Louie was wiping off the tables in her backroom establishment that some snotty types refer to as a boot-leg joint, when Mousie MacKay came through the door. Mousie was one of her regulars, part of the crowd that hung out with Hat McInnes.
"Louie, did you see Hat's picture on the front page of Wednesday's Guardian?" asked Mousie after he'd ordered his usual beer. "The old guy's lost his marbles, if you ask me."
"What old guy are you talking about?" said Hat, who had come in before the door closed and was standing behind Mousie. "And why do you think there's something wrong with him?"
"Yeah, Mousie, what are you talking about? I saw The Guardian on Wednesday," said Louie. "There was a picture of the premier and his family and another of the New Year's baby. Neither one was Hat McInnes, that's for sure!"
"But there was another picture," said Mousie, "the one with all those crazies running into the harbour on New Year's Day. I'm pretty sure one of them, near the back of the crowd was none other than Richard Sydney McInnes. I'm right, aren't I, Hat?"
"You are as accurate as you usually are in your observations of the obvious," replied Hat.
"Ha, ha, I knew it was your old grey head," exclaimed Mousie.
"Let me finish," injected Hat, "I was about to add that your powers of observation are woefully impaired, either by a mind that only sees what it wants to see or by a pair of eyes that are unusually flawed. Mousie, you've known me for over 50 years and yet you seem to know nothing about me. I've never jumped into the harbour in the summer, and certainly not in the winter. I can't swim. And I'm not nuts, at least not yet."
"Well, it sure looked like you," said a chastened Mousie, "and you have to admit, you once had your wild side."
"Good god, Mousie, I think you're losing it," said Hat, "the only person in the province who's more delusional than you is Wes Sheridan, the finance minister. He was saying before Christmas that he expects to be able to come close to meeting his projected deficit of $74 million by the end of March."
"Well, I don't expect that'll happen," said Rifle Burhoe, who had been sitting quietly nursing a beer. "He said that just after he announced that they'd dropped another $5 million or so into the crop insurance fund."
Swifty Stewart had just taken a sip of his shine and lime when he allowed that "Wes Sheridan is a really nice guy and one of the few in cabinet who knows there's more to the province than Charlottetown, that there are some rural folks out there who would like to think the government is aware they exist."
"He might be the nicest guy in the world, but I would like to have some of that stuff he must be smoking if he thinks he'll be able to bring in a balanced budget within a year and half," said Hat. "He's a bit like you, Mousie, reality doesn't enter the picture, not until someone actually adds up the numbers. Wes keeps projecting deficits of $30- or $40 million and he keeps ending up with deficits of $70 or $80 million."
"Well, in fairness, Wes Sheridan isn't the only Islander who ignores reality," said Mousie. "We all do. Very few of us think these ever-increasing deficits are a problem, the only people who care are some old codgers like you, Hat."
"He's right, Hat, no one cares about deficits. We all demand more and more from the government, especially our businessmen," said Rifle. "If you're poor and go on welfare it's considered shameful. But a businessman who gets money out of the government is considered smart. Look at their latest announcement. Kevin Murphy, who might have gotten more PNP money than anyone else in the province, just scored a loan of over $2 million for his brewery. And Tim Banks gets an $800,000 line of credit to operate an industrial park, something government itself used to do. Why go to a bank when the government coffers are easy pickings for those who know how to access them."
"Corporate welfare bums," said Hat. "It's so annoying it makes you want to just go jump in a lake."
"Or an icy cold harbour," said Mousie.
Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: email@example.com