The missing link caused a huge argument among my friends in 1972.
As was our annual custom, we spent a glorious day at the Calgary Stampede, riding the Zipper and Skydiver and eating cotton candy and sno-cones.
Cows and cowboys didn’t hold much interest for us and neither did the freak shows on the midway. Looking at bearded ladies, miniature men and sword-swallowers held far less appeal than hurtling upside down at high speeds and screaming for God’s mercy.
Then we passed the exhibit for the missing link.
We knew about the missing link. It was in the news now and then. Richard Leakey was world famous, and his discoveries in Africa occasionally made headlines in the newspapers we delivered to make money to pay for a day’s indulgence at the Stampede.
We went in. A furry creature appeared to be encased in ice.
A skeptic might say it looked like an ape suit underneath smudgy Plexiglas. Anyway, there it was — the evolutionary link between man and monkey.
One of my friends insisted it was real.
We pointed out to him that if it really were the missing link, it would probably be in a museum somewhere, rather than on the Stampede midway. Much arguing ensued, ending only with the terror induced by the Wild Mouse, a single-car roller coaster that would make the hair stand up on the neck of a Neanderthal.
Fairground hucksters come to mind while watching Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy and Nalcor CEO Ed Martin. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and see why natural gas won’t heat your homes.
The provincial government has been releasing reports on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project with a speed that would make a professional sword-swallower gag.
Wind, natural gas, power bills, oil prices, electricity demand — they’re all there in government reports, each and every one proving the development of Muskrat Falls is necessary and vital and paramount.
It’s easy to spot hucksterism on a midway.
In the political realm, you have to listen more closely. Sometimes, what is said is less important than what is not said.
What the Muskrat hucksters — excuse me, the provincial government — have not said is that they are willing to let independent experts have input into the official debate.
In fact, they have done the opposite, and have made sure independent, expert scrutiny cannot be part of the official process.
As has long been known, the provincial government removed the Public Utilities Board from the Muskrat Falls process. So, a body that is supposed to oversee utilities is denied input into a major investment in a new utility.
Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and see the dog without a brain.
More recently, the hucksters on the hill have declared no experts will be called during the special debate — if there is one — about the Muskrat Falls project.
Producing reports is all well and good. (Set aside, for the moment, questions about why such reports weren’t produced two years ago, rather than now, mere weeks ahead of impending debates in the House of Assembly.)
But there are two sides to this issue, possibly more. There is a list of pros, and a list of cons. The government’s tactic is to ensure only the pro side gets heard.
If the government is so certain of the veracity of its reports, it should allow independent experts to have a public forum to comment on them — either in the House of Assembly or through the PUB.
Let’s be clear about the strategy the government has chosen.
This is not leadership. This is hucksterism.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at email@example.com.