Neither Here Nor There

Peter Pickersgill
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A whip, a chair and a bouquet of catnip

The closing of the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John's planned for next June should really not be as surprising to us as news reports are calling it.

It is entirely the wrong thing to do, but it is not surprising.

Shifting the centre that receives and acts on distress calls farther from where those calls originate is a giant step in the wrong direction. After next summer the person picking up the phone will be in Halifax, no longer in St. John's.

This will create more danger in the already hazardous professions of fishing and offshore oil and gas.

Reducing safety for those who work and fly above the sea in order to save money is not at all about preserving our fragile economic recovery, as Harperites would like you to believe.

The money saved is a pittance. A million dollars we are told. Enough to finance a few minutes of the police riot in Toronto at last summer's G8 summit or install a half dozen outdoor toilets and a gazebo in Tony Clement's riding. He is the president of Treasury Board, the man in charge of the purse strings. He decides who gets what and how much.

Thus, he is in large measure responsible for enacting the Harper agenda of meting out revenge by pinching pennies in those regions of the country found guilty of the cardinal sin of voting the wrong way.

It is entirely the wrong thing to do, but why should we in Newfoundland be surprised that the Harper government is doing it?

During the entire time that Danny Williams and Stephen Harper were both in power, it was a popular recreational pastime to watch our premier insult and abuse the Prime Minister of Canada.

Let's admit it. It was fun to see a man who many people instinctively dislike sneered at publicly. It was like watching a kid at the zoo poking a stick through the bars of the cage to irritate a huge, ferocious lion.

Fun, but a little bit scary. What would happen if the lion ever got out of the cage?

On May 2, 2011, Stephen Harper's party won a majority in Parliament. The lion is out of the cage. All those things that, as a minority prime minister, Harper has been denying he ever said, can now come to pass. He doesn't need to pretend anymore. He can say and do whatever he wants.

Atlantic Canada has a defeatist culture? Absolutely. Is it the job of government to intervene in society to look after the population? Absolutely not.

Will the government reward those who voted the right way? Yes. Will those who voted the wrong way be punished? Count on it.

Yes, the big cat is out of the cage and poor Premier Kathy Dunderdale is taking a crash course in lion taming.

Danny had the easy job. He could abuse Harper all he wanted and bask in the adoration of a Newfoundland public too polite to say the things out loud that Danny shouted daily.

Safely inside his cage, padlocked by minority government, Stephen the lion, desperately needing every seat he could get toward a majority, had to accept whatever abuse our premier felt like dishing out. The lion was biting his tongue and biding his time.

The May 2 Harper majority was the key turning in the lock and the cage door opening wide. The lion was on the loose. By this time, his tormentor had scuttled off to run a hockey team. Hapless Kathy knew Danny had left her with a can of worms in the lower Churchill, but she wasn't all that worried.

She figured her animal-taming skills were good enough to handle a muskrat, but now, faced with an enraged lion, she finds herself furiously flipping through the pages of the lion-taming instruction manual armed with only a whip, a chair and a bouquet of catnip.

Stay tuned.

This is going to get worse before it gets better.

Organizations: Treasury Board, Prime Minister of Canada

Geographic location: Halifax, St. John's, Newfoundland Toronto Atlantic Canada

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