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EDITORIAL: Cheers & Jeers Sept. 14, 2020

Discarded mask, Memorial University campus — SaltWire Network
Discarded mask, Memorial University campus — SaltWire Network

Cheers: to experiments. This isn’t rigorous science and it’s certainly not even close to being peer reviewed. But a walk-and-count by a Telegram staffer late last week found a total of 56 non-surgical masks discarded on streets and sidewalks in a single hour: in other words, a thrown-away mask for virtually every minute of walking. Perhaps not unexpectedly, the largest concentrations of discarded masks were found along busy main roadways, near mall properties, and around gas stations. We have a very low number of COVID-19 cases right now, but if things change, discarded medical waste isn’t going to make anything better. (For comparison’s sake, there is now measurably more medical waste on St. John’s streets — masks, gloves, sanitizer bottles — than there is Tim Horton’s trash. And that’s saying something.) Come on, people, we can do better than this.

Jeers: to new premiers and bad optics. A senior civil servant, Charles Bown, who was deeply involved in the Muskrat Falls fiasco, has been hired to head the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board, a provincial Crown corporation. The most recent holder of the chief executive officer job was paid a $117,600 base salary, but Bown will keep getting the $177,287 he was making as deputy minister of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation. Sorry, but the excuse of “this is the way the civil service has always worked” sounds pretty darned hollow at this point. Especially when one of the arguments that has always been made for the high levels of pay at the senior management levels of the provincial civil service has been that their compensation is set the way it is because of the precariousness of their employment.

Jeers: to the countdown. Get ready: the provincial budget is coming in just two and a half weeks, and for those who were already worried about this province’s precarious position, it promises to be a near-singular deficit event. At one point this past year, then-premier Dwight Ball had to send an urgent letter to the federal government for help borrowing money to meet payroll — and things have not improved. But here’s an interesting thought: a bad year at a business does give executives the chance to toss in every cost under the sun and get it off the books: you’re already in the doghouse, but if you take on all the possible costs in the pit of one bad year, it’s all the easier to make next year look at least a little shinier. So the budget could be a fascinating game of hide and seek.

Cheers: to the wheels not falling off absolutely everything. It was, if nothing else, a singularly fine summer in most parts of the province, at least from the point of view of the weather. Count your blessings, however limited they might be.

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