All that glitters …

Pam
Pam Frampton
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Tom Marshall and I are obviously not looking through the same looking glass these days.  He is lingering in the golden gleam; drifting down the stream; living the dream.

As finance minister, he keeps insisting we’re living in a “golden age.” I’m not the only person to take umbrage at that comment; my friend and colleague Russell Wangersky wrote eloquently on the subject last week.º0

Marshall has used that phrase repeatedly in the past couple of weeks, both in the House of Assembly and at a news conference announcing (surprise!) the province’s sudden reversal of fortunes.

He seems to have latched onto Stephen Harper’s communication strategy — say something often enough and you’ll start to believe it yourself.

Such spin requires an equal amount of counter-spin; so here’s my contribution.

Marshall, of course, is not wrong in pointing out that some people these days are pulling in some big bucks. You can buy Guess clothing for kids here, now; get yourself a Gucci watch, if you’re so inclined. Buy a monster house with more toilets than you will ever use. I’ve never seen so many Cadillac Escalades and so few crap-cars-on-wheels.

So, there’s no denying it. Some people are richer, particularly in St. John’s, parts of which are humming merrily along, cogs and wheels slickly greased by an abundance of offshore oil.

Not that the provincial government can take credit for that. They didn’t create those jobs. In fact, they cut 1,000 positions this year and gloated about how little ground civil servants gained in their last negotiations; how clever.

It’s our natural resources and the heavy industry they attract that are fuelling the economy here. Enough so that we tout our “have” status at every opportunity.

And yet, so many still have not.

Take a good, hard look through a clear, expansive looking glass, Mr. Marshall. I know you’re a nice enough fellow and you’re only repeating your party’s mantra, and I know that no administration can solve every problem, but at least have some sensitivity for those whose lives are less than golden.

Here are some truisms about this place, however unpalatable they are politically.

I have a friend who works in a food court right here in this city. It gets pretty busy there at lunchtime, especially when school gets out. On more than one occasion, she has “subsidized” lunch with her own money for a kid who can’t afford a meal.

So yes, there are people with enough money to feed their kids the best of everything and save for their education, to boot. But there are still people in this province who know hunger and who do without.

“In a Wonderland they lie, Dreaming as the days go by, Dreaming as the summers die: Ever drifting down the stream — Lingering in the golden gleam — Life, what is it but a dream?” — Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking Glass”

In job-rich parts of Labrador, people are sleeping in tents and cars because there is nowhere they can afford to live.

There are people working downtown in our capital city who give money to the same panhandlers every single day. Why? Because they are there every single day, in all kinds of weather, and the need is there every single day.

Whether any of the recipients are able-bodied or able-minded or not is hardly the point. The fact is, they have fallen though the gaping chasm that separates rich from not-so-rich and are in need of help.

They are not feeling the boom.

If you don’t believe that, go visit the Gathering Place someday. You’ll find them. Scores of them.

Talk to the folks at St. Thomas’ Anglican Church. They had to cancel their charitable Christmas dinner this year because the need is so great it has overwhelmed their means. And, for the first time in years, that church is getting more requests for Christmas hampers, not fewer.

In an article by Josh Pennell in The Telegram on Wednesday, a group dedicated to mitigating the effects of poverty said it has more requests for food hampers than it can commit to providing.

“Everything we’ve been doing since and up to the end of the year will be over and above the numbers for 2012,” said Derek Winsor of Bridges to Hope, who explained they expect to serve 20 per cent more people with their pantry service this year.

“This whole year has been a bit of a surprise,” he said.

So, nothing golden there, either.

Despite the length of time I’ve been in this business, I am still constantly floored by politicians’ penchant for wearing blinders.

All they can see is what’s straight ahead of them — nothing off to the side or clinging desperately to the underbelly of things.

By all means, Mr. Marshall — pick up your trumpet and doodle a cheerful tune about your government’s successes.

But remember, too, what Shakespeare said: “All that glitters is not gold; Often have you heard that told … Gilded tombs do worms enfold.”

There’s a reason he’s still being read, you know.

Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram’s associate

managing editor. Email pframpton@thetelegram.com.

Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: Gucci, Anglican Church

Geographic location: Labrador, St. Thomas

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  • Richard
    December 07, 2013 - 12:23

    If this is our "Golden Age" why can't Mr. Marshall balance the budget?