Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Power of the Four-Poster Interview

Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.- Oscar Wilde

Obviously, I did a couple of things right on the old casting couch. - Jason Bateman

I guess by now you have figured from these quotes what a “four-poster interview” is.

If you haven’t, well ….

I read about the most recent Newfoundland and Labrador Government cabinet shuffle with some interest and concern for the future of that great, storied province.

For starters, Premier Dunderdale added two new cabinet appointees, Steve Kent and Dan Crummel, indicating that “they were chosen for their enthusiasm”.

I wonder if other credentials such as qualifications were considered or if that would have muddied up the selection process or perhaps overwhelmed the people making the selections.

Speaking of qualifications, the other surprise was that Joan Shea continues to be a Minister in the Newfoundland and Labrador Government.

Why am I surprised?

Back in January of 2009, Minister Shea (then Education Minister Burke) attracted some negative attention by appointing Terry Styles to chair the College of the North Atlantic Board of Governors.

The reason it attracted negative attention in the public eye was because Mr. Styles was a leading contributor to Minister Burke’s election campaigns at the time.

For at least one family and some residents of the Stephenville area, it attracted negative attention for a different reason.

It was because Mr. Styles at the time was allegedly engaged in a “personal” relationship with Minister Burke, even though they were both married to other people at the time.

How do I know this?

I know this because I know his former wife and have awareness of her former job working with Minister Burke (now Minister Shea) and the trappings of how the Minister and Mr. Styles came to know each other.  Mr. Styles’ former wife also had the courage to share her personal journal with me, documenting the events that took place.

Now one would think that an alleged relationship between Mr. Styles and Minister Burke would present a conflict of interest scenario but under the Newfoundland and Labrador Government’s conflict of interest guidelines (Conflict of Interest Act, 1995), one can see that there is a legal gray zone here.  It discusses appointments made when a spouse or cohabiting, conjugal partner stand to benefit from an appointment where a government minister is involved but if you are allegedly just having “a relationship”, the law is open to interpretation.

It appears that legality in its purest form trumps ethics, morals and common sense.

Fast forward to June of 2012 where Mr. Styles was appointed as the Chairman of Nalcor and which I wrote about in The Newfoundland and Labrador Government–The Latest Newfie Joke.

In that blog post, I wondered how a man running a company with 10 employees and little if any profits (according to his former wife who I’m told was 50% owner around that time) could suddenly find himself running a Crown Corporation with over 800 employees and 2011 revenues of $730 million (allegedly because of his astute business background).

At the time of his appointment to Nalcor, I was told that he allegedly didn’t have his high school diploma (I am not certain of his current education credentials).  While it is true that Bill Gates didn’t have a degree when he founded Microsoft, there is a big difference between founding a company and driving it to success without formal education and being handed the reins of one without any.

Could it be possible that his alleged ongoing relationship with Minister Shea had an influence on his appointment to Nalcor?

I’m sure it’s all good

After all, between the two unusual appointments, Mr. Styles divorced his wife and Minister Shea divorced her husband and they allegedly found comfort in each other’s company.

But one can easily wonder if an alleged “personal” relationship could be a major contributing factor to transitioning from being the owner of a little-known small-town company to suddenly becoming Chair of an organization running multi-billion dollar projects such as the Muskrat Falls project.

For most people, it would be considered winning a career lottery, as the options opened up by such a “win” are unlimited in potential for Mr. Styles.

However, if such an alleged relationship did play a major factor in his sudden meteorical rise (no pun intended) to the top, it creates a concern for me.

It makes me wonder if the Newfoundland and Labrador Government is doing the best it can to select the best people for the job, whatever that job is.

How will we know if such appointments are made based more on one’s “private performance” than one’s public performance and qualifications, especially with the Province’s draconian privacy legislation, Bill 29, making Newfoundland and Labrador one of the least transparent governments in the world?  I wrote about this in We All Answer To Someone .. Or Do We? 

In addition, how can we know when the Premier flies off the handle when someone even questions the appointment as described here?   Such feigned anger is a common attention redirection technique that I wrote about in the unrelated post Democrats: Kicking Our Butt Instead of Kissing It.

I wonder if governments are so brazen that they don’t care about public perception anymore, with conflict of interest guidelines being more of a public relations exercise (or a source of irritation) rather than a legal, ethical and moral code implemented to ensure that people don’t benefit unfairly and that competition for public positions is as transparent as possible.

