Prosperity on parade

Brian
Brian Jones
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Seemingly unrelated events can sometimes help you put things in perspective. Or add to your confusion.

The same week that a killer typhoon slams into the Philippines, news comes out of New York that a new record price has been paid for a painting.

So, while some people lost their homes and belongings, someone else — anonymous, according to reports — had enough money to pay $140 million for a piece of art.

Neither of these stories, of course, affected the personal lives of millions of readers around the world. But you can’t help but read them and realize the world can be seriously messed up and is unlikely to become unmessed any time soon.

Speaking of exorbitant price tags and unfathomable coincidences, Premier Kathy Dunderdale is apparently considering a shopping trip to Ottawa to buy a piece of Hibernia.

Federal finance minister Jim Flaherty says the government is willing to sell its 8.5 per cent share of Hibernia. Dunderdale says the province would be a willing purchaser, for the right price.

No numbers were mentioned.

But the federal government would have to receive at least the amount for its Hibernia stake as it originally put into the project, or face a political lambasting from the rest of the country. “There they go, subsidizing Newfoundland (and Labrador) again.” And so on.

In 1990s dollars, the federal government’s 8.5 per cent stake in Hibernia cost $431 million. In 2013 dollars, that’s about $650 million, according to Bank of Canada figures.

For that kind of cash, the provincial government could send a representative to a New York auction and walk away with, not one, but four record-setting paintings. But, using good governance as their guide, they’ll opt for oil rather than oil paintings.

Two dilemmas will be finding the money and explaining the money.

After all, the provincial government has been trying to convince the populace to ignore the signs of boom times all around them, and realize the economic catastrophe the PCs are heroically fending off.

There are deficits and debt to be defeated.

Provincial employees have been laid off.

Health-care positions are being cut. Things are so bad with the province’s bank account that the government can’t even afford to pay overtime wages to the safety inspectors in the Highway Enforcement division who used to examine the floats prior to the annual St. John’s Santa Claus parade.

Consistent with this government’s love for outlandish explanations, Service NL Minister Dan Crummell says the axing of the safety inspectors’ Santa services isn’t about money.

Apparently, it’s about fairness. Of the many Santa Claus parades in the province, only the St. John’s event has the services of government safety inspectors, Crummell said this week.

When a hitch comes loose and a float barrels down a St. John’s hill, it will indeed be reassuring to all concerned that at least the government did not have to pay safety inspectors to attend parades in Paradise or Goobies or Grand Bank. Safety concerns in all towns were ignored equally.

Actually, the float operators and parade organizers are responsible for safety, Crummell says.

People apparently wanted further explanation, so a few days later Crummell was on the radio, saying that having Highway Enforcement safety inspectors look at float hitches merely gives participants “a false sense of security.”

By that reasoning, Christmas parades give children a false sense of enjoyment. Christmas gives people a false sense of peace and joy.

Let’s hope Dunderdale got the message. Buying a piece of Hibernia might give the public a false sense of prosperity.

There’s no real danger of that, though. The purchase will likely be assigned to Nalcor, and the details will thus never be made public.

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

Organizations: Hibernia, Bank of Canada, Highway Enforcement division Grand Bank The Telegram

Geographic location: New York, Philippines, Ottawa Newfoundland Paradise

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  • EDfromRED
    November 15, 2013 - 10:54

    I guess this anti-Nalcor and Anti-PC column won't get ink in any Labrador papers. I hope the media questions why Newspapers from Labrador are leading the Province in self-censorship.