’Tis the season to spend

Brian Jones
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Younger Boy gets his argumentative streak from me. He seldom gets in trouble for arguing, because I’m mostly to blame for that aspect of his personality.

Besides, he’s often right — another inherited trait.

Last week at the supermarket, I gave him some money and told him to put it in the Salvation Army Christmas kettle.

The officers wished him Merry Christmas and handed him a card. It read “Thank you!” in red script, and had a short quote (Psalm 9:18): “For the needy shall not always be forgotten.”

Fine print

“Hey!” Younger Boy declared as we walked out and he read the card.

He read the quote aloud.

“That means sometimes the needy are forgotten,” he said.

“That means it’s OK to forget the needy, as long as it isn’t always. They shouldn’t ever forget the needy.”

Not even a teenager yet, and he’s already arguing with Holy Scripture.

I explained it was a quote from the Bible, and the Salvation Army was not saying it’s OK to forget the needy. The quote merely pointed out what has been the case for centuries: many people who are well off seldom think of those who are poor or in need.

“Who?” he demanded.

“Lots of people,” I said. “That’s why the quote says, ‘not always.’ A lot of people will forget the needy, but not everyone will.”

Hopefully, the Salvation Army has cards with various quotes — something else to debate with a pre-teen.

Better days

The doom and gloom approach of the provincial government — we’d better pay down the debt before we all return to our rightful place in poverty — apparently isn’t fully shared by Danny Williams.

It’s been a full year since Williams was the all-powerful exalted leader of a province rather than of a hockey team, but he’s still making big headlines.

Finance Minister Tom Marshall, wallowing in economic negativity, recently insisted all $700 million of the province’s surprise budgetary surplus had to go toward the debt, without even a fraction — $50 million, say — being set aside to improve Newfoundland’s (and Labrador’s) last-place standing among the provinces in providing early childhood education.

(Note to several of my detractors over the past few weeks: “early childhood education” does not mean handing millions of public dollars over to private daycare operators. Nor does it entail outlawing playtime for four-year-olds.)

The provincial government is operating under the ethos that good times may indeed be here, but when our two decades or so are up, it’s back to the poorhouse, just like the previous 500 years. And when we all return to walking on dirt roads in bare feet, we’d better make sure we’re debt-free.

That’s why money can’t be set aside to help young Newfoundland children get the same quality of education all other Canadian kids get.

Instead of basing spending decisions on their conservative ideology and fearmongering, the provincial government should ponder a few facts.

Consider, for example, the Hebron oilfield. Over the course of Hebron’s lifetime, $20 billion will accrue to provincial coffers — almost enough to pay off the provincial debt three times over. Oil will flow out of Hebron until at least 2047 — six years after the riches of the Upper Churchill finally return to this province.

And yet, in 2011, we dare not spare a few dollars to add classrooms onto a few schools.

But back to The Danny. He’s putting his own money into the massive Southlands development, a 20-year project worth billions. He wouldn’t be doing that if he didn’t see the golden road stretching on for miles and miles.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Salvation Army, The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Hebron, Southlands

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Recent comments

  • Patrick
    December 16, 2011 - 12:56

    Brian: I would agree with you on the debt if our debt was close to the national average but its not. We still have one of the highest per capita debts in Canada.In the last few years debt reduction has resulted in a $150 million reduction in interest payments alone. Now there's a novel way fund social programs--on savings from debt reduction----The government doesn't have to add to the debt to put more money into early childhood education. They just have to make it a priority.