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BOB WAKEHAM: Ball’s Liberals — onward on a shorter leash

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball says he has no concerns over the safety of the North Spur.
Dwight Ball during the election campaign. — Telegram file photo

Whenever dog owners and dog trainers are trying to get their pets to heel and obey their instructions, they occasionally use what is melodramatically described as a “choke chain,” a metal collar that can be yanked with aggression whenever their four-legged companions seem determined to stubbornly go their own way, come hell or high water.

And that’s what Dwight (Tippy) Ball had placed round his neck the other night by Newfoundland voters, a choke chain that can be manipulated by Ches Crosbie, Alison Coffin, Paul Lane and Eddie Joyce, yanked independently or as a group when they feel the premier has overstepped his mandate or has made governing decisions as if he were still operating with impunity, or (to continue with the dog metaphor for another line or two) when he and his fellow Liberals have refused to use pooper-scoopers after dropping another load of you-know-what on a province that has certainly had more than its share of you-know-what dumped in its lap.

It’s the Newfoundland version of a Bow Wow Parliament, a minority government for only the second time in our history, and it’s the people of the province who should be barking with enthusiasm and wagging their tails with approval.

Because it’s the ordinary Newfs, souls like you and me, who will hopefully be the beneficiaries of those final results Thursday night, putting in place a scenario where no one party can go off half-cocked to do what it damn well feels like doing, can shove a horror show like Muskrat Falls down the throats of its constituents or close libraries or put a tax on books or do anything else that brings any degree of suffering to the 500,000 of us who wish to stay and live in a lovely place we call home.

It’s the Newfoundland version of a Bow Wow Parliament, a minority government for only the second time in our history, and it’s the people of the province who should be barking with enthusiasm and wagging their tails with approval.

This particular election day occurred when many Newfoundlanders were preparing for their first weekend of going to the country to haul in mud trout or to go on the beer, or both, but many of them decided to cast ballots before heading out the highway and concluded, at least a sizable portion of them did, that it was Dwight Ball who will have to watch his bobber very carefully in the next little while . (That bobber might sink beneath the surface sooner rather than later if his own party faithful decide they need a leader with better equipped fishing gear to take them into the next election).

Ironically, election night itself was the source of high drama after one of the dullest campaigns I can ever recall, mostly due to the fact that Ball and Crosbie are not politicians blessed with an overabundance of energy and exuberance or oratorical skills, and Coffin was still trying to get voters to merely remember her name.

I have covered some real fascinating beauts of provincial elections, from the early ’70s on, have travelled the bus, chopper and sea plane route with all types of leaders and wannabe leaders, and can speak with some authority when I describe the month or so of media coverage of activities on the 2019 hustings as being, for the most part, a cure for insomnia.

But that was all forgotten Thursday night as it became clear throughout the night the province was heading towards a minority government, and television viewers were inclined, I would think, to stay up past usual bedtimes to take in the twists and turns of political theatre at its best.

(I mostly watched CBC’s coverage — part of my soul still rests in those offices and studios on Prince Philip Drive — and I give full kudos to the Mother Corporation team, especially the election desk crowd, for their performance; it’s not an easy task — believe me, I’ve been there — but Anthony Germain, Ariana Kelland and Fred Hutton and company carried out their assignments with great aplomb, a wonderful combination of astuteness and easy-going, homespun earthiness and humour; the ratings may have plummeted for CBC Television in recent years, but on this night, the public broadcaster showed what it does best).

A few other at random thoughts about the results Thursday: George Murphy, who cried crocodile tears after participating a number of years ago in the nasty and ill-timed take down of NDP Leader Lorraine Michael, displayed his elastic ideology once again, tried his luck with the Liberals this time around, and got his comeuppance, a well-deserved comeuppance, if you ask me.

And full credit to the NDP for electing three MHAs when most prognosticators and pundits, including me, thought they were heading for the political dustbin. A constant sprinkling of socialist thought in the Newfoundland legislature is forever healthy.

And never let it be said that rebels cannot survive in the Newfoundland political wars: Paul Lane, who has taken floor crossings to a new level, and Eddie Joyce, ousted from cabinet and caucus for using his influence to help a constituent get a job (but exonerated on charges of bullying), let the establishment know they could get elected on their own. And no matter what you might think of the two of them, they should be given full marks for their wins as independents.

But, of course, this was all about putting a government on notice (are you listening Mr. Ball?) or, for that matter, an alternative government on notice (are you listening, Mr. Crosbie?), that the Newfoundland public is fed up with broken promises, arrogance and self-aggrandizing leaders equipped with earplugs.

You’d better be ready to heel, to listen.

Or you’ll feel that choke chain.

Arf! Arf!

Recent columns by this author

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BOB WAKEHAM: Election call has me reaching for the snooze button

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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