Using the precedent-setting Access to an Occasional Piece of Information Act, legislation the Tory government has on its books as evidence of its incredible philosophy of openness, I managed to obtain a letter written recently by Premier Kathy Dunderdale to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
My dearest Prime Minister:
Before I get to the business at hand, I hope you enjoyed that expensively framed eight by 10 photograph I mailed to 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa of the two of us beaming together on stage in St. John's during the campaign. What a team! I haven't heard a word from you since, but I still get goosebumps when I think of that special moment.
Anyway, Prime Minister, I realize you're as busy as a Canadian beaver these days, what with blocking our prisons with every reprobate who's broken even the most minor of laws, putting evil, anti-employment conservationists in their place, allowing thoughtful law- enforcement agencies access to private e-mails and generally ensuring our country maintains its reputation as one of the more enlightened places on the planet.
But, if I could be so bold as to infringe on some of your invaluable time, I was wondering if I could bring you up to date on some search and rescue issues that involve your esteemed government.
Now I'm sure Peter Penashue, the dynamic, independent and out-spoken representative of every bayman, townie and Labradorian who ever took a breath or cast a Tory ballot, has kept you abreast of what we're facing down here. Peter, as you know, has displayed a tenacity in his job we've rarely seen in previous cabinet representatives; none of his predecessors - and I'm talking the likes of Don Jamieson, John Crosbie, Brian Tobin and others - had the influence Peter the Great has had in your cabinet room. Believe me when I tell you, Prime Minister: we sleep much more soundly here in Newfoundland knowing Powerful Peter has our backs.
But just to reiterate what Peter the Puck, I'm sure, has already told you, my beloved Prime Minister: first of all, there's that nagging question of the closure of that Marine Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John's. I wish the matter would just go away, Prime Minister. And I wish, as well, that Merv Wiseman, a pain in the arse who keeps reminding everybody just how many thousands of people working offshore in the fishing and oil business rely on that centre, would just go back to raising minks.
Now the other day, I pulled off what I modestly believe to have been a brilliant move in the legislature, and blamed this kerfuffle on the Liberal MPs who I said have not performed very well on this "file" (I just love that word, don't you? It always helps to desensitize any issue of the day). I hope you don't mind that I suggested the federal Grits should be asking questions of your government on the closure; it takes the attention away from my rather timid involvement in keeping the centre open, and besides, I know you don't exactly shake in your boots or run to the Parliament Hill bathrooms whenever the likes of Gerry Byrne rises on his feet to engage you in verbal combat.
But if you get a moment or two, perhaps you can just remind Canadians once again that this is just a few communications jobs, and that the people who work there, even though they know the Newfoundland coastline as well as anyone, are just trying to protect their own jobs, jobs that can be done just as well in Halifax. And I recognize, I accept, that Nova Scotia is more important in an electoral sense than little old Newfoundland. Any help on this file would be appreciated, my ever- giving Prime Minister.
Now there's also the matter of the independent offshore safety agency, the most important recommendation, I'm told, made by Robert Wells. I keep telling everyone it's a federal matter. But, Steve, they won't listen. They want me to push you. But it's just not in me. I don't want to pull a Danny Williams here, and go half off my rocker, call you all kinds of unpleasant names and haul down the Maple Leaf. I'm a gentler, kinder soul. So, if you could, pretty please, do you think you could look into this file as well? In return, I promise to continue to be a good little obedient and subservient premier.
And then there's the way the Department of National Defence responded during that tragedy in which a young boy perished in the Labrador wilderness. Everyone's clamouring for an inquiry, and I keep telling them, once again, that it's a federal matter. I'm told I'm passing the buck and I can only keep that crowd of critics at bay for so long. So, if it's not too much trouble, do you think you could launch an inquiry? Such a move would really help me out of a jam.
By the way, I was delighted DND sent out a press release the other day praising the way in which it dispatched one of its helicopters to Makkovik to transport a pregnant women to hospital. And it was so appropriate, so fitting, to see Peter MacKay quoted as saying his department is always "standing ready to assist provincial authorities." Now some cynics might view this as disingenuous, a blatant political attempt to diffuse criticism of DND. But I don't, Prime Minister. (By the way, remind Peter that salmon season is just around the corner, and he's welcome to return to his little rock on the Gander River again this year, and, of course, we don't mind if he has a helicopter on standby at Gander Airport in case he gets homesick).
Anyway, I think I've wasted enough of your precious time.
Sincerely and gratefully yours (forever),
P.S. Hope you don't mind me saying this but you're starting to look a bit chubby again. The next time you're in St. John's, probably during a campaign swing in a few years, we can run together through Bowring Park and take a few snaps of you feeding the ducks. Then we can distribute the photos to the press, just to show the country that you're half-human.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.