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BOB WAKEHAM: Welcome back to ‘The Gong Show’

Elections signs for the three main parties are seen in St. John's. – Joe Gibbons
Elections signs for the three main parties are seen in St. John's. – Joe Gibbons

Hello there, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, baymen and townies, New Canadians, Liberals, Tories and New Democrats, born-agains and atheists, gays and straights — we value inclusivity — to the Newfoundland Joke Factory, a special presentation prompted by the latest in gut-busting funnies in this smiling land of ours: the 2021 provincial election.

I am, of course, your host, Riotous Rob, coming to you by way of virtual technology which means, sadly, that my classic, opening line won’t be nearly as funny: “Good evening, ladies and germs, I just flew in from Deer Lake, and, boy, are my arms tired.” Ba Dum Tss!

And there’ll be no “Newfie” jokes tonight, none of that made up foolishness, and you know what I’m talking about: two Newfoundlanders run into each other in Montreal, and one asks the other how he wound up on the Mainland; “Well,” says buddy, “about 20 years ago the harbour froze over in Port aux Basques, we started to play hockey, and I got a breakaway.” Ba Dum Tss!

Nosiree, Rob. We’re into reality material here tonight at the Newfoundland Joke Factory, inanities that will someday acquire legendary, embarrassing status, much like our infamous ’71 election (but more on that side-splitting fiasco later, fun-seekers).

But first off, just to set the stage, so to speak: did you hear the hilarious yarn about the premier who called an election for the coldest month of the year, in the middle of a pandemic, rather than wait ’til the summer, when much of the population would hopefully be vaccinated, but who was also dominating the polls? Yes sir, folks, that would be our very own Andrew Furey.

Guess what, folks? The doctor-turned-politician is now partnered up with another doctor-turned-politician, John Haggie, on “The Andrew and John Show,” a convenient ratings grabber aired regularly during the campaign.

And did you hear about the endless numbers of people who were put on hold for hours trying to get an election kit? Guess what? Their ears are still buzzing. But they can’t vote!

And how about all those seniors who wouldn’t know a laptop from a hot plate and couldn’t order their kits online? Some of them have voted in every election since ’49. Not this time.

But at least they’ve been offered free dentures as a campaign promise. No need to be down in the mouth. Ba Dum Tss!

My stomach is hurting, ladies and gentlemen, from all these hilarious goings-on. Can someone call me a doctor? All together now:

“Doctor, oh Doctor, oh Dear Doctor John,

Your political beliefs are so pure and so strong,

I’m afraid of me life I’ll go down in the soil,

With you Liberals maintaining you’ve done nothin’ wrong.”

Good comical God, we haven’t seen such farcical screw-ups since, well, since that ‘71 election I referred to earlier, folks.

Joey and Frank, in a virtual tie, and then the fun began. Overnight, nobodies became kingmakers.

New Labrador Party MHA Tom Burgess played political ping-pong with the Tories and the Liberals, squeezing Moores’ coattails for a while, then grabbing ahold of Smallwood’s bow tie, while Hugh Shea was quitting the Conservatives to sit briefly as an independent before finding what he thought was a soft, expedient cushion in the Liberal caucus room.

But the shenanigans were far from over.

A couple of Liberal MHAs resigned under cloudy circumstances.

Then the ultimate piece of slapstick occurred: there was to be a recount in a number of districts where the results were close, except, folks, and you won’t believe this, an electoral officer in Sally’s Cove in the district of St. Barbe North had burned the ballots, shoved them in a wood stove for all we know. Notorious Polling Station Number 13. Ba Dum Tss!

There was court action galore, satirists were having a field day until, finally, Moores convinced the Lieutenant Governor — who went by the pretentious, vowel heavy handle of E. John A. Harnum — to put the cocktail hours on hold at Government House long enough to dissolve the legislature.

And “the time is now,” the unoriginal campaign slogan for Moores, reached fruition when he won a subsequent election.

A little trivia for all you fans of such: Hugh Shea, or “Hughie,” as he was known throughout the land, eventually opened a take-out called “Hamburger Hell,” his culinary take on “Hamburger Heaven,” another restaurant in St. John’s; an early employee of Shea, according to lazy trip on my part to the province's Heritage website, was the comedian Rick Mercer who reportedly peeled spuds for the one-time king-maker.

So, ladies and gentlemen, we wind up this virtual presentation of the Newfoundland Joke Factory with a heads-up that this 2021 election is far from over, that it has the potential to outdo that ’71 election’s penchant for mortification and buffoonery.

A preview, folks: why weren’t voting kits just mailed to every single home in the province, to give every soul an equal opportunity to cast a ballot? ’Cause it would have made too much sense, ’cause it would have been the right thing to do.

Just in: the “data” types are saying that only 51 per cent of voters will cast ballots, the lowest in our history. Now there’s a laugh for ya.

Finally: Why are in this fix in the first place? ’Cause COVID Andy coveted control.

Ba Dum Tss!

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


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