November 15, 2004

Proto-Inkslinger #6: New Spirit Required

Telegram Community Editorial Board
Written from Carbonear, NL
Appeared in the St. John's Telegram on November 15, 2004

NEW SPIRIT REQUIRED
Rural towns lack local entrepreneurs

I wanted a change of scenery several days ago, so I went to Tim Horton’s in Carbonear, ordered my usual large double-double, found a quiet corner and sat down. I began to think. Why is there seemingly never anything to do?

I’ve grown up in Carbonear, and graduated from College of the North Atlantic’s journalism program. During the still on-going job hunt, I’ve been striving to find something to do. When you’re in your early twenties and you’re still living under your parents’ roof and by their rules, this can be a tough endeavor sometimes.

Nowadays, I have several hobbies to keep me occupied in my abundance of spare time. I work on my novel, I indulge in some photography, I drink coffee, I spend quality time with my cat, I read, I hone my culinary skills, I watch television and movies . . . and I spend an unhealthy amount of time on the Internet.

There isn’t much to keep a teen or a twenty-something person like me entertained around here. In my final year of high school five years ago (1999), my friends and I in Carbonear resorted to hanging out at the mall and the local fast food restaurants until we were inevitably kicked out. After much debate we then headed off to a playground for the remainder of the evening (yes, we were 18 at this time). Sometimes as an alternative we went to the Carbonear boardwalk and walked laps or sat on the hoods of our vehicles looking at the pond. Then, we all drifted our separate ways for home.

I have noticed that there is a stark contrast between the youth of my day and the youth of my parents’ day. Things were much more, for lack of a better word, tangible back then. There were no distractions like computers, the Internet or television. They engaged in face-to-face interactions, not staring at a beeping MSN or Yahoo Messenger with eyes glazing over like my generation is apt to do. They learned how to live life in the real world, which armed them with the ability to be resourceful to find things to do in the great outdoors. My father’s resourcefulness continues to amaze me.

For many people email and instant messaging is their primary medium of communication.

Technology and corporations have taken over. I’ll admit however, the Internet is a great means for keeping touch with people. As an example, last winter my journalism class all set up LiveJournals and we continue to use those in order keep connected at a glance.

In previous generations, people ran their own businesses to contribute to their local economy. From my position at Tim’s, Carbonear looked like a bustling city. Streams of cars filled with eager shoppers are constantly entering and leaving the town. But how much of the money is actually going into our local economy? Most if it is feeding the big corporations and franchises that surrounds me. Carbonear’s Water Street was once a vibrant marketplace. Now, it is virtually dead, because of the corporations and franchises that have set up shop on the other side of town.

The corporate machine is swallowing the human spirit of little towns and their citizens. We need some new entrepreneurial spirit to get things going.

April 20, 2004

Proto-Inkslinger #5

Insights from the West Side
Written from Carbonear/Stephenville, NL
Appeared in the Carbonear Compass on April 20, 2004

I suppose this time around my column’s title is misleading, because I’m actually writing it from my hometown of Carbonear, not from the west coast of Newfoundland - specifically, Stephenville.

It’s kind of sad that I just got a cool new logo with my picture, and this is the last column. It made me feel like a professional columnist.

Now, “moo-ving” on to the topic at hand…

Right now, the province has fallen into a state of chaos. Twenty thousand NAPE and CUPE employees are participating in the province’s biggest strike in its history. Nurses have set a June 30 strike date, and the NLTA has made threats. The province is collapsing into a giant swirling vortex. The cows had better hurry up and come home.

I took an extra week off from school to finish any remaining work I had to do home because there are no cafeteria services, mail or security at the Stephenville campus. School administration is working like oxen to keep the situation under control, but they’re being stretched kind of thin.

I plead with the unions and the government – agree to something so we can return to living a semblance of a normal life! This stalemate has to come to an end sooner rather than later.

I’m becoming somewhat concerned about the premier’s deteriorating credibility – notably when he wrongly accused union members of beating up his son on George Street. Then it was found that the culprit, a David Nagle, who laid the smack-down on Danny Junior didn’t even know the young heir to the Williams’ empire, nor was he remotely connected to any union. This incident also gave the strikers a theme for the strike – which was of course “until the cows come home.” Maybe Williams caught a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, otherwise known as the mad cow disease...it’s in the air these days. From that day forwards, cows were seen everywhere. So, in some ways they have really come home, and in force.

