Frank Coleman should grab an empty salt meat bucket from one of his grocery stores and start carrying it around his neck to collect all those forlorn, woe-is-me torrential tears that have been pouring down his cheeks the past couple of weeks.
The bucket around the neck doesn’t conjure up much of an attractive, leader-like image, I’ll grant you that — more like something out of the Three Stooges, with Coleman a Curly Joe imitator, but the fact is the premier-in-waiting isn’t acting very statesmanlike anyway with all his moaning and groaning as he awaits his July coronation.
What a whiner this fella is turning out to be, bitching endlessly and naively about the kind of attention he and his family are receiving, an examination he believes to be extraordinary when, in fact, it is quite normal treatment paid to any individual on the cusp of becoming the chief of governance of Newfoundland (or, for that matter, the head of government of any jurisdiction in the country; this ain’t peculiar to this neck of the woods).
Coleman, with all of his pity-pot routines of recent weeks, and his charge of being unfairly attacked, seems to be on the verge of duplicating the howls of that female figure skater of a couple of decades ago whose chief competitor hired a thug to smash her in the knee with a bat. Not a highly amusing incident for her, to be sure, but the reaction of the pretty little delicate ice queen became a source of comedic routines ever since.
Who can forget that pathetic screech? Whhhyyyyyy?!
I can’t help it, but after listening to sob-boy Coleman bemoaning his fish bowl existence, I have a kinda twisted image of the soon-to-be premier standing in front of his mirror, or sitting at the supper table at a Coleman gathering, screaming to the top of his lungs, Whhhyyyyyy?!
Well, guess what, Frank? You brought this on yourself. The unwashed out there didn’t knock down your door begging you to run for the premier’s job. You decided on that move yourself.
Or someone talked you into it, perhaps Danny Williams; thus the label you might carry for eternity: Danny’s Boy.
In any case, it was Coleman himself who made the ultimate call; it was Coleman who made the decision that opened his personal and business life to scrutiny.
As I noted in an earlier column, a point that bears repeating — given Coleman’s complaint that he and his family are being treated unfairly — did the premier-to-be honestly believe that being an active member of the Right to Life Association wouldn’t produce questions about his views on abortion, and about the impact those views might have on the legal access women have to abortion in Newfoundland, and how he might handle future requests for money from, say, Planned Parenthood?
Or did he really believe it was unfair that Newfoundlanders be reminded that an organization of which he is a proud member considers many of the same people he is seeking to govern to be murderers, killers of the “unborn”?
Any journalist who didn’t ask the abortion question of Coleman should have been tarred and feathered, and assigned for the rest of his or her career to cover nothing but rotting whales on Newfoundland beaches being sold on eBay.
Worse still, they should have been assigned to cover the $500-a-plate dinner put off last week by the Liberals, with that scintillating and charismatic orator Dwight Ball delivering the after-supper treat.
Reporting on road
Coleman also seems to believe it was unfair that reporters began asking questions about transactions between the provincial government and a paving company he had sold just prior to announcing his quest for the Tory leadership.
Is he actually that innocent and naive that he would think there wouldn’t be a few heads turning, more than a few justifiable questions being asked, when his son and Transportation Minister Nick McGrath, in a one-on-one conversation, decided there was no need for the company to pay a $19-million penalty for non-completion of a contract?
There’s not a newsroom anywhere in the free world, not a journalism school worth its reputation, that would not have deemed such a matter worthy of investigation and persistent questions.
And that’s not to conclude in some sort of definitive way that there’s been impropriety here. But there’s enough smoke to suggest a possibility of fire and, therefore, a matter begging for questions and answers.
Even if Coleman hadn’t decided he wanted to be premier, and his company had been forgiven a $19-million write-off, there should have been a slew of questions being asked.
Throw into the mix the fact that the former owner of the company being given a break is going to be the new Tory premier — well, Frank, need we say more?
Coleman and his son and McGrath may all emerge from this controversy smelling like roses. Who knows?
But it’s the Newfoundland public who’ll decide on the aroma. And it can only make that determination if the entire matter is scrutinized. That’s the way the system works.
And if you don’t like that system, Frank, if you abhor what’s been happening in your life in recent weeks, you’ve definitely made the mistake of your existence in deciding to become a politician.
And if this is not your bag, Frank, you might want to do yourself a favour, and return to laying asphalt and selling carrots.
Just a bit of unsolicited advice for your consideration.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.