Some­one will soon hit the elec­toral jack­pot

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

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).

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 Bon­av­is­taBurin-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.

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.

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