From the sublime to the ridiculous

Ed Smith
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Wish I were an economist, or a highways engineer, or an erector of signs.

A combination of all three wouldn’t be. I think it’s an unlikely combination, something like finding a Coldwater Cowboy, a fighter pilot and a newly minted saint all-in-one. I didn’t say impossible, I simply pointed out that it was unlikely.

Still, if I’m going to save the Newfoundland government a ship load of money, that first combination is something similar to what I’ll need. Oh yes, and a Hummer or one of those new-fangled tanks that can cover any terrain at about 100 miles an hour. Don’t think I’d need the armaments or firepower.

You may be wondering where all this is leading, and well you may. It has to do with the general condition and drivability of the province’s roads and highways.

You may also wonder where I get my information about the state of such. Do I drive each and all of them on a regular basis? Do I question the truckers and drivers who regularly must use them to remain viable? Do I routinely survey highway crews and construction workers?

The answer to all of the above is an emphatic “No.” I have a much more reliable and comprehensive means of gathering information on the highways, roadways and byways of our beloved homeland.

I listen to Open Line.

No one in their right mind would doubt the accuracy of the information that’s routinely fed into those programs. Even when one allows for some slight exaggeration as a result of minor hysteria, one can still be assured that the truth is always there.

It’s something like the Bible. Even those who will not accept the Bible literally, that is on a word-for-word basis, will still maintain that there is a great deal of truth to be found within its pages.

That might make Paddy Daley a minor prophet. If he opens his show someday with, “This morning I am reading from the first chapter of …” you’ll know both he and we have a problem.

But to rescuing the province’s budget from rack and ruin.

It would seem that a great deal of that budget is tied up in infrastructure. More specifically, the deplorable condition of the roadway system.

If callers to Open Line are to be believed, and of course they are, the pavements especially consist of several large potholes stretching from Port aux Basques (PAB) to Cape Spear with multitudinous side trips through gullies and ravines to such places as Milltown on the South Coast to the Happy Valley-Goose Bay autobahn. The gravel roads, of course, are in excellent shape.

On the TCH, I’m told that there are precious few places — and they are precious — where one can perambulate without risking broken tires, broken shocks and broken hearts. There are more signs warning of death traps a few metres ahead than there are election signs on McDonald Drive during a

St. John’s municipal election. And therein lies the potential for saving a great deal of money in the provincial budget.

There is more than just one option for doing this. Our newly-about-to-be-crowned premier,  being a “successful businessman” and an economist to boot, would certainly realize that.

If he were more of a person who deigned to speak from time to time to we who are the lowly electorate, we might already know how he intends to do that. Never before in the history of Newfoundland politics has so little been said by one politician to so many.

Perhaps I’m being unfair here, and he’s given media interviews and personal appearances that I know nothing about. All I know is that every time I hear him being asked to say something about practically anything, he has nothing to say. Reminds me of the Lone Ranger. After the next leadership convention and the appointment of a premier, we may all be scratching our heads and asking, “Who was that masked man?”

Option 1: Remove all the signs that indicate bad roads, dangerous shoulders, terrible bridge crossing or otherwise suggesting that use of such a road may be hazardous to one’s health and burn them.

That would give employment to several dozens of people which would make the government look good, something the next one may very well need.

There would then be one sign placed in PAB and another one outside of Mile One Stadium which simply states, “Use at own risk.”

Option 2: Instead of various signage indicating roads that will destroy a vehicle faster than one of those machines that reduces it to a one-foot square of solid metal, use only signs that warn of good roads ahead. — What am I saying!

Prepare signs that state “Passable Roads For Next 2 Km – Last Checked 3 Months Ago.” Guaranteed the need for such signs will be roughly 10 per cent of what the others will be. The savings will be amazing.

Option 3: Subsidize motor vehicle replacement costs with enough money to allow each driver in the province to buy a military grade Hummer.

This would save a considerable amount of health-care dollars in mental health alone.

The number of nervous breakdowns now associated with driving the Bay D’Espoir highway, for example, would be considerable.

Add to that the number of internal organs jarred loose, the brain injuries caused by that organ bouncing around inside the skull, and the back injuries resulting from spines being battered and scarred through constant contact with potholes and bridges, and there would probably be a 50 per cent decrease in the health-care budget.

All this is ridiculous to the point of being far beneath the otherwise erudite, straightforward and sensible content in this column, that you’re probably surprised the normally sensible editor of this publication would consent to include it. So am I.

But think of the road you drive on regularly and decide which is the more ridiculous.

Point made?


Ed Smith is an author who lives

in Springdale. His email address is

Organizations: South Coast

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Port aux Basques, Milltown Happy Valley Goose Bay Bay D’Espoir Springdale

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