I don't know what Rob Crosbie looks like - not having travelled "in his social circles" (to steal the infamous phrase used last year by a Newfoundland political crook, in his circumstance, to put distance between himself and someone he thought beneath him) - but he must have the face of a robber's horse, judging by his gall-fuelled demand that MP Gerry Byrne shut his saucy mouth and quit asking questions about the deservedly maligned ferry service between the mainland and Newfoundland.
Now, Byrne is a big enough boy to defend himself, and seems to have developed a Brian Tobinesque knack for talking a blue streak, and, better yet, to his advantage, ensuring he's constantly on the air and in the headlines even when an issue has the substance of cotton candy.
And there'll be a snowman survive in Satan's backyard with his carrots still upright when I feel an obligation to vigorously enter a politician's corner and prepare him or her for Round 10 in whatever happens to be the flavour of the month fight.
But the historically disgusting service that the federal government has provided travellers between North Sydney and Port aux Basques through Crown corporations like Marine Atlantic is a timeless issue, begging for constant attention and never-ending pressure from the Gerry Byrnes of the province.
And Crosbie's defensiveness and overreaction to the MP's critique of Marine Atlantic was downright ironic, given the ignominious history of the service, and the fact that it's made the venture across the Gulf uncomfortable and frustrating for literally thousands and thousands of travellers throughout the decades, and has probably cost Newfoundland a small fortune in mainland and American dollars. (One of the near laughable remarks Crosbie made about Byrne is that he could harm tourism in the province).
Off the charts
If there was a gauge to measure gall, Crosbie would be off the charts in his lengthy letter to the editor of The Telegram, the head of a troubled corporation - one that seemed at times over the years as if it was using The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart at the helm on the run across the Gulf - lecturing Byrne about his audacity and impertinence.
After all, Crosbie, a Tory appointee several years back, heads an organization that has been a metaphor for public transportation ineptitude and has probably prompted more complaints since Confederation about its inadequacies than any other service supposedly provided by the federal government to this province (one guaranteed constitutionally by the terms of union, a fact Crosbie apparently pooh-poohed as being out of date and of no relevance to the current business he runs).
Well, I, and many others, would beg to differ with Crosbie, and point out that those papers signed in 1949 have profound, perpetual merit, not just for marine transportation but for a host of other services as well.
It's too bad, in fact, that there wasn't an MP or two asking questions when the Newfoundland railway was permitted to be downgraded to a point where hardly a hand of protest was raised when it was finally sold down the tunnel (I may be accused of being an incurable romantic, but I still dream of crossing the gorgeous landscape of Newfoundland on a train, as I did as a kid, and can't help but wonder what a tremendous attraction a first class-rail service would have provided for tourists and non-tourists alike).
But I digress.
Crosbie, he of the Crosbies, son of Andrew, nephew of John, doesn't like to be scolded, and leaves the impression he's still operating in some paternalistic era when Newfoundlanders were told to sit in a corner and suck on peppermint knobs while the upper crust, a select number of millionaire families and politicians, took care of things.
Well, guess what, Mr. Crosbie, those days are long gone.
We are able to ask questions, and can speak for ourselves.
And the Gerry Byrnes of the world should continue to keep a critical eye on Marine Atlantic.
Crosbie, for his part, could make better use of his time, refrain from seeking a few headlines, and just get on with his job.
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.