02 May 2006

The scripted zinger for a scripted question

It may be an overly technical point but natural resources minister Ed Byrne sounded just a little too scripted in the House of Assembly at one point on Monday.

Byrne was trying to pull his usual routine of late, trying to convince people that there are no consequences for the local oil and gas sector from the Hebron fiasco. So after a long-winded answer in which Byrne said there are no consequences but if there are, then any slowdowns at Hibernia are due to a lost drill bit and that there can't be any slowdowns since the project doesn't exist at Hibernia South because there is no development application anyway.

Then, Ed threw out this comment:

"But to say or make an allegation, or even to leave an impression that as a result of the breakdown in Hebron discussions now Exxon Mobil and Hibernia South is all off the rails, Mr. Speaker, would be equivalent to Chicken Little saying the sky is falling or Eeyore saying: Oh, hum, we are expecting rain tomorrow."

It's that Eeyore thing that was just a bit much. Now I could take Byrne running all over the place isn't we should remain calm and that all is well. But, for some reason, I just don't think that your average middle-aged man will toss out Eeyore into a conversation as an example of someone who is saying things that aren't true. Doesn't matter how heated the moment.

The Hundred Acre Wood just isn't the sort of place adults go to naturally to illustrate points of high government policy. Sure, being born in the Year of the Tiger, I'll sometimes after striking my head on a low-hanging shelf in my daughter's bedroom, I'll lament that my top isn't made of "da rubber" like Tigger's. But she's eight years old and she'll get it.

But if I am discussing the way this government throws out policy options, I am not really going to tell other adults that it's like they were playing Pooh-sticks.

Byrne's comment sounded an awful lot like a scripted zinger. That is, a line developed by Byrne's staff for use in answer to the highly predictable Opposition questions. Chicken Little is a common enough popular reference. A.A. Milne is not either in the original or the Disney incarnation.

The question Byrne was answering was recycled from before Easter and was, in fact, no better delivered the other day than it was before everyone in the legislature took off for a couple of weeks vacation.

Questions that are badly constructed and badly delivered tend to elicit the sort of nonsensical answers Ed Byrne has been throwing out lately.