Them and us again

Ed
Ed Smith
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Don't get me wrong. xxxxxxxxxx
I like St. John's. I couldn't very well say that while my father was alive because he professed to hate the place. He was proudest of me when, as a boy, I'd say I hated it, too.
Over the years, I've become quite enamoured of the "city of legends." I'm open to its charm and distinctive culture, and its unique history in the New World. The fact that Other Half is a product of that city may also be a factor. I want all that to be understood.
I don't know Dennis O'Keefe. I know he's the mayor of St. John's. Had he not won he may have been a dimmer memory in City Hall than Andy Wells. Whatever, but he does make me laugh outright when he talks about making St. John's a "world-class" city.
If St. John's is a world-class city, I'm a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. If St. John's is a world-class city, the Trans-Labrador Highway is the Autobahn. If St. John's is a world-class city, Marble Mountain is the Matterhorn.
There's a lively debate, for Pete's sake, as to whether or not Toronto has achieved that esteemed status. London, New York and Paris have. Winnipeg, Minneapolis and Liverpool have not. St. John's has definitely not.
I'm not sure of the criteria involved, but I know it has something to do with population, infrastructure and its place in the hierarchy of urban centres everywhere. St. John's just ain't a world-class city. And the Northeast Avalon isn't Silicon Valley.
All that being said, St. John's and the Northeast Avalon are doing very well, thank you very much. I've got no problem with that at all. I'm totally delighted for them.
But what about the rest of us?
We in rural Newfoundland, even the so-called major centres, aren't doing so well, or do you already know that? And, I agree, it's natural that the oil interests be centred in the Greater St. John's Metropolitan Area and environs. Not much anyone can do about that. Perhaps we'll discover uranium in the old Whalesback mines back of Springdale or gold on Fogo Island or more oil in Bay St. George. Perhaps they'll decide to put a link of some kind across to Southern Labrador.
None of that is likely to happen soon, and there's not much anyone can do about that, either.
What you can do - you people in government and great huge boards that are supposed to govern education and health, especially in this province - is stop actively trying to destroy what we in Newfoundland already have. Stop jabbing us with the political knife so that we die of a thousand cuts.
And yes! I am talking especially about the lab and X-ray debacle in Lewisporte and Flowers Cove. I don't care what B.S. financial arguments the government and the health board put forward; the decision to remove these essential services is unconscionable! It's stupid and retrogressive, and constitutes another attack on rural Newfoundland.
Like my friend Al Hawkins in Grand Falls-Windsor, I am totally sick of it.
Al is running for mayor, but at this point I don't know if he was elected or not, this being election day. I have to get my column off before I know the results, and before assorted editors descend on me with pink slips clutched in their little fists. Thing is, Al declared his feelings strongly on radio last week, and he was right.
Sure, there are lots of things negatively affecting the rural areas that you guys who make the decisions around shiny tables can do nothing about. We all know that.
But this lab and X-ray decision business is sick. It will probably have an overall negative impact financially on government and it will have a damaging effect on the people these services were originally meant to benefit.
I don't know what happens to people when they get together in groups to make decisions. I've seen it happen time after time. Doesn't matter the size. It can be anywhere from 3 to 333. They'll discuss an issue and often come to the most asinine conclusions. The next hour or the next day, someone will say, "That's not what I thought we decided!" or "Why in hell did I agree with that? That's not right!"
Who really makes the decision to move lab and X-ray from a community? The health board? The minister of health? Having been chair of several health boards, I have an idea of how these things work.
I haven't heard the CEO or the chair of Central Health board proclaiming that this decision will stand no matter what. I have heard that the minister of Health, one Paul Oram, has declared that lab and X-ray will be taken out of these communities, come hell or high water (my words.)
The trustees of the health boards are part of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. They're supposed to have some empathy for our struggles for survival. Instead, they seem to have become part of the great resettlement-by-any-other-word scenario.
Government? I have always been a supporter of our current government, not that they don't do stupid things from time to time. But this is beyond stupid. This is the strategy of centralizing everything that's important to our smaller communities, and it is wrong, wrong, wrong!
I have great faith in the Rev. Art Elliot of Lewisporte, an old friend. I don't think he'll give up until hell freezes over, and being a clergyman he'd have a pretty good idea of when that happens. In Lewisporte's case, I think the decision-makers have met their match. And the sooner they learn that, the better for all concerned.
The people of rural Newfoundland aren't begging government and/or boards to reverse their decision.
We aren't giving them a choice.

Ed Smith is an author
who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

Organizations: Trans-Labrador Highway, Silicon Valley, Central Health board

Geographic location: St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Avalon Lewisporte Springdale Marble Mountain Toronto London New York Paris Winnipeg Minneapolis Liverpool Metropolitan Area Fogo Island Southern Labrador Flowers Cove Grand Falls-Windsor

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