Heritage poll is history

Brian Jones
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You can tell it’s election season, because everybody is talking about apathy, asphalt and heritage.

Brian Jones

Well, not everybody. In some quarters of St. John’s, they want to turn the city into Dubai-on-the-Atlantic, using oil riches to make a modern metropolis of glass and steel.

Go for it, I say. Submit to progress. One person’s quaint rowhouse is another person’s run-down shack. Erecting edifices to manna might shut up those moaning Newfoundland (and Labrador) nationalists who are so reliably boring, especially during elections.

A plebiscite always enlivens a municipal vote. In St. John’s, they could entice a lot more people to the polls if they had an additional ballot, asking something like, “Are you in favour of spending taxpayers’ money on the harbourfront fence?”

Since the fence is already up, if the “no” vote won, city council could go to the St. John’s Port Authority and beg for its money back. If the “yes” vote won, everyone could ponder the result in stunned surprise.

In Paradise, the town could attract attention by holding a plebiscite with the question, “Are you in favour of council’s continuing efforts to make Paradise the first truly treeless community in Canada (not including the Far North)?” Send in the bulldozers, and never mind whether the answer is yes or no.


Church choice

In Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, the town council actually decided to hold a plebiscite, before the plan was nixed by the Department of Municipal Affairs because only four councillors, rather than the required five, voted in favour of holding it. Laughably, the plebiscite was going to be about heritage.

You should be very, very, extremely suspicious when politicians talk about heritage.

For several summers in various areas of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, residents have had to put up with almost constant pounding of heavy machinery as portions of the rocky landscape are pulverized to make space for yet another house or subdivision.

Rather than adapting development to the landscape, the town council has allowed a significant amount of the landscape to be decimated to aid development.

Inexplicably, this has never prevented council members — past or present — from boasting about the “unique rural nature” of the town.

Unique, indeed. Hey, didn’t there used to be a pretty hillside there?

But I digress. Back to the kiboshed plebiscite: citizens of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s were going to be asked whether they want to preserve the old St. Philip’s Anglican church.

You know the one. It’s been on postcards. Historically built in 1894; unceremoniously vandalized in 2010; unceasingly argued about ever since.

If they dynamite the thing, we’ll never have to hear about it again, which would be a relief. Perhaps then we could pay attention to all the rock pits around town that, in council’s estimation, are “development.”


Bad behaviour

On the other hand, demolishing the old church would give the Anglican diocese what it wants, and the diocese definitely does not deserve to get what it wants.

Consider the fact that no one has ever been charged with taking a chainsaw to the old church’s steeple and sending it plummeting to the ground.

Consider that no one has ever been charged because the police did not investigate the crime, despite the tears of angels.

Consider that the police did not investigate the crime because the Anglican diocese did not lodge a complaint about it.

Try to make sense of it: an act of vile vandalism makes headlines across the country, but the supposed “victim” doesn’t go to the police.

And yet, the diocese and the parish have the gall to argue that the old church is on hallowed ground. If it is so holy, they shouldn’t have been so blasé when it was desecrated.


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

Organizations: Port Authority, The Telegram

Geographic location: Portugal Cove, Dubai, Newfoundland Canada

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Recent comments

  • Joe Calling
    September 14, 2013 - 08:02

    If they can't have a referendum, the town should still be able to guage the public opinion. All they need to is to hire a local scientific polling company like MQO Research or Corporate Research Associates to do a phone poll. While they can't ask everyone, they can still get a a very good representation of the population. They can even break the results down by end of town, length of residence in town, or religion which would all be valuable information.

  • Steve
    September 13, 2013 - 16:36

    I wonder what those buried underneath that protective historic church building would think. There are at least four graves under that church, according to the Bishop. Plus those buried around it. Dave, would they think it is a chicken coop? And what about those who built the church free labour over 119 years ago? They built it strong, as a church for future generations. That’s at least one reason why it still stands, as a beacon to those who believe in it. It still looks like a church (albeit without its steeple on top); and many people would still like it to be a church, or chapel, or at least respected, and yes, preserved as part of the St. Philip’s Parish and Community. Individuals still go to that place and old church - to see it, to save it, and to pray.

  • Roland Deschain
    September 13, 2013 - 13:58

    Edifices to manna? Manna was food from God to the Israelites in the desert. I think you meant Mammon, as in "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon both" and referenced in the delightful D.H. Lawrence poem "Modern Prayer" "Almighty Mammon, make me rich./Make me rich quickly with never a hitch/in my fine prosperity. Kick those in the ditch/who hinder me, Mammon, great son of a ...."

    • Taxpayer
      September 14, 2013 - 08:12

      @Roland I think Manna is the correct term given the context I interpret. However, Mammon would be correct if your interpertation is correct. Too many people are looking for handouts from government. Too many people are reliant on the welfare nanny state giving them everything. People do not see the cost they are to the tax system, or they do not care. It is as if they are owed something from Government just for being themselves with no consequences, like people expect things from the limitless God.

  • Dave
    September 13, 2013 - 12:15

    Brian, regarding the old church in St. Phillip's, it was NOT desecrated. The old church had been deconsecrated. This means that the BUILDING is no longer a place of worship. Once this is done, the building is just like any other building, like a garage, tool shed or the chicken coop that you built. The building that had the steeple cut off of it is no longer a church!

  • Dave
    September 13, 2013 - 11:58

    Brian, regarding the old church in St. Phillip's, it was NOT desecrated. The old church had been deconsecrated. This means that the BUILDING is no longer a place of worship. Once this is done, the building is just like any other building, like a garage, tool shed or the chicken coop that you built. The building that had the steeple cut off of it is no longer a church!

    • Chantal
      September 13, 2013 - 13:46

      It is, nevertheless, a heritage building and one worth protecting. I love the Dubai-on-the-Atlantic analogy.

  • A proud resident of Portugal Cove
    September 13, 2013 - 08:55

    Well said! I live in Portugal Cove and would rather not have to refer to the town of my residence as being Portugal Cove-St. Phillips. The feud between the Anglican Church of St. Phillips and the Church By The Sea is damned embarrassing to the majority of my towns (Portugal Cove with St. Philips excluded) population. I know a few people from the Anglican Church congregation in St. Phillips that have already changed and become part of the Anglican Church congregation in Portugal Cove because of the feud. The deputy mayor (Jane Tucker) is far to involved in the feud, she is far to biased toward restoration and far to connected to the Church By The Sea committee. There are 20 people running for council..........maybe the good people of Portugal Cove should make a decision to ONLY vote for those candidates running in the current election who are residents of Portugal Cove (the mayor race excluded of course).