The Uncle Gnarley Blog has a new website. Click here to visit to view the latest posts!

Wednesday 25 September 2013


Public policy will always be contentious even when diverse opinions are based upon agreed facts.

One of the great characteristics of an open and free society is that individuals are at liberty to add to our collective economic and social well-being with an intellectual contribution that is personal; people perceive needs, arrange priorities or interpret factual evidence, each in their own way.

Perspectives may be influenced by self-interest, culture, maturity or screened through some other lens. Though contrarian views cause strain on the social and political fabric, they and our right to possess them, are what sets democracies apart in a world where political control is pervasive.

That said, if there exists one key to reducing conflict or to finding consensus among diverse groups and individuals, it is the prospect that all of us might form and share our opinions, as often as possible, based upon on a complete set of facts.  It is an impossible goal, but a noble one, which makes it worth striving for.  Integral to its achievement is the possibility that those in authority, who have greatest access to the information and possess the ability to pay the specialists to generate it, do not subvert the process.
The integrity of political leadership finds many roots in a leader’s ability to have his/her facts straight. There is a high expectation of someone, like the Premier, who is responsible for advancing public policy issues and who enjoys a position of trust.  It is not unreasonable to think that she will apply the utmost care to ensure that first, she understands the issue and secondly, she is capable of sharing the vital information to which the matter relates.  Both ingredients are essential if a complete narrative is created; one told with balance and objectivity. 

When a narrative is poorly or selectively explained, the risk is that the policy will fail.  If it has been advanced for reasons that are simply wrong, the body politic will wonder for whom the policy was created; if billions of dollars are involved, and the public is unwittingly on the hook to repay the vast sums, they might ask who benefitted. At a minimum, they may become less trustful of authority.  They will feel cheated having been denied the essential foundation for critical review and assessment.

In a nutshell, a wise and trusting leader will want to establish a ‘connection’ with a constituency, win their faith and earn their respect. His/her perceived integrity is strengthened because the leader, in turn, has shown them respect.

I wish that the current Premier could see things that way.

I wish Kathy Dunderdale did not present one-half a story and expect everyone to jive with her thinking, notwithstanding her failure to tell the other half. 

I wish she were able to see that ‘all of the people cannot be fooled all of the time’.  Oh, how much more constructive and inclusive might public policy debates become!

You may well ask? What has the Premier done now?

Selectivity with the facts is not a new habit of Premier Dunderdale; she applied such economies very effectively throughout the so-called Muskrat Falls debate. 

Most recently, I posted a piece on this Blog, "PREMIER SANCTIONING UNTRUTHS", dealing with whether Emera “had sanctioned the Maritime Link months ago”, as the Premier claimed.  The legal agreement, executed by Emera, clearly demonstrated that the ‘sanction’ was laden with conditions.  The Premier refused to acknowledge any condition existed, except sanction.

Not Emera, funny enough!  In its most recent Press Release, just this past Monday, the company noted: "work continues on the project and we continue to work on the conditions," stated Emera Spokeswoman, Sasha Irving. Why is such a simple truth so difficult?

I don’t pretend to understand why the Premier engages the public in this way. I understand the pressures upon her.  I don’t expect her to be a saint in what is often an ungodly difficult business. But the consistency with which she uses ‘an economy of the truth’ is truly one of the reasons the public holds her in low esteem.  Likely, they doubt her integrity.  That she uses half-truths to get her own way, even when the public policy at issue is fraught with profound social and economic consequences, is especially puzzling.

The most recent example is the story the Premier spun, in Corner Brook, regarding seemingly insatiable electricity markets in the New England states for Muskrat Falls and Gull Island power.  The Premier recited comments of Governor Shumlin, of Vermont, who, she said, told her: “if you got the juice, we got the use”.

A reasonable person, listening to the Premier, might conclude that Muskrat Falls is a completely sensible idea; that the Province should get on with developing Gull Island and any other hydro project that can offer up some ‘juice’.

In Part II of this Post, I will demonstrate that the Premier’s narrative is shallow, misleading, and downright inaccurate.  Very simply, I will present information, from credible sources, available to everyone on the Web, which the Premier failed to share.   

When you are given the balance of the New England power story, you may not be so quick as to spend your dime on another hydro project. 

But that is for you to decide.

Part II will be posted on Friday.