Nfld. & Labrador·Weekend Briefing

There should be a townie opera, and it should be about Danny and Andy

Also, our word of the week comes from Eddie Joyce.

Also, our word of the week comes from Eddie Joyce

Danny Williams, left, and Andy Wells in 1994 were far from friendly. (CBC)

If there's an opera about townie politics to be written (looking at you, Opera on the Avalon), please, please let two of the characters be Andy Wells and Danny Williams. 

Think of the opportunities. Bitter rivals turned to weirdly compatible besties and then to … frenemies, maybe? 

The stage could be filled with an aria about Wells's testimony at the Muskrat Falls inquiry earlier this week, in which he laid into the Tory establishment that put him at the top spot at the Public Utilities Board. More on that in a moment.

But think about the earlier scenes, like their feud during a municipal strike in 1994 that was threatening the season of the St. John's Maple Leafs at the old Memorial Stadium. 

"'I hope you get the shit beaten out of you,'" Wells told CBC at the time. "That's exactly what he said to me." 

Let's get the quote right

Wellllll … not exactly. At least according to Williams himself. 

"What I did say to him was, that it was my personal opinion that it would be the best interests of the city if he got the shit knocked out of him," Williams, ever the careful litigator, told us back then. 

[You can see the exchange in this report that Ryan Cooke put together last year, when Wells decided to run — one more time — for the St. John's mayoralty, a move he on Thursday called "clearly an act of folly."]

As former St. John's Mayor Andy Wells announces his intention to run for city hall, the CBC's Ryan Cooke takes a look back in the archives. 2:02

The enmity between the two continued, with Williams personally getting involved in the 1997 campaign by law partner Jack Harris to unseat Wells as mayor. Harris came close, but Wells got the chair. 

Over the years, Wells (as mayor) and Williams (as premier) patched things up, with Wells becoming something of a champion of Danny's scrappy politics, and the mutual admiration evidently flowing the other way, too. 

The alliance came to fruition when Wells was appointed in early 2008 to run the Public Utilities Board.  

While Wells became rather quiet in the new full-time role (a stance, or volume at least, to which the public was not accustomed), he had a ton of questions out of the gate about Muskrat Falls … which set him apart from Williams and the pro-Muskrat forces. That only heated up once the Kathy Dunderdale government sanctioned the megaproject in 2012. 

Wells, by the way, was absolutely caustic in his testimony about Dunderdale and others in her administration, describing them with words like "nasty" and "menacing" and "thuggish." Oh, and "pack of bullies" and "threatening" and "outrageous." 

Believe it or not, that 1994 exchange with Williams came up at the inquiry, after lawyer Geoff Budden —who represents a group of concerned citizens — asked Wells on Thursday about his relationship with Williams. Wells actually did not have a lot to say otherwise about Williams himself, but he sure did about Dunderdale and co. We'll hear their side in the weeks to come. 

In the meantime, we can dream of what a true townie opera might be like, how the arias of Andy and Danny would be sung, and who was scratching whose back (or face) through those volatile years. 

Quote of the week 

Tom Osborne speaks with reporters outside the House of Assembly on Tuesday. (CBC)

"None of the drug dealers have told us what the supply requirements will be."

That's Finance Minister Tom Osborne, speaking to reporters earlier this week about the supply of cannabis from suppliers Canopy.

We're not sure why Osborne chose to use the phrase "drug dealers," but he did. 

The other quote of the week 

We return to Andy Wells, and his Muskrat Falls testimony of how the Dunderdale government treated the Public Utilities Board. 

"They went after people at the board. If the jackboots weren't marching in the streets, they were marching in the suites."

Word of the week 

This week, we chose "ultimatum."

Here's former cabinet minister Eddie Joyce, during an interview this week with CBC's Peter Cowan: 

Eddie Joyce: What I went through with Sherry Gambin-Walsh and what I went through with my family, I will never sit in a cabinet or a caucus with Sherry Gambin-Walsh. Just on principle alone and just for protection of me and my family, I will never sit in a caucus. And the premier, I'm not putting any pressure on the premier, because the premier makes the decision, but I feel confident that when I get this whole story out, I feel confident that Eddie Joyce will be vindicated, because there's more to this here that I will get out in the House of Assembly.

Peter Cowan:  So isn't that kind of an ultimatum to him though? It's either her or me?

Eddie Joyce: No, there's no ultimatum, there's absolutely no ultimatum whatsoever. 

From the Canadian Oxford Dictionary: Ultimatum (noun) — a final demand or statement of terms [our emphasis] by one party, the rejection of which by another could cause a breakdown in relations, war, or an end of co-operation etc.

A reading tipsheet 

We get it; you're busy. We are too! Here are some of the things we've published since last weekend that you might want to catch up.  

Saku looks game for a big portage. (Submitted by Justin Barbour)

One of our favourite stories was about Justin Barbour, who had quite the adventure in Labrador. He and his dog completed about 1,000 kilometres of an epic trip, but had to cut it short. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

Now that recreational cannabis has been legal for, like, days that can be counted in the double-digits, some unusual things are happening. Like the NLC cracking down on a business that used the word "cannabis" to describe the cannabis accessories it sold to cannabis enthusiast … for their cannabis. We also carried this column by singer Colleen Power, who welcomes the fact that weed can now be added to the weekly grocery list. 

Colleen Power's take on the legalization of cannabis product 1:53

Any thoughts that the House of Assembly would quickly deal with investigations into Dale Kirby and Eddie Joyce turned out to be optimistic; MHAs will be back on the job on Monday. Joyce was found to have pressured Sherry Gambin-Walsh into instructing her deputy minister to hire Joyce's friend for a job; Joyce fired back (see also above) with an, um, ultimatum that he would not sit in a caucus that had Gambin-Walsh as a member; and Gambin-Walsh said she could work with Joyce, but found his words "hurtful." 

In a more domestic light, Lindsay Bird put together this report on how some bar soap, a jar of coconut oil and a bottle of vinegar can replace a bunch of products in your bathroom. The idea? Cutting down the volume of single-use plastics. [Interested in knowing more? Check out CBC's Waves of Change group on Facebook.]

One of the stories that hooked some interest this week was about Mandy O'Keefe, whose wedding photos with husband Stephen were set not so much against but directly on a cliff face. 

O'Keefe roped in photographer and fellow climber Greg Locke to take some more photos after the wedding. (Greg Locke/Submitted)

Even their cake had decorations to match! 

Pretty as a picture 

A boil up is the perfect way to end a wintry hike in Nain. (Submitted by Gerard White)

Winter, as a season, is not yet upon us, but on the northern coast in Labrador, it's already time to get cosy in the woods. Above is just one of the photos we have in our weekly audience gallery. 

Jane and her rodney 

You can hear Jane Adey at the helm of CBC Radio's The Broadcast each weeknight at 6 p.m. NT (we repeat the program the next weekday, at 1 p.m.). 

Check out one of Jane's prized possessions: her very own rodney. 

Nice, huh? Have a great weekend.

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About the Author

John Gushue

CBC News

John Gushue is the digital senior producer with CBC News in St. John's.