Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A commentary of Orwellian proportions

Craig Westcott, journalist and editor of The Business Post, can always be counted upon to deliver a hard-hitting commentary every Monday morning on CBC Radio, and yesterday he was in particularly fine form. Westcott used the writing of George Orwell as an entry point to some stinging remarks about recent infrastructure announcements in the province… and makes an implicit argument for the use of bottled water! Westcott has kindly agreed to make the complete text of his CBC Radio Morning Show commentary available here... and you can listen to it by clicking here.


I've gone back to reading George Orwell.

Not, mind you, that that is a chore.

Quite the contrary.

Orwell was one of the finest and most perceptive writers of the 20th century.

It's the reason I'm reading Orwell again that's worrisome.

And that's because the times are worrisome.

There's a lot of stuff going on that has me spooked.

Like this fruitless war in Iraq.

It got me reading Orwell's 1939 classic, "Coming up for air."

A novel that perfectly captures the incredulousness of an ordinary man seeing the approaching war and knowing he is helpless to stop it.

Nothing but death and destruction on the horizon, like so many enemy bombers, and a great chunk of the population baying for blood.

Closer to home, the surreal state of provincial politics keeps "Nineteen Eighty-Four" coming back to mind.

Now I apologize for using the word surreal.

It, along with diva, are among the most overused and inappropriately used words in the English language.

But surreal sure fits the situation here with everyone bellowing for Stephen Harper's head on a pike over equalization.

All the more ludicrous, when you think about it, because nine-tenths of the population don't understand what equalization is, or what we're even getting.

But the mob has placed its blind trust in a great leader whom they believe can do no wrong.

I guess life is easier when you don't have to think for yourself.

But it's got me thinking, did someone put something in the water, or what?

And if so, how come it's not affecting me?

I'm on the Bay Bulls Big Pond supply too.

Still, even cynics like myself can't help but be amused by the absurdity of it all.

Like the press releases being cranked out by the provincial government, which now has more communications directors and PR people on staff than ever before in our history, a veritable propaganda machine.

Take this little gem that was spun out Friday.

It heralded one million dollars for road work in St. John's.

Here's the lead paragraph.

"The St. John's area is the latest benefactor of the Williams' government's unprecedented 66 point five million dollar provincial roads improvement program under Budget 2007."

Unprecedented is right.

The St. John's area, which has nearly half the population of the whole province, is getting a whole one million dollars out of the 66 million the government is spending this year.

If you cut through the cram of the rest of the release, you'll see the money will pay for the repair of one bridge and the erection of some dividers along a small portion of the Outer Ring Road.

"Government is committed to providing all residents of Newfoundland and Labrador with a safe, reliable transportation system," said Transportation Minister John Hickey.

"We have therefore made this significant investment to improve transportation infrastructure in St. John's."

Meanwhile, Labrador, where Hickey is from, is getting some 34 million dollars worth of road work this year.

It may actually be more than that.

I lost count of the projects and funding for the region.

Now I don't begrudge anyone in Labrador their road work.

But it seems passing strange that a place with less than six per cent of the population is getting over half the provincial roads budget.

That's what I mean by surreal.

That, and the comments of St. John's MHA's Bob Ridgely and Tom Osborne who are waxing eloquent in their praise of the crumbs Hickey is leaving for them.

Has Hickey even driven the arterial road between CBS and St. John's I wonder, with its patchwork quilt of potholes, ruts and crumbling asphalt?

More people drive that road every day than live in Labrador.

On a good day, the road is a threat to every car's suspension, shocks and tires.

On a bad day, when it's raining or snowing, the road is a menace.

But hey, I should be grateful.

Everyone else is.

We're getting a bridge fixed and some concrete dividers.

Big Brother really is looking out for us.

Pass me another glass of that water, would you?

For The Morning Show,

I'm Craig Westcott.

21 comments:

Tina Chaulk said...

That was quite the commentary. As I listened to it on Monday morning I found myself wishing I could hear it again and I swear that I thought: I wish Geoff Meeker could post that on his blog. You're spoiling me.

WJM said...

Westcott should drive the Trans-Labrador Highway.

patrick davis said...

sounds like wescott lives in ontario and is working for the globe and mail. has he ever been outside of the overpass?

mealyman said...

