Kathy Dunderdale recently took up running, a breaking story on one of the radio stations revealed last week, an attempt by the premier, I’m guessing, to give herself a slight make-over, a chance to adopt a healthier and more vibrant image for those nightly appearances on “Here and Now” and the NTV News, the television media dictating that the “look” is as important as substance these days for politicians, especially when election time rolls around.
And having fought, unsuccessfully, the battle of the bulge myself for the past 20 years or so, and having excused or rationalized my spare tire by staying relatively active, doing the poor man’s Paul Bunyan with a chainsaw and a splitter, I honestly wish the premier good luck in what I assume is a campaign to lose some pounds and add some years, and, at the same time, adjust to the shallowness that is the boob tube.
But Dunderdale didn’t necessarily need her “10 K a day” around some St. John’s track to meet her quota for exercise: she was already busy chasing her own tail in an awkward and embarrassing pursuit of that wily coyote, Stephen Harper. In fact, the premier had to acknowledge, in what had to be an uncomfortable scrum with reporters, that Harper hadn’t returned any of her calls to discuss that inexplicable, disheartening, disgusting and arbitrary decision by his government to move marine communications personnel from St. John’s to Halifax.
I almost felt sorry for Dunderdale as she tried, near red-faced, it seemed, to explain why she hadn’t been afforded so much as a token few seconds on the phone, or even a brief email, or something, anything, to at least acknowledge the prime minister’s willingness to listen to what she has to say.
Still, Dunderdale was trying to convince all of us that it made sense to keep to the high road, to refrain from “throwing rocks,” and to pursue the diplomatic channels.
You’d think some political handler with a bit of savvy would have whispered in her ear that it’s possible to have both style (aggressive, in this case) and substance. Sure, there are always a few snobs who’ll look down their noses at a bit of political theatre, but there’s invariably a time to perform, especially if there are other, quieter efforts being made backstage.
And, in any case, it’s obvious that just every Newfoundlander out there wants Dunderdale to least provide some cathartic relief by tearing a strip off the arrogant prime minister; (a) he deserves such a spanking and (b) it would be politically astute to carry it out.
As I mentioned here last week, Dunderdale doesn’t have to dress up and act like Daniel the Second, but this kind of issue begs for noise.
I wonder if Dunderdale has been able to catch up to Peter Penashue during her pursuit of the PM, to try to force the Labrador MP out in the open (or does her perceived allegiance to Harper’s gang also include a promise not to embarrass the new minister for Newfoundland?).
It should be noted by Dunderdale and anyone else near a microphone that Penashue is a crucial member of the Harper government, and, as such, he obviously agrees with the decision to move those search and rescue communications people out of Newfoundland, and feels the fisheries union, the federation of labour, the NDP and Liberal parties, and other organizations and individuals, are all out to lunch when they warn of the potentially deadly consequences of this move, that people working on the ocean are being placed in jeopardy.
Can you imagine John Crosbie or Don Jamieson or even Brian Tobin letting their respective governments off the hook in this kind of motherhood affair?
Crosbie would have used intimidation, Jamieson his charm, and Tobin — well, Tobin would have yakked for days until the change was made just to shut him up. When I was producing a documentary on Tobin back in the late ’90s, a high school acquaintance of his from Labrador told me: “Brian came out of the womb talking and hasn’t shut up since.”
Some might suggest that Penashue be given some slack, that he needs time to find a comfort zone in the cabinet. But Penashue is in there with the big boys and girls; now is his time to shine, to let his province know what he’s got under his cap and in his gut.
And Dunderdale should have her Blackberry buzzing the minister’s office constantly as she laces up her running shoes, and should let out the odd roar in the PM’s direction as well. Her handling of this matter (she’d have to be given a C mark at this writing) could play a crucial role in her most important race, the one taking place in October.
Late Wednesday, after this column’s deadline had come and gone, Dunderdale managed to force a phone call with Harper; the pleading for a phone call had apparently paid off, the plea for the return of the rescue centre did not.
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.