Bumps on freedom road

Brian
Brian Jones
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The dark brilliance of George Orwell and Franz Kafka notwithstanding, we should recognize the wicked humour occasionally shown by bureaucrats and party apparatchiks.

The comedy clubs could do worse than to recruit the person who invented the highway road sign that reads, "Bumps ahead." Even better, they could also sign up the person who dreamed up the "Potholes ahead" sign, and create a comedic duo.

The dark brilliance of George Orwell and Franz Kafka notwithstanding, we should recognize the wicked humour occasionally shown by bureaucrats and party apparatchiks.

The comedy clubs could do worse than to recruit the person who invented the highway road sign that reads, "Bumps ahead." Even better, they could also sign up the person who dreamed up the "Potholes ahead" sign, and create a comedic duo.

Imagine the jokesters at work.

"I've got it - instead of spending government money to actually fix the road, let's just put up a warning sign, 'Bumps ahead.'"

"Stop, you're killin' me."

Sometimes, instead of erecting a "Potholes ahead" sign, the people at Kafka Inc. - the government - simply slap an orange and black striped sign into the offending gap. The sign's eye-catching pattern screams to motorists, "Go around, morons!"

This week, I came across - went around, to be precise - two such signs in one day, right in the traffic lane. And the irony of the situation came to mind, that we apparently live in some backwater that can't even throw a few shovelfuls of gravel into a roadway hole, but our esteemed jet-setting leader can fly to the U.S. to have heart surgery in a private clinic.

Off limits

I don't know why that thought entered my mind when I passed that stupid sign. By repeating it here, I fear I've broken a stipulation of the Dunderdale Code: thou shalt not discuss Premier Danny Williams' health.

Acting premier Kathy Dunderdale's performance last week - castigating the media for daring to report and ask questions about Williams' flight south - was a disgrace and an embarrassment. Other Canadians likely watched Dunderdale's tirade and wondered whether Newfoundland politicians usually show such contempt for the public, and whether such condescension is a common part of this province's politics. They do, and it is.

Even The New York Times considered Williams' surgery in the U.S. worthy of coverage. Dunderdale deems it not newsworthy. In the case of Times v. Dunderdale, one party is a reliable judge of newsworthiness, and one isn't.

It may be a huge thing to ask of Dannyites, but let's set aside, for a moment, the sycophantic idolatry. Williams, as premier, holds an important and powerful office. In free countries, when people seek and obtain such offices, they necessarily accept that the public has a right to question and criticize them on matters political and personal.

Important issues

Contrary to Dunderdale's opinion, Newfoundlanders have the right to ask about Williams' situation. His flight south raises questions that warrant answering.

Why did he choose to have the surgery done in the U.S.?

When it was explained that the required surgery was "not available" in Newfoundland, does that mean not available absolutely, or not available soon enough?

If the premier had opted to have the surgery done in Nova Scotia, or Ontario, how long would he have had to wait?

What is the price tag for the premier's treatment, and how much of it, if any, will be paid with public funds?

Private details

Some people argue a politician's personal life, including medical files, should be thrown wide open. In the U.S., for example, several presidents have had their intestinal polyps put under intense public scrutiny.

I don't subscribe to that argument. We don't need to hear the details of Williams' heart condition.

But his flight south raises important questions about the state of the Canadian health-care system, and its condition in Newfoundland.

And sneaking off to the States without forewarning didn't show much respect for the people he rules. Providing some answers would.

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

Organizations: Kafka, New York Times, The Telegram

Geographic location: U.S., Newfoundland, Nova Scotia Ontario

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  • KL
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    I disagree 100% with your argument for a number of reasons.
    1) If you or I had worked to earn a multi-million dollar fortune and wealth we could do the same thing.
    2) Anyone in Canada could go for any required or wanted surgery in the US - simply come up with your own financing. No one says we are not allowed .
    3) I don't think anyone would argue that the US has some of (if not) the best health care clinics in the world, however they come at a cost. Canada has a better health system BECAUSE it is accessible to any one, of any income. It doesn't promise to be the #1 in the world.
    4) Canada could have the same #1 quality health clinics as the US as part of our hospitals - but who would pay for this? Are people willing to increase their income taxes by 1.5 times to cover these costs? Everything comes at a cost.
    5) What one person does with their OWN money, whether public figure or not, is entirely their own business. Why not challenge politicians on where they vacation each year outside Canada as opposed to spending the monely locally? To me it's the same argument.

  • Polly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Was Jones testing the waters last week with his column , Healthy Dose Of Hypocrisy, or did he have an EPIPHANY of sorts ? I am in total agreement with Jones , we did not need private details ,but as Williams is very much in the public ,that same public has a right to know what affects us all.We could take a page out of the Clinton book , get the information out there and cut out the guess work.

  • Jerome
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    To quote one of the respondents to your last column: ''Well Said''

  • KL
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    I disagree 100% with your argument for a number of reasons.
    1) If you or I had worked to earn a multi-million dollar fortune and wealth we could do the same thing.
    2) Anyone in Canada could go for any required or wanted surgery in the US - simply come up with your own financing. No one says we are not allowed .
    3) I don't think anyone would argue that the US has some of (if not) the best health care clinics in the world, however they come at a cost. Canada has a better health system BECAUSE it is accessible to any one, of any income. It doesn't promise to be the #1 in the world.
    4) Canada could have the same #1 quality health clinics as the US as part of our hospitals - but who would pay for this? Are people willing to increase their income taxes by 1.5 times to cover these costs? Everything comes at a cost.
    5) What one person does with their OWN money, whether public figure or not, is entirely their own business. Why not challenge politicians on where they vacation each year outside Canada as opposed to spending the monely locally? To me it's the same argument.

  • Polly
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    Was Jones testing the waters last week with his column , Healthy Dose Of Hypocrisy, or did he have an EPIPHANY of sorts ? I am in total agreement with Jones , we did not need private details ,but as Williams is very much in the public ,that same public has a right to know what affects us all.We could take a page out of the Clinton book , get the information out there and cut out the guess work.

  • Jerome
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    To quote one of the respondents to your last column: ''Well Said''