If this alleged relationship supposedly created benefits for one or both of these individuals, don’t they realize that each of them are being used by the other, each being vulnerable when the next opportunity for a climb up the ladder of power becomes available to the other?

After all, past performance is a strong predictor of future behavior.

In the meantime, if all of this transpired as it seems to have, then three victims remain ….

  • The former family of Mr. Styles, some of whom continue to suffer as a result of what transpired
  • The former family of Minister Shea
  • The great people of Newfoundland and Labrador who have no idea if the people being appointed or elected to represent their interests are in fact the best people for the job or if they are more focused on feeding their own interests.

And to think that I spent a weekend with the Minister and others at a leadership conference in Stephenville just months before Mr. Styles’ first appointment.  Had I known she was interviewing for a new position (and speaking of enthusiasm), I would have been happy to whip out my qualifications. :-)

But seriously, having had access to Mrs. Style’s personal journal, there is a line in the journal that really struck me.  Here it is, shared with her permission:

Yes, it is debilitating to suffer an ended marriage, but it is cumulatively debilitating to have a Minister in the House of Assembly, the supposed “Honorable”, the supposed “provincial advocate” for those of us who are struggling with our disabilities, to behave in such a distasteful, neglectful, and faithless manner.

This is a line from a wounded heart that speaks volumes to each of us, to the Minister and to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Bottom Line

I wrote to a number of officials in private about this (see the blog addendum).  If my private query had been responded to instead of being ignored, I would have accepted any answer on the respondent’s “word and honor” and moved on. 

I think, however, that silence invites suspicion and a need to explore this further.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,



Out of fairness to all parties, I sent a note to the Premier, Minister Shea, Lorraine Michael and the interim leader of the Liberal Party, Eddie Joyce, regarding this back in August of 2013 and I invited their comments on the matter. 

Here is my original note:

Dear Honorable Premier Dunderdale,

Word on the street in Stephenville these days is that the Honorable Minister Shea was dating Mr. Styles prior to and during his appointment as Chairman of Nalcor.

I wanted to bring this to your attention and invite your comment on it.  I have copied the leaders of the Liberal and NDP party as well as Minister Shea in case they also have a comment on the matter.

If the story is not true, then it is in your (and Minister Shea’s) best interests to refute the story before it grows.

If the story is true, I would think that this represents a serious conflict of interest and should be investigated.

I welcome your comments and look forward to your response.

Take care and create a great day, Honorable Premier.

Yours respectfully,

Harry Tucker

A member of the Premier’s staff responded with this note on August 20, 2013 (the only response to my query):

Dear Mr. Tucker:

Thank you for your correspondence to Premier Kathy Dunderdale. Please be assured that your comments will be given due consideration.

Kindest Regards,

Chantalle Hull

Office of the Premier

Minister Shea and the other recipients had no comment at all.

And no additional comments have been received from the Premier’s office since.

Allegations that are wrong or inaccurate, especially ones with potentially damaging information, are usually easily and quickly refuted. 

Add to this the fact that what I have discussed in this blog is only the tip of the iceberg, where silence could be fatal for some careers as it invites additional information to be revealed.

The Bottom Line

Allegations that people choose not to comment on are either not important enough or too politically loaded to touch.

I wonder which category this story falls into.

I wonder if the great people of Newfoundland and Labrador care.

I think they should.

What do you think?

Addendum 2 – October 10, 2013

Do you know what’s equally disturbing?

When I make a tweet like this 12 hours in advance of this blog post coming out (not identifying the Minister in question at all):

Twitter comment

And I see tweets like this appear after my tweet (hours before the blog post appears):

Twitter comment

So it’s not a secret, since this individual clearly had awareness of the Minister in question and her locale.

So the question becomes …..

If people already know this, why don’t people demand better?

Addendum 3 – October 10, 2013

After receiving a number of emails today from many people warning me of my safety on a number of levels from legal to physical, I can make only one observation.

When one analyzes a series of events (already covered at different times by the mainstream media) with the intention of requesting public accountability, when one discusses things already known by many in the community where the events allegedly took place (as demonstrated with the tweets above) and when people are still afraid for my safety for writing this despite these facts (and fearing for their own safety should their comments become public), I have to wonder if Newfoundland and Labrador is governed as a democracy or as something else.

