Muskrat Christmas, everyone

Bob Wakeham
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There are all kinds of regular indicators this time of the year that we’re only a spit away from that evening when — if you have the level of plausibility of a six-year-old or if you’ve never grown up, and embrace a Peter Pan personality — an obese man with a white beard lands on billions of homes in a sled hauled by a dozen reindeer, rewards the nice and ignores the naughty.

(I’ve often wondered whether the old timer, S. Claus is an environmentalist with a social conscience, and carries a zillion poop bags to clean up what must be unbelievable amounts of pretty disgusting loads deposited by Rudolph and his buds on rooftops and thereabouts. Or does he just arrogantly profess: “Leave it where it rests, b’ys, cause we’re the ‘Claus Gang’ and they all love us — we can do nothing wrong.”)

Just wondering.  

And there are signs telling us we’re mighty close to that day, Dec. 25, when millions upon millions of die-hard believers celebrate the birth of an apparently profoundly blessed little fella, conceived without even a whiff of raunchy sex between consenting adults. He was the son of God, we’re led to believe by those whose faith in these matters is unbreakable; in fact, it turned out the Father’s plan was to have his No. 1 boy, his only offspring, we presume, eventually die a slow, tortuous, incredibly nasty death, for our sins (it would have been centuries later that I had even started to tabulate a record of sinful acts). He had done his thing, had saved the world, or so we’re told by the faithful followers and their literature, that, following through on Dad’s orders, had been crucified to death. (And to imagine: I once thought my dad was cruel because he wouldn’t allow me and my brother to stay up and watch “The Deputy” on what the old man emphasized was a “school night.”)

So, whether you believe the story of the man the size of Rob Ford squeezing through chimneys into living rooms worldwide to leave miniature cop cars and toy guns and 40-ouncers under the trees, and taking a second or two for a hit

of rum (or a line of something stronger, if he’s truly Ford-like); or if you believe the yarn about the son of God launching in a stable in Bethlehem his mighty ambitious campaign to, well, to save all of mankind (how’s he done so far, by the way?);  or if you believe in both, or if you believe in neither, you can’t deny that the signs are everywhere that The Day is almost upon us. (It’s a day that reappears in the form of a Visa bill for months on end, the price in many homes for that latest, enormously expensive, head-smashing, crotch-kicking video game for a member of this peaceful generation now in our midst.) 

Harrumph-a-pum-pum

The signs themselves? Well, a couple come quickly to mind. Christmas music, especially the bland instrumental type, is everywhere: in the elevator, the bathroom, the rink, the alleyways, the shed, the backyards, the bar, even in the woods; you can’t escape the damn stuff. Now, I love Christmas music as much as any soul: my family and I had an amazing evening recently when we saw “Our Divas Do Christmas” at the Arts and Culture Centre. It was mesmerizing and flat-out grand, another incredible illustration of the phenomenal talent existing in a province with the population of a medium-sized Canadian city. Having said that, I’d like to be able to choose when and where I listen to the sounds of Christmas. And to hold the head of the “The Little Drummer Boy” under water in the  the Waterford River, if given the chance, until he gurgles the last la-la-la-la.

Then there’s that signal we’ve come to rely on in recent years for letting us know of the upcoming festive season, encompassing everything from peaceful dinners to family rackets where dessert is eaten at the lockup.

And I’m talking, of course, about the CBC Turkey Telethon, a time when dead, frozen turkeys get more air time on “Here and Now” than Debbie and Jonathan (not as much as that weather guy, Snoddon, mind you). But I’m not going there anymore, to Mother Corp craze (for now, at least). No more ranting about the CBC crowd collecting gobblers to suck up to their viewers and listeners, setting themselves up as benefactors of the down and trodden. (Do any of these journalistic stars actually get down off their pedestals and visit the home of

an underprivileged family during Christmas — there are plenty of them — and perhaps cook up a turkey dinner, with all the fixings?).