But then, Grimes was booted out of the House of Assembly for the rest of the day for calling Williams a liar. Children, please. Reading through the archives of the Hansard, I’ve found Grimes making many references to Williams as a “slick lawyer,” a one-man show. He resorting to petty name-calling like the kids that he once taught I’m sure used to get on with.

Newfoundland politics and politics in general can be very humorous at times...and other times not.
CBC depicted a picketer in a cow suit standing on the stairs leading up to the Colonial Building, where in 1932, a major riot once took place when Prime Minister Richard Squires seriously screwed his people over. Squires and his cohorts were accused of taking money from the treasury. This riot brought forced Squires’ resignation. I hope that this isn’t history about to repeat itself – especially with Tom Hanlon, former NAPE president’s recent threat to break people’s legs that cross the picket lines. This time around, the demonstration at the Colonial Building was much more peaceful, but someone could snap at any time.

This could very well be the beginning of the fall of the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Our province. Our land. Our heritage.

Ironically, this insanity all began April 1 2004, which also marked 55 years of Confederation with Canada. Joey Smallwood’s Liberal cabinet was sworn in on that day. This date is also April Fool’s Day. I often wonder if a joke of epic proportions was played on us that day, and we still just haven’t gotten the punch line.

I sincerely hope that by the time you read this, my prophecy hasn’t come to be and the issues between the unions and the government have been cleared up, even for a while.

Well, my time with this column is almost up.

In the future, look for my name – one journey for me has ended, and another stretches out before me.

Sir Winston Churchill once said “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”

As do I.

Diploma in hand, I face the dawn.

March 18, 2004

Proto-Inkslinger #4

Insights from the West Side
Written from Stephenville, NL
Appeared in the Carbonear Compass on March 18, 2004

Underdevelopment is when companies take out resources and profits from a particular area. It is a process of capitalist exploitation.

We are being exploited for the benefit of Canada.

Sound familiar? We had a lively debate in Sociology class recently about this – whether or not Newfoundland and Labrador is truly underdeveloped.

Newfoundland and Labrador, in my opinion, is severely underdeveloped. The Europeans started it when they landed in the 1500s. They converted the native people to Christianity and gave them smallpox and other diseases. The pattern continued right up to the present.

But the biggest blow that probably started it all was when Joseph R. Smallwood sold Churchill Falls to Quebec. We lost out there big time, and we really didn’t have to. The profits from that electricity that is going into Quebec and the United States could be ours right now, and as a province we could be prospering more. We won’t get the rights to the royalties of Churchill Falls for about 30 to 40 years from now.

It was more or less an act of political idiocy.

We have the potential of being the richest province in Canada, but everything that is in our territory is constantly squandered and given away to the rest of Canada by stupid decisions by the provincial government.

In a similar fashion, we lost our vast oilfields on the Grand Banks to the Federal government.

This is the way that it has always been for Newfoundland, and action should be taken soon.

The loss of the fishery, I can unfortunately understand – because the traditional ways were shoved aside by modern technology and the bottoms of the ocean were scraped clean. I hope that the fishery can be recovered sooner rather than later. It was our province’s lifeblood since the very beginning.

The fishery was what made our province what it is today.

On a slightly different topic, I did very well in the midterms I was stressing over last time. Graduation is just around the corner.

It’s time to start thinking about my future in journalism. I had the opportunity to meet Debbie Cooper and Karl Wells of CBC’s Canada Now fame recently when they were doing their show from Marble Mountain on March 10, and it was an enlightening experience.

I’m at a crossroads in life.

As always, my email address is hutchings_ian@excite.com.

See you next time.

March 2, 2004

Proto-Inkslinger #3

Insights from the West Side
Written from Stephenville, NL
Appeared in the Carbonear Compass on March 2, 2004

I wrote this one during midterm week, a time of great stress for college students, so please bear with me on this one.

As you probably know, Premier Danny Williams has recently restructured his cabinet to make it leaner and more efficient.

