Balderdash

Brian
Brian Jones
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Here is one of those tales typical of Newfoundland (and possibly Labrador), which would be only borderline believable if you didn't see it yourself.

In the mid-1990s, a couple of old guys down the road started swinging sledgehammers at a boulder in one fellow's yard. By describing them as old guys, I mean to be descriptive rather than disrespectful. They appeared to be a few years past retirement age, in their late 60s or early 70s. Nevertheless, they looked trim and fit.

The boulder was about the size of a small car. Most days, they were already out there when I drove by on my way to work.

Admittedly, I don't know the whole story. Maybe by mid-morning they got bored with swinging sledgehammers, and used a jackhammer. If so, I never saw it.

In a few weeks, the huge rock had been pulverized and removed. They had a driveway put in.

Working out

I thought of those two old guys when I read the recent story about the Conference Board of Canada's report on lifestyles and health in each of the provinces.

The headline was, "Newfoundland gets D grade for healthy living."

Imagine that we could conflate time, and the two stories occurred the same week.

The two old guys are out in the yard, swinging sledgehammers at the big boulder. Inside, the phone rings.

"Hello, we're conducting a survey about healthy lifestyles for the Conference Board of Canada. Do you plan to do any exercise today involving a cardiopulmonary workout?"

"Uh, no, I'm working in the yard."

"Do you belong to a gym or fitness club?"

"A what?"

"I'll enter that as a 'no.' Do you plan to join a gym or a fitness club in the next six months?"

"I don't think so."

"Do you drink?"

"Well, this afternoon we plan to have a couple of cold ones."

"I'll mark down 'moderately.'"

Poor performance

In the Conference Board of Canada report, Newfoundland (and Labrador) came in last overall, and last - or tied for last - in four out of five categories.

Apparently, Newfoundlanders are the undisputed national champs in the categories "heavy drinking" and "overweight or obese adults."

Newfoundlanders are tied for last place (with P.E.I. and Quebec) in the "physical activity" category and (with P.E.I. and Saskatchewan) in the "fruit and vegetable consumption" category.

Neither the news story nor the Conference Board of Canada's news release about the report describes the methodology of the study.

Was it based on surveys? Did they ask people how much they drink, and how often? Or did they obtain sales statistics from liquor outlets in each province?

How did they define "physical activity"? How did they measure it? How did they compare its various forms? Does membership in a fitness club count for more than owning a sledgehammer?

The full report was due to be released Thursday (May 23). Presumably, it will include details about how the Conference Board of Canada reached its conclusions. As of this writing, I have access only to the news story and the board's news release. Mark me down as extremely skeptical.

The news release includes a chart. You can see it at www.conferenceboard.ca.

As we sometimes say in the journalism trade, my BS detector went off immediately.

At the top of the chart, predictably, in four of the five categories are the beautiful people of Beautiful British Columbia.

But wait a minute. Aren't they the same people who recently told pollsters they were going to vote for the NDP, but then elected a Liberal majority government?

If you can't trust what they say about politics, can you believe what they say about jogging, smoking or eating veggies?

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

Organizations: Conference Board of Canada, NDP, The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland, P.E.I., Quebec Saskatchewan Beautiful British Columbia

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