This coming Monday, January the twenty-fourth, in the year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Eleven, at approximately 10 a.m., the rich and the poor, the loud-mouths and the shy, the high brow and the low brow, Newfoundlanders everywhere, from Cape Race to Postville, will take pause from their normal activities to recognize that a historical event has started to unfold in St. John’s.
Newfoundland, of course, has witnessed an incredible amount of astonishing history, so much so that we have even have our very own encyclopedia, for God’s sake (or Joe’s sake).
And much of that fascinating past has been headlined by a cast of intriguing characters, exalted personages (in their own estimation) who tried desperately to lead us mere mortals to the promised land, colourful and megalomaniacal politicians, the likes of (in relatively recent times) Joey Smallwood, John Crosbie, Don Jamieson, Brian Peckford, Clyde Wells, and yes, Danny Williams, the most recently departed of our illustrious saviours.
But their track record, their accomplishments, and even their failures, noteworthy as they undoubtedly remain, just can’t be mentioned in the same breath as both the occasion and the main player in this coming Monday’s day of reckoning.
If this were 50 years ago, Tank Lane boys making a penny a day from the parsimonious Herders would be racing up and down Water Street with copies of that day’s Evening Telegram, hot off the presses, shouting: “Extra, extra, read all about it! Headlines! Headlines! Leadership Hopeful’s Future to be Decided Today! Province Holds Its Breath!”
But we’re in a technological age, the era of one and a half minute news hits, and will have to live with Debbie or Jonathan delivering a dose of “Breaking News.” And it won’t be a “‘Here and Now’ has learned” story about the sudden, inexplicable death of a squirrel in Bannerman Park. Nosiree. We’re talking momentous “Breaking News,” the future of the province, no less, a yea or nay that could have repercussions for decades.
You guessed it. I’m referring, of course, to arguably the most consequential decision ever made by a political organization in the history of this fair province: whether the Tory backroom boys and girls will let Brad Copa Cabana run for the leadership of the PC Party.
I, for one, am firmly behind Copa.
Those Newfoundland chauvinists who have disgustingly pooh-poohed Copa’s laudable and selfless goal to continue Danny’s godly work just because he’s a %#*&%# mainlander, a non-Newfoundlander, should be ashamed of themselves.
It should not matter an iota that Copa has only lived in Newfoundland for a year.
Who’s to say he hasn’t been able to grasp in 12 months the realities of Newfoundland life, even it’s most complicated of nuances — like, is Leo’s better than Ches’s?
After all, his great, great, great-grandfather’s cousin, twice removed, once bludgeoned an adorable seal to death somewhere on the northeast coast. That’s enough for resident status, is it not?
I know the Tories have been operating like human bumper cars, a regular demolition derby, ever since Danny left the circuit and declared his pit stop permanent, but, in this race, they should recognize that the bleachers of voter-land are absolutely desperate to have Copa on the convention track.
To hell with the skeptics who believe Copa will register the same number of votes as did, say, Dorothy Wyatt in the 1979 Tory leadership contest (zero, in case you’re wondering; even her father, a delegate, refused to cast a ballot for his wing-nut daughter).
If given the chance, Copa would scare the bejesus out of Madame Dunderdale, and turn the coronation into a real barn-burner, a nail-biter, the kind of racket that would put past Tory and Liberal leadership battles — Crosbie and Smallwood, Rowe and Roberts, Peckford and Doody, Grimes and Efford, etc. — to absolute shame.
Even if Copa were to be defeated, but only in a squeaker, for sure, his speech at the convention, in any case, would make his inclusion in the contest worthwhile, a performance of oratorical skills for the ages, 10 or 15 minutes of eloquence that would eventually find itself in the archives of The Rooms, positioned in appropriate prominence next to the recorded debates of Smallwood and Peter Cashin at the National Convention.
I know I’d be hanging on his every word if Copa is given an opportunity to sell his wares, a chance of a lifetime for all of us, in fact, to see and hear first hand how he made such a splash in the exciting and competitive arena of small town politics on the Saskatchewan prairies.
If he could make it there, as Frank Sinatra once sang of New York City, he could “make it anywhere.”
Just a reminder: Monday, Jan. 24. A day that will live forever in the history books of this smiling land.
You go Copa.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.