I have a great respect for Mr. Williams. The man has undertaken a huge job to bring this province out of the hole that it had dug itself in pretty much since Smallwood brought us into Canada. It’s a huge burden. You have to be a certain kind of person to be a premier. I wouldn’t be able to do it. Would any of you be able to do it? I’m just hoping that he’s not just making empty promises like many other leaders we’ve had.

I do sympathize with NAPE and understand the union’s problems with his decision to freeze the wages, but the truth is there is no extra money in the provincial treasury to raise wages right now, except for borrowing from the federal government, which would drive us deeper in debt.

As Williams said in his State of the Province Address on January 5, 2004, “we cannot expect to improve our lives without first enduring some short-term pain in return for long-term and meaningful results.”

He’s right. To prepare for a difficult exam, you have to study hard, and sometimes get a stress headache. This could very well be one of the province’s greatest tests.

Give the premier a chance. He may be able to do something. During the speech, he acknowledged that “it will be difficult to accomplish this task over our four-year mandate, as we stated during the election, it is our responsibility to try.”

Currently, Newfoundland’s deficit is 827.5 million dollars, which is 161 million dollars over budget.

We are potentially a very rich province. The regional disparity between Newfoundland and the rest of Canada is wide. From my point of view, since Confederation, the country has always taken our province for granted – depleting our fish stocks, taking our electricity via Churchill Falls, and so on. We’re suffering from a great “brain drain” as everyone that receives education from post-secondary education is attracted to the good life promised by Alberta or Ontario. I fear that I myself will have to take off for one of those locations if I can’t find anything after I finish my journalism program at CONA.

If we could get that long-awaited Voisey’s Bay smelter set up in Argentia, it would give us a measure of control over the Labrador nickel deposits…I would think.

Speaking of Labrador, it would be nice to get those people more involved in provincial affairs – the tension between the government and the Labrador people has to end soon, so we can finally become a fully unified province.

To bring Newfoundland and Labrador out of this rut, it is necessary for Williams to rebuild the province from the ground up. Is his “treating the province as a business” approach the right way? Ultimately, we will have to wait and see how this will all pan out.

However, we need less talk and more action - now.

Well, enough procrastination. It looks like it’s time to get back to the books. As always, my email address is hutchings_ian@excite.com.

God guard thee Newfoundland.

February 17, 2004

Proto-Inkslinger #2

Insights from the West Side
Written from Stephenville, NL
Appeared in Carbonear Compass on February 17, 2004.

It’s hard to believe a year’s gone by already.

In the early morning hours of February 15, one year ago, I slipped on the ice outside the 104 dance bar in Stephenville, breaking my arm. I suffered a rather painful night, because of the lack of medical staff on duty at Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital that night. There was no one there to put a simple splint on my arm.

I was forced to lie still on my bed in the College of the North Atlantic residence for about 11 hours. Any little move I made sent burning pain through my broken arm. I described it in a letter to the editor of The Telegram as a “hellish night,” which it was. I finally went through more hours of waiting at the hospital the next day, and after some necessary manhandling by the X-ray technician, so he could get some pictures of my snapped bones, I was finally shipped off to surgery in Corner Brook, which was far, far better.

The irony of all this was, I broke my humerus bone, otherwise known as the “funny” bone. I wasn’t exactly amused. I now have a metal plate and pins in there, and a huge scar on my bicep that will forever remind me to wear boots when walking around outside in the winter (which I have been doing since the snow started falling).

Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital has since shut down the dilapidated building that was used since the war and relocated to a new ultra-modern building that claims to have better service. From what I’ve been hearing, there have been no real improvements.

The new building is beautiful, as I once paid the place a brief visit when I was managing editor of the Troubador last fall, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I said in a September letter to The Georgian’s editor that I was observing, and yes, I still am. My anger has cooled since then. It makes a great story to tell from time to time.

I do realize that the bad treatment I got last winter may not be the sole fault of the nurses and doctors. I’m sure they’re really not bad people. That was just a very stressful time for me.

It’s the overall Canadian health system that needs an injection, which may have arrived – sort of. On January 30, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced two billion dollars for health care funding for all the provinces, when he met with Canada’s premiers for the first time since he was sworn in as Prime Minister.

