Three harsh Realities Newfoundland needs to face
Recently I was involved in the provincial election and I spent a lot of time talking to the people of this amazing province in their homes. I now wake up most mornings trying to figure out how to fix us and the mess we are in. During the process, I was confronted daily with the 3 stark realities of our overall situation.
Stark reality number 1 is we are living beyond our means.
We are borrowing money to pay ourselves and run this province and we cannot afford it. So many of us either work directly or indirectly for the government. Our wages are dictated by the equivalent wage that someone can earn working in a not for profit job. Whether you work directly for a government agency, a crown corporation, a union, a utility like Newfoundland Power or Aliant, an accounting or law firm that receives a large percentage of their compensation from these organizations or even a charity whose payroll is benchmarked by equivalent government employees your pay is affected by government compensation. Then in reverse government takes their lead from these other organizations and the cycle continues. Pay keeps going up.
Somehow it became ok to have all the benefits of being a government or quasi-government person and get paid a lot of money to do it. It also became ok to not really work as hard or as smart as we could. During this process, we also lost our appreciation for how lucky we all are.
Somehow we allowed ourselves to consider “The Governments” as entities unto themselves. In fact, they are not separate “employers” they are literally the hat passers. We all pass around a hat that we put money into. The amount of money we put in is based on our income or the value of our property in the case of municipalities. We then pay ourselves and others to spend this money.
This morning I was trying to wrap my head around the Paul Reynolds Center. How many millions of dollars does it cost to run this building every year? How did we decide to build a 30 million dollar recreational facility that most residents of St.John’s will never visit? How can we justify replacing the artificial turf on King George the 5th soccer field at a cost of millions?
How can we justify paying government employees enough money for them to drive luxury cars? How do we justify paying professionals like lawyers and consultants millions to do jobs that existing government employees could do or that maybe should not even be done in the first place? How many consultants reports are done and then gather dust? Would we pass the hat around for these expenditures and if so would anybody put their hard earned money in the hat?
Infrastructure like roads and water and sewer last around twenty to fifty years and then they need to be replaced at a much higher cost than the initial install because of the tear up and repairs that are performed along the way. Wooden houses need to be replaced over time. Asphalt shingle roofs, vinyl siding, and vinyl windows need to be replaced every 20-25 years. Wooden structures need to be painted and maintained. Gardens and grass need to be maintained. Pavement has to be redone over time.
We are trading nonrenewable revenue like oil and we are borrowing money to construct this decaying infrastructure. Where will we get the resources to replace it?
Why is the Newfoundland dream a big house, big vehicles, big summer cabins, big screen TVs, etc? We all need to wake up and have a look around. All this stuff will crumble around us.
I suggest that the solution is in small and sustainable. How much wasted living space do we need to buy, build, pay a mortgage on, maintain, heat, furnish and clean? Can we downsize? Homes can be built that are not a reflection of our waste but of our vision for a better future.
Stark Reality number 2 is that we are unhealthy
Newfoundlanders are some of the most unhealthy people on the entire planet. We eat too much, we drink too much, we have one of the highest obesity rates and lifestyle-induced diseases in the world. In the world people! This is our biggest challenge. A healthy province can double down and get to work to make the changes that we need to turn this around.
People say they cannot afford to eat healthily. How many coffee and donuts shops are there? The drink of choice for most is not a healthy one. We are obsessed with eating until we are full. Constantly snacking on unhealthy and empty calorie choices. Yes, we can be more healthy eaters and within our budgets.
Water is basically free and it is the best choice. Add some fruit juice to it if you find it bland. Tea is another great choice and when bought at the grocery store costs around .10-.25 per bag. You can steep a lot of tea with one bag if you reuse it.
A meal is not a meal unless there are a lot of vegetables on our plate. I know this is a foreign concept to most of us but we need colour on our plate. Reds, oranges, and greens make our bodies run. Reduce the protein and replace with vegetables. Your body will shed the pounds if you eliminate the sugar and replace with clean eating. Clean eating is plenty of water, vegetables, and limited processed foods. The expensive part of our diet is animal protein and processed foods. Reduce in these areas and replace with healthy food and you will start to heal.
Stark Reality number 3 is that we are no longer a productive society
How much productive time do any of us have? The time that really makes a long term difference. How much time is wasted? Reviews of the productivity of mega projects seem to indicate that productivity is not maximized. The pace at which governments are able to make positive changes in our province is also a measure of productivity. How do we spend our time? We all need to reflect on the activities of our ancestors who built this province and get back into their mindset. I know the potential is there and I believe that if we all work together we can inspire each other and create a better province for our children and grandchildren.