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Brian Jones: Blam! St. John’s voters select the Slaughterhouse 5

St. John’s mayoralty loser Andy Wells bowed out about as ungracefully as you’d expect, kicking a Telegram reporter out of his campaign headquarters on election night. Somewhat ironic — his detractors might say typical — for a politician who regularly bellowed about the public’s right to know.

Brian Jones

The big burgh’s electorate instead chose Danny Breen, a failed Tory candidate in a 2014 provincial byelection who, after losing to Cathy Bennett in Virginia Waters, crawled back to city hall to continue his devoted duty of serving the people whom moments before he had attempted to abandon.

There was a third candidate for mayor, but she didn’t do anything overtly offensive, and thus I can’t remember her name.

Obnoxious bluster always makes for good headlines, so journalists and a handful of voters will lament Wells’ retreat into retirement as a mere dog-walker, with all tails between their legs.

Those few who feel empathy will worry about how the poor fellow can survive on a pitiful pension(s) of $74,000.

It was a veritable massacre around the council table, with four incumbents being shot down, and five women — five! — winning seats. History may come to know them as the Slaughterhouse 5.


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Such a huge changeover obviously reflects the voters’ hope for change, and a desire to have council members who don’t start the bulldozers every time the subject of a heritage building comes up, or who genuflect at the mention of “development.”

A thought occurs: might they possibly decide to tear down Doc’s fence along the harbour front, which was supposedly erected for “safety” at a “working harbour,” but in truth was put up to keep the local peasantry away from pampered tourists getting on and off cruise ships?

Too much gushing about the girls could be seen as reverse sexism, so let’s not forget golden boy Jamie Korab, swept into city hall thanks to his fame as an Olympic gold medallist, albeit playing a pansy sport. Let’s see, “world-class athlete” … yup, that’s worth a few votes. Now comes the harder part.

As with rookie politicians everywhere, at every level — especially those touted as “progressive” — the challenge for the newcomers will be to fulfil high expectations.

The first danger is being co-opted, of adopting a bureaucratic and conservative mindset and abandoning the energy and ideals that got you elected. (See: NDP in Ontario; NDP in Nova Scotia; NDP just about anywhere they’ve been elected.)

The first defence against co-optation is to reject the language of power.

Ever notice how so many people in public office — especially Conservatives — boast about being “positive” and regale against “negativity”?

Reject that. It’s nonsense. “Positive” actually means, “Shut up and agree with me.”

“Negative” actually means, “Shut up and stop criticizing me.”

Candidates who win election on a platform of change are actually being told by voters to positively be negative — to smash the status quo, to speak differently, to behave differently.

Interesting to see former NTV reporter Darrin Bent get elected as a councillor in Conception Bay South. I love it when former journalists run for office and win. It’s like the bull winning a bullfight.

Former Telegram reporter Gavin Will was a pretty good deputy mayor of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s these past four years, but fell short in a close contest to become mayor. He is no longer my friend.

This is pure conjecture, but I’ll bet Ryan Cleary — former Telegram reporter, NDP MP and provincial Tory candidate, and current union slayer/player — pondered running municipally, but couldn’t decide whether he should have a leftist or rightist platform.

Renee Sharpe! She was the third candidate in the St. John’s mayoralty race, and got 5,225 votes, 13.7 per cent. Not bad at all.

Imagine if Sharpe had won — city council would have a majority of women. But then, the Slaughterhouse 6 just doesn’t have the same ring to it.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at

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