The ghosts of Muskrat past

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - 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

It would be de­cid­edly un­fair to sug­gest Kathy Dun­derdale might re­sem­ble Ja­cob Mar­ley, and it’s ob­vi­ously out of sea­son for ref­er­ences to Dick­ens’ man in chains, but it was, in­deed, Ebe­neezer Scrooge’s dead part­ner who came to (my prob­a­bly warped) mind while watch­ing that chance en­counter be­tween the for­mer pre­mier and Ches Cros­bie, cap­tured by a CBC crew dur­ing the early days of the Windsor Lake by­elec­tion cam­paign.

Nei­ther Cros­bie, the moose­man turned Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive leader, and now the Tory can­di­date in Windsor Lake, nor Dun­derdale, the politi­cian turned pri­vate cit­i­zen, ap­peared com­fort­able when it turned out the wannabe pre­mier had ar­rived at the door of re­tired pre­mier and prospec­tive con­stituent Dun­derdale dur­ing his street-to-street ap­peal for votes, al­though Dun­derdale did man­age to awk­wardly prom­ise her full sup­port for his MHA am­bi­tions — as, I guess, you would ex­pect from one Tory to an­other.

But it was also a video­taped ex­am­ple of a tell-all po­lit­i­cal mo­ment, a mi­cro­cosm of an is­sue that will (and should) dom­i­nate not just the by­elec­tion, but the next gen­eral elec­tion as well.

It was, af­ter all, the present, and pos­si­bly the fu­ture, com­ing face-to-face with the past, an ugly past at that, Dun­derdale wear­ing those Ja­cob Mar­ley chains of ig­nominy, the chains of Muskrat Falls, and Cros­bie try­ing des­per­ately, and un­suc­cess­fully at this point in his fledg­ling po­lit­i­cal life, to ex­tri­cate him­self from the Muskrat Mess, a To­ry­made state of un­think­able af­fairs that could de­rail his ca­reer be­fore it even leaves the sta­tion.

Now, if there was any jus­tice, and in fair­ness to Dun­derdale, Danny Wil­liams should also have ap­peared in this mi­cro­cos­mic picture, wear­ing Dick­en­sian chains, the heav­i­est of them all, des­tined to weigh down his rep­u­ta­tion in per­pe­tu­ity for his piv­otal, ar­chi­tec­tural role in the Muskrat Falls de­ba­cle.

But, alas, this was Dun­derdale’s stage time in the fog, and Cros­bie’s, as well, the two of them in­ter­twined on video­tape for the prov­ince to see.

The CBC crew had to have been de­lighted to be sit­u­ated where it was that day, at the doorstep as the two PCS ex­changed greet­ings, but I thought the reporter dropped the ball (I’m pre­sum­ing a jour­nal­ist was tag­ging along); I would have loved to have seen him or her milk the piece of serendip­ity for all it was worth, and have asked Cros­bie right there and then about Muskrat Falls and the im­pact Wil­liams, Dun­derdale and com­pany will have on his po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tions.

It was just such an ideal, ap­pro­pri­ate time to put him on the spot.

Even a po­lite re­quest for an in­ter­view about Muskrat Falls would have been ab­so­lutely un­nec­es­sary; the cam­eras should have kept rolling as Cros­bie walked away from the Dun­derdale home and he should have been pep­pered with questions, should have had his feet put to the fire, as they say. It would have made for good tele­vi­sion and good journalism, a com­bi­na­tion that al­ways has an ap­peal for the view­ing pub­lic and the editorial bosses (at least it did in my day).

Up to this point in his lead­er­ship ten­ure, Cros­bie has been wishy-washy on Muskrat Falls, and in­stead of bury­ing his pre­de­ces­sors in the waste they cre­ated and en­gi­neered, he has some­how man­aged to hal­fapol­o­gize for the ac­tions of the Wil­liams and Dun­derdale regimes, say­ing they made de­ci­sions based on the in­for­ma­tion they had at the time.

What a crock! The Tory ad­min­is­tra­tions picked and chose the in­for­ma­tion it needed to plow ahead, ram­i­fi­ca­tions be damned. If Cros­bie had the po­lit­i­cal sense, the po­lit­i­cal in­tu­ition of, say, his loose-can­non fa­ther, he would have emp­tied his bar­rels in the di­rec­tion of any­body who had any­thing to do with Muskrat Falls.

And it’s not as if the Lib­er­als are free of Muskrat Falls sins; they’ve han­dled this ex­plo­sive is­sue from the out­set like a live grenade, ev­i­denced by Pre­mier Dwight Ball’s weak and disin­gen­u­ous prom­ise (one made, not coin­ci­den­tally, dur­ing the launch of Paul An­tle’s can­di­dacy for the Windsor Lake seat) that none of us will have to pay for the Muskrat Falls fi­asco through our monthly elec­tric­ity bills. (It will be of great so­lace to me as I split junks next week in prepa­ra­tion for a win­ter of wood­stove heat).

You could al­most hear the re­ac­tion in ev­ery nook and cranny of New­found­land: Where in the name of Joey are you go­ing to get the money, Pre­mier Ball?

And it’s not just the eco­nomic brains of the prov­ince who know it’s the gen­er­a­tions to come who will pay the piper if Ball and his co­horts at­tempt to mit­i­gate elec­tri­cal bills in the next few years through some sort of surge in our al­ready stag­ger­ing debt.

In any case, the Dun­derdale/ Cros­bie mo­ment is be­hind us.

Now we might have to make do with a struc­tured meet­ing of the so-called minds: An­tle and Cros­bie, Ball and Cros­bie, the present and the past, with the NDP present as a sober­ing, neu­tral ob­server.

Roll cam­eras!


En­ter Ja­cob!

What a crock! The Tory ad­min­is­tra­tions picked and chose the in­for­ma­tion it needed to plow ahead, ram­i­fi­ca­tions be damned.

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