It is a sad day for democracy when public accountability is not only something to be avoided but which is something worth attacking others for in order to prevent transparency and to ensure status quo.

Insecure people, people with damaged egos or people with something to withhold from others hide behind threats and intimidation.  People confident in themselves, their facts and their ability to communicate these facts use civil discourse to make their point known to others.

A national media reporter informed me that every time they run a story about the Newfoundland and Labrador government, lawyers follow up immediately ordering them to take the story down.  Where is the transparency in this?

That being said, time will tell if democracy is alive and well in the great province that I once called home or if they are just pretending.

Addendum 4 – October 11, 2013

Someone whose opinion I respect highly suggested that perhaps the Minister was used by Mr. Styles and that she may have potentially fallen into a conflict of interest somewhat accidentally.

So instead of two conspirators, there may in fact only be one conspirator and one guilty of the crime of following their heart (albeit in poor fashion with damaging repercussions).

People in positions of power must be constantly vigilant that they are not being “played” by others since the results, rewards and punishments often don’t discriminate as to the original motivation for participation in an event.

I hadn’t thought of that – an intriguing variation.

Addendum 5 – October 12, 2013

After being informed yesterday that Premier Dunderdale’s Chief of Staff, Ross Reid, was making inquiries into my background and motivation, I sent him this email:

Dear Chief of Staff Reid,

Thank you for taking the time to make inquiries regarding my background and my motivation regarding the recent blog that I wrote.  The motivation for my blog was not political, was not backed by any media or anything else.  It was simply a desire to request  transparency on the part of the Government in light of the fact that my private inquiries for same were ignored.

As a long time public servant, you have always done your best to serve the people of Canada and the great Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and I believe that you strive to ensure transparency in how  governments manage their affairs.

To assist your understanding of my background, I am a strategy advisor to a number of Fortune 25 organizations in the US.  My political leanings are on the Conservative side and I believe that Conservative policies are the only sustainable ones in the current political climate.

As you may or may not know, I made private inquiries with the Government regarding what I believe are conflict of interest concerns on behalf of Minister Shea and nobody cared to answer.  You and I both know that hiding from an answer suggests a problem and ever-increasing interest in my blog suggests the same.

If you are able to provide a  satisfactory reply to my original query (which is all I wanted originally) and the supposition in my blog, I would be quite content.  I have no axe to grind with the Government of the Province or any members of it, as I believe that Conservative policies are the best policies for what the Province needs right now.

That being said, it is critical that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador see their government operating in the best way possible, especially with the Government being two years from an election.

I thank you for your many years of public service and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours most respectfully,

Harry Tucker

I await his reply.

Addendum 6 – Closure (for now)  – October 18, 2013

I’ve been overwhelmed by emails from bureaucrats in the government, based on this post and the post The Newfoundland Government–Headed For the Garbage Can, confirming many things and offering details I wasn’t aware of.

But surprisingly and not, I received no response from Mr. Reid.

Oh well – election time is not that far away.

Addendum 7 – Terry Styles Resigns – March 28, 2014

On March 15th, after receiving notification from multiple parties, I tweeted the following:


It was revealed today that Mr. Styles had resigned effective March 14, 2014, corroborating what those sources had told me earlier.  No reason was given for his departure.

Could this blog have played a role?  I have no idea. Perhaps the NL Government will be more transparent in their high-profile hiring moving forward and more sensitive to managing public optics.

However, when one sees tweets like this ….


…. then one realizes that a course in optics management is necessary for some Government officials.

Or is it a course in character?

The problem is that the latter can’t be learned in a semester.


  1. Mr Tucker,

    Great story. Thank you for sharing it.

    Don't expect many comments on this story. Many people fear for their jobs when it comes to criticizing this government. Alot of people get sued here when they get too critical.

    Keep up the great work. I can tell you still love your home province. Maybe you should come home and run for office.


    1. Thanks for your kind words, Dave.

      While I would never dismiss the idea of returning to the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador, I will never run for office - there or anywhere. :-)

      Create a great day!


  2. As someone who worked inside the government for years, I can vouch for this comment "Insecure people, people with damaged egos or people with something to withhold from others hide behind threats and intimidation. People confident in themselves, their facts and their ability to communicate these facts use civil discourse to make their point known to others."

