Somewhere in China, there must be a factory or two undergoing a crisis because of what is happening in far-off Newfoundland (and Labrador).
By now, word must have reached the managers of the factories — which make drill bits, spare parts for bulldozers and such — of a troubling trend taking place in the strange, island democracy in the North Atlantic.
It seems they’re holding something called “elections” in their cities and towns, and — even more disturbing from a factory manager’s point of view — almost every candidate in the capital city area has spoken out against runaway development.
Obviously, this could have devastating implications for makers and sellers of said drill bits, bulldozer spare parts and such. If Newfoundlanders curtail their demand for tools of environmental decimation, production could decline by a full percentage point.
The reason for the ongoing debate about development is readily apparent. Take a drive almost anywhere on the northeast Avalon within commuting distance of St. John’s and you’ll see heavy equipment chugging away to pulverize the natural landscape into a shape that can hold a house, or a subdivision.
It has even become an issue in Paradise, for heaven’s sake. Some candidates in the province’s most inappropriately named town have spoken out against the current approach to development.
Criticizing development in Paradise is like criticizing gambling in Las Vegas, dope in Amsterdam, money in New York, surrendering in Paris.
Maybe I don’t watch enough TV, but I’ve yet to see a provincial government tourism ad showing a shiny new subdivision. Instead, the award-winning spots of spectacular propaganda usually depict a bucolic bay or an impossibly serene outport, with not a cul-de-sac or traffic light in sight.
There’s a good reason why those scenic villages are so quaint. In the old days, people had to adjust their construction to the terrain, rather than change the terrain to meet the requirements of construction. They had neither the money nor the technology to follow today’s method, which is to destroy whatever natural impediments stand in the way of development.
Is that tree-covered hillock in the way? Drill a hole, drop in some dynamite, pound away at it for weeks on end. (If it’s in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, start at 7 a.m. and keep at it until almost dark. Never mind the neighbours. Their complaints to the town council won’t be heard over the din, and besides, a permit was issued).
A lot of candidates in the various municipal elections are talking about development because the public is finally fed up.
The economic boom is great. Having oil rocks. Reaching “have” status after exactly 500 years — John Cabot landed in 1497; Hibernia pumped oil in 1997 — is poetic justice of a sort.
But Newfoundlanders are experiencing what Calgarians went through a generation ago. Oil leads to money leads to development — and development is often ugly.
In Calgary, residential development wiped out mile after mile of ranchland, and replaced rolling green pastures with hideous subdivision after hideous subdivision. Trees? Open spaces? Who needs them. The more houses they could cram in, the more money the developers could make.
In our area, architects must shudder in revulsion. They design lovely houses, and then developers put them on a lot that looks like a rock pit. Nice cliff face in the backyard. Too bad you can still see the scars from the drill bit.
Today’s trend is for candidates to clarify they are not against development per se, but they want it to be “sustainable,” whatever that means.
Never mind the buzzwords. Let’s get right to the point: municipal councils should stop approving developments that are butt-ugly.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org