The dog days of elections

Bob Wakeham
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When I picked up the ringing phone last Sunday evening, there was initially a brief silence on the other end, a signal that a home-invader from one of those obnoxious telemarketing companies was about to put a damper on my meal time.    

My usual strategy for handling these unwanted intrusions is to launch into a preachy tirade, placing special emphasis on the caller’s stupidity in not realizing that although it might be 5 p.m. in Toronto, it’s the #$@*&^%$in’ supper hour in Newfoundland (my saucy spiel invariably proves to be useless, lost as it often is on a New Canadian with a minimal grasp of English, or on a taped message of an Old Canadian offering to pay off my student debt immediately, even though it’s been over 40 years since I attained my BA in Debauchery). 

This particular call Sunday was a recording, in fact, and ended in a merciful 10 or 15 seconds.    

When my wife, slightly curious about my undemonstrative response to the call, wondered who had been on the phone, I replied in a monotone voice: “That was Michael Ignatieff.”

My wife snorted, thinking my name-dropping was the usual lame attempt at humour. 

But it was Ignatieff, at least the recorded words of the Liberal leader, inviting me, or anyone who happened to have answered the phone, to a rally the following night in St. John’s.

Anyway, no one in our home expressed an excitable interest in travelling into town to hear Iggy’s pearls of electioneering wisdom. I did ask our eldest dog Bucko whether he had any desire to attend the rally (the hundreds of thousands of people who regularly read this column might recall that I once drew attention to the fact that Bucko has had a passing interest in politics, ever since I suggested he run here in St. John’s East during a provincial byelection, at a time when even a mutt with a Tory/Danny tag could have gotten elected. A native of Flatrock, a permanent resident of St. John’s East, and more than willing to leave his mark door to door on his home turf, Bucko could have easily won the district, but he gave the notion a paws-down, saying he had no desire to be a lapdog).

Bucko, now nearly 16 (almost 90 in human years), thought about the rally Monday in St. John’s for a few minutes (a few months in human terms), and eventually said he might go if Ignatieff would agree to scratch his belly for a full 25 minutes, and not miss a stroke if he switched hands, and make his legs (Bucko’s, not Ignatieff’s) twitch in heavenly pleasure.

“Well, he might just do that, Bucko,” I suggested. “After all, it’s election time, and politicians will do just about anything for a vote.”

But, ultimately, Bucko declined. He said he had better things to do. There was an old flipper bone, he reminded me, that he hadn’t finished gnawing in the backyard. 

I then phoned our next-door neighbours to see if they were interested in taking advantage of what I thought was my special invite to Iggy’s party in town. But, as it turned out, they had gotten an invitation as well, and had already decided they would rather spend the evening watching the paint dry in their newly renovated den. 

I thought for a second or two about going myself just out of curiosity to see if Ignatieff could match the set direction talents of Stephen Harper’s handlers who had placed him in a barn the other night, complete with loyal and smiling supporters sitting like mannequins on bales of straw in the background. Photo-ops are part and parcel of election campaigns — I know I’ve covered more than my share — but “Harper in the Barn” was as dumb and corny a setup as you could possibly create, and made him look like the star of a “Hee-Haw” re-run.

And much worse, from a public relations point of view, some of those same, highly paid flunkies who decided Farmer Steve might work some magic were engaging in outrageous background checks last week to determine who could attend a Harper rally (what a tremendous way to ingratiate yourself with the electorate). Had your mug on a Facebook entry in the company of one of Harper’s opponents? Not welcome. You’re outta here! Big Brother Stephen is watching.

Now Bucko, meanwhile, told me he would have no problem agreeing to a background check. He said he has nothing to hide: he’s proud of his mixed-breed genes, and is not ashamed of the fact that his mother and father were his aunt and uncle.

But the rallies and photo-ops are irrelevant, he said, because he’s

voting for NDPer Jack Harris, the incumbent in this neck of the woods.

Bucko said it had nothing to do with ideology or political philosophy, but that Harris seemed less full of crap than most other politicians he has heard (he’s a brilliant dog, of course, and acknowledged that a phrase like “less full of crap” would drive any English teacher around the bend, but that it made sense to him).


Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Toronto, Flatrock

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Recent comments

  • Brandi
    April 09, 2011 - 11:14

    Gotta say, I do like the comment about Jack Harris. If I lived in his riding, I'd vote for him in a heartbeat. I'm no diehard NDPer, but Jack seems to me to be a sincere, decent, mature, intelligent man who is more about principle than self aggrandizement . Wish there were more like him in politics.