I have a regular column, “Bay of Exploits” (where I was born and a description of the writing) in the St. John’s Arts and Entertainment monthly, The Overcast. June’s offering was in response to a severe Provincial Budget which, among other things, did the unthinkable in taxing books and closing over half the public libraries on the Island. The “Bennett” of the title refers to Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Finance, Cathy Bennett.
This article first appeared in The Overcast.
DATE: April 1, 2016
TO: Cathy Bennett, Minister of Finance
FROM: REDACTED, REDACTED Ministry of Finance
RE: Cost savings
Ms. Minister, the exercise of “putting everything on the table” was a useful and, particularly for Eddie Joyce and myself, a humbling one. But in the end we have identified numerous savings and see other efficiencies further down an admittedly winding and pothole-ridden road. (Minister Byrne, having come from Federal Politics is not used to sharing trousers with another Minister but, if he wants to be Premier, will have to come around. In his defense Minister Byrne claims he heard “You’re all in this together!” and not “We’re all in this together.”)
There are several cost saving initiatives and revenue measures that, while well worthy of consideration, are perhaps best kept protected under Cabinet Secrecy for purely political reasons.
- Selling the police horses for meat does provide some small, one time, revenue and puts an end to the extravagance of keeping them but I needn’t point out the generally favourable public feelings toward the animals, especially among children.
- Even though Minister Haggie argues they can be kept heavily sedated during their surprise relocation to the mainland it will be impossible to fully insure that the residents of Corner Brook won’t retain some faint memory or piece of identification that would support an assertion that they came from this province.
- Building a wall around the Galway Development is a cost and not a saving.
- The proposed “Newfie tax” should be framed differently, perhaps as some kind of deficit reduction “levy” before being made public.
- Many young people don’t know what “Crown and Anchor” is and a Province-wide game is unwieldy and, candidly, looks desperate.
- Are we really prepared to spend four years with a sookin’ Dale Kirby? Because that is the only certain outcome of “Zero Day Kindergarten”. Mr. Kirby is a man, I remind you, whose lifelong ambition, however unlikely it may seem, was to be the Minister of Education of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. The alternative, giving every child an A+ in Grade 3 and letting them “skip” Grade 4, does flatter their parents but would almost certainly have regrettable downstream educational outcomes.
- Halting repairs on the MV Veteran and opening it as a dockside brothel or “Museum of Failure” still leaves us with the problem of how to get people to and from Fogo. (Note: Zita Cobb must be stopped from giving rural communities hope or we’ll never shut them down.)
- Finally a tax on books and the closure of more than half the libraries in the province is a patently ludicrous proposition. Very little is gained, it antagonizes rural communities and provokes an arts community that like nothing better than to be outraged. The savings are minimal and the damage to the Provincial brand is considerable. Of all the proposals on the table this is perhaps the one with the least to support it.
Edward Riche, author of Today I Learned It Was You, is an award-winning writer for page, stage, and screen, was born in Botwood on the Bay of Exploits on the northeast coast of Newfoundland. His first novel, Rare Birds, was adapted into a major motion picture starring William Hurt and Molly Parker, and his second novel, The Nine Planets, was a Globe and Mail Best Book and won the Thomas Raddall Head Award. Edward Riche lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.