Friday, March 5, 2010

Ferry Codfather

“I believe in political patronage. Leaders shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed about looking after their supporters. Patronage is a good thing. It’s essential to the democratic process. It makes the party system work. We should have more patronage, not less.”
— John Crosbie, No Holds Barred.
This may be news to you, but it’s not easy to produce a NL quote on demand — there being so many beauties to choose from.

Take today, for example, with John Crosbie in the news.

Or his name anyway.

I grabbed his book, No Holds Barred, from the shelf to mine a quote, and I can’t put it down.

Crosbie quotes are like fish in the sea — there’s always another, until they’re gone.

I’m not picking on our beloved Codfather, who retired a few years ago and lives in the poshest retirement home in Town, Government House, the people’s palace.

Crosbie should be praised at this point in his considerable political life, not pummeled.

But then praise is the subhead of today's political potato.

In its Thursday (March 4) budget, the federal Conservative government set aside $175 million for Marine Atlantic.

Word is, the Crown corp. is set to use the money to lease two new ferries for the Gulf run.

The Conservatives even have the names picked out.

One is to be christened the Jane and John Crosbie; the other the Mila and Brian Mulroney.

New ferries are always more than welcome in these watery parts, only the vessels the feds have their eye on are the sister-ships of the Atlantic Vision, which has had its problems since joining the Gulf run on April 1, 2009.

What is it with us and April Fools?

The dock at Port aux Basques punched a hole in the Atlantic Vision’s stern. But then the boat and wharf weren't well suited and probably shouldn't have married in the first place.

There have been fires and breakdowns, delays and complaints, and loads and loads of bad publicity.

Can you imagine how much more crooked and cantankerous a super ferry named John Crosbie, the old curmudgeon himself, would be?

MP Gerry Byrne went off he head.

The Atlantic Vision hasn’t been well suited to the Gulf crossing, and her sister-ships (which are tied up in bankruptcy court in Europe) won’t be either, he argues.

Then Brian Button, mayor of Port aux Basques, got into it, calling Open Line to describe Byrne as a Liberal kettle attacking a Tory pot.

Button accused Byrne and his Liberal crowd of doing little for the ferry fleet when they were in office and had a chance to do so.

A master politician, Byrne said it’s unfortunate that the issue is no longer whether the Atlantic Vision’s sister-ships are the most appropriate vessels.

The issue is now the row between Gerry Byrne and Brian Button.

And that was all that was said about that.

Like I said — masterful.

Overall, the federal budget isn’t bad for NL, not compared to previous ones.

Or so the spin goes.

Not only is there money for ferries, but the feds didn’t cut the province on Atlantic Accord payments, like they did last year.

Finance Minister Tom Marshall got on Open Line after Byrne, to praise the budget, calling it a “budget for the times.”

Relations seemed to be warming between the federal Conservatives and their provincial cousins.

Danny Williams wasn’t kidding when he used the words “warm and fuzzy” to describe his meeting with the PM in late January.

Steve has extended a big, fat olive branch to the premier.

It will be interesting to see what Danny has done, or will do, to deserve such generosity.

The trouble with an olive branch is that it's still a stick.

I'm compelled to end off with a Crosbie quote:

On Canadians and their politicians:

“The public doesn’t want, won’t accept and will not support honest, forthright and truthful politicians. They love to look down on politicians for not being truthful and straightforward. This is the underlying hypocrisy of Canadian politics and it is fed by the news media, who understand perfectly well that they are agents for the destruction of trust and candour in public life.”

I can't help myself. One more:

On federal/provincial relations:

“My experience with the Peckford and Wells governments was that both were totally selfish and ungrateful, no matter what Ottawa did for them. If a billion dollars in cash or benefits were delivered to them one day, they’d be howling twenty-four hours later that they hadn’t received a second billion dollars.”

That last quote sounded like it could have come from John Efford.

He missed the boat altogether in terms of when to settle and when not to to settle.

But you watch — Efford's ferry will come in yet.

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