[an op-ed I recently submitted to Memorial University's student paper, reprinted here because, hell, why not inject it into the blogosphere too?]
Friends, Newfoundland Labradorians, countrymen; lend me your ears.
I come with the Honourable Premier Williams today to bury the old, impoverished, “have-not” Newfoundland, not to appeal to it nostalgically and wring my hands in the air screaming “we have prosperity, but at what cost?” as you might expect to hear from our troglodytes and cultural reactionaries. No longer is Newfoundland and Labrador the poor cousin of Confederation; as Brian Peckford opportunistically prophesised so long ago, the sun now shines over Newfoundland and Labrador. Have-not is no more.
Nevermind that the Aboriginal peoples of Northern Labrador are so impoverished by centuries of political and social repression, and that even in the face of “generous” food subsidies the price of a box of Kraft Dinner is still so high that many people are now resorting to scavenging in landfills for scraps of food in order to avoid starvation in the year 2008; Danny Williams says we have achieved prosperity, and Danny Williams is an Honourable man.
Pay no attention to the dying gasps of rural Newfoundland and its rotting wharves, to the towns full of homes adorned with satellite dish gargoyles connected to one another by dilapidated roads, to the crowded midday taverns surrounded by Ford trucks freshly purchased with Albertan blood money for a funeral procession to mark the death of community. Danny Williams tell us things are different now, and Danny Williams is an Honourable man.
Ignore the devastated health care sector, so crippled by blatant mismanagement that nurses and doctors are leaving in droves while patients are left to linger and die within a bloated and Kafkaesque hospital bureaucracy. Ignore the Diaspora of young Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who take their skills, passions and talents on a reluctant exodus to the mainland in order to pay off the crushing debt they incurred at an institution originally established to freely educate the people of this province. Ignore the government’s refusal to negotiate with unions representing the chronically underfunded workers in this province, a refusal that springs from the same miserly instincts that coursed through the veins of the Water Street merchants who rode roughshod on the backs of the outports a century ago.
Ignore every last social grievance that permeates the lives of you and everyone you care about: Danny Williams stood before a crowded 500-dollar-a-plate gala, held a glass of champagne aloft and proclaimed that we can hold our heads high, because we are a have province.
And who will disagree with the optimism brought on by our new prosperity? Danny Williams is an Honourable man, and it is the work of this Honourable man that has brought us to where we are today:
A have province, full of have-nots.