yes, I can scrounge up those few sports clichés off the top of this piece, and have some sarcastic fun at the expense of the premier’s little sit down with the youngsters.

But it’s still not enough.

It would almost be funny, an absolute joke, if the new access to information legislation didn’t have such long lasting, serious implications.  

And mark my words: it’ll have repercussions for Dunderdale the politician, as well.   

Those latest polling numbers for the premier weren’t exactly impressive. Some of her supporters continued to argue that her decreasing popularity had to be put in perspective, that she couldn’t possibly maintain the stratospheric standing of her predecessor.

But any diminution of her polling numbers in the future will be of her own doing. This stomping on the rights of private citizens, this egregious slap in the face to all Newfoundlanders, of all political stripes, is her baby. Danny Boy is out of the picture, developing land, chasing pucks, making more money. There’s no excuse anymore for Dunderdale. This is her thing. And it could very well help to bring her down.

I sometimes mock politicians who throw the word “shame” around so loosely that it loses its impact.

But, in this case, I’ll use it myself, as would just about any normal-thinking person in the province.

Shame, Ms. Dunderdale. Shame.

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: CBC, The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Lola
    June 18, 2012 - 11:03

    John Smith, you are so right. I am so disappointed in how the media is handling this issue. As for Bob Wakeham, I don't ever expect anything but negativity from his nasty pen. I don't believe the pubic support that the media and the LIBs/NDBs are feigning is real. The turnout at the protest on Saturday is a true indication of those concerned.

  • Jeaola
    June 18, 2012 - 10:57

    The slant the media is putting on this, I would expect to see in the tabloids, but not from The Telegram and CBC.

  • Ed. Anstey
    June 17, 2012 - 13:13

    john smith must be dunderdale's chief advisor because both of them believes we are all stupid. but we will have the last laugh. you know the rest.

  • Ken Collis
    June 17, 2012 - 04:53

    Well, JOHN SMITH, even as an avid PC government supporter the best you could come up with is that searches of less than 4 hours are going to be free!!! All that means to me is that the folks that I count on to pass on important information to me, the media, will save money if they want to know how many moose applications were submitted this year because with the new legislation nothing more informative than that will get out in the open. I think that there should be NO restriction on access to information at all. What exactly IS wrong with access to cabinet consultations AFTER the decisions are made? I would really like to know the process, to be honest. And honesty is what is missing in governments these days, as well, I'm not a Liberal or NDP, or PC. I'm one of the guys that pay them.

  • Virginia Waters
    June 16, 2012 - 14:21

    John Smith likes Bill 29 even though he's only read bits of it. If it's government policy then he has to defend it. Just like being a member of cabinet. But why wouldn't Smith like it? The new rules that allow ministers to decide what the public gets to see kills any chance that someone will ask for a copy of his contract.

  • Edward Sawdon
    June 16, 2012 - 11:20

    Blunderdale's Regrissive-Conservative Bill-29 legislation will lead I'm sure to her defeat in the next provincial election! Look at her policies since she got elected as Premier in October 2011- One: kept the People's House of Assembly CLOSED for SIX MONTHS after the election!; Refuses a Judicial Inquiry to the Burton Winters Tragedy and the province's and federal governments role in SAR; refuses to meet with Burton Winter's Grandmother; a Have Province Premier willing to borrow BILLIONS for Muskrat Falls while calling for provincial public service and Health service workers cuts; her constant obsession with Muscrat Falls; a Premier who doesn't have the GUTs to stand up to our Country's Prime Minister in light Federal public service cuts in the province ie. DFO, ACOA, SAR, Parks Canada;Food Safety Inspectors and so on and so on and what's worse, even before the provincial election, refusing to support her predecessor's "ABC" campaign and in fact, supporting Mr. Harper's Conservatives in the last Federal election. (Danny Williams was right back in 2008: if Canadians elect a Harper Conservative Majority Government to quote Bachman Turner Overdrive - "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet!" And, on top of all this, bring in Bill 29 which will further restrict the Political Opposition; the Auditor General; the Media and the General Public from further Provincial Public Information which concerns and is paid for by the Taxpayers (Our Money) of this province. I suggest that we Newfoundlanders and Labradorians call for a "ABPC" (Anybody but Progressive-Conservatives) campaignin the next provincial election!

