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Bob Wakeham: All the news we’ve yet to print

Bob Wakeham brings you a glimpse of the kind of news stories you could be reading in 20 years. — Stock photo
Bob Wakeham brings you a glimpse of the kind of news stories you could be reading in 20 years. — 123RF Stock Photo

Tunnel will be making headlines 20 years hence

Aware of my frustration at not having a crystal ball to delve into the future — exasperation made especially acute upon hearing of the province’s recent thumbs-up verdict on an underwater rail link between the island and Labrador — my always trusted source, Harbour Deep Throat, put me in touch with his favourite psychic, Clara Clairvoyant from Carbonear.

Bob Wakeham
Bob Wakeham

And, boy, was she ever worth the dozen beer, 40-ouncer of Screech and half pound of soon-to-be-legal weed demanded as pay for a glimpse at a news story on “da link,” as she called it, that will appear in The Telegram 20 years from now.

Clara was able to magically (amazing what a case of golden frothy brew, a bottle of rum and innumerable brain tokes will do for the old noggin) run off a copy of a front-page story, dated April 20, 2038.

For another case of beer (I think she may have a problem), Clara gave me permission to reprint the story, a cautionary tale, as it turns out.

PASSENGERS STUCK IN TUNNEL FOR TWO MONTHS

By Scoop Scuttlebutt

The Telegram

ST. JOHN’S, N.L.— Two hundred passengers finally emerged at Point Amour, Labrador yesterday after spending a month huddled and isolated in the tunnel once touted 20 years ago by then Premier Dwight Ball as a “nation-building project.”

It was the latest embarrassing incident involving the multi-billion-dollar railway link between the island and Labrador, a project that has quadrupled in cost since its inception in 2018, and is now the subject of an inquiry into its ignominious history.

Critics have sarcastically labelled the tunnel “The Missing Link” — a reference to the embarrassing fact that the project repeatedly circumvented reviews by environmental, financial and engineering panels, and whose astronomical debts, surpassing even the now mothballed Muskrat Falls boondoggle, have prompted international economists to give Newfoundland the lowest credit rating in its history.

Premier Kaetlyn Osmond, head of the Newfs Who’ve Done Well Party, has always claimed that the “pipe dream,” as it was described in local Telegram editorials way back in 2018, has been a financial albatross around her administration’s already strapped neck.

“I would have given ‘The Missing Link’ a zero out of 10 in technical merit and a zero out of 10 in actual performance,” said Osmond, the former figure-skating star who returned to the province and entered politics after a grassroots campaign that had as its slogan: “Come home and save us, Kaetlyn, for we have met the enemy and he is us.”

But Premier Osmond said the province had no choice but to finish the project, given the billions that had already been invested by the time her party — comprised of, among other celebrities, The Allan/Alan B’ys, Hawco and Doyle — came to power four years ago.

It was the latest embarrassing incident involving the multi-billion-dollar railway link between the island and Labrador, a project that has quadrupled in cost since its inception in 2018, and is now the subject of an inquiry into its ignominious history.

NDP MHA Lorraine Michael, now in her early 90s but still spry (although hard of hearing), was the most ardent opponent of the tunnel, had kept up a heavy barrage of “I told ya so” in the legislature in recent years, but she was ignored, in much the same way, as she reminded anyone who would listen, her regular protestations about Muskrat Falls were dismissed as partisan politics.

Even the architect of the Muskrat Falls fiasco, former premier Danny Williams, now residing in his own 20-storey, personal senior citizen’s complex, where he and his wife are the only residents and are served by a staff of 82 care workers, nurses and doctors, had warned about the disastrous repercussions of proceeding with the tunnel to Labrador.

Williams, the owner of the Avalon and the Burin peninsulas, still refused, though, to equate Muskrat Falls with the tunnel.

“There was nothing wrong with Muskrat Falls,” he said in a recent interview between games of shuffleboard, and after some minor adjustments to his dentures. “The naysayers refused to believe I was infallible and crucified what could have made Newfoundlanders and Labradorians comfortable forever.”

The passengers who emerged from the tunnel yesterday, though, were in no mood to listen to any history lessons, having been forced to spend their time watching TV reruns of “Ryan’s Fancy,” “A Little Good News” and “The Jetsons” for four weeks after the train carrying them to Labrador suddenly broke down halfway through the trip under the Strait of Belle Isle.

Some of them sarcastically referred to the train as the “Newfie Bullet” of the 2030s, and even resurrected an old story from the Bullet’s era they felt was fitting for the tunnel train, the oft-told yarn about the conductor who happened upon an extremely pregnant woman on one of the rail cars.

“Good God, Madam,” he exclaimed. “I can’t believe you got on the train in that condition.”

“Well, in fact,” replied the woman. “I wasn’t in this condition when I got on board.”

But another passenger from the tunnel said he was sick of such jokes.

“We’ve had more than our share of Newfie jokes, real-life Newfie jokes,” he said, “From the rubber boot and hockey stick factories, the Stephenville Linerboard Mill, the Come By Chance Refinery, to the Upper Churchill contract, Muskrat Falls, and now this blasted tunnel.”

 Although he did acknowledge there was one correlation between the story of the pregnant woman and Newfoundland’s history of adopting white elephants.

“We’re always getting screwed,” he said.

  

THE END

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com

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