It will be just a matter of time, I’m convinced, before I’ll be hearing from that committee established to come up with a list of names of possible successors to John Crosbie as the occupant of that anachronistic edifice on Military Road.
Not that the committee members would be considering yours truly as the next lieutenant-governor of Newfoundland.
Although, with all due modesty — if you’d permit a moment or two of digression — I do have an advantage over many of my fellow Newfoundlanders in that I am aware of the layout of Government House, having graced its foyers and corridors as a journalist on a number of exciting, momentous and unforgettable occasions over the years.
I was there, for instance, at a dozen or so swearing-in ceremonies to watch a variety of cabinet ministers — a few of whom were highly competent, many of whom were not — stumbling over themselves to kiss the hand of a premier who had rewarded loyalty with a promotion, or to kiss what some might suggest, those with much less couth than I have, was another part of the anatomy that upwardly mobile politicians are prone to smooching.
I also made an ignominious appearance at one Government House Christmas party for the press during my younger days when those of us barely making minimum wage at The Evening Telegram and other media outlets (with the exception of the CBC, whose reporters made a relatively small fortune even back then) could not resist the temptation of free drinks. A Telegram colleague and I almost got hove out on our backsides after getting quite hammered, trying unsuccessfully to slap the make on two women distributing pigs-in-a-blanket, and finally being told bluntly by an aide to the lieutenant-governor (who went by the pretentious moniker E. John A. Harnum) that it was time to depart the premises.
“Gentlemen,” he said, in an officious British tone, “His Honour has gone to bed; the party is over.”
I capped off that illustrious night by throwing up in the lieutenant-governor’s snow-covered garden, leaving my mark, as it were, at Government House.
But, back to the point at hand, I was thinking the L-G search committee would want the benefit of my vast knowledge of the high and mighty in Newfoundland.
And I’m already ahead of the game.
My trusty source, the usually reliable Harbour Deep Throat, has made me aware of a number of people who have privately expressed an interest in the job, and are sharing their qualifications with anyone providing an ear.
I shouldn’t have to point out the following, but just for the record, in case some supersensitive types and their lawyers are anxious, as they have been on at least one occasion in recent times, to swoop down on aspects of the written word they find offensive: Harbour Deep Throat and I are big fans of satire.
Harbour Deep Throat tells me that there’s a lot of talk that a woman should replace Mr. Crosbie, and, as such, he says Joan Shea (formerly Burke) might be interested. And given the unique, autocratic approach she took during the appointment of the president of Memorial University a few years back, Shea has apparently stipulated that she supply the questions and answers for the new L-G’s interview process.
“I felt I was the only person in Newfoundland capable of picking the MUN president,” she is said to have bragged privately. “So I can certainly determine the person most capable of being the
lieutenant-governor, and that person is me, me, me.”
And Harbour Deep Throat says Peter Penashue also has a hankering for a bed in Government House. He is telling people that a job where he has to mouth the words of a government, act like a puppet, and try to look half-interested at every conceivable form of ceremony, is just what he’s looking for.
In fact, other than dodging those saucy reporters trying to unfairly dredge up dirt on his electioneering practices, it’s all he’s been doing since making his way to Ottawa, according to Harbour Deep Throat.
And another federal personality, Fabian Manning, woke up long enough from his lengthy snooze in the Senate to say he might want to move to Military Road.
“If this is a job where all I have to do is make appearances, get my mug in the paper a couple of times a week and basically collect a big salary for doing absolutely nothing, then I’m your man,” he has told our sources.
He added unabashedly: “I like a purely symbolic position that has no legitimate importance.”
Manning’s only qualifier, we hear, is that he might want to take
a leave of absence from the
lieutenant-governor’s position to run in any future federal elections, and that if he loses, he would want to return to his appointed position.
“There’s a precedent for that,” he mused.
And believe it or not, that potty-mouthed MHA, Keith Russell, is thinking the lieutenant-governor’s position might be his cup of tea.
When it was suggested he may have burned his bridges by making sexist remarks about Yvonne Jones in the legislature, he fired back, inventing expletives as he went, that such a past never hurt Crosbie.
He reminds people that the sitting L-G was once scorned for making an off-colour offer to MP Shelia Copps: “Pour me another glass of tequila, Sheila, and lay down and love me again.” And that Crosbie once mockingly suggested that Copps, during a House of Commons debate, “quiet down, baby.”
Shouted the ever-eloquent Russell: “If that &*%$* Crosbie can &^$*&$ get away with it, so the &*%^$#^ can I!”
And yes, Danny Williams’ name continues to pop up, according to Harbour Deep Throat. He’s been King of Newfoundland for so long that functioning as the Queen’s representative might be a reduction in stature. But he’s willing to come down a notch or two, as long as it’s of benefit to the people of Newfoundland, according to people close to the ex-premier, because that is all he has ever cared about. Nothing more, nothing less.
“What a guy!” one of his former disciples has been heard to say. .
Finally: I was shocked to hear that my very own beagle, Tandy Wakeham/Coultas, is barking up the L-G’s tree of opportunity.
Like all L-Gs, he will be very obedient, as long as he’s not let loose to chase rabbits on the Government House lawn.
“I’d take any position,” he admitted in dog talk, translated by
the multi-talented Harbour Deep Throat, “that would give me the potential to be petted by Kate Middleton.”
And who can blame him for that?
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.