    • I Loves Nfld
      June 16, 2012 - 12:39

      In our "Do You Support the Conservatives?" survey, we'll mark ya down as undecided.

    • John Smith
      June 17, 2012 - 08:34

      Wow..blunderdale...did you come up with that all by yourself? What intellect. What insight. You sound like a kid in grade 9...grow up b'y...for God's sake...

  • Mark Noel
    June 16, 2012 - 10:44

    God knows I'm no fan of Wakeham, but today I am!

  • I Loves Nfld
    I Loves Nfld
    June 16, 2012 - 10:42

    Dunderdale & Co. are bad, BAD people.

  • Imelda
    June 16, 2012 - 10:27

    There is a certain hubris that goes along with this decision. It's like the government feels that they have a divine right to rule, and that the opposition and media have no right to access the information which will allow them to ask tough questions. The thing they're forgetting is that no matter how much good a government may or may not accomplish, they are not perfect, they are not God, and in a democratic society we as voters need the opposition and the media to perform their roles as well as possible so that the government can be held fully accountable for their decisions, right or wrong. It's so disappointing in this day and age that this point of view is completely lost on the government.

  • Doug Long
    June 16, 2012 - 10:09

    Bob, you have said it so very well and will some humour included. Congratulations to the Telegram personnel for covering this horrendous story so very well.

  • David
    June 16, 2012 - 09:26

    The legislation is completely indefensible. In fact, the only defense they offered ---- an alleged need to reduce the current, overwelming number of requests for information ---- was looked into by the CBC and found to be a pathetic, bald faced lie. The legislation can be called the 'Blunder Under Dunder' and fumed about for the next few weeks ...... but it's the absolutely predictable, 100% certain negative consequences of it in the future that actually matter. This province may have just signed its own death warrant.

  • John Smith
    June 16, 2012 - 09:17

    This has been blown out of proportion by the opposition and the media. The opposition saw this early as a way to mislead the public, and a way to stir up resentment of the governing PCs by the voting public. News organizations, like the Telegram, and the local CBC saw this as a way to punish the PCs for not ever giving them all the access they wanted....which of course is total access. So now we have the opppsition in full spin mode, with the media in lockstep, putting out a message that bill 29 is akin to what they do in north korea and give me a break. If you asked the average person on the street...Have you read bill 29? Do you know of any changes to our access that this bill will now dissallow? They would likely say....HUH? what you talkin' 'bout b'y...would be the answer. I would say to the public, before you get on talking down the premier, and the at first should read the bill. I have read parts of it. One thing I like is that they changed the search fees...before any searches 2 hrs and under were under 29 it will be 4 hrs. Opening up more free searches for the public. The media is shamefully spining this to be something it's not, and depending upon public ignorance to get it quashed. Talk about shame...give me a break...

  • Cyril Rogers
    June 16, 2012 - 09:12

    Shame on you, Mr. Wakeham, and most of the St. John's media, for your dismissive attitude toward any opposition to the Tories prior to the last election. While there were some clowns in the running for opposition parties, it was evident even then that the biggest clowns were already in power. Their lapdog attitude and subservience to the Great Leader had already carried over to the Weak Leader but you folks simply endorsed these clowns anyway, with thge exception of Mr. Wangersky and one or two others. And spare me. please, the media platitudes that "There are no other options!" There always are and, as the last eight months have demonstrated, both provincially and federally, the damage done by tyrants in both arenas, cannot easily be undone!

    • Eli
      June 17, 2012 - 15:49

      Cyril my son. When you say "there are no options" look back to the municipal elections in St. John's. Ron Ellsworth or Dennis O'Keefe. Now tell me again there are no options.

  • Joseph McGrath
    June 16, 2012 - 08:32

    Nice column Bob.The piece of legislation is crap.She is the MHA for Virginia Waters and we never see her in the district or hear about anything she does to help the area get a leg up.Her mindset is all wrapped around her own agenda and promoting herself.Worse premier we ever had and thats saying a lot considerIing her predecessors such as the TOBINATOR.As a YaBut bob ,there is always a YaBut you know,I can never imagine you dishing out some heavy handed moralizing!!!You are to sour for Christ sake.

    • Dean
      June 17, 2012 - 04:48

      Great article. This government isn't working!