A Year Old Column

When local real estate mogul Charlie Oliver announced that, instead of running for the Tory leadership, he was going to sponsor a think tank to tackle the intractable problems facing Newfoundland and Labrador some joked a barrel was a more apt vessel in which to ferment local ideas. Certainly, to meet Heritage guidelines, the container should be made of wood.  Rather than a National Think Tank we need a Notional Puncheon.

It’s a capital idea.  Boom or no we remain a tiny and isolated population.  It’s difficult to float challenging ideas in so small and close-knit a community.  Say things people don’t want to hear and you will come face to face with someone you’ve offended within the week. You don’t anymore hear the expression; “Wouldn’t say “shit “if his mouth was full of it” because it’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Having a Notional Puncheon increases the odds of getting bad news before it’s too late.

So I provide a short list of things that you cannot say in town as inaugural talking points for the institute or tank or tub or whatever it ends up being called.

-the future price of commodities (including energy) cannot be predicted with accuracy

-despite ceaseless crowing to the contrary Newfoundlanders don’t actually much care for and so do not in any meaningful way support their own arts and culture

-a solution to both the unfunded pension liability and the skyrocketing cost of health care is to have people die sooner by denying them life-extending care at some threshold age.

-a significant cause of soaring health care costs is profiteering

-it’s not viable to provide ferry service to everyone who wants it

-as we come to define the nation as a place to conduct business (as opposed to a place of which we are citizens) corporate taxation has to contribute much more than 8% to the revenue side.

-asphalt does not work as a road surfacing material in our climate

-Big Oil owns and/or influences many politicians and most news media in Canada

-MBAs make a company more profitable, less fun and shorter lived.

-there’s a surfeit of hockey.

-few defenders of CBC television can actually bear to watch it

-how is it Newfoundlanders are so self-congratulatory and yet in constant need of approbation from the crowd on the mainland?

– forget Blackouts ’94 and 2014 the real worry is Starve-Out 20XX as we only have seven days food supply on the island.

– St. John’s City Council doesn’t grasp some central concepts of urban development because some members are too stunned.

The vessel is going to have to be enormous to accommodate the deep thinking required to address our problems.  I doubt we any longer have the coopers capable of fashioning such a thing from staves.  Maybe it should be made of reinforced fiberglass or some newfangled composite. The way things have been going we’ll end up buying a used think tank from a Scandinavian country and shipping it over here to find it only takes Danish ideas.