To the party faithful go the spoils

Bob Wakeham
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

When Norm Doyle was growing up in, I believe the Harbour Main area, I'm sure he was told by his parents - as were all youngsters, especially in late fall and early December of each year - that being a really good boy, taking out the trash, keeping a civil tongue in your head, not teasing the dog or your siblings, not putting rocks inside your snowballs, etc., would practically guarantee a bountiful array of presents from Santa Claus.

There was, of course, always an important qualification: be a bad boy and you'd be screwed (or more polite words to that effect from the folks) by Santa and his elves; the reindeer would leave droppings the size of marshmallows under the tree.

I have a feeling, though, that Little Norm was probably a good boy and wound up with a set of guns, a train set, a hockey game or whatever happened to be the toys for boys back then.

But Little Norm could obviously have had no idea that when he grew up to be a big strong politician, he'd get one of the best Christmas presents of his lifetime, certainly the most expensive, and there'd be no need to be a good boy, there'd be no need to get in the good graces of Mr. Claus.

That gift, which arrived just last week, still in time to give it that nice Christmas flavour (and allowing for the announcement to be buried at a time when news is not a priority in most homes), had nothing to do with his behaviour, nothing to do with ability or integrity or good works.

All Big Norm had to do be on the receiving end of one of the greatest presents ever from his own personal Santa, Stephen Harper, was to be a yes man, a party man, an obedient Tory disciple, a loyal and subservient follower - in other words, to have the correct party brand tattooed on his arse.

Doyle and his supporters can put whatever spin they wish on his Christmas delivery from Harper, but it was simply this: he was willing to stick his nose in the patronage trough, or wherever else one might be required to stick a nose when seeking favours in the world of politics, and came out smelling as a highly paid member of the Canadian Senate.

Sick of hearing commentators and columnists mocking Senate appointments?

Think it's too easy a target?

Well, from where I sit, any opportunity to trash that shockingly useless and wasteful body of political patronage called the Senate, and to condemn anyone associated with its continuation - including the likes of Doyle - should never be allowed to go astray.

Doyle, as just about everybody with even a passing interest in Newfoundland politics would know, is a former MP, a former MHA, and, most especially, a good old boy to Harper when Danny Williams was premier, upsetting many of his constituents at one point, in fact, when he sided with his boss's budget that lumped equalization and resource revenues together.

But Doyle knew the abuse he took back home would eventually pay off, that his day would come. And now it has. The good soldier has gotten his reward.

Someone blogging on the CBC website the other day described Doyle as a "good guy." And I have no reason to doubt that he's a decent fellow and all.

In fact, my recollection of Doyle when he was a member of the Peckford government and I was with CBC Radio trying to make sense of the legislature was that of a relatively nice guy, inoffensive, not the type to turn a horse from his oats.

But so what? Being a "good guy" means zilch this particular week.

Doyle has taken the ultimate patronage job, the best job you can get in Canada for being in the right political party, period. A position that requires you do practically nothing and still collect a hefty salary in excess of $130,000 a year and a pension we'd all love to have.

His shallow explanation was laughable.

"I had indicated to (Harper), of course, that I was interested in going back to work," he said, "and he gave me a call back about a week ago and said there was a Senate opening and wondered if I'd be interested in doing that." (The word "work" here is the ultimate misnomer).

The CBC script I read stated the obvious: "Doyle jumped at the chance."

Well, why wouldn't he?

You get a lot of money to do shag-all. Of course, you do have to show up every once in a while in the cobwebbed chambers to take part in debates no one cares about, and you might have to sit in a rocking chair on the odd Senate committee whose deliberations are ignored by Canadians.

And, in the particular case of Doyle, he'll have to fight with Fabian Manning over which of them gets to travel to Newfoundland to announce the latest federal goodie.

The Senate is a disgrace, an embarrassment, a joke, one exploited by Liberals and Conservatives alike to reward buddies for service.

But Norm ain't complaining.

He got his Christmas present.

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


Organizations: CBC Radio, Canadian Senate, Senate committee

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • Harvey
    January 16, 2012 - 14:08

    Support Harper's efforts to reform the senate.........what efforts?????Harper is doing what Harper does best......acting dishonestly, deceitfully, etc,etc etc.

    • Carl
      January 17, 2012 - 16:24

      I was referring to the four bills Harper has put forward to reform the Senate, including the latest one which is being filibustered by the NDP in the House of Commons.

  • Carl
    January 14, 2012 - 23:31

    Until the Senate is reformed, Senators must continue to be appointed - the Constitution demands it. The Senate must approve every bill and every budget that comes before Parliament. If PM Harper didn't fill vacant Senate seats, Parliament would soon cease to function altogether. So why don't you support Harper's efforts to reform the Senate, instead of complaining that he is following the current constitutionally required process for filling Senate seats? Or why don't you urge Premier Dunderdale to hold elections for NL Senators? Or offer an idea of your own. If all you can offer is negativity and insults, then you are not helping at all and your column is a waste of space.