Down for the count

Bob
Bob Wakeham
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I can't help but wonder how the spirit of my Grandfather Joe Judge, a man who was blessed with an impressive combination of integrity and frankness, would react to the embarrassing way in which the provincial government has been handling the latest developments surrounding the now-abandoned paper mill, where he made a good living for decades.

As a matter of fact, Pop Judge happened to be on my mind a great deal this week, given that Thursday was the anniversary of the "July Drive," the battle near Beaumont Hamel that occurred on a parcel of farm land in France where he and 800 of his buddies found themselves in a living hell for 30 minutes and in Newfoundland history forever.

I can't help but wonder how the spirit of my Grandfather Joe Judge, a man who was blessed with an impressive combination of integrity and frankness, would react to the embarrassing way in which the provincial government has been handling the latest developments surrounding the now-abandoned paper mill, where he made a good living for decades.

As a matter of fact, Pop Judge happened to be on my mind a great deal this week, given that Thursday was the anniversary of the "July Drive," the battle near Beaumont Hamel that occurred on a parcel of farm land in France where he and 800 of his buddies found themselves in a living hell for 30 minutes and in Newfoundland history forever.

I've always felt an obligation around this time of the year to write something in this space that mentions that horrific slaughter, and draws attention to the fact that only 68 of the 801 Newfoundlanders who struggled across No Man's Land on that clear and sunny Saturday morning were still standing the next day, the rest left to die and rot in the muck or hospitalized with wounds (my grandfather was shot and spent the day in a shell hole before dragging himself back to his lines after dark).

So, the angle this year - and I'm always seeking an angle - is to wonder how Pop Judge would have reacted to the embarrassing revelation that a German company that had talked to the Williams government about buying the mill had gone "kaput," or, in more politically correct terms, filed for bankruptcy protection.

I should note here, just for the hell of it, that an occasional reader of this column - a piece of scum, if the truth be known, cloaked in gutless anonymity - suggested some time back that he was sick of hearing about my grandfather; obviously, I'm ignoring his moronic, rude and presumptuous thoughts about the column's agenda. Ironically, my grandfather would undoubtedly have advised me to pay no heed to this arrogant, spineless nobody, that he was an insecure and frustrated jackass, desperate for attention, and that I was playing into his hands.

But I can't help myself, I'd have to tell Pop. This arrogant nincompoop can say whatever he wants about me. But a cowardly attack against my Grandfather Judge, Beaumont Hamel survivor? Can't let it go.

Now that that's off my chest, I can get back on track here: I think Pop would have shook his head in puzzlement and downright amazement if he knew the Newfoundland government had, first of all, made a balls of the expropriation process and accidentally found itself owning the mill itself and half of Grand Falls; and that it's now talked with a company known to be in deep doo-doo (apparently, even a simple computer search would have revealed to government bureaucrats that Lott Paper had the financial solvency of a Water Street panhandler).

Kathy Dunderdale, the natural resources minister and deputy premier, appears to be, my grandfather might suggest in his saucy way, as if she's auditioning for a part in a remake of that 1971 comedic/crime movie, "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" - the lead, of course, naturally assumed by the premier himself.

Sometimes, I almost feel sorry for Dunderdale. There are close friends of mine who talk in glowing terms about Dunderdale's decency, and her hard work, in pre-political days, on behalf of the province's women.

And Danny Williams is no fool. We all know he rules with an iron fist, but he must have seen an appealing trait in Dunderdale.

Surely, he didn't want every single one of his inner circle to be nothing more than bobble-head dolls, constantly nodding as if in automated accord.

But, on this mill matter, Dunderdale appears totally unsure of herself.

And often in the political game, it's not the big picture that puts a minister in hot water; it's how he or she comes across in that 30-second hit on television, how they are perceived to be handling torment and controversy.

In her performance, Dunderdale is reeling, backed in a corner, incapable of a strong counter-attack, and has already been forced to pick herself up from the canvas too many times.

"Couldn't have said it better myself, Bobby," a totally biased Pop Judge might conclude.

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by e-mail at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com.

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, France, Grand Falls Water Street

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  • Off the Cuff
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    You certainly have a way with words, great works, good job, keep up the good work regardless of the ----less critics