Snoozin’ through the throne speech, and other top news

The Beacon (Gander) - - 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 bwake­ham@nl.rogers.com

Un­der­stand­ably, a great deal of val­ued at­ten­tion was be­ing paid to the lat­est Edgar Ber­genChar­lie McCarthy rou­tine per­formed in the House of As­sem­bly by Lt.-Gov. Frank Fa­gan, the Queen’s pup­pet in New­found­land, recit­ing, word for word, the amaz­ing rhetoric slickly for­mu­lated by Lib­eral gov­ern­ment pub­lic re­la­tions flacks that ex­tolled the tremen­dous virtues of “My Gov­ern­ment.”

How in the name of Shari Lewis, and pup­peteer shtick down through the ages, could you not pos­si­bly hang onto ev­ery syl­la­ble placed in the obe­di­ent vo­cal chords of our own lit­tle “Lamb Chop”? (For those read­ers not blessed with a garbage head like my own, or not old enough to re­mem­ber watch­ing “The Ed Sul­li­van Show” af­ter squeez­ing in some last-minute Sun­day night home­work, “Lamb Chop” — per­ceived as ab­so­lutely adorable by a then non-dis­crim­i­nat­ing, eas­ily en­ter­tained au­di­ence — was the star hand pup­pet ma­nip­u­lated by the dex­ter­ous Ms. Lewis).

I don’t know about you, but when Lamb Chop — I mean the lieu­tenant-gov­er­nor — promised on be­half of the Queen that her pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, those ded­i­cated men and women elected to man­age the af­fairs of her un­washed ser­vants in her old­est colony, to tun­nel all of us out of this eco­nomic avalanche with “The Way For­ward,” a “vi­sion,” a “road map guid­ing our fu­ture to a prov­ince that is di­ver­si­fied, pros­per­ous, and with a high stan­dard of liv­ing,” well, to tell the truth, I was filled with a blast of op­ti­mistic oxy­gen.

Af­ter all, it was im­pos­si­ble to have any doubts what­so­ever about the in­spired ef­forts by the Lib­er­als (and, in fact, by all those hon­ourable mem­bers of the leg­is­la­ture) to bring re­lief to this hellish fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion when the speech ended with heav­enly tones that would bring tears to a glass eye: “I in­voke God’s bless­ing upon you,” it read. “May di­vine Prov­i­dence guide you in your de­lib­er­a­tion.” Ob­vi­ously, our wor­ries are over; just sit back, “Let go and let God” — if I can pla­gia­rize the ver­nac­u­lar of so­ci­ety’s many 12-step, self-help groups.

But — there’s al­ways a “but,” is there not? — as en­thralling an af­ter­noon as the speech from the throne pro­vided, its news wor­thi­ness was dwarfed by an even more sig­nif­i­cant story of re­cent weeks, one that has had tongues wag­ging in kitchens and tav­erns through­out the prov­ince: the dust-up that oc­curred be­tween a cou­ple of hon­ourable mem­bers in one of those hal­lowed cor­ri­dors just out­side the es­teemed lo­cale of the House of As­sem­bly. Surely, you heard the call. IN THIS COR­NER, WEIGH­ING IN AT HIS AL­WAYS PER­FECT POUNDAGE, THE VET­ERAN, THE DEER LAKE DE­STROYER, DWIGHT (THE MAN­NEQUIN) BALL!

AND IN THE FAR COR­NER, WEIGH­ING IN AT THE EQIVALENT OF A TRUCKLOAD OF MA­NURE, A NEW­COMER, THE MOUNT PEARL MASHER, JIM (THE FARMER) LESTER!

Now, I’m not quite sure what ac­tu­ally oc­curred, since it boils down to a “he said, he said” af­fair, but Ball has of­fi­cially com­plained to Lester’s cor­ner man, Lame­duck Leader Paul Davis, that he was “con­fronted” by the ap­par­ently bel­liger­ent MHA from The Pearl who blocked his en­trance to what is re­ferred to as the gov­ern­ment “com­mon room” (That’s where mem­bers can doze away as their col­leagues take turns dron­ing on in­side the leg­is­la­ture).

But I’m sure the ex­change mir­rored the sort of riv­et­ing repar­tee that al­ways char­ac­ter­izes de­bate among our elected types, per­haps just a notch above “got ya last.”

And it hap­pened on a day the gov­ern­ment was rec­og­niz­ing — you can’t make this stuff up, as they say — “Anti-bul­ly­ing Day” in the prov­ince.

Oh, the hor­ror.

But no mat­ter the out­come of any sort of in­quiry into this set-to be­tween Ball and Lester, it does ap­pear, at least on the sur­face, to pale in com­par­i­son to other mano a mano bouts of the past in the House of As­sem­bly, at least those of my rec­ol­lec­tion and ob­ser­vance (wel­come in­ter­ludes for the press gallery).

Who can pos­si­bly for­get the time Bill Small­wood crossed the floor to take a swing at Bill Mar­shall, who had read aloud an ar­ti­cle from a small, in­de­pen­dent news­pa­per that ac­cused Small­wood’s mother — Joey’s wife — of be­ing a “slum land­lord”? This wasn’t “your mother wears army boots.” No sir. This was stuff worth fight­ing about: “Your mom is a slum land­lord.” Or the time Harold Collins charged over to the op­po­si­tion side of the leg­is­la­ture and shoved Roger Sim­mons up against a wall af­ter the per­pet­u­ally saucy Sim­mons had im­plied the Tory cabi­net min­is­ter re­quired pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion to get through the day’s pro­ceed­ings.

Ah, those were the days, my friend. We thought they’d never end.

Now, we’re left with Dwight Ball com­plain­ing that Jim Lester wouldn’t let him en­ter the nap room.

Or Lamb Chop telling us ev­ery­thing is hunky-dory in New­found­land.

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