You can bet your bottom dollar that Newfoundlanders love to gamble.
Of course, there’s always been bingo.
My father, storyteller par excellence, was fond of a yarn about a snobbish Brit, after a trip to Newfoundland, describing in his upper crust accent the game of bingo to a fellow Brit: “Anyway, old chap, all these people, most of them Catholics, it seems, jam themselves into what they call a bingo hall, a rather messy and smoky auditorium; this fellow in the front robotically calls out letters and numbers for a half hour or so, with no rhyme or reason, at least that I could see, until someone excitedly screams: ‘Bingo!’; then everyone else in the room, in unison, shouts: ‘Shit!’ Strange crowd, these colonials in Newfoundland.”
The bingo craze remains, judging by the blocked parking lots alongside buildings advertising an evening with the cards (the smoky halls are a thing of the past, though, with the nicotine fanciers squat together as if in a football huddle outside the various auditoriums, even in the dead of winter).
I thought for the briefest of seconds about going for the Liberal nod myself, but that means I’d have to leave Flatrock, and I don’t wish to endure Gerry Byrne’s hell on earth.
But nowadays, there’s also those ubiquitous pull tabs at convenience stores and gas stations, a gambling activity that drives regular customers, those with a carton of milk and a dozen eggs, absolutely nuts as they stand in line behind someone who’s decided the checkout counter is a casino table.
And how can we possibly forget those tavern lottery machines we’re led to believe destroy souls on a nightly basis, prompting often hyperbolic suggestions that they all be done away with, taken to Robin Hood Bay and burnt to hell-like crisp — campaigns that seem oblivious to the notion that if governments were to eliminate what is for some an addiction, then they shouldn’t stop there, but should wipe out all forms of gambling, even the selling of tickets on multi-million-dollar homes for charitable causes. Even bingo, for gawd’s sakes.
But, look, I know of a sure bet coming up next month, a guaranteed win for any Newfoundlander who loves to gamble but has always seemed to come a crapper in games of chance.
And I’m talking about — drumroll, please — being the Liberal candidate in the federal Dec. 11 byelection in Bonavista-Burin-Trinity,
Forget about seeking the Conservative or the NDP nomination, unless you’re into political martyrdom. But draping yourself in the Liberal shawl? Well, now, that’s a gambler’s paradise, a straight flush.
This is one of the most secure Liberal seats in Canada, held until recently by Judy Foote, whose cheek-by-jowl proximity to Trudeau the Toker in Parliament was a clear reflection of her influence in Ottawa on all matters Newfoundland.
So take heed, gamblers, the seat is there for the taking. Once you win the nomination, the rest is a joke. It won’t take much work. You will, as is customary, have to overdose on tea and rubber chicken in local legion clubs (or bingo halls), and you might have to participate in a debate or two on CBC Radio or VOCM (it doesn’t even matter if you lose the debate: if you’re the Liberal candidate, you’re going to Ottawa).
And the winning prize? A salary in excess of $170,000 a year — $250,000 if you’re invited into the cabinet — and, if Trudeau remains in power for an extended period, you’re guaranteed a lucrative parliamentary position for years, until you’re ready for a pension most Newfoundlanders would drool over.
Even then, there’s the possibility of a seat in the Senate, another salary, another pension.
And you don’t have to be all that smart; in fact, you can be a cerebral lightweight, just as long as you’re carrying the Liberal banner. And don’t worry about ideology or philosophy. Just keep muttering over and over that you’re the Liberal candidate in Bonavista-Burin-Trinity.
I thought for the briefest of seconds about going for the Liberal nod myself, but that means I’d have to leave Flatrock, and I don’t wish to endure Gerry Byrne’s hell on earth. You might recall that one of the reasons Byrne cited for leaving federal politics for the provincial scene was the onerous, tiring, oppressive travel between Ottawa and Newfoundland. (And, yes, I’ve reminded readers on a couple of occasions of Byrne’s commuter woes, only because he deserves the sympathy and gratitude of an entire province.)
But my wife and I have had a heart-to-heart talk with one of our dogs — “Mister” is his name — to see if he had any interest in planting his mostly clean rear end in the Bonavista-Burin-Trinity seat of the Bow-Wow parliament upalong.
Mister is a gorgeous-looking dog, with golden Lab-like colouring (he’d be a real hit with Ottawa cameramen), but has some terrier in him, as well, a gene that produces a fair amount of yapping, a characteristic that would come in handy in Parliament (think Brian Tobin of the Brat Pack).
I did admit to Mister that years ago, I also suggested to another of our dogs, Bucko, that he might wish to run out here in our neck of the woods, at a time when merely having the name Danny Williams tattooed on your arse was a guarantee of a victory just about anywhere in Newfoundland. But, as I told Mister (in dog language, of course, which I speak fluently), Bucko declined, not wishing to become, as he put it, a Danny lapdog.
Instead, Bucko had a much more satisfying existence, and passed away — his principles intact — at the grand old age of 16 years.
But if Mister doesn’t run in Bonavista-Burin-Trinity, the field of dreams is wide open.
Gamblers, lay your electoral cards on the table.
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