Dunderdale: set up to fail

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Poor Kathy Dunderdale. Turfed out of office in just two years after winning an election. Who would have thought? However, in hindsight we should have seen it coming.

After all, following in the footsteps of the most popular premier in Newfoundland’s history couldn’t have been easy.

Actually, she can thank Danny Williams for sowing the seeds of her eventual downfall.

Danny Williams would be an impossible act to follow. Whoever followed the likeable and charismatic premier was always going to fail the comparison test.

And that’s why no one wanted to be the new Progressive Conservative party leader when Danny Williams retired. His were big shoes to fill.

To her credit, Kathy Dunderdale accepted the job when no one else would. However, what she didn’t foresee was how much Danny Williams’ past decisions would negatively affect her future.

Chickens come home to roost

It was Danny Williams’ government that went on a hiring spree, increasing the civil service by far too much and far too quickly. While there were areas that surely needed increased staffing, there was no need to go on a binge. (We have more employees per capita on the government payroll than any other province in Canada.)

And to make matters worse, Danny Williams decided that all civil servants deserved a significant pay raise.

This was simply not justified (civil servants were doing quite well, thank you very much). There may have been targeted groups that required large increases for retention purposes, etc., but a significant “across the board” increase for all civil servants — no way!

While money may have been flowing in from oil royalties, anyone with half a grain of financial sense should have seen what was bound to eventually happen with such a huge increase in your labour costs.

It took a few years, but the chickens finally came home to roost.

Oil revenues weren’t increasing at the same rate as government expenses and labour costs are a large part of your expenses, therefore, cuts had to be made.

However, it wasn’t Danny Williams who had to make the unpopular decision to lay off civil servants.

It was Kathy Dunderdale.

Firing 1,000 civil servants is never a nice thing to do, but it had to be done. Truth be told, there should probably have been many more that should have been let go.

The unfortunate part here is that they should have never been hired in the first place.

So Kathy Dunderdale takes the hit for something that Danny Williams did. Hardly fair, is it?

Kathy can also thank Danny for giving her Muskrat Falls.

I applaud Danny Williams’ vision on the energy project.

In his second term, he laid the political groundwork for this massive project, which I feel will prove itself in the long run.

While getting the basic agreement with the Nova Scotia government and others in place can be hard work and speaks to Danny Williams’ negotiating ability, the hard slog comes later.

This fell to Kathy Dunderdale — and to her credit, she pursued it like a dog with a bone.

She had to fight off opponents of Muskrat Falls that were against it for political reasons only, other opponents who were sincere but probably misinformed, she had to fight the Public Utilities Board and virtually every journalist and editorial writer in the province, deal with a new Nova Scotia government having second thoughts and, at the same time, curry favour with Stephen Harper for the loan guarantee (against the backdrop of Harper being the most disliked PM in Newfoundland’s history). We can thank Danny in part for that, too.

The hard tough dirty grind to bring this project from concept to construction was done by Kathy Dunderdale, not Danny Williams.

While he had the vision, she’s the one with the strong back.

But I bet you, years from now, when this project is successfully paying dividends as a renewal natural resource, it will be considered Danny’s project.

Kathy Dunderdale has had her own failures to be sure, Bill 29 probably being the biggest.

A more politically astute premier should have recognized this bill, rightly or wrongly, was viewed by everybody in a negative light. She should have realized this, done something about it and moved on.

Instead her stubbornness got in the way of political smarts. It became another nail in her coffin.

I still feel that Kathy Dunderdale was, and is, a very sincere person who had nothing but this province’s interest at heart.

I believe she worked hard and tirelessly for this province and deserves our thanks.

I believe also that she was unfortunately set up for failure.

Poor Kathy Dunderdale.

R.K. Whiteway writes from Mount Pearl.

Organizations: Public Utilities Board

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Canada, Nova Scotia Mount Pearl

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Recent comments

  • Corporate Psycho
    January 29, 2014 - 21:55

    Anyone with half a grain of sense wouldn't read this letter. Nonsensical rambling.

  • Dolf
    January 29, 2014 - 11:54

    You shot yourself in the foot Mr. Whiteway with your judgement "civil servants were doing quite well, thank you very much". If I recall correctly their salaries were frozen for the previous four or 5 years.

