A few odds and ends

Peter
Peter Jackson
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Today, I have some housekeeping and follow-ups stemming from previous columns that I'd like to get out of the way. A bit of fall cleaning, if you will.

First, in my June 23 column ("And the worms ate into his brain"), I stated, in passing, that former premier Joey Smallwood had in his possession "pre-written letters of resignation" from his cabinet ministers.

Today, I have some housekeeping and follow-ups stemming from previous columns that I'd like to get out of the way. A bit of fall cleaning, if you will.

First, in my June 23 column ("And the worms ate into his brain"), I stated, in passing, that former premier Joey Smallwood had in his possession "pre-written letters of resignation" from his cabinet ministers.

That claim is dubious, at best.

William R. (Bill) Callahan, a former cabinet minister under Smallwood, took great umbrage with it. He told me categorically that neither he nor any minister he knows of ever agreed to such a pre-condition.

It's remotely possible, I suggested, that Smallwood secretly penned such letters himself and kept them locked away in a drawer. Most likely, however, the whole story is the manufacture of some mischievous wag. Somehow, it lodged in my brain like some terrorist sleeper cell, waiting to spring from my fingertips when my guard was down.

In any case, the story has no known basis in fact.

In my Aug. 25 column ("Health care vs. hysteria"), I wrote about the insane tone of the U.S. health-care debate, and how Canada would be well served to avoid such hysteria in examining its own system.

I made reference to a Canadian Health Coalition (CHC) poll that found 86 per cent of Canadians would prefer "public" solutions to problems with Canada's public health-care system. I also said the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) recently resolved to "advocate" for allowing more competition in the system.

CMA past-president Dr. Brian Day e-mailed to clarify a couple of points.

First, the CMA only resolved to explore possible private-sector involvement, not necessarily advocate for it. A subtle difference, but worth mentioning.

Second, the CHC is essentially the voice of unionized health-care workers. Its poll had only one question: "Thinking about the future of Canada's public health-care system, would you support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or oppose public solutions to make our public health care stronger?"

Now, unions have every right to enter the debate. And I discovered that Day and the CHC are in the middle of a very public pissing match.

But I must admit, that question is a bit stacked. Few Canadians would oppose public solutions, but many would also be willing to examine other possibilities.

Finally, I'd like to briefly revisit last week's column ("What's it 'become' to at Memorial University," Sept. 1).

In a letter to the editor ("Becoming Peter Jackson," Sept. 4), Michael Pickard took issue with my criticism of a campaign by the university that invites potential students to simply "become." I felt the use of the word by itself was silly. Pickard, MUN's associate director of marketing, said it was innovative and that it was producing results.

I won't rehash my arguments, but I will say I have encountered several people who share my scorn for the campaign, and no one who likes it.

Nonetheless, I respect Pickard for standing behind it.

And I'd be remiss not to mention that his department did win a small bucket of awards recently for other campaigns.

Michael and his brother, Chris, served as poets laureate for CBC Radio a few years ago, and a couple of their brilliant parodies - especially their regionalized take on Poe's The Raven - still resonate in my head.

My only regret is that Pickard didn't stick to the one-word game plan by issuing a one-word response to my column- "Untrue!" perhaps, or even "Nevermore!"

Peter Jackson is The Telegram's commentary editor. He can be contacted by e-mail at pjackson@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: CHC, Canadian Medical Association, CBC Radio

Geographic location: Canada, U.S.

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