The Muskrat Debate — in black and white

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"Tuesday became Thursday, and now this being Friday it is still Thursday."

Remember December? Remember the Muskrat Falls filibuster? Remember the Tuesday that would never end?

It got a little bit weird in the House of Assembly.

That quote off the top is from Transportation and Works Minister Paul Davis. He was probably a bit punch drunk when he said it, but the quote is impressively accurate, especially considering the fact that he was probably operating on just a couple hours sleep.

Time is a bit of a nebulous concept when it comes to a legislative filibuster. In a filibuster, opposition MHAs don’t stop talking, so nobody can take a break and go home. As long as the House doesn’t take a break, they stay on the same legislative “day.”

By my calculations, during the Muskrat Falls filibuster, Tuesday, Dec. 18 lasted for an epic 47 hours. I was there for most of it. Things got kind of nutty in the House.

Anyway, the fine folks in the House of Assembly Hansard division have been hard at it since Christmas, transcribing the Epic Tuesday. The whole of the Muskrat Filibuster has now been posted online, which caused all sorts of glee from legislative geeks like myself this week.

You can read it in all its excruciating glory here: http://www.assembly.nl.ca/business/hansard/ga47session1/12-12-18.htm

To give you an idea of the magnitude of the matter, I pasted the works of it into a Microsoft Word document. The text occupies 972 pages. It contains 413,006 words.

If you were to print that as a book, it’d be longer than any of the current titles on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. (The only one that even comes close is a 800-page tome on the life of Thomas Jefferson. 

It contains some gems. Labrador MHA Keith Russell quotes Popeye.

Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons identifies both myself and my fellow reporter, Ashley Fitzpatrick, by our twitter usernames …

I know that, in fact, just on Twitter right now, if you follow Twitter, the Fourth Estate is watching us. There are Telegram reporters. It is not @TelegramJames. It is @TeleFitz, actually, who is actually watching us. The reason I say that, I mention that, is because in the commentary that she is providing, she is saying points that are good and bad on all members. So if somebody in the Opposition says something that she does not agree with, then she will let you know then – and I guess that is the job, to be objective. So like I say, it can go for you and it can go against you.”

That’s a right, politicians. We’re watching you, and when you say something wrong, we’re gonna tweet about it. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The Eternal Tuesday also records probably the most vicious exchange of the whole filibuster, wherein then-natural resources minister Jerome Kennedy said about Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce, “He doesn't have Grade 6, and he is a fool.” Joyce fired back a bunch of times, telling Kennedy to, “Have a glass of coke.”

If you’re wasting your morning and rooting around in Hansard, you should probably take a gander at the Thursday/Friday edition. (A paltry 675 pages long; a mere 289,738 words.) You can read it here: http://www.assembly.nl.ca/business/hansard/ga47session1/12-12-20.htm

The Thursday/Friday show contains such gems as Keith Russell’s infamous, sexist tirade where he refers to Liberal House Leader Yvonne Jones as, “nothing more than a washed-up actress, honey.”

(Hansard also records the subsequent brouhaha where Russell was found to be in contempt of the House of Assembly, and Speaker Ross Wiseman stating “the collective statements and the gestures escalated from the relatively benign to quite offensive, not only to females in this House but to the House as a whole.”)

But apart from the ugliness of the legislature, Hansard also records some wonderful moments. Just past midnight, in the early hours of Friday, Dec. 21, Liberal MHA Yvonne Jones rose on a point of order to wish Education Minister Clyde Jackman a happy birthday. Then all the MHAs in the house sang happy birthday to Jackman. Seriously.

Oh, and while we’re at it, here’s a fun little statistic: the phrase “point of order” appears 145 times in the written transcript of the Eternal Tuesday, and 72 times on the Long Thursday of the Muskrat Falls filibuster.

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