A little too focussed on their own navels

Russell Wangersky
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It may be unfair to quote from just one provincial government news release and suggest that its tenor shows the night-blindness of an entire government, but here I go anyway.

Friday, the provincial government issued a release on an event hosted by Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

It read like this: “Today, in a ceremony at Confederation Building, the Honourable Kathy Dunderdale, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, presented Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medals to 35 individuals who were honoured for their contributions to the province. The Honourable Keith Hutchings, Minister Responsible for the Office of Public Engagement, emceed the event.

“‘The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal was created to honour those who have made significant contributions to our society and to reflect Her Majesty’s long service to this country,’ said Premier Dunderdale. ‘These medals are bestowed today to honour Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who, without thought for reward, accolades or remuneration, give countless hours to the service of others. We are all the better because of their drive and dedication in meeting needs, overcoming challenges and making their community, and our great province, a better, more vibrant place to live.’

“The 35 medals presented by the premier today are part of a total allotment of 130 medals, with additional presentations by members of the House of Assembly to individuals throughout the province.”

So ,there you have it: the premier, who awarded the medals, is important enough to be mentioned by name. Engagement Minister Hutchings, who “emceed the event,” is named as well.

The 35 individuals who actually “made significant contributions to our society”? Well, they’re apparently not important enough to actually list.

It’s an unfortunate oversight.

But that’s what it is to live in a world where the only things that matter are the things seen through your own lens.

It’s like the province’s new website, which, at its top, boasts a series of quick quotes from a variety of sources — some of them dated enough that it makes you wonder why that’s the best the province can find to bolster our reputation.

For example, there’s the one that reads “Newfoundland and Labrador’s expertise in ocean technology is a ‘hot commodity’ … Marine Technology Reporter.”

That’s hardly new, even if the website is.

In 2010, the province’s then-minister of innovation, trade and rural development, Shawn Skinner, quoted the magazine Marine Technology Reporter as making that statement, and to the province “standing tall as an international epicentre of marine technology.”

You can’t find “Newfoundland” and “hot commodity” quickly in the magazine’s archive, though.

When you do track down “standing tall as an international epicentre of marine technology,” it’s in a March 2008 story, and it actually refers to the city of St. John’s, not the province as a whole. You can find it in the 2009 Speech from the Throne, and again in Premier Dunderdale’s Jan. 31, 2012 speech to the St. John’s Board of Trade.

“Hot commodity”? That seems to have been found somewhere else along the way.

But that’s not the most interesting mining of headline origins on the website. For that, you’d have to pick, “The only thing I want to accomplish (in life) is to go back to Newfoundland. Dame Judi Dench.”

Trying to track that back to the original source is a tough one: on the Internet, you can only find one reference to Dench’s comment, and that’s in 2005, when you can find “Dame Judy Dench, when asked by a British newspaper what she still wanted to accomplish in life, replied without skipping a beat: ‘The only thing I want to accomplish is to go back to Newfoundland.’”

But that’s only a quote from a speech given by then-premier Danny Williams — the original quote, wherever it supposedly came from, has vanished in the mists of Internet time.

The point?

Perhaps that governments will attach themselves to whatever star, real or imagined, that they think will make their own aura shine that much brighter.

Until, that is, they decide that they are themselves the centre of attraction.

Russell Wangersky is the editorial page editor of The Telegram. He can be reached by email at rwanger@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Confederation Building, Office of Public Engagement, Board of Trade The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Corporate Psycho
    March 05, 2013 - 19:59

    The arrogance is amazing.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    March 05, 2013 - 09:17

    And sometimes even attach themselves to a "falling" star.