Read and Sign A Petition Addressing The Ever Present Problem of Deplorable Road Conditions In Cartwright, Labrador

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/cartwrightlabroads/index.html

Please Pass On

Mark said...

Oh - the politics of pavement. Will it ever end?

Of course, "townie" pundits may want to remind themselves of the roads to rails agreement, which was supposed to result in a four lane highway to Port-aux-Basques in exchange for giving up an economic lifeline to those of us pour souls working in the hinterland of the province at the time.

Fat chance. Instead it built the outer ring road and access to Stavanger Drive.

To add insult to injury, the townies then kept the trains for their own little quaint museum as well.

Thank you Mr. Crosbie. Thank you Mr. Peckford.

WJM said...

What's this "pavement" I keep hearing about?

Whatever it is, if it, or any other infrastructure spending, is supposed to be doled out on some kind of per-capita formula, remember: Labrador's share of the provincial population is larger than the province's share of the national population, by a factor of three.

NL-ExPatriate said...

I think the operative phrase to concentrate on in that diatribe is:

even cynics like myself

Brian said...

Quick, better demand an upgrade for the St.John’s terminal. Can’t have Labrador airstrips being made safe for landing without reciprocal can we?

From CKOK, Nain.
The Makkovik Airstrip is going to receive improvements in safety standards over the summer.

Tracey Hennessey is the Area Manager of Communications for Newfoundland and Labrador for Transport Canada.
She says that Transport Canada announced over $1.1 million to do the project.
The Airstrip will be resurfaced and the area where the aircraft loads and unloads will get a new coat of gravel.
As well as improvements to the drainage system and a stockpile of gravel will be put in place for future repair work.
Also the abbreviated visual approach slope indicator and the abbreviated precision approach indicator system will be replaced.
These are used by pilots to assist in conducting safe landings during low visibility conditions.
The Government of Canada is funding the entire project, but the province is responsible to carry out the work.
David Salter is the director of Communications for the Department of Transportation and Works.
He says that work on the project is expected to begin in early summer.
The materials will be shipped on the Ranger and the Astron once the shipping season begins.
He says the tender for the work will be issued within the next 4-6 weeks under the Public Tender Act.
Robert Gear, the Airstrip Operator in Makkovik, is very pleased with the announcement.
He says that the repairs are badly needed.
The airstrip is soft because all of the original gravel has been removed form the incoming and outgoing planes.
All that’s currently left there is sand and rock.

Norman Andrews said...

"Meanwhile, Labrador, where Hickey is from, is getting some 34 million dollars worth of road work this year.

It may actually be more than that.

I lost count of the projects and funding for the region.

Now I don't begrudge anyone in Labrador their road work.

But it seems passing strange that a place with less than six per cent of the population is getting over half the provincial roads budget.

That's what I mean by surreal.

That, and the comments of St. John's MHA's Bob Ridgely and Tom Osborne who are waxing eloquent in their praise of the crumbs Hickey is leaving for them.

Has Hickey even driven the arterial road between CBS and St. John's I wonder, with its patchwork quilt of potholes, ruts and crumbling asphalt?

More people drive that road every day than live in Labrador.

On a good day, the road is a threat to every car's suspension, shocks and tires.

On a bad day, when it's raining or snowing, the road is a menace.

But hey, I should be grateful.

Everyone else is.

We're getting a bridge fixed and some concrete dividers.

Big Brother really is looking out for us.

Pass me another glass of that water, would you?

For The Morning Show,

I'm Craig Westcott."
________________________________
Hoop-de-doo Craig!
You should realize that Labrador has been, basically ignored by our provincial government since confederation even though we have put billions upon billions of dollars into the Newfoundland economy. We are tired of looking after the Rock and being ignored.

Now you may know how the people of Labrador have felt and still feel 58 years later.

The provincial government still has a lot of catching up to do in the BigLand and they will have to spend a few billion dollars to do that before we are satisfied.

May I suggest that you bite your tongue and hang in there. I'm watching you and I believe that the Labrador Party is watching you and we are not going away, anytime soon.

At least the St.John's area has paved roads coming out of the ying yang. We've been looking for pot holes in our paved cross-town arterials and highways for a long time.

The Feds and the province are cost sharing $48 million to do repairs to the Newfoundland portion of the Trans Canada Highway. (We don't have a Trans Canada in Labrador)
I wonder what kind of surfacing will be used to do the 211km of repairs to that highway out their? Will it be Cheap Seal or Pavement?

