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Bob Wakeham: Casting nets in Windsor Lake

Candidates in the Sept. 20 Windsor Lake provincial byelection from left: NDP Kerri Claire Neil; PC Ches Crosbie; Liberal Paul Antle.
Candidates in the Sept. 20 Windsor Lake provincial byelection (from left): NDP Kerri Claire Neil, PC Ches Crosbie, Liberal Paul Antle. — Telegram file photos

Up till now, the only thought I’ve ever had about Windsor Lake concerned the enormous size and the vast number of mud trout that must exist in a body of water where fishing has been prohibited forever and a day.


Windsor Lake, as we all know, is the main water source for St. John’s, and, as city residents hope and pray is true, trolling for trout there in a motorized boat is a no-no (you’re not permitted anywhere near the lake in any sort of boat, even a canoe, for that matter), as are any attempts to cast a dirty lure (or even a sparkling new lure) from its shore.

So, as a life-long drowner of worms and caster of flies, I drool every time I drive by Windsor Lake, just contemplating the monstrous length and girth of the trout that have swum and reproduced there over the decades, protected from two-legged predators like myself. (Although I’ve heard stories, perhaps true, perhaps not, of fellas slipping down to the shoreline after dark and hauling in mud trout the size of a birch junk).

Alas, I’ve been forced by the demands of punditry, personified in this weekly column, to step outside the box — outside the lake, as it were — and have other non-trouting notions about Windsor Lake, as in Windsor Lake the district, as in Windsor Lake the byelection.

I have duties to perform:

In last Saturday’s Telegram, the three candidates in the byelection had their photos plastered across the front page, NDPer Kerri Claire Neil and Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie sporting wide smiles, and Liberal Paul Antle grin-less and looking as if he was fasting for a medical procedure. (In Antle’s defence, though, head and shoulder snapshots in newspapers are not always flattering, the mugshot that accompanies this Saturday sermon of mine a prime example).

The trio of political performers hoping to do an act in the legislature on Break Wind Hill were described in movie title mode by The Telegram’s headline writers as “The newcomer, the lawyer and the businessman,” but it is “the lawyer” who has, by far and away, the most to gain or lose in this byelection.

Crosbie has been refreshingly honest in basically telling anyone who’ll listen that he’ll resign as leader of the PCs if he loses in Windsor Lake a couple of weeks from now. And he’s absolutely correct in concluding that it would make no sense to continue to head the party if he doesn’t have a seat in the House of Assembly; that his effectiveness would be seriously compromised.

Ordinarily, you’d hear a politician in Crosbie’s situation uttering some shallow platitude like: “Well, I’ll make a decision about my future leadership position after the byelection; that’s not important at this moment.” Gag me with a caplin, as Kathy Housser, my late CBC colleague, was fond of saying — usually when assessing such remarks from politicians, of all stripes.

But Crosbie, as I say, was blunt in his assessment of the byelection aftermath: a loss would mean a return to the lucrative ranks of the legal business, and no further explanatory adventures into the Muskrat Falls abyss.

Crosbie has been refreshingly honest in basically telling anyone who’ll listen that he’ll resign as leader of the PCs if he loses in Windsor Lake a couple of weeks from now.

It’s also the Tory party that would suffer a devastating setback if Crosbie loses and then resigns his position as Leader, creating, as it would, a vacuum for the PCs at a most inopportune time, with a provincial election just around the corner. Unless Moses Williams is ready to pop out of the Galway bushes and return to politics, the likelihood of the PCs attracting a powerful candidate to lead them out of the wilderness is slim to none.

As for Antle, he shouldn’t sweat a loss; after all, he’s become accustomed to losing political races. Antle is somewhat of a professional politician, always willing to take it on the chin, and then run again, hoping that someday his ship will come in.

And he seems to be perpetually on the campaign trail anyway, eager at all times to slap a few backs, kiss a few babies, entertain the scattered senior, work a room, a Brian Tobin without the wins.

In the case of the newcomer Neil, a rookie without any apparent baggage, other than the impractical idealism of youth — a longing to change the world, or, at the very least, her province — she has little to lose as well.

A defeat for the NDP will be merely the latest statement by voters that they are not ready to give the left-wingers a shot at even prospective or alternate governance, despite the ragged and piss-poor performances by the two traditional parties since that long-ago day when Newfoundland was snookered into Confederation.

And Neil will be able to take solace in the knowledge that she can continue to run in elections and byelections long into the future, following a pathway shaped by many of her ideological comrades (and have her mugshot on the front page of The Telegram again).

But, hey, do law-breakers really sneak down to Windsor Lake after twilight to catch trout as big as cod?

That’s the most crucial question.

Inquiring minds wish to know.

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

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