Spicing up the debate

Bob Wakeham bwakeham@nl.rogers.com
Published on October 1, 2011

Most, if not all, of the provincial election debates I’ve either produced or merely ob-served, were about as exciting as watching a nail rust.


Live from the studios of NTV, the station with the best newscast this side of Dildo, the station that gave you Bob Lewis and Sally West and Cream of the West and ‘Art Andrews’ Dance Party,’ the station that gave CBC its comeuppance, it’s time for “Debate 2011.”

(Introduction accompanied by a scratchy recording of the “Ode to Newfoundland” and a one-minute montage of 50 pictures of Joey Smallwood, Geoff Stirling and Elvis Presley). 

Host: “Good evening, I’m Glen Carter Liver Pills, and if my hair stays in place for the next hour or so, and if I can continue to twitch my shoulders the way I learned in anchor school from Peter Mansbridge, I hope you’ll stay tuned as we hear from three of the most charismatic and dynamic leaders in Newfoundland political history. Tonight, we have a change in format:  instead of scripted questions voiced awkwardly from three big-name journalists, three sets of tonsils with feet, we’re going to have debating points raised for our esteemed leaders from a variety of public sources. Our first questioner is Danny Williams, live via cellphone from Florida where he is in a rehabilitation home for ex-politicians suffering from out-of-office withdrawal symptoms.”

Danny Williams: “Thanks, Mr. Tilley.”

Host: “It’s Glen Carter Liver Pills, not Glen Tilley, Mr. Williams.”

Williams: “Sorry. I’m still living in the past. In any case, I’m wondering why Ms. Dunderdale is up there, and not me. Why?! Why?! Why?! (sounds of sobbing can be heard over the phone line). It’s not what nature intended.”

Host: “I’m afraid you have to pose that in the form of a question, Mr. Williams. Holy Mother Corp, I sound just like Alex Trebek.”

Williams: “Why???!!!! Why???!!!!”

Host: “OK, while we give Mr. Williams some time to take his medication, it’s onto our next questioner, Peter MacKay, the federal defence minister, herring-bone-choker and one-time, part-time, token rep of Newfoundland in the cabinet. Where are you calling from, Mr. MacKay?”

MacKay: “Actually, Glen, I’m in the Bay d’Espoir Wilderness Area, and I’ve just shot five moose, two caribou and trapped a couple of beaver. And I’m wondering if the three leaders see any problem arranging for a search and rescue helicopter to make a couple of trips in here to take me and my meat to Halifax where I have a dinner date tonight and tickets to a late-night movie.”

Host: “Sorry, Mr. MacKay, we’re not here to talk about your priorities.

“On the phone line now from his new digs in Ottawa is NDP MP Ryan Cleary.”

Cleary: “What we need in Newfoundland is another study of the fishery. I say it now, I’ll say it tomorrow, and I’ll say it next year. It’s my mantra.”

Host: “Do you have a question, Mr. Cleary?”

Cleary: “What we need in Newfoundland is a study of the fishery.”

Host: “OK, we get the point. Is there is a question?”

Cleary: “What we need…”

Host: “Obviously a one-trick pony there. Let’s bring in our next caller, Craig Westcott, the journalist-turned-politician-turned-journalist-turned-Liberal flack-turned-journalist.”

Westcott: “I was wondering if the three leaders think it appropriate for me to ask whether any of them has had bipolar disease or syphilis?”

Host: “That’s not a suitable question for a PG-rated show, Mr. Westcott.”

Westcott: “But I asked Mr. Williams that very question.”

Host: “He’s no longer here.”

Williams: “Why???? Why???????”

Host: “Can someone shut him up? Hand him a play toy, a hockey team or something. In the meantime, let’s just give our three leaders a chance to say something. How about you, Mr. Aylward?”

Aylward: “I didn’t mean to keep the auditor general out of legislative business. I’m sorry, OK? I’m sorry. It’ll never happen again. I was easily influenced back then. I’m changed now. I want to be premier. Thank you.”

Host: “Ms. Dunderdale?”

Dunderdale: “I love being premier. I want to be premier longer. I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.”

Host: “Singing is not permitted.”

Dunderdale: “I am woman watch me grow, see me standing toe to toe, as I spread my lovin’ arms across the Newfound-land.”

Host: “Please put a sock in it, Ms. Dunderdale and make sure to keep your day job. Ms. Michael, do you have a statement?”

Michael: “I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.”

Host: “For the love of Germaine, Ms. Michael, please stop singing.”

Michael: “Sorry. I got caught up in the moment. By the way, John Noseworthy can go …”

Host: “That’s just about enough, Ms. Michael. This is a family channel.”

Michael: “Just trying to add a little NDP earthiness to your program, Glen.”

Host: “Our time is just about up, thanks be to God, or as we say here at CJON, thanks be to Geoff. But we do have a small studio audience. Audience, anything to say about the debates and the election?”

Audience: “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.”


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.