And other twists of the tongue
“You must be calm before you can utter oracles.”
— Henry David Thoreau
If you don’t have anything nice to say, the old saying goes, don’t say anything at all.
Well, I’m afraid if I followed that advice I’d have written fewer columns and Felix Collins would have dashed off fewer letters to the editor.
So how about this adage?
If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything.
Someone should suggest that to the politicians.
Summer is a bit of a languorous time in the news world, so you get time to smell the roses and closely read government news releases and pay attention to politicians’ quotes and quips.
There have been some doozies.
In announcing government spending on $5.7 million on municipal infrastructure upgrades in central Newfoundland, the provincial Progressive Conservatives managed to get two cabinet ministers and an area MHA to talk up “the investment.”
Here’s a bit of profundity from Ray Hunter, who represents Grand Falls-Windsor—Green Bay South.
“Improvements to the municipal infrastructure of these towns make a positive difference to people who live there.”
You don’t say.
In June of this year, Advanced Education and Skills Minister Joan Burke was waxing eloquent about the Job Creation Partnerships program, and seemed particularly attached to one theme:
“The Job Creation Partnerships program is helping people gain the work experience and skills necessary to secure a long-term attachment to the labour market,” she said in a news release, and then went on to note, “…the Job Creation Partnership program continues to provide participants with work experience and skills needed to attach to the labour market.”
Is there an echo in here?
Now, I don’t profess to express myself perfectly (which is perhaps why I work in print and not live television), but these are public figures — politicians — who are supposed to be particularly articulate and who have communications directors to help them craft their messages.
Ain’t that the truth
And now, a word from our leader. Here’s relationship advice from Premier Kathy Dunderdale, who was explaining her new, softer stance when it comes to oil company ExxonMobil, as reported in The Telegram July 14:
“It’s extremely important in a good relationship that you have dialogue. There’s nothing better when you have a relationship that’s respectful.”
Yes folks, let’s keep those lines of communication open.
Here’s Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson, speaking to The Labradorian back in February 2011, responding to calls for upgrades to a section of the Trans-Labrador Highway:
“We’ve got a plan in place and knocking us off that plan is going to be impossible because, like I say, it’s planned out.”
And here’s David Brazil, the MHA for Conception Bay East—Bell Island, expressing his pleasure at announcing that a place serviced by two ferries would now have two ferries servicing it:
“Bell Island is the only community that has a two vessel service year-round,” he said, “and now residents can look forward to receiving service from the two primary vessels for the run — the MV Beaumont Hamel, and the MV Flanders.”
You know it’s a slow news day — and a sad time in the world of transportation — when the fact that a ferry is working warrants a news release.
When in doubt, repeat
But it’s not just politicians from this province with deep thoughts that just have to be expressed.
The federal Conservatives have been blessed with the same silver tongues and keen insights, like this penetrating observation from Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, in announcing highway improvements:
“Through our investments in public infrastructure, we are not only creating jobs across the country but also ensuring safe, reliable access to our infrastructure for the public.”
And in case you didn’t get it the first time, here’s that point helpfully reiterated in the same news release by James Moore, the regional minister for British Columbia.
“Our government is committed to maintaining the safety of its public infrastructure. These infrastructure investments are part of an ongoing program to ensure that the highway is well-maintained and safe for travellers.”
Back in this province, on Tuesday, it took three people — a cabinet minister, an MHA and a CEO — to articulate the same notion.
Health Minister Susan Sullivan: “Through strategic investments in needed equipment and necessary upgrades to infrastructure we are ensuring residents continue to receive vital services.”
Baie Verte—Springdale MHA Kevin Pollard: “With these investments, residents will experience and see a continual enhancement in infrastructure and services.”
Can’t quite grasp it yet?
Here’s Central Health CEO Karen McGrath: “These investments in medical equipment and infrastructure for the Springdale area support our goal to provide quality programs and services to the citizens of central region.”
I guess that’s kind of like putting your mouth where the money is.
But let’s give the last word to Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, who graced this province with his presence last week to discuss Muskrat Falls with Premier Dunderdale:
Dexter said he’s worried about cost overruns, but he’s standing by the project.
“Whenever costs go up there’s always a concern, and you always take that into account,” he said. “As the costs associated with this project are drilled down and we found out more about them, the same would be true for the alternatives.”
If that makes your brain feel like it’s been tossed into a blender, consider this: Dexter went on to explain that six coal plants will close in his province and it needs to get replacement power from somewhere.
“If we don’t have a strategy to replace those, what is the cost associated with some other strategy?” he asked. “There has to be a strategy.”
What the …?
There, there, dear readers. Summer will end before long, and politicians will have something interesting to say.
Pam Frampton is a columnist and
The Telegram’s associate managing editor. She can be reached by email at