Anyway, what do I know? The radio current affairs shows are at the top of the ratings meter, so perhaps the average Joe and Jill love the charity work the CBC is doing. Maybe news and charities should mix; forget about journalistic principles and ethics — it’s all about the ratings, is it not?

Back to the point

Anyway, my main point here today — though it’s taken me a while to get here — is that those regular signs that Xmas is right around the corner have been joined by what is now turning into a yearly event at Confederation Building Hill. “Kathy the Premier’s Muskrat Show,” coming soon to a barn in a Tory stronghold of your choosing. Please bring your own baskets and cards and, of course, your own rats. 

You might recall the shindig last December, when a bunch of smiling Tory politicians, backed up by a choir and a chosen audience of cheerleaders, took over much of the supper-hour newscasts to tell the province (the few scattered rich among us, and the very many impoverished among us) that Muskrat Falls was the best thing for all of us since Vienna Sausages hit the shelves. 

Muskrat Falls was wrapped, figuratively, of course, in the Newfoundland flag that night. It was a pink, white and green evening, a message of patriotism, delivered from the government that naysayers and Antichrists — or even those asking perfectly legitimate questions with perfectly sound motives about Muskrat Falls — were traitors, dirty mainlanders in disguise. Go back where you came from, was the underlying message.  

So you thought that was a one-shot deal last December. Forget it. It looks as if the Tories might do their own version of “A Christmas Carol” each and every year, with a different Muskrat theme (maybe one year, Allan Hawco can play Tiny Tim, and have him head and eyes into a greasy piece of muskrat, hair and all, rarely coming up for air, the rat caught fresh in a trap on the bank of the Exploits; of course, we could turn it into an absolute horror show when Hawco realizes the muskrat he’s been devouring, even without salt, is actually his old buddy, Alan Doyle:  “I did think for a minute that the long hair looked familiar,” he could moan.  “Oh, God, I’ve eaten the other iconic Alan.”

Anyway, they were all there this year, on Tuesday night, Premier Dunderdale and company, the premier with a smile that appeared to be frozen onto her face, trying to monopolize the supper hour programs once again by scheduling the release of their latest news on Muskrat Falls — the formal thumbs-up on the federal loan guarantee — at exactly six o’clock. (To its credit, the “Here and Now” producers began their show with another news item, went briefly to a hit of Dunderdale, got some perspective from reporter David Cochrane, and returned to the newscast). I understand NTV took a similar route, and if it did, hats off to that station as well. It would have been so easy, too easy, for both networks to get sucked into this public relations exercise, and not be able to utilize their normal, healthy and necessary editing and vetting authority.        

Not that Dunderdale would give a hoot about such matters; she’s a politician and wanted to milk this for all it was worth. But I believe the public sees these events as classless and would prefer a normal press conference, mid-afternoon, with none of the bells and whistles.

In any case, Dunderdale desperately needed something, anything, to smile about. The coals have already been delivered by Santa to her home in the form of a byelection loss and the Liberals continuing to climb in the polls.                             

So stay tuned a year from now. Will there be another Muskrat announcement in December of 2014?

Will Dunderdale  be there with a big, fat smile on her puss?

Will Dunderdale be there at all?

Or will she have been eased out to pension pasture by that time, or been convinced to get down on her knees, hold her breath, bury her principles and dip her head into the Senate trough?

We'll just have to read the signs.

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com.

Organizations: CBC, Visa, Tory Confederation Building Hill

Geographic location: Bethlehem, Waterford River, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • What kind of uncaring hearts do some politicians possess?
    December 22, 2013 - 09:53

    MR. WAKEHAM: I generally agree with a lot of what you have to say in your columns, but please Sir stop rambling on about the CBC Turkey Telethon. In my opinion that telethon is a good event and a God Send in the present environment, for the poor who have been deprived of the ability to make a decent standard of living and who go to bed every night without theirs and their children's stomachs being filled with good nutrition and with very little of the securities that the rich enjoy. Shame on such people who would use their power in such a way over the poor! The poor are disenfranchised by the very politicians they put into power to appoint their natural resources in a way that a fair and equitable living should be available to everyone. All we have seen in this province over the centuries are politicians who have appointed our natural resources in a way that some of them have become ultra rich, along with their business friends who supported their campaigns with contributions. After they have satisfied their own wants and needs from our resource base there is very little monies left to go to the treasury of our province for creating jobs and infrastructure to support everyone. The best way for you to utilize your column Mr. Wakeham to benefit those who are deficient of food for Christmas is to be a proponent against the evils that the politicians perpetrate on the electorate of this province through the way they have governed and taken care of business. Not all politicians can be blamed but we can blame those at the top who have kept the rest of the politicians silenced on what they are up to. Your podium Mr. Wakeham, I will repeat myself, can be better served by you speaking out against what we are experiencing and have experienced since the beginning of time here in this province, because of the pilfering and give-away of our natural resources in the raw state where some of the politicians and some of their business friends are on their way to becoming Billionaires, yes I mean Billionaires. There are a handful at least

  • Karen Tremblett
    December 20, 2013 - 11:59

    Mr. Wakeham, I am not affiliated with any political party. I do not wish to comment on your article regarding Muskrat Falls or the present provincial premier, her government, policies or popularity. Instead, I wish to comment on your disparaging comments about the Christian faith as it relates to the birth of Christ & God's plan of salvation. You certainly do not have to share my beliefs- you are obviously welcome to form your own. I would ask however that you give my beliefs the same respect you would afford to others. If you had made similar comments about another groups religious beliefs or even their sexual orientation, I doubt the article would have made it to print. Please, if you wish to disparage government or any other group leave the good Lord out of it. He's not deserving or your disrespect or sarcasm. I pray you will have a blessed & merry Christmas.

  • Angela Power
    December 20, 2013 - 10:44

    This was the worst article I've read in a long time. I can't believe the telegram would print such a thing. "Dunderdale be there with a big, fat smile on her puss" Wow, how degrading. I hope you get fired Bob Wakeham! I can't stand people who are so negative, the idea of Christmas is to be positive and happy, personal attacks are uncalled for and unprofessional. This article is so offending that I will be cancelling my telegram subscription.

  • Just Sayin
    December 16, 2013 - 20:45

    Bob, you disbelieve that version that God planned Jesus's death and so you ridicule the death of Jesus. Now I believe that Jesus died for speaking the truth when such freedom to speak against those in power wasn't tolerated. And the punishment was expected, inevitable, but not a plan of the Father. To tell the truth at all cost is a virtue, that should be appreciated by you, not ridiculed. Obviously millions have been inspired by the story of Jesus, despite the fairy tale parts thrown in. Yes Bob, there was a Jesus. And he knew the hearts of men (and women). Why would you worry about your past sins if there is no consequence? And even you see the problem with the CBC turkey show. Just as Jesus would say..... it's mostly for show and ratings. Did you come to that conclusion from Jesus's teachings?

  • Joseph McGrath
    December 16, 2013 - 14:53

    Another keeper column Bob.You knock of Santa,Christianity,the government and a good family Christmas in just one column. I am so happy the Telegram publishes your 'Just wondering" BS that I cancelled my subscription today. Keep up the good work and the Tely should sink not long from now!!!!!

  • Joseph McGrath
    December 16, 2013 - 14:52

    Another keeper column Bob.You knock of Santa,Christianity,the government and a good family Christmas in just one column. I am so happy the Telegram publishes your 'Just wondering" BS that I cancelled my subscription today. Keep up the good work and the Tely should sink not long from now!!!!!

