Being rich is no laughing matter

Brian Jones
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On the plus side, ya gotta admit Premier Danny Williams can crack you up. The Danald’s declaration this week that the province’s doctors should tone down their rhetoric must have had the citizenry laughing from Pouch Cove to Port aux Basques.

After all, the premier’s rhetorical tongue-lashings against opponents are legion and legendary. This is a guy who once lambasted a mere

letter writer as a traitor — a serious offence that in less-enlightened times and jurisdictions could have firing-squad repercussions.

So when Williams says somebody else’s rhetoric is “getting out of hand,” you don’t need to wait for a punch line. It’s funny without one. It must be that famous Newfoundland (but not Labrador) humour.

Contradictory news

Turn on the radio and you can hear Irish rockers U2 — a band outspoken in its support for impoverished and oppressed people — singing about Newfoundland (and Labrador) politics: “I can’t believe the news today. …”

Recent headlines just don’t add up. There is an inherent inconsistency. On the one hand, the provincial government says the public coffers are not deep enough to meet doctors’ salary demands.

On the other hand, the good economic news just keeps coming, even if it hasn’t yet translated into a BMW in every driveway.

Take, for instance, this headline from Thursday’s business pages: “Province near top of pack in GDP growth: report.”

According to Scotia Economics, the province’s gross domestic product — the total dollar value of its goods, services and rhetoric — will increase 3.1 per cent this year and another 3.1 per cent in 2011.

In contrast, national GDP growth will be a mere 2.3 per cent. In Ontario, the formerly richest Canadians will make do with two per cent. Quebec will lag behind at 1.9 per cent. (Note to premier: add rhetorical cheap shot here.)

Income up

China may put the boots to freedom, democracy and its own Nobel Peace Prize winners, but Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) can thank it for their rising fortunes. China may not be open for personal liberty, but it is open for business. Chinese demand for oil, gas, iron ore and nickel is driving prices up. Economies on natural resources are reaping the benefits.

That includes Newfoundland (and Labrador).

Unless Williams and Health Minister Jerome Kennedy have managed to revise the basic laws of

economics, a higher GDP must inevitably lead to higher income for the government — unless, as in the U.S., rich leaders decide to cut taxes for their rich brethren.

The provincial government’s disingenuousness extends beyond Williams’ laughable accusation of unhealthy rhetoric by doctors.

A few nasty and unfortunate strikes/lockouts notwithstanding, the province is generally being pummelled with good economic news that makes a mockery of Williams and Kennedy’s claim the government cannot afford to pay medical specialists as much as they demand.

The government’s position lacks foresight. If doctors in the province feel they are underpaid, there isn’t any reason to believe that when they resign, other doctors from elsewhere will eagerly line up to apply for the vacant jobs.

The government’s approach is illogical. It’s like cutting off your fingers because you don’t want to pay the manicurist. It’s like slashing your car tires because you don’t want to pay the mechanic.

It’s like turfing out a batch of manipulative politicians because you’re fed up with paying their inflated salaries. Wait a minute. …

Williams and Kennedy may think they’re making a principled stand in defence of good management of the public purse. But they are in error, and it is the public — and patients — who will pay the price.

This just in (as I write): Williams announces deal to develop Lower Churchill hydroelectric project.

I rest my case.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: BMW, The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Pouch Cove, Ontario Quebec China U.S.

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Recent comments

  • Geoff Meeker
    November 19, 2010 - 15:36

    Hey Rex Goodie Pants, it is clean power but it sure isn't cheap. We are spending billions just to close down Holyrood. You realize who will pay for that, right? Us, the ratepayers.

  • Willi Makit
    November 19, 2010 - 12:53

    Pierre Neary said ''We apparently have the money for a hydro dam but not for the Dr.’s'' Nothing could be further from the truth. We don't have the money, we're going to borrow it. As for paying it back, well, the rate payers will take care of that - they're a captive audience and doubling their rates is the price of sticking it to Quebec. If that's still not enough to make the payments what odds, we'll go without doctors for a while - we'll just pass a law making it illegal to get sick. See, problem solved. Anything is possible Pierre, you just have to be proud, strong, and determined! Now, enough negativity and put a smile on your face - we got 'the deal'!!!

  • Pierre Neary
    November 19, 2010 - 07:53

    At the risk of being branded a traitor (I wish the Premier would give me a call, would love to be able to have the chance to debate with him), the Premier's remarks were quite ridiculous and laughable. Mr. Jones is quite correct when he says it will be the patients who pay the ultimate price. We apparently have the money for a hydro dam but not for the Dr.’s. If your life is in the balance and you can’t get in to see a specialist, the hydro dam isn’t going to help you much.

    • Rex Goodie Pants
      November 19, 2010 - 14:00

      You are all a bunch of Newfoundland Lobsters. Something wonderful was announced. It has nothing to do with the doctors or any other labour dispute. Intrinisically it is a good thing. Cheap clean power and the first step towards much more power, stable electricy rates and additional income/jobs for this province. Not enough? Well you can continue to claw the other lobsters down into the pot if you want. I can't really stop you. That said... I pity you.

  • Geoff Meeker
    November 19, 2010 - 07:50

    Nicely said, Brian. I, too, laughed out loud when Williams blamed doctors for using inflammatory language. I am astonished that reporters didn't laugh in his face.