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Letter: Farewell Mr. McLeod, we’re alright here

James McLeod’s version of the “honest truth” ("James McLeod lauds N.L.’s nationalist identity, outlines impending poverty struggles," Nov. 18) is that every man, woman and child in our province should follow his lead and move to “anywhere else.”

And what are the arguments that McLeod provides to support his view? Well, “there are too many old people.” And what about these “anywhere else” places? Do they have fewer old people than we do?

Statistics Canada says some do and some don’t. For July 2017, 19.7 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador’s population was 64 years of age or older. In Nova Scotia it was the same. New Brunswick had 20 per cent; P.E.I. had 19 per cent; Quebec, 18.2 per cent. Ontario, McLeod’s home province, is lower at 16.7 per cent of the population over the age of 64.  N.L. does not have too many old people. The number of old people here is about the average of all the provinces.

What about our young people, those between the ages of 15 and 64? How many times have we heard that too many of our young people are leaving the province? Well, this is another myth if you believe Stats Canada. we have the same number of young people as Nova Scotia, Quebec and Manitoba — all at 66 per cent of the total populations. We have more than New Brunswick and only 1.5 per cent less than Ontario at 67.5 per cent. McLeod may have left but it is hard to see where our particular demographics would play a role in his decision.
McLeod seems concerned with the expectations of people living in isolated communities and the costs involved in providing government services. In recent times, however, there has been an accelerated trend to urbanization. Why be concerned, then, when the world is unfolding as it should?

According to McLeod we have “poorer schools, poorer hospitals and poorer roads…,” but it is simply his opinion. He does not offer any information to support this notion. There are many excellent schools in our province. We have a university doing groundbreaking work in ocean technology, research and science. Our business students continually come out on top in national and international competitions; the same with our engineering students.

McLeod writes of “societal poverty” with the implication that poverty is endemic and widespread in N.L. How many places in our province has McLeod visited? Where has he seen such poverty? Except in some very small, Indigenous communities in the North, we do not have a problem with poverty. Frankly, the opposite is true. Travel to any bay, cove, peninsula or tiny outport hamlet and one cannot be but impressed with the condition of people’s houses and property and the pride that they have in their homes. Why, the children are even healthy and rosy-cheeked.

“Newfoundland and Labrador is magic, and in its best moments, it’s beautiful, whimsical, primal and profound.” Some of the word choices here, to describe a whole Canadian province, seem rather odd. “Whimsical” and “primal”? Words can be like double-edged swords. They can have different connotations; best to take the high road and give McLeod the benefit of the doubt.

He knows that “most of the people won’t join him” as he prepares to leave; he speaks the “honest truth” in this regard. It is too bad, though, that he doesn’t “have any answers for how to fix the problems of this place…”

Well, he’s not the first to articulate our problems but provide no solutions. McLeod is off to Toronto and we wish him Godspeed. But, if we may be so bold as to give him the “honest truth” about Toronto, we will leave him with the words of the late, lamented Ray Guy: “One funny thing about Toronto is that you might not feel so much like a person as you do in Newfoundland. There are so many people, you see. You are a speck in the ocean. Helpless to do anything. Helpless to change anything. Everything is put before you and you take it or leave it or you change to fit.”

 

Patrick Hannaford
St. John’s

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