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PAM FRAMPTON: Dr. Andrew Furey and the fable of the donkey

Newfoundland Liberal leadership candidate Andrew Furey.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s next premier, Dr. Andrew Furey. — Telegram file photo

There’s a well-told story, published in “Aesop’s Fables” in 1867, whose lesson still rings true.

It should be mandatory reading for premier-in-waiting Dr. Andrew Furey, if he has not read it already.

It’s called “The Man, The Boy and The Donkey.”

It’s a simple tale about a man and his son on foot, leading their donkey to market. Along the way, they are influenced by the people they meet.

One man tells them they are foolish to be walking when they could be riding, so the man puts his son astride the beast.

Then they meet a bunch of men who deride the “lazy youngster” for riding while his father walks. So, the boy gets down and walks and the father rides. Then they came upon some women who call the man a lout for making his son walk while he enjoys a ride.

So, both father and son ride the donkey into town where they are jeered by passersby for overloading the poor animal.

The moral, of course, is if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. It’s good advice for an unelected premier.

Perplexed, they tried to think of what to do next and come upon the idea of cutting a pole. They tie the donkey to it by its feet and carry the animal between them.

They get as far as Market Bridge, drawing laughter from onlookers, which makes the donkey struggle and kick, and he ends up falling over the bridge.

The donkey drowned and father and son were left empty-handed.

The moral, of course, is if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.

It’s good advice for an unelected premier.

Furey finds himself in this position because 13,645 Liberal supporters voted for him.

That’s roughly 2.6 per cent of the population of Newfoundland and Labrador and approximately 3.8 per cent of the total number of eligible voters in the province (based on who was eligible in 2019).

He has been untested in an election and so he doesn’t necessarily have a good bead on how much support he might have among the voting public as a whole.

On top of that there are the 7,537 Liberal supporters who voted for his opponent, John Abbott, who he will naturally hope to win over.

Then there are the roughly 13,000 people who registered to vote in the Liberal leadership and yet did not vote at all. That’s almost as many votes as Furey won. Where might their loyalties lie?

Once he’s sworn in, he will have to hover on the sidelines as his 20 Liberal MHAs try to maintain the party’s tenuous grip on power, while those on the other side of the House have just as many seats between them — three New Democrats, 15 Progressive Conservatives and two independents.

In a piece published this week in iPolitics, Furey told Roger Bill that the province’s dire financial situation is his greatest concern.

“I am frightened. I am worried. It keeps me up at night,” he said, adding, “We are truly in a damage control situation and we need to plug the holes to keep the ship moving forward.”

The decision Furey will have to make is, which holes? And what to plug them with?

Elected politicians with strong mandates have a struggle at the best of times when they decide to cut services and programs and not to spend money on infrastructure.

An unelected premier with a minority government has a more precarious tightrope to walk.

I don’t envy him, but I do applaud anyone who offers themselves up for public service with noble intentions.

As a surgeon, CEO of Team Broken Earth — which provides international medical relief — and one of the founders of the Dollar A Day Foundation, which supports mental health initiatives, Furey has shown himself to be a humanitarian.

In these fractured political times, with our daunting debt and failing fortunes, he might well need to be a contortionist.

Good luck to him. I hope the donkey doesn’t drown.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s managing editor. Email pamela.frampton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton


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