If we are all equal citizens in this province, I say, whats good for the Goose should be good for the Gander. Especially since most of the provinces wealth is in Labrador.
http://labradorpower.blogspot.com

Geoff Meeker said...

"May I suggest that you bite your tongue and hang in there. I'm watching you and I believe that the Labrador Party is watching you and we are not going away, anytime soon."

Norman, is that some kind of threat? I believe in free speech (as long as people sign their names) and would never advise anyone to bite their tongue. This forum is open to intelligent debate and even incoherent diatribes, but threats are not acceptable.

towniebastard said...

Geoff, if it's the Labrador Party, I seriously wouldn't worry too much about it. You're assuming a level of organization and competency that I've yet to see exist.

Honest to God, about the only group I find as comparably annoying as rabid Newfoundland nationalists are rabid Labrador nationalists. And yes, I know what this paragraph is likely to stir up.

Anonymous said...

hi,
I've lived in a few places in Canada and Newfoundland and here's what I've observed.
Most mainlanders always wonder what Newfoundlanders are complaining about.
Most Newfoundlanders don't understand Labradorians.
Most Labradorians think they've been propping up Newfoundlanders for years.
And some Townies act like Torontonians — they think they live in the centre of the universe.
That’s just the way it is....the circle of life in Canada.

Paul Northcott

Brian said...

has summed it up very well. But that does not change the fact that the particular commentary was poorly thought out and researched vis a vis Labrador funding, hence the backlash. Mr. Andersen’s comments were in the same vain and un called for IMO.

Brian said...

Oops,
I left out "Paul Northcott" said it best.

Brian said...

Oops number 2.
I meant to say Mr. Andrews comments not Mr. Andersen’s. Sloppy of me, my excuse is I have never lived in the greater St.John’s area ;-]]

Deirdre Greene said...

Mr Davis: if Mr Westcott lived in Ontario, he'd be well outside the overpass, wouldn't he? Mr Northcott: WELL PUT - the first post to make me smile in months.

Norman Andrews said...

You're asking me if that was some kind of threat and you are open for intelligent debate. You're intellect should be able to give you the answer to that one.

Rest assured there was no threat intended Geoff.

For the towniebastard's info, The Labrador Party received the majority of votes in Happy Valley Goose Bay during the last provincial election and only lost the Lake Melville seat because of the false promises by Danny Williams to the Metis people.

Anonymous said...

"...a lot of catching up to do in the BigLand and they will have to spend a few billion dollars to do that before we are satisfied"

A few billion?

And where should that few billion come from?

That's billions, with 9 zeros at the end. Unless "few" means more than ten, in which case there may be 10 zeros at the end.

Which would subsequently mean that you won't be satisfied until some government somewhere sends each member of the adult population of the Big Land over $100,000 apiece.

Don't hold your breath.

WJM said...

And where should that few billion come from?

Why not from some of the money that Labrador is presently paying into the provincial treasury? Voisey's Bay royalties would start making a nice annual dent in that "few billion" that Norm says is due.

And once Danny Williams - sorry, I have to snifle a snicker, bear with me for a sec - "goes it alone" on the Lower Churchill, that'll be several hundred million more per year.

Those "few billion" will be paid off in short order, and soon enough the money will be flowing south and into the CBS highway again.

Which would subsequently mean that you won't be satisfied until some government somewhere sends each member of the adult population of the Big Land over $100,000 apiece.

Is that problematic? It seems that the provincial government won't be satisfied until Labrador generates the same amount in per-capita provincial-source revenues.

In 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available, Labrador accounted for about $50-million in personal income tax alone. This past year it would appear, from the estimates, that Labrador's mines pumped in about $200-million. Those "few billion" won't take long to add up.

Can the Burin Peninsula - usually the comparison that nationalist Newfoundlanders make - make the same claim?

Mark said...

Wally - god bless you Labradorians for putting that ore in the ground.

WJM said...

god bless you Labradorians for putting that ore in the ground.

No, sir, it was all Danny Williams' doing.

If Newfoundlanders can demand "fair share" from all the resources they brought into Confederation blah blah blah, then it's even fairer game for Labradorians to do the same, mutatis mutandis, with those they brought into the province.

Sauce for the goose.