Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Newfoundland and Labrador Government–The Latest Newfie Joke

** This blog was originally posted in June of 2012.  Allegations surfaced in August of 2013 suggesting improprieties on the part of Minister Joan Shea, as noted in the addendum. **

As a proud Newfoundlander, born and raised in the distinct culture that it is, I am mostly indifferent to what is known as “the Newfie Joke”.

For the few who have never heard of them, they are usually jokes that poke fun at the intelligence or common sense levels of Newfoundlanders.  Some Newfoundlanders, with the strong sense of humor they are known for, have embraced this self-deprecating humor while some tell the jokes with a mainlander substituted for the Newfoundlander being poked fun at.

Whether one finds them funny, insulting or are indifferent about them, there is a new Newfie joke making the rounds that has me greatly concerned for the people I care about in that great province.

I call that joke the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In recent weeks, great controversy erupted over new legislation (Bill 29) that severely limits the ability for citizens and the Auditor General to have any insight into the goings-on within the Government.  I wrote about this in my blog “We All Answer To Someone … Or Do We?”.

Now the Government finds itself in a new controversy with the appointment of Terry Styles as Chairman of Nalcor.

Nalcor is a major energy producer and distributor in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, with more than 800 employees and 2011 revenues of approximately $730 million.

While Mr. Styles may be a wonderful business man, he runs a beer distribution company in Stephenville (a small town in Newfoundland, population 6719) with 10 employees.

There’s a “small” leap in qualifications there that leaves me scratching my head.  When I think that the Chairman will influence major projects, including offshore oil exploration and the multi-billion dollar Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, I am concerned about what Premier Dunderdale is thinking.

Discussion in the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature produced this exchange on June 18th, 2012:

Opposition Leader Dwight Ball questioned the premier on the appointments.  "What possible skills and experience were you looking for from those people so that they could assist the management team at Nalcor?" said Ball.

"Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that I find this line of questioning offensive," Dunderdale responded.  "Why would anybody cast aspersions on me for, and question, my ability to be premier."

"Mr. Speaker, we're ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians [and] we know how to serve the people of our province," said Dunderdale.

With all due respect, Premier Dunderdale, when a leader makes decisions that are of high impact and visibility, it is completely normal to have to justify those decisions.  A strong, capable leader knows this.

In this case, the Opposition Leader was asking an obvious question about the abilities of the appointees.  We all have to demonstrate relevant skills in anything we apply for.  Claiming as she did that Life experience trumps relevant skills and knowledge borders on ludicrous when the leap is as large as it appears in this situation.

For Premier Dunderdale to take such a question so personally so quickly is a warning that the Leadership Quotient in the upper echelons of the Government is mediocre at best.

Maybe, just maybe, when convinced by the bureaucrat puppeteers who pull the strings in the NL government that she should run for Premier, she didn’t realize that she would have to defend the decisions of the puppet masters who, when they find decisions being challenged, fade into the background and leave one to defend one’s honor, intelligence and capabilities.


Even worse, Premier Dunderdale doesn’t realize that she has been set up.  Former Premier Williams stepped down quickly, leaving her to make a number of blunders that will become her legacy.  Meanwhile, Dean MacDonald, a good personal friend of Danny Williams, will take over the Liberal Party and lead them to an “election upset” over Premier Dunderdale and her party in the next election.

It is a brilliant strategy set up by a lot of brilliant people.

Sadly, in the case of Premier Dunderale, if one allows one’s self to be set up in this way, then one’s abilities as a leader are open to questioning anyway.

And when the Premier reacts so strongly to questions that should be anticipated, she already knows this also.

Meanwhile, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are left to wonder where this leaves them.

So there’s a new round of Newfie Jokes originating from the Legislature of Newfoundland and Labrador but they are more pathetic than funny and no one’s laughing this time.

Well .. most people aren’t.

Except for those who stand to benefit, now and in the future.

Unfortunately, those who benefit aren’t the common citizens of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

And with that, the last laugh’s on them … at their expense.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum: Out of respect for the current Liberal Opposition Leader Dwight Ball and to acknowledge the many emails I received praising his work as Opposition Leader, I agree with them that the choice of Dean MacDonald as the next leader of the Liberal Party is not a given and that Mr. Ball may lead the Liberals in the next election.  That being said, I believe the rest of my blog stands as noted. :-)  Thank you to everyone who has written in to make this point.

Addendum – August 15, 2013

Someone suggested to me that Minister Joan Shea (formerly Minister Joan Burke) and Mr. Styles were dating when the appointment to Nalcor was made.  I hope this is not true, as it would represent a serious conflict of interest should it be fact.  I reached out to Premier Dunderdale and Minister Shea for clarification but have not received a reply from either.


  1. Im incredibly curious about these "bureaucrat puppeteers" that were mentioned in this article. I'm don't necessarily disagree with this claim, but it seems unfounded. Is there any evidence that can support this?

  2. Hi Evan,

    Thank you for the response. As a strategy advisor to Fortune 25 CxO's, I don't toss around such accusations lightly. I would recommend that you find a copy of Dr. Doug House's book "Against the Tide: Battling for Economic Renewal in Newfoundland and Labrador". It is difficult to find but an excellent read that gives insight into who runs the Government in NL.

    Dr Doug House is currently Honorary Research Professor in the Department of Sociology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. His bio can be found here - http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~dhouse/bio.html

    Try that first. Once you have read it, seek me out and I will offer more. :-)

    Take care and create a great day.


  3. Unlike Premier Dunderdale, I was actually willing to explain my rationale instead of screaming at you wondering why you were calling my capabilities into question. :-)

    Sorry - I couldn't resist. :-)

    1. Looks like he deleted his response to my comment - making it look like I am talking to myself. :-)

  4. There is one reason for the questionable Terry Styles appointment that needs to be considered as it requires no level of skill at all - well not the kind required by Nalcor. Think the oldest reason in the book with a twist on gender. Yes it is true, it does happen. And it does cast aspersions? on our Premier and the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills.

  5. Dear Anonymous,

    You lost me there somewhere. :-)

  6. Terry Styles and Joan Shea are a couple. Everyone in Stephenville knows this. This is a conflict of interest that taxpayers should know!!

  7. Tell me that this is not true ... this is a massive conflict of interest if Minister Joan Shea was dating this man when the appointment was made.

  8. Against the Tide http://nlcpr.com/AgainstTheTide.pdf is rather mind boggling. Short of a wholesale purge (perhaps through retirement) and the kind of leader that the PC or LIB would never permit - it will be status quo as usual. An entirely new party is probably the only way to go, with careful attention to Niccolò Machiavelli.

  9. Joan Shea and Terry Styles are a couple! They were a couple when he was appointed to Nalcor and they were a couple during his appointment to the College of the North Atlantic. You can take this to the bank! The Citizen's Representative has been informed of this, but apparently such conflict of interest is okay in NL. I guess this is some kind of Newfie joke, but you know, it has not been that funny for me.

  10. This is disappointing to hear if it can be confirmed. In the olden days, people feared the appearance of conflict of interest and even if they participated in it, they tried to hide it. Now many are in brazen open defiance of the laws regarding conflict of interest ... and the people who should be overseeing it are in fact subservient to those who are participating in it ... making enforcement near impossible.

  11. I can confirm this! But to whom? To whom would it matter? Not the government of NL.