All that angst in Ottawa about the refusal by a committee of parliamentarians to allow Auditor general Sheila Fraser to have a gander at MPs' expense accounts obviously has an uncomfortable ring of nauseous familiarity here in Newfoundland.
So I wasn't all that surprised when - through my reliable "Deep Trout" contact - I discovered the local experience of shame was actually being utilized to help those poor, wretched MPs in Ottawa who are worried sick the national auditor general might have an opportunity to explore their spending habits.
The Newf-aid package came in the form of a memo, a copy of which was leaked to me by Deep Trout.
From: The Convicts Four
Location: Hangashore Halfway House
Breach of Trust Bay
Newfoundland and Labrador
To: Members of Parliament
Location: A House of Commons Divided
First off, we hear ya.
If there are any all-giving souls in this guilty-until-proven-innocent, backward country of ours (forgive the bile) who can empathize with your sincere efforts to keep that nosy parker auditor general Sheila Fraser out of your briefs, it is us, the politicians who've actually worn drab prison garb and been forced to break bread with the riff-raff of Newfoundland.
We were the victims of not just an overzealous auditor general of our own, but a disrespectful, hound dog pack of journalists and an unappreciative bunch of nincompoop voters.
So, from where we sit, those lines of worry weaving across Ottawa skulls are legit.
You may have guessed by now who we are, being the sharp crowd you are, astuteness exemplified, as the country knows all too well, by the historic course you've charted to stay half in and half out of power, Stevie and Iggy, especially, those managers of the political version of coitus interruptus (please don't take offense; it's just a bit of harmless humour among friends, much more benign than what we've had to handle down here).
While we were on the "inside," we watched an awful lot of "Jeopardy" (be patient with our long-winded preface here; after all, we are politicians). That's, of course, the CBC show bubbling over with Canadian content (its superstar host, Alex Trebek, was born a Canuck about 100 years ago), and its airtime was the most exciting part of our evenings, other than playing 120s with the druggies.
So, if you wouldn't mind feeding our Jeopardy addiction, we'd like to reveal our identities by taking a page from the script of that tremendous piece of public broadcaster programming (this is a bit juvenile, we know, but we're easily entertained these days). In any case, in a "Jeopardy" game, the category would be Politicians and Crooks and anal Alex, using those all-Canadian tonsils, would recite the clue (keeping with the game's uniquely intellectual format): "Four politicians who rifled the public purse, got caught and went to jail." And the correct question is: "Who are Ed Byrne, Wally Andersen, Jim Walsh and Randy Collins?"
Yes, we are The Convicts Four, proudly representing all three political parties, and we felt compelled to write upon hearing the avalanche of condemnation that has greeted your efforts to keep slippery Sheila out of your affairs.
We may be in the minority but we understand what politicians have to go through to remain above the poverty line and live in a manner to which they (we) have become accustomed.
The unwashed out there, those IQ-challenged voters, can't seem to comprehend the hardships we face in taking care of their inconsequential, boring issues, and just don't understand why it's none of their business (certainly none of the auditor general's business) how we spend millions of bucks during our working days to make ourselves more desirous come election time.
So what if there was some double-billing, some overspending? Who's perfect?
And what's wrong with the public paying for the booze for the odd fundraiser to help the victims of a blizzard in Antarctica?
And why shouldn't we buy a Picasso to adorn the wall of a bland-looking office?
Our unsophisticated constituents just didn't get it.
And neither will yours if that malicious auditor general has a chance to expand her zealous mandate.
So keep fightin', b'ys.
We're in your corner.
Just as long as we're not in your cell. (Only kidding!)
With spin-doctoring affection,
The Convicts Four.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.