You may have thought you were accorded complete media coverage of last Wednesday’s perfunctory debate in the legislature on the Muskrat Falls project.
But I beg to differ.
In fact, quietly, behind the scenes, surreptitiously, I was offered a chance to speak to the honourable members myself, the first media person to parachute from the press gallery to the floor of the legislature. I was even given the option of introducing a guest or two.
Someone had a scribbler and a pencil, a poor man’s version of Hansard, and this is what was recorded.
SPEAKER: Order, order please. As speaker, elected democratically, as you know, under the Tory flag, my objectivity, nevertheless, known to be iron-clad, it is my pleasure to introduce to this alternative legislature, a special, in-camera debate on Muskrat Falls. Unlike the two hours, the “official” two hours used to rubber-stamp the project, this is the real deal. It does pain me to treat kindly any member of the disgusting, negative, scummy Fourth Estate, but I’ve been forced to give the floor to the totally dishonourable journalistic member from Flatrock Hills.
MEMBER FOR FLATROCK HILLS: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my seat — for one thing, I had nine toutons for breakfast and that would make anything rise. BA-DUM TSSH! But seriously, Mr. Speaker, I rise to make whatever contribution I can make, my two cents’ worth, as it were, on the $8 billion (and counting) Newfoundland is going to spend on the project on the Falls appropriately named, some might suggest, for a rodent. In other words, Mr. Speaker, there are those in the province who smell a rat. I wish to thank Premier Done-Deal for letting me speak here today. I know that Darin King Kong, the government House leader, the man who stepped aside for our lovely premier to become queen for a while, has pounded his hairy chest and roared a defiant no to any thoughts of witnesses coming before this House. God forbid there should be an exchange of ideas, Mr. Speaker. But King Kong is absent today, gone off to some jungle think-tank for neophyte legislative leaders anxious to find obstacles to intelligent debate. In the meantime, I’ve managed to convince some of the more moderate members of his caucus to let me call on one of the foremost experts on Churchill Falls deals to have ever walked across the island.
SOME HONOURABLE MEMBERS: Hare, hare. ’Ere, ’ere. Here, Here. Hear, hear.
MEMBER FOR FLATROCK HILLS: Mr. Speaker, my first witness is the little fella from Gambo, known simply, by the simple-minded and others, as Joey. Those of you over the age of 50 will surely recall that he has considerable experience in matters of the Churchill.
J.R.S.: Mr. Speaker, I rise from the dead, a resurrection you all have known was possible, a resurrection I knew was only a matter of time, to congratulate the government on this incredible, this monumental, this stupendous, this magnificent, this enormous undertaking. This is a government of great vision, as my government was, Mr. Speaker, when we brought the province of Quebec to its knees during the Upper Churchill negotiations. I have a tape I want to play, Mr. Speaker, of exactly what I said when I turned the sod in 1967 at Churchill Falls. “This is our land. This is our province. This is our river. This is our waterfalls. And we want to make sure forever that this will be developed primarily, chiefly, mainly, for the people of Newfoundland.”
LIBERAL MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE: ’Ere, ’ere. Here, here. Hear, hear.
J.R.S.: And I was true to my word, Mr. Speaker. In 1969, we signed that sweetheart of a deal with our French friends just to the west of us. Now I know what this government is facing today, Mr. Speaker. I was forced to tolerate similar dissenters, pessimists, those with glasses perpetually half empty, paranoid conspiracy theorists and doubting Thomases. This government has to deal with doubting Cabots and doubting Dickies. But they’re all from the same venomous, vexatious vat, Mr. Speaker. So I say to Ms. Done-Deal and her government: soldier on, full steam ahead. Just look at how my Churchill Falls deal turned out. Look at the fortune to come our way in 2041.
TORY MEMBERS: Hurrah! Hurrah!
J.R.S.: And while I’m at it, Mr. Speaker, I’d like to congratulate this government on its freedom of information legislation. I couldn’t have done it any better myself, Mr. Speaker. Tell them what you want them to hear, that was my philosophy. Journalists and other nosey parkers. They’re all to be ignored. The same as that intrusive Public Utilities Board. Again, a job well done there, Ms. Done-Deal. I just love the total disdain in which you hold that crowd of naysayers. As a fellow politician, I’m proud of you and applaud your efforts to keep them out of the way of progress.
MEMBER FOR FLATROCK HILLS: Ah, thank you, mein fuh … sorry, Mr. Smallwood. I’m going to give the final word to the eloquent member for Labrador, the Jack Russell terrier. I’m sorry. I mean Keith Russell. I had no choice, Mr. Speaker. He said he would wrap a hockey stick around my skull. But he has promised to keep a relatively civil tongue in his head.
MEMBER FOR LAKE MELVILLE: Mr. Speaker, I’d like to say how happy I am that we’re able to forcer la main a Quebec. Put the screws to Quebec, for those not bilingual. As for all our critics, I know I speak for everybody on the government side when I suggest those *%&*%#$* can all go %^&*#%*&#* themselves.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.