21 August 2010

The Shortest-Timers

At an average of a mere 43 days, the Reform-based Conservative Party led by Danny Williams holds the post-Confederation record in Newfoundland and Labrador for lowest average number of sitting days in the legislature by an elected Premier.

The only Premiers whose administrations met the House of Assembly less frequently than Danny Williams were three people who got the job as a result of internal party politics, not as a result of winning a general election. 

Roger Grimes’ administration sat an average of 42 days, but Grimes got the job as the result of a party leadership convention.

The same goes for Tom Rideout, who won a leadership contest in 1989 to replace Brian Peckford.  Rideout served as Premier for a total of 43 days but never sat in the legislature as Premier. During the 1989 campaign, Rideout did make a public commitment that he would do so within two weeks of polling day if voters re-elected his party with a majority.

Nor did Beaton Tulk, who served for a handful of weeks between Brian Tobin’s resignation in October 2000 and Roger Grimes election as party leader in February 2001. 

At the 43 day average, Williams beats the previous record, set between 1949 and 1972, by Joe Smallwood.  He met the legislature, on average, for 53 days a year.   Brian Peckford’s third administration tied the same record after the 1985 general election.

Between 1979 and 1985, though, Peckford set what is still the record for highest average number of sitting days.  Peckford’s administration introduced scheduled fall sittings and, as a result, sat an average of 80 days annually for those six years.

That’s only slightly ahead of Clyde Wells’ administrations, which met the legislature on average 79.4 days from 1989 to 1995. 

Discounting the 1989 and 1993 election years, Wells faced the House an average of 88 days per year.  Discounting the 2007 election year, Williams has faced the House only 45.6 days per year.

In 2009, the House of Assembly sat on 32 days.

Williams himself makes no bones about his attitude toward the House of Assembly.  As Macleans related it in 2004:

He still bristles at the "wasted time" in the House, and the daily distractions that take him away from the real work of governing.

His record of attendance and his record of sitting days apparently confirms his negative attitude.

- srbp -

Sources:  Parliament of Canada website and Susan McCorquodale, “Newfoundland; personality, party and politics” in Gary levy and Graham White, editors, Provincial and territorial legislatures of Canada, (Toronto:  University of Toronto Press, 1989)