Loyola Sullivan: everyman?

Bob Wakeham bwakeham@nl.rogers.com
Published on February 25, 2012

Who'd ever have thought of Loyola Sullivan as just your regular working stiff?

Well, I'm willing to believe at this point that Sullivan carries his lunch to work at Ocean Choice International in a brown paper bag, clocks out at midday for exactly 30 minutes to gobble down a ham and cheese sandwich and a can of Vienna sausages, and tops it off with a raisin square and healthy swig from his ThermosĀ® of sweet tea before heading back to the assembly line.

And you can be sure that when the whistle blows at the end of the shift, he heads off to the local tavern with the rest of the lunch-bucket brigade for a few brew and a vigorous debate about the issues of the day. Whether, for instance, the Leafs will make the playoffs or why it was that washed-up pop singer Whitney Houston was accorded the sort of funeral sendoff you might expect for Nelson Mandela.

Just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill employee, that's what Loyola Sullivan tried to convince all of us last week in a performance that was near farcical, right up there in Codco territory, as the former politician turned himself inside out while arguing there was no conflict of interest between his job with Ocean Choice and his former position as Canadian Ambassador for Fisheries Conservation (the plum dropped from the Tory patronage tree by Stephen Harper into Sullivan's lap about a month after he "retired" from provincial politics).

How could there possibly be a conflict when Sullivan, as he said again and again and again, was just an ordinary worker, "one of thousands out there" employed by Ocean Choice? Yes, his two brothers, Blaine and Martin, run OCI, but Loyola was not to be viewed, under any circumstances, as his brothers' keeper. He and company policy were not to be mentioned in the same breath.

Sullivan kept a straight, albeit red face, as he made those comments about being just one of the b'ys, just a member of the rank and file, just an employee, after giving the key note address at a meeting of employers, a speech he gave behind a podium with the word "employer" conspicuously marked across its front (again, Codco couldn't have scripted the scene any better).

And then there was this juicy tidbit of startling, earth-shattering information to reporters grilling him about the conflict of interest questions: he goes to work at 8:30 and doesn't get off until five or six and sometimes works "into the night." Well, now, if I was Loyola, I'd contact Earle McCurdy and see if he can join the union after working those kinds of outrageous hours. (Might be a bit awkward, though, filing a grievance against Martin and Blaine).

Even when asked what he felt about the fact that OCI has hired scabs (replacement workers, as euphemistically described by the company) to work aboard the Newfoundland Lynx, Sullivan stuck to his guns, stuck to his assessment that he's just an ordinary foot soldier with his brothers' company, that he could never speak for the company.

So I guess we'll have to believe, as well, that Loyola never talks policy with his brothers, even over Sunday dinner. Maybe they yak about what a great hockey player Andy Sullivan was. Or how the Shore has changed. Or what a jerk Martin thinks the before-mentioned McCurdy is. But talk of fish? That's a no-no. The managing brothers Sullivan would never, under any circumstances, discuss such heavy matters with a mere employee.

And if Sullivan happens to bump into government people he associated with during his tenure as fisheries ambassador, well, sir, they'd better steer clear of any talk of policy that might affect the Sullivan brothers' company.

To tell the truth, I don't know whether Sullivan is in a conflict of interest.

He says he's been officially told by the powers that rule in these matters that such is not the case.

But I am sure of something: Sullivan has shown us all that once a politician, always a politician, forever the spinner.

And after listening to him last week, you couldn't help but think (with an altering of the gender) of that Shakespearean quote: the gentleman doth protest too much, methinks.

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