    We spend a lot of time complaining about our government but we don't actually do much about it. I'm not sure if it is because we don't know what to do, if we are afraid to do something or if we have given up and accepted the fact that we are not capable of getting anything better.

    All of these choices worry me since with any of them we are not making our province better for our kids.

    I would welcome an suggestions from anybody on how to make it better besides complaining in the local Tims or on VOCM in the afternoon.

    Robert P.

    1. Hi Robert,

      Thanks for your kind words. I think I may know who you are but don't want to guess here to protect your privacy.

      As for how we make things better, I think we spend less time complaining in the coffee shop, we spend more time demanding accountability as I did here and we use the power of the ballot to send a warning to government that you will be a single term government (possibly a minority one) if you deviate from stated commitments.

      Too often people complain about things and then re-elect the same government - a nonsensical act as far as I am concerned.

      Thanks again for the note.

      Create a great day!


  3. Interesting story.

    The government has been doing this to us for years. As long as they keep things rolling, what difference does it make? Maybe they have to work this way because everyone else works this way anyway.

    J. Smith

    1. Dear "J",

      It makes a lot of difference to always strive to have the most transparent, most accountable system possible (recognizing that no system will ever be perfect or problem free).

      Always demand the best possible and do the best you can with what you have. Things only get better when we make it that way ... not when we hope they happen by accident.

      Create a great day!


  4. Hmmm...Joan Shea following her heart. Now that is a very narrow path I would think. And the first appointment of Styles to the CNA board, an accident? The second appointment to the Nalcor board, a second accident? All in the name of heart? How many more appointments? I am not buying it! I find little evidence of "heart" that would excuse such blatant ignorance and stupidity. Case in point, the destruction caused by Shea to her public service employee and the wife of Mr. Styles, well... any woman with half a heart would just not behave in this way. Would not continue to behave in this way (all in violation of her Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Assembly). Shame on you Joan Shea! No, I fail to find heart in any of Shea's actions, only self-service and arrogance. So, from that point of view, Shea is one comfortable pea in Kathy Dunderdale's pod - where THOSE WITH HEART NEED NOT APPLY.

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Frankly, I agree with you. I added that option in fairness of exploring all sides when someone suggested it to me.

      Someone caught up in the trappings of love could make a single, probably smaller mistake.

      Larger mistakes (and more than one) suggest a willful, participatory pattern of behavior.

      Not responding to my query also suggests someone who doesn't want to come clean, which also suggests a desire to hide a less than honest act.

      Whether or not we will ever obtain clarity on this matter will depend on how strongly people demand clarity.

      I am reminded of this quote by Albert Einstein:

      "The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

      Thanks for sharing!

      Create a great day.


    2. I agree wholeheartedly. And this is a great quote!

  5. Do you really expect a reply from anybody? Everyone on the west coast knows what has happened and since the cat is out of the bag, the government has no incentive to come clean.

    The indifference to people regarding justice only serves to remind certain people that crime pays well.

  6. Maybe if the Government cut ties with Joan Shea and Terry Styles and tried to restore an image of transparency that it might help them.

    They have 2 years or so left in the current government. Lots of time to get things back on track if they try early enough and don't delay. Liberals and NDP will bankrupt the province and so they are not an option. Conservatives should try harder not to hand the government over to any party that will sink the province for sure.

    I suspect that attacking you will only make their case worse, reinforcing the issues that you identified and maybe implying there are additional problems. This will guarantee a Liberal or NDP government which really worries me.

    Then again, if I knew how all this worked I'd be a politician!


  7. On Mr. Ross Reid's inquiries - This past summer, Mr. Styles' nephew from Nova Scotia was hired by Joan Shea under the Dept of Advanced Education and Skills, to work directly with Ross Reid. So what is Reid so darn surprised about? Likewise, Mr. Styles applied for a provincial grant through the Dept of Advanced Education and Skills to hire a summer student. Who did he hire? Joan Shea's daughter. The government of NL is rotten to the core with examples of such conflicts of interest/nepotism. But these examples need to be passed on to the Citizen's representative and someone needs to light a fire under his butt to do something about this (I tried). Joan Shea and the puppets she has created have to go.