My question is . . . what will this temporary funding boost do for Newfoundland and Labrador?


Probably very little. The money is a one-shot deal. In the overall picture of things, two billion dollars would possibly buy a few MRIs or CT scanners, but there wouldn’t be enough money left to maintain them. It’s not enough to maintain hospital infrastructure. It’s not enough to hire on more doctors and nurses, and keep them with proper salaries. If the money was incorporated into the yearly budget, then maybe it would work.

What is the ultimate solution for the health care problems plaguing the province and the rest of Canada?

It is actually a myth that Canada has the best health care in the world. In reality, it is not even close. According to the World Health Organization, it actually ranks 30th place. In comparison, the United States ranks 38th place.

To solve the health care problem is a big job. Former Saskatchewan premier, Roy Romanow put together a task force under former Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien’s request in 2001 and crafted that famous document: The Romanow Report, which dealt with making sweeping changes to Canadian medicare. His changes included strong leadership, a system that’s more responsive and efficient and accountable to Canadians and making strategic investments for the short-term and the long-term. That sounds perfect – on paper. But can it actually be implemented?

I don’t claim to be an expert on the problems with the health care system – I know very little, actually. I’ve been pursuing the issue since the incident at the hospital last year. I covered the health beat last semester and quickly realized that it’s a big topic, and I’m just scratching the surface.

Oh yes… nearly forgot. My grandmother’s birthday was also this past Sunday. So, I’m taking this opportunity to wish my grandmother, Joyce Hutchings of Whitbourne, a very happy birthday.

My email address is hutchings_ian@excite.com, for anyone who wants to send me feedback or suggestions.

See you in two weeks.

January 28, 2004

Proto-Inkslinger #1

Insights from the West Side
Written from Stephenville, NL
Appeared in Carbonear Compass Jan. 28, 2004

So here I am in my final semester in the journalism program at College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville.

It seems like just yesterday I walked into the college newsroom and met my class. There were almost twenty of us then. That was nearly two years ago. As of now there are seven of us, and I’m the only guy.

We were introduced to the basics of journalism in short order and began to write our first stories.
And so, the semester in Stephenville progressed. I went through the life of a college student: eating the bad cafeteria food, going to the bar and drinking a lot, falling in and out of love, getting stressed out by exams, drinking lots of coffee and so on.

Then, during the winter, on Valentine’s Day to be exact, my life turned upside down when I slipped on the ice and broke my arm. I went to the hospital and absurdly was sent home without any help. After thirteen hours of suffering, I made it to Corner Brook and got proper treatment. I’ll be talking to you more about my beef with the health care system in a later installment of this column.

That spring, I had a work term at The Charter in Placentia and then just three weeks later landed a summer position at The Compass in Carbonear, my hometown. For those of you who happened to read my farewell piece, ‘Contemplating the Summer: My Introduction into the Newspaper World’ (appeared in the August 26, ’03 edition of The Compass) would know of some of the trials, tribulations and the plain fun I had this past summer.

During my third semester, I landed the coveted position of Managing Editor of my college newspaper, The Troubador. I had a better idea then what it felt like to be in Bill Bowman’s shoes – the major difference being I had 30 people under my command, and Bill has a small group of dedicated individuals under his. I had a great time doing it, and apparently it was the strongest edition put out by the program. It was also the twentieth anniversary edition, except I only found out on deadline day. This past third edition was the most difficult of all, because other than being the editor, I had to do radio shows, make news video clips, and write term papers.

Then 2004 arrived, and here I am writing the first installment of this column.

Now to get to the point of this column – I’ll let you in on a secret…it’s a school project. I’m not being paid for this, it’s to help me get my foot in the door, to help me make a name for myself.

As the weeks go by, I’ll be giving you, the reader, my opinions on various current events, as they happen. Hopefully, I’ll have a fresh outlook and won’t bore you. There’s lots of stuff going on…for example Danny Williams, Paul Martin, OxyContin, Bush, Iraq, Afghanistan, and much more. If you want to email me with ideas or feedback, my address is hutchings_ian@excite.com.

Until then, see you next time.