Rideout's career a real rollercoaster ride

Peter
Peter Jackson
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

There are some things you just know are going on behind the scenes, even though you rarely see it happen. Then, in a flash, it's laid out in front of you.

Take supernovas.

Scientists have only ever viewed the latter stages of exploding stars through telescopes. Without any observed evidence, they theorized that when a large star burns out, it collapses into itself and forms a mass of dense matter. Then it rebounds out again, creating a shockwave that blows the star to bits. The first thing that escapes the destruction is a brilliant burst of X-rays.

There are some things you just know are going on behind the scenes, even though you rarely see it happen. Then, in a flash, it's laid out in front of you.

Take supernovas.

Scientists have only ever viewed the latter stages of exploding stars through telescopes. Without any observed evidence, they theorized that when a large star burns out, it collapses into itself and forms a mass of dense matter. Then it rebounds out again, creating a shockwave that blows the star to bits. The first thing that escapes the destruction is a brilliant burst of X-rays.

No one has ever witnessed that first burst of radiation, but it has been the accepted theory for decades.

Earlier this year, a pair of California astronomers finally captured the birth of a supernova. The odds of coming across one were, well, astronomical. But the images were confirmed by the scientific community and announced Wednesday.

Now, take roadwork.

Everybody knows that roadwork funding is often based on partisan politics. Politicians deny it vigorously (at least in this day and age), but the evidence is always there after the fact in budget statistics. Rarely, however, do you see the process in action.

On Wednesday, the Newfoundland electorate was given a rare glimpse into the workings of district favouritism. Deputy Premier Tom Rideout decided to quit his government posts after the premier vetoed an extra $1 million in roadwork Rideout had wrestled out of Transportation Minister Dianne Whalen. As it turns out, the deputy premier had strong-armed at least one other minister for similar funding over the past couple of weeks.

For his part, Premier Danny Williams said Rideout's bully tactics were unacceptable (it takes one to know one, I suppose), and Rideout's colleagues appear to be relieved to see the back of him.

But it's hard to imagine that such side deals for extra funding have ever been an anomaly, in this government or in past administrations.

Rideout, on the other hand, is certainly something of an anomaly himself.

He's always been something of a dying star, but without any brilliant bursts to go with it. And yet, his longevity is out of this world.

He was first elected to the provincial legislature more than 30 years ago as a Liberal. He joined Brian Peckford's Conservatives in 1980 and served in a couple of cabinet posts over the next nine years. When Peckford stepped down in 1989, Rideout took over as premier. He called a snap election and, while securing a slim majority of the popular vote, lost the seat count to the Liberals under Clyde Wells. He left office in 1991 to study law, then returned to politics in 1999, taking the Lewisporte district for the PCs. Since Danny Williams became premier in 2003, he has once again drifted between top cabinet portfolios.

Gone sour

It's possible Rideout feels the party owes him something. For being such a stalwart, long-suffering foot soldier, one can hardly blame him. But the boldness and tenacity he's been known for has decayed of late into something more sour.

He's always been able to shrug off the mockery elicited by his various malapropisms ("You've buttered your bread, now lie in it.") but his relationship with the media, and with the electorate as a whole, has taken a decidedly bad turn in the past couple of years. He steadfastly refused to repay the questionable $2,875 bonus received by MHAs. When revelations surfaced last fall about his misuse of public money to rent a property in his district, he only exacerbated matters by cavalierly dismissing the reports until he could no longer run from the facts.

Rideout has always been an old-fashioned constituency man, and that has been both his strong point and his Achilles heel. The people of Baie Verte-Springdale certainly embraced him whole-heartedly, and most were shocked at his surprise departure from the Williams politburo.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram's editorial page editor. He can be reached at pjackson@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: California, Newfoundland, Lewisporte Baie Verte-Springdale

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments