Now I could be a cruel s.o.b. (totally in character, some would argue) and say that the one person in Newfoundland to take a certain amount of solace, if not delight, in last week’s blackout days was Premier Kathy Dunderdale.
And I could, if so inclined, suggest (facetiously, of course) that the premier might have been thinking “it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good,” as the expression goes, the massive, widespread loss of power providing her with a convenient sales pitch to help convince her constituents, especially those with cold tootsies or even frost-bitten ears, that Muskrat Falls will somehow help prevent a future scene of unlit and unheated houses throughout Newfoundland.
Why, I could even try a satirical bit starring the premier bundled up in a cosy kitchen, surrounded by advisers, her environment kept comfortably warm by the very best of generators, clapping her hands with glee as still another area of the province took its turn off the grid, Kathy shouting with joy, “There goes another one, b’ys, another powerplay goal for Team Muskrat. With all those frozen butts, they’ve got to read from the Muskrat missal now.”
But, guess what?
I’m not going there with that over-the-top nastiness because I’ve decided that those mostly Tory souls clamouring for “positive” journalism are going to get just that from me; in fact, I’m making it part of my New Year’s resolutions package.
So. Be it resolved (to steal a few words utilized on occasion by those diligent, law-making members of the legislature) that I, Bob Wakeham, despicable, anti-government columnist and irreverent blasphemer, will, during the year of Our Lord, 2014 (see, I can do the Christian thing), make every effort to stick to the following agenda:
‰ That I will not criticize Premier Dunderdale during the upcoming year, even when I feel she deserves a dash of heat (and I’m not talking about the lack of heat in thousands of Newfoundland homes she apparently felt didn’t constitute a crisis). The bottom line: I’ve concluded I’m not playing the Newfoundland patriotic role as well as I should, and will now embrace the all-for-one, one-for-all philosophy that Dunderdale inherited from her predecessor, Daniel the First. I’ve decided Dan and Kath are absolutely right: that we journalists, although by nature inherently scummy and full of just awful negative thoughts and criticisms of the government, have a job to do, and that job is to support every single effort being made by the Tory administration to make this a finer place in which to live. Let’s get out there, my Fourth Estate colleagues, and help promote this province of ours. And let’s bury, as often as we can, anything that reflects badly on our government. I hope, in fact, that The Telegram graphic people drape that mug shot of mine that appears at the top of this column with some of the images the tourism department places in those Norman Rockwell-like tourism ads: a clothesline full of colourful long-undies and pristine bed sheets being swayed in slow motion by a gentle wind blowing in from the bluest and most gorgeous ocean ever seen by man, a magnificent, deep orange sunset in the background. It will fit the new credo to a tee: my government, right or wrong. No more nay-saying from this little corner of Saturday’s Telegram in 2014. If Dunderdale is out in Cuddler’s Cove cutting the ribbon on a new cupcake factory that can provide 20 hours of work a week for a family of five PCs, then, by God, that’s what I’ll be writing about.
‰ That I will never again pick on the Senate and its sleepy residents. I realize I’ve taken more than a few shots at the likes of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin and, locally, Fabian Manning, the poster boy for senate patronage (a two-time recipient, in fact). But I think I’ve been unfair. Yes, Duffy and Wallin and others have treated their expense and travel accounts as a means of supplementing their already sizable income, and Manning is not a Newfoundland politician we associate with honour and pride. But, come on, they all deserve a break. That sober second thought mantra has gotten to me. I’m beginning to realize the extraordinary work those dedicated men and women are all performing. And I, for one, am going to cut them some slack. If they all get together during a night session to staple together a few government documents, while taking the scattered, well-needed snooze, you’ll read about it right here. Hail to the Senate!
‰ That I’m going to promote the local NDPers at every opportunity. I and my journalistic cohorts, especially those of us from the baby boomer generation, have an obligation to give the lefties whatever help we can provide. True story: during an election campaign of a couple of decades ago, an election I was covering for CBC Radio, a Telegram reporter suggested quite sincerely to me that we join forces and always make sure we put a spin on our coverage that would give the NDP an edge; they require our help, she said, quite unabashedly. I told her bluntly what I thought of her suggestion. But, in retrospect, she was right. In 2014, it’s kid gloves for the NDP. Even when they implode, I’ll find an angle that will give the third party a break.
‰ That I will stop implying that Liberal Leader Dwight Ball has the charisma of a snowblower. Or that his trot to the top of the Liberal party mountain had all the publicity-generating excitement of a political photo-op on a fish plant line. Let’s just give him a chance, shall we? If the guy trips over himself with some vacuous and innocuous reaction to a government move, let us — again, the “us” referring to the reporters of the province, including the columnists, commentators and pundits — give him a hand while he learns the ropes. That’s what we should all be about: providing politicians with a shot of decent, uplifting coverage for a change. At least that’s the road I’m travelling in the New Year.
‰ That I will stop making fun of individual MHAs or MPs, even those who get too big for their britches. Case in point: Christopher Mitchelmore, the NDP turncoat who apparently thinks the province is holding its breath in anticipation of his future moves in the legislature. As Cheers and Jeers, The Telegram Monday column, put it so well the other day: “Andy Warhol called, Christopher. Your 15 minutes of fame are up.” OK, a bit of plagiarism on my part, but it was just such a great line, I couldn’t resist. It demanded a repeat. But that’s it. It stops now. I’m going to always give politicians the benefit of the doubt this year.
And, folks, if you believe there’s even an iota of a chance that I’ll adhere to any of those resolutions, I have a truckload of snow sitting in my driveway in Flatrock that you can have for a hundred bucks.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland in Newfoundland and Labrador.
He can be reached by email