Top News

BOB WAKEHAM: 30 minutes of fame on election night

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh are seen before the Federal leaders debate in Gatineau on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019.
Federal party leaders Elizabeth May (Green Party), Justin Trudeau (Liberal), Andrew Scheer (Conservative Party of Canada), Maxime Bernier (People’s Party of Canada), Yves-Francois Blanchet (Bloc Québécois) and Jagmeet Singh (NDP) gathered before the federal leaders debate in Gatineau, Que., Oct. 7, 2019. — Sean Kilpatrick/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

For about a half an hour Monday night, Newfoundland will be the centre of the Canadian media universe, our unique time zone responsible for what will be the undivided attention of the diversity-sensitive crew of national anchors at the CBC, and assorted “presenters” on the other networks.

It’s been the same scenario on every federal election night for decades on the boob tube. The polls close first on the island, and the national pundits get some rehearsal time yakking about our measly seven seats (usually throwing in a slice of “Newfie” corn to kill time during that half-hour), before moving onto the bigger stage in the Maritimes, and, of course, the crucial voting grounds in Quebec and Ontario, and so forth and so on.

Although Monday night there could be, I suppose, a minor gab about that empty suggestion by the Liberals that they could help build a fixed link between the island and Labrador, one of those campaign promises which was nothing more than that: a specious and typical campaign promise that any sensible voter would (or should) realize will go absolutely nowhere once the election is over.

Or the various talking heads could take their limited time on Newfoundland matters to speculate which party might be willing to convince Canadian voters of the need to rescue this province from the economic abyss into which a number of financial wizards believe we’re on the verge of plunging, an embarrassing repercussion of the Muskrat Falls horror show. (I’d hate to be the politician trying to persuade a factory worker in Hamilton, Ont., or a convenience store owner in Halifax that they have a moral obligation as members of the Canadian family to help Newfoundland counteract an act of pure stupidity by its politicians, and the loyal subject blindness of those Newfoundlanders who blissfully and stupidly believed the Emperor Williams was fully clothed; good luck with that one).

It’s been the same scenario on every federal election night for decades on the boob tube. The polls close first on the island, and the national pundits get some rehearsal time yakking about our measly seven seats…

But it’ll only be 30 minutes Monday night with Newfoundland in the spotlight, so I’m probably being a mite foolish to even suggest such “current affairs” — as the media describe issues of the day — will receive substantial air time.

(I recall an election night back in the ’90s when I coerced the then retired John Crosbie and Ed Roberts, two political war horses of past Newfoundland battles, into the local CBC studios to respond to questions from the anchor desk in Toronto, an analytical gig that resulted in nothing more than a token couple of minutes on national television before I had to sheepishly pass on the word that the plug had been pulled upalong, that their time was up. “Screwed once again by the CBC,” Crosbie reacted with a broad smile.)

My very first foray into the world of federal elections was way back in 1974, as a 24-year-old neophyte reporter, an intimidating but edifying few weeks, especially the 10 days or so I spent with broadcasting and political legend Don Jamieson (he’d be an icon in today’s vernacular), travelling mostly by helicopter throughout the then much isolated riding of Burin-Burgeo. Elections were virgin territory for me, and I was amazed — my naiveté was full blown — at the repetitive nature of sales pitches and speeches on the so-called hustings, something to which I became attuned as my time as a political journalist progressed.

I also travelled during that election campaign by coastal boat with the PC candidate (whose names escapes me) along the south coast, the lone reporter covering his losing effort, my first time (but certainly not my last) in the company of a politician who knew he was going to be slaughtered election night, but refused to admit the inevitability of his losing cause. The NDP candidate, a fella named Lowell Paulson, was honest enough to tell me on the phone that accompanying him on the campaign trail would be fruitless, since he was not moving off his front porch.

“I’m just a name on the ballot,” he said with a laugh. It was all, as I say, part of my early education on the subject of politics.

As for the present day, I find my view is justifiably and understandably myopic, for the most part, a result of the fact that I will turn 70 during the first year of the new government’s term, and have frustratingly seen very little that would make me believe any of the parties will make financial life any easier for seniors like me and my wife, and most of our contemporaries. Yes, I admit there was a time (perhaps during that ‘74 campaign, for instance) when I would largely ignore the calls by the geriatric set to have politicians pay them some attention. Now, as I hate to admit, I’m there, and can finally see the plight. One mostly and shockingly ignored.

But if I’m forced, or feel an obligation as an observer of sorts, due largely to this engagement as a columnist, to perform an act of punditry here, I would say that Pierre Trudeau’s boy Justin, abundant flaws and all, from his ethically challenged ways to his amazingly awkward attempts at sounding and looking sincere at public functions — did you catch the high school-like jacket the other night, a dated vision right out of “Happy Days”? — beats the you-know-what out of the alternative of Andrew Scheer and his right-wing policies and belief system.

The ideal situation for Newfoundland might be a coalition government or a minority situation with Trudeau’s buddy Seamus O’Regan and NDPer Jack Harris in quasi-partnership.

Just saying.

Enjoy the 30 minutes Monday night.

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


MORE FROM BOB WAKEHAM

Regrets, we’ve all had a few…

Election time winkin’, blinkin’ and nod

Recent Stories