  8. Thanks for pressing this issue. It is not news to most of us, but it deserves a better explanation than we got at the time. I'm enjoying some of the dirt coming out in the comments too.

    As it happens, I was in the gallery in the House of Assembly the day after this came out. When Dwight Ball asked Dunderdale to respond to criticism by an expert on corporate governance from the Rotman School of Business, this was her reply:

    "Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the CBC and experts from Toronto, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are quite capable to determine who manages their affairs."

    I was shocked by the dismissive tone of in her voice when she said the words "expert from Toronto", as if the opinion was completely irrelevant and she expected everyone else to agree. I was embarrassed to be a Newfoundlander that day.


    1. Thanks for this, Tom.

      I am somewhat amused by the quote "are quite capable to determine who manages their affairs" in light of the events that transpired.

      But seriously, this continues to grow more disturbing to me as your comment and the previous comment about implied nepotism suggest that this is "typical business" in the Government.

      With the Opposition not responding to my query either, it is either too hot for them, they can't be bothered or perhaps this is standard operating procedure that they would partake in if they were in power - so no one wants to rock the boat when they have a good thing going.

      At the end of the day, it is difficult to tell if Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are getting what they need, what they deserve or what someone else is willing to dish up to them.

      What matters is what the people care about. Do they care about this or not and if not, will they care when something much larger becomes publicly visible as in the case of the Quebec corruption?

      Everything starts small - no raindrop believes it is responsible for the flood.

      Thanks again, Tom.

      Create a great day!


    2. Here is a quote referencing the Rotman School of Management in regards to this ....

  9. The character of Minister Shea is certainly in question. In November of 2008 Shea and her former husband adopted an eight year old son. Surely you would think that your marriage is very solid to adopt an innocent chid. Then less then a year later she was out of her 17 marriage. Questionable behaviour for sure. If the Premier doesn't fire her she is confirming for the electorate she is made of the same cloth.

    1. You know, I have hesitated for over a month now to reply to this comment, mainly because there is a child caught in the middle of things and children just don't need to be there. But having seen Joan Shea in the House last week bragging about her ministerial appointments to various departments, it was just too much. To say Shea's character is questionable is being kind. She is in fact, much more sinister.

      Only days after the first (process) celebration in the Burke adoption, Styles told me that Joan Burke had confided in him: (husband) better be happy, he finally got what he wanted (referring to the adoption).

      Now why would Joan Burke adopt a child she did not want? And why would she confess this to Terry Styles? (You put it together.) I think this is the most shameful of behaviors that can be owned by any human being, let alone someone with the list of high level responsibilities that this woman was bragging about this week. Character? Less than nil!

  10. This is where things get complex.

    It is important to focus on the issue and not the individual. However, when it comes to conflict of interest or similar actions for personal gain (or to enable personal gain for others), it is difficult to separate the person from the acts they have conducted.

    I don't know about the act you are describing but I'm sure it would be easily verifiable in their hometown. If true, I hope the child has moved through this relatively unaffected. When adults separate, it is often the child(ren) that experience the greatest pain.

    1. Unfortunately, it is so very difficult to separate the issues from the person when that political figure is so entangled personally in the business of public service, when the work of government is taken to mean "power" rather than responsibility. And so, it is true that people on the west coast know that Joan Shea did not maintain the relationship with her adopted child after the separation, that she should have. That being said, let's leave that alone and let some other higher power address this with her. The child will continue on with the love provided by his father.
      I can't help but note this irony however: "Minister of Health and Community Services Joan Shea - Changes in Adoption Rules" April 2013 - CBC Radio (podcast). Given the portfolios she has held, Shea's conduct always seems to stink of "she ought to know better!"

  11. October 25 - Minister Shea puts her integrity (sic) on the line in the Georgian's article: "No environmentally unsafe drilling....Minister Shea."

    I could not help but respond with:

    --- "Well now...this little tirade by Minister Shea might be only somewhat believable if Shea wasn't in bed with the Chair of the Board of Directors of Nalcor. Is the H of A aware of this conflict of interest? They are aware, but choose to do nothing. So public beware!

    PS. Ms. might note, the word "affect" is a verb. The word "effect" is a noun." ----

    Harry, I continue to wonder what it will take to hold this government accountable for violations of the Conflict of Interest Act.