Unleashing the Muskrat dogs

Bob Wakeham
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About a year ago, my wife and I were forced to end the 16-year life of a wonderful mutt named Bucko, the friendliest, warmest and affectionate dog I’ve ever owned.

As a matter of fact, a few regular readers of this Saturday piece might recall that Bucko has been referred to here on occasion. For instance, I once had him contemplating a run at the Tory nomination in his home district of St. John’s East, an opportunity to be gainfully employed in his very own bow-wow parliament. Common sense prevailed, though, and Bucko gave the notion the paws down, telling me he had no desire to join Pavlov’s lapdog litter, better known as the Danny Williams caucus.

My wife and I have been talking about Bucko a lot lately, it seems, probably because the anniversary of his death is just a couple of weeks away. And hardly a day goes by when I don’t wander over to his grave in our backyard, pull out the odd weed that might have forced its way up through the rocks covering his burial spot, and clean the gull shit off a small identification plaque that recalls how long he was part of our family. A scattered time, I might even whisper: “How’s she goin’, Buck?”

But Bucko came to mind the other day for a totally different reason. I happened to hear about Steve Kent and his attack-dog assignment, possibly ordered or suggested by Kathy Dogertail and her pack, to question the motives of one of the five lawyers who’ve joined forces to warn the Newfoundland public of what they obviously consider to be the potentially disastrous implications of the Muskrat Falls project.

Bucko, although gentle-hearted, was a discriminating creature and would have been ashamed of Pooch Steve’s snarling performance on CBC Television, a nasty piece of stuff that Buck would have thought gave all dogs a bad name.   

So, as Bucko’s proxy, I’ll just go ahead and cock a leg — metaphorically, of course — on the type of cheap shot that Kennel Kent fired in the direction of Cabot Martin,

a bark that implied the highly respected and longtime offshore oil and gas specialist was opposing Muskrat Falls for self-serving reasons.

Now, as I understand it, Martin is the president of Deer Lake Oil and Gas Inc. (not exactly Mobil Oil), a company with exploration interests on the west coast of the province.

But so what?

Martin would be near the top of any sort of who’s who list of offshore experts working and living in Newfoundland, having strutted his stuff in both the private and public sectors, and you’d have to be prone to cutting off your nose to spite  your face, or terribly partisan, not to welcome his thoughts on Muskrat Falls.

Was there a “go get ’im, boy” command issued by Pack Leader Kathy, part of a desperate move to handle legitimate questions about a multi-billion-dollar development by simply attacking the messengers, by hitting below the belt with mean-spirited conflict of interest charges?  

Well, tell you what: I’m still not convinced that Muskrat Falls is the most viable approach to Newfoundland’s future electrical needs, nor am I prepared, at least at this point, to completely dismiss its potential value. But I do plan on paying

attention, as would most objective observers, when individuals with the expertise of a Cabot Martin take it upon themselves to enter one of the most important public debates this province has ever had.

And the performance by Canine Kent does absolutely nothing for the government’s cause and, in fact, could prompt thousands of Newfoundlanders already scratching their heads on Muskrat Falls (including me) to wonder whether the Tories themselves are starting to grab at straws to defend its economic worth.      

You have to wonder, as well, whether other caucus and cabinet crackies will be unleashed by Dog Whisperer Dunderdale as her government chases its tail on Muskrat Falls.

I noticed that Tom Marshall, normally a half-sensible minister, with more of a scratch-my-belly, Newfoundland dog type of make-up, took to snarling a bit himself  last week, dismissing the concerns of the five lawyers (and the concerns of — one would presume — anybody else not drinking the Muskrat Kool-Aid) as “fear-


From my vantage point, and

that (I would think) of  most rational-thinking Newfoundlanders, the five individuals taking the time to raise questions about Muskrat Falls do so with only one motive: the betterment of their fellow citizens.   

And Cabot Martin certainly didn’t deserve the pit bull behaviour of Steve Kent.

In the end, who would you tend to believe?

An MHA still longing for a

front-row cabinet seat, politically hatched and reared with the Danny Williams’ philosophy of treating any questioning of government policy as if it were anti-Newfoundland blasphemy, or a person with 40 years or so of experience in the offshore business?

I know who’d get my vote.  

Bucko would approve.

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

Organizations: Tory, Deer Lake Oil and Gas, Mobil Oil Muskrat Kool-Aid

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • William Daniels
    August 25, 2012 - 22:17

    Kent's butt kissing didn't get him anywhere with Danny. Won't work now either. Career backbencher.

  • Jon
    August 25, 2012 - 20:29

    Steve Kent is so desperate for a cabinet post that he will attack the integrity of just about anyone. His behaviour of last week was, as Bob said, "a nasty piece of stuff". I have no doubt that as Bob supposed, Dunderdale put him up to it and is fine with such nasty behaviour towards others. What has been said by Kent is not reflective of who he is aiming it at, but rather reflective of his own character. It represents the very worst of politics and human nature. He should apologize for it. The fact that he hasn't also speaks volumes about him.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    August 25, 2012 - 11:08

    Steve Kent did not do himself, his party, or the proposed Muskrat Falls project any good when he chose to attack the integrity of Cabot Martin........When I was a much younger man than I am now, I heard and was generally aware of the tremendous contribution that Cabot Martin had made to Brian Peckford's PC administration, to the province's dealings with the oil companies (and the federal government), and especially how his work had benefited the province as whole --- and he continues to do so...... I have long been grateful for the work of people like Cabot Martin (and others)......If Steve Kent can ever make even half the contribution, he will have done well as a politician --- as a Newfoundlander, and as a person. Perhaps he could begin by unreservedly withdrawing his remarks and apologizing for the mite that is in his own eye.