  • Carol
    January 29, 2014 - 10:32

    I could only agree more with your article if you were to point out that Danny Williams took on this leadership at the highest point in NL History and then bailed when there was real work to be done - leaving Kathy to hold the bag. Our so called saviour was an opportunist who deserted us when he was needed.

  • saelcove
    January 29, 2014 - 10:32


  • Maggy Carter
    January 29, 2014 - 10:21

    If Muskrat ever pays dividends, which won't be in the first half of this century, it will be because ratepayers are getting outrageous utility bills in their mailbox every month. A dollar in dividends to taxpayers via NALCOR that steals an extra hundred a month from our pockets as ratepayers is hardly a bargain. Once Williams put the yoke around her neck, Dunderdale became a Clydesdale - an awkward heavy blinkered beast of burden. She dutifully plodded her way along the disastrous path plotted for her by her master - oblivious to any distraction along the way. Dunderdale might have lacked charisma but virtually all her failings from a public perspective can be traced to that pivotal decision - accept the premiership on a silver platter as long as she pledged to see Muskrat through to the bitter end. And bitter it is - for her, the province and the taxpayer. What I find extraordinary that there is still much fondness for Williams but absolute disdain for Dunderdale. And yet they are co-authors of some of the worst mis-steps in the province's history including and especially Muskrat Falls. The difference is that one had the personality to pull it off - and because he jumped clear of the wagon before the wheels fell off. The other is Kathy Dunderdale.

  • Willi Makit
    January 29, 2014 - 09:04

    One of the most annoying characteristics of the Con-servatives is that it's always someone else's fault for their failures. True to form.~

  • david
    January 29, 2014 - 08:59

    That Kathy Dunderdale didn't have a longer time in office is not the surprise --- heck, that she got any at all is a wonder! No, the real headscratcher is that people here continue to revere Danny Williams like some sort of deity, and likely always will. The guy is an egotistical, petty little Napoleon, who left this province immediately after lighting the fuse on the suicide bomb called Muskrat Falls.

  • E Thorne
    January 29, 2014 - 08:22

    Finally, someone that can actually see the bigger picture.

  • Ken Collis
    January 29, 2014 - 07:47

    1. No one argued that layoffs needed to happen. Who she picked for the pink slip was her downfall, the biggest being justice. This showed poor decision making and the people deserve well thought out decisions and expect them from government. 2. With Muskrat there was no need to fight anyone. Government made the PUB step aside without enough time to fully analyse the project, or the documentation to do so. Not everyone who was against Muskrat had a political agenda, and you, being a good conservative, continue to tell us we were "probably misinformed". I thought that the mantra of 'the people just don't understand' would die once the premier resigned. I guess I was wrong. Choosing Manatoba Hydro to analyse the project was a poor choice. Their own hydro megaprojects projects are proof of their lack of ability. Making Nalcor the absolute king of it's own castle was another big mistake. At the very least, the AG should be REQUIRED to perform an independent audit so we can be assured that the project 'assessments' released by Nalcor doesn't fudge the numbers. I'm sure the AG can keep a secret so using the need to keep some things out of public knowledge is a farce. Forcing ratepayers only to fully pay for the project is another big mistake. All proceeds from the project should be used to pay the debt until it is paid off. The mining interests who are lobbying for almost free power should be turned down. Giving our power away to Chinese interests definitely should not be part of the plan. I won't suggest that big companies shouldn't get a break on rates, but not near as much of a break as is planned. 3. Bill 29 was just so wrong on so many levels that there isn't enough time to list them all, but I will note that most of the population counts on the media to inform us of government decisions and to suggest they are too lazy to do the job without access to information laws is too big an insult to ignore. 4. Something you never mentioned was this governments plans for the fishery. The premier said that fishers should 'sink or swim on their own merits' and will get no government assistance. Then she turned around and changed the laws to allow her political friends, the Sullivan brothers, to ship tons and tons of unprocessed fish outside the province for processing. Then just a month ago she allows for all the rest of the fish in our waters to go to CETA totally unprocessed as well. Basically, that decision will result in the end of our inshore fishery and will severely impact rural NL. 5. I believe her poor decisions set herself up for failure.