  • H Jefford
    December 15, 2013 - 20:38

    I think what ever way you look at the muskrat falls or the upper Churchill Falls one sided Questionable contract, Something has got to be done to Eliminate The Duffs Oil Fired Generating Plant that is listed as one of the top 10 dirty air Polluters in the WORLD, THIS CAN BE CHECKED ONLINE, and The Coal burning generators in NOVA Scotia , Must be equal to or passes the oil burning generators at Duffs Newfoundland when dealing with the one sided contract in place now with Quebec, when it expires in I Think 2041? That Paid Quebec $100 BILLION Dollars For its share of HYDRO POWER SOLD From The Upper Churchill Power TO NFLD $ 1 BILLION Dollars ,

  • Jason dyke
    December 15, 2013 - 17:48

    Sweet baby Jesus, Bob don't be telling the truth to much and saying things that people don't want to hear cause next thing they'll have you on the pension line that's running out cause of rediculous over spending by the brightest minds of Newfoundland. Say it is like it is Bob, cause wether people like it or not soon enough the we are all going to get a punch in the face from rising costs, well except from the ones who know how kiss a rich mans ass. That's my 3 cents, I mean 5 rounded up.

  • Gerald
    December 15, 2013 - 15:55

    You didn't get paid for this article, did you Bob? If you did, give back the money.

  • Joyce Yetman
    December 15, 2013 - 15:52

    If CBC have any respect Bob Wakeham would no longer be an employee of theirs....believe what you want but don't ridicule other people and their beliefs........if you can't say something nice, to people then don't say anything. That's what's wrong with our Country is the ignorance of people like Bob......thank you for the opportunity to comment.

  • Ed Power
    December 15, 2013 - 09:50

    I have no doubt, Mr. Pseudonymous Smith, that long after we've kicked this Premier and her sad group of lickspittles out the door, we who will be paying for Dunderdale's Labrador folly for most of the next century will continue to be blessed with your daily off-key and out-of-tune renditions of "Muskrat Love". Here is the opening line of my version of the song - "Muskrat, Muskrat, candlelight. 'cause the cost of electric is an awful fright..."

  • phil earle
    December 15, 2013 - 05:32

    Thanks Bob, I attended the premiers presentation also, gathering that you did to from your article. I was shocked by the staged delivery, show, of this announcement on the federal government loan guarantee for the Muskrat Fall's project. A singing Xmas choir, the pompous stance and walk of government ministers and bureaucrats , the little lamb faces of many of the provinces business elate who have connection to the project and the presenting speech, a practised act , of Cathy Dunderdale. She had a pasted expression smile, foretelling her position of fixed isolation on Muskrat falls. I had the impression that the government people I saw in the confederation building, and those connected to their offices and government business were, and are, living in a world of their own, one isolated from that of the world out side for the common man. P earle

  • Kev
    December 14, 2013 - 23:44

    Praying to whom or what, "John Smith"? Is it true you are a PC caucus staff collective project?

  • SR
    December 14, 2013 - 23:03

    This was exhausting to read. About as captivating a read as the phone book.

  • Virginia Waters
    December 14, 2013 - 21:57

    Ouch - that's nasty even for you Mr. Smith. Wishing someone's demise isn't very Christian - especially not this time of year. Not afraid of a lump of coal in your stocking? I guess not. Your gig as government's unofficial Muskrat mouthpiece has no doubt been quite lucrative. There is, of course, no Santa but hopefully that won't stop you from getting everything you deserve.

  • John Smith
    December 14, 2013 - 08:46

    I don't know about the premier Bob...but I pray you won't be around next year....

    • Grow up, John.
      December 14, 2013 - 17:20

      What a disgusting comment, "John Smith." People of the province will not be able to bear the burden of the cost of this project simply by paying higher electric rates.. There won't be money available for anything else once this project gets going.

    • Joe
      December 14, 2013 - 17:27

      Bye if the Premier goes, you and the rest of her lackeys won't be far behind. Good luck finding your next job after this mess up..

    • joebennett
      December 14, 2013 - 17:36

      What's wrong John ? The truth about your Kathy is hard to take ?

    • Tony Rockel
      December 15, 2013 - 01:56

      I'm sure you know ALL about the premier: you must spend 90percent of your time licking her boots.

    • joebennett
      December 15, 2013 - 19:06

      John Smith ( whomever ) Your comments won't be around when you receive your first light bill when MF is completed. You may want to move to Nova Scotia where their PUB has a say in their power rates. I'm sure you will be happy to subsidize theirs.