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Wednesday 22 November 2017


I had never thought James McLeod to be one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. In last Saturday’s Telegram, he telegraphed just that. 

In mortal terror, he’s leaving the province. And I know I’m the one responsible.
McLeod had interviewed Uncle Gnarley for a story in September that he called “Meet Uncle Gnarley: Muskrat Falls’ prolific doomsayer blogs in turbulent times”.  I had no idea that, after just a few hours with him, McLeod would want to ‘cut and run’ — hightail it — for the mainland!
Already wearing his unemployment boots and heading for the Marine Atlantic Ferry, he left this advice:
“Here’s the honest truth: It’s in the economic self-interest of every man, woman and child in this province to do the same thing I’m doing: pack up and move literally anywhere else. The province has a demographic problem and a geographic problem. There are too many old people…

Telegram James McLeod
And his rant continued for what seemed like hundreds of words; nearly a whole page, disavowing even the Telegram’s preoccupation with brevity over content.
How do I know I’m the one responsible? Because I let him talk to Gnarley. And that’s the kiss of death. For nearly three hours, McLeod hung on his every word; Gnarley was scaring the bejesus out of him. The interview seemed long; but, actually, he left too soon. I guess he needed to book his ticket.  
He had come to Uncle Gnarley’s global headquarters just to see how the great man arrives at his great insights. Of course, he could not have known that his destiny would be changed forever. 
Due to a practiced gravitas that has become kneejerk, Gnarley had condemned him to eke out an existence in Toronto which, notwithstanding our formidable economic woes, holds none of the virtues of a place whose only unencumbered asset is the East Coast Trail.
And speaking of encumbrances, evidently for James not even a house in Dannyland constituted an oasis of suburban bliss — not even with Mount Pearl nearby.

What had Uncle Gnarley said that was so profound in its implication that someone seemingly so grounded would become unhinged — willing to forgo, in the process, even the inevitable excursion to a far larger bastion of economic decay: St. Brendan’s? 
Undoubtedly, he had suffered one of those Alice In Wonderland moments in which he discovered the truth of it all — as if given the clarity of a Cheshire Cat, that “we’re all mad here”.
Re-reading his story now, I recognize the error. McLeod had written: “[Gnarley] said that he feels like these aren’t normal times for the province; a tsunami of economic hardship and deficit spending is hitting the province, and the Muskrat Falls project stands to make things dramatically worse.”
My god: I should have actually insisted that McLeod stay longer — even at the risk of Gnarley boring him to tears.
Had he sipped tea for another two or three hours, Uncle Gnarley might have asked him whether the crowd at the Telegram told him about us.
He might have found out that, in Newfoundland, no one ever leaves a party before the fight breaks out! 
$25 billion in the hole, McLeod evidently thought it was all over down here. For crying out loud, didn’t he realize that he’s a reporter, not a banker? And, anyway, why would someone so young and bright want to leave here?
It’s not as if there is a dearth of news or that he has been overwhelmed by savvy reporters besting him with breaking stories. Sure, the few that are here can’t be dragged away from potholes, snow drifts or that most favoured — and most ubiquitous — gig in the news business: Chase the Ace. 
It is true that McLeod would have never gotten hired by the CBC.  Trivialities are not his schtick. But even that crowd is smart enough to know that nothing gets resolved here until we have one Jesus-ly row. 
Just think about it. Unlike Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan wanted to declare bankruptcy a few years ago just because two Quakers missed the church collection plate! NL is coming off a party that cost mega-billions — enough even to cause watery eyes on Bay Street. 
When it all shakes out, any local reporter with a bow-tie and the ability to string three sentences together will be in higher demand than Mike Duffy (pre-Senate). 
Which leaves only one question. Didn’t Pam Frampton or Russell Wangersky warn him? And if not them, surely that old scoundrel Bob Wakeham could have ‘sot’ him down with a bottle of Jockey Club rather than put the whole goddam works on me! 
They could have told him that the folks who still live here are the ones who wouldn’t leave in the ‘60s when unemployment was well over 20%, wouldn’t leave in the ‘70s after the cod moratorium, wouldn’t leave in the ‘80s or the ‘90s… 
In fact, when Clyde Wells put out the call for every mother’s son to come home, they were afraid to because they’d be eaten alive if they put one foot back across the Gulf. 
Think we’re going to finish this party without a battle royal?

No, by Christ, and if the bondholders on Bay Street think they’re going to get more than 10 cents on the dollar after we’re finished with Danny Williams, Ed Martin and Gilbert Bennett, we’ll save a few bruises for them, too. 
Yes, sir, she’s going to be one scuba dyin’ Jesus of a racket and McLeod is going to miss it!
We’ll cling to this 'rock' forever.
Unless, that is… they come and take our trikes.

The best of luck, James McLeod.