Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Tale of Two 'Sities

There would appear to be much ado currently in this province concerning the question of whether or not Grenfell College in Corner Brook should throw off the shackles of Townie opression and embrace its own destiny as Newfoundland and Labrador's second full-fledged university. And of course, like everything else in this province from routine municipal construction to recreational fishing, this debate has become a polarising political issue.

Fortunately for the general public what would otherwise be a very boring debate by academics and the people who sign their paychecks, we're treated to an epic rap battle (a war of words is old school) by two of the province's more prominent trash-talkers - Premier Daniel "Da Maniel" Williams who is reppin' for his West Side crew at Grenfell and Memorial Chancellor John "My Press Releases Contain Way Too Many Words" Crosbie, rockin' the mic in the East Side and ballin' with his MUN Board of Regents homeboys. (And yes, that does create the most awkward mental image ever but none of you can say you wouldn't pay to see the concert.)

The main argument between Tupac and Biggie can essentially be boiled down to Williams, on one side, pushing a separate university in Corner Brook on the grounds of the province having the ability/need to expand its post-secondary services in the interest of generating growth in the buzzword-based"knowledge-based" economy (possibly on a "go-forward basis"), whereas Crosbie is arguing that the status quo is not only perfectly fine but the only option that is actually feasible given a tiny population and anything suggested to the contrary is a pox upon the earth.

While there would be some who might suggest that Grand Master Flash and Flava Flav here might have ulterior motives for the stances they're taking, I would like to remind everyone that these two men surely only have the best wishes of the province at heart and would never have self-interested reasons for their positions such as promoting goodies to their constituencies in lieu of an upcoming election or grasping to maintain the godlike power of monopoly. (FUN FACT: Politicians, thanks to centuries of selective breeding, are physically incapable of putting themselves ahead of the people they are supposed to represent.)

There is some merit to both arguments, however. More universities would provide more physical space for young minds to become educated and contribute to a society increasingly based on holding graduate degrees in cultural studies as opposed to actually knowing how to do anything remotely constructive, and smaller universities that Grenfell U would conceivably resemble have fared well elsewhere in the country - also, college kids in this province drink like fish and provincial coffers would likely flood with the liquid gold of a thousand keggers.

On the other hand, Memorial is so far serving the province well as the largest university in Atlantic Canada. This province has the second-lowest tuition rates in Canada (second only to Quebec, which I'm sure will someday be brought up by a Newfoundland Nationalist as yet another example of how the frogs are trying to undermine our glorious nation) and the cost of living in the St. John's area is likely also one of the lowest in Canada, especially in terms of university towns.

Somehow I'm not convinced that putting a second university in the province offering comparable degrees and costs will do anything to stem the outflow of students in this province who still decide to zoom out to another province and drop $12K a year in tuition for [roughly] the same education offered inside the overpass for a fraction of that cost. Perhaps a better use of the money it would cost to make Grenfell University happen would be a program to teach children (possibly also government) the value of money; we might even get teenagers to stop spending 150 dollars on those godawful pairs of pre-torn jeans they keep buying while we're at it, too.

Besides, needs-based grants to cover the cost of tuition is a much better idea to improve the post-secondary education standing of the province which someone should probably look into but oh god help it's a quasi-socialist idea

At the end of the day, at any rate, I've got to come down on the side of the one-university idea. That said, I don't exactly share Crosbie's view that "MUN as-is is A-OK!", because I think there are too many things that need to be ironed out with the current public post-secondary education system we have in this province before we should really be thinking "hay guys lets build another one!"

But getting into that is a whole other can of worms I don't feel like opening because then I'd probably get to talking about the fishery and in this province nothing good ever seems to come of that.

In fact, I'd almost rather listen to a white rap battle.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Cage Match: Twilly

I realise that I'm a bit behind on the times as it were but unfortunately I was away for the last few days at an important conference on the mainland dealing with the outrageous prices of extra dry gin martinis, and as you can imagine, such important deliberations kept me from being able to weigh in on some of the recent events transpiring back on the home front.

It would appear that the first head-to-head of the 2007 election between Danny "Goliath" Williams and Gerry "Job, the righteous Biblical figure God felt the need to repeatedly punish for ambiguous reasons" Reid took place last Thursday.

Now to be fair, it is understandable that the Premier would want to attend a folk festival that involved not only fun but also fish; truly, no sane man can resist such a double-whammy of a siren song. Unfortunately for Mr. Williams this cornucopia of good times happened to be occurring in his opponent's home riding, and it would appear that Mr. Reid also apparently could not contain his enthusiasm for local folk festivals. Despite a lack of neuroticism on Reid's part, the setup seems to be very Seinfeld-esque, and likely even had [G]erry clenching his fist and uttering "Newman!""Williams!" to his steering wheel.

In typical Dan-the-Man style, the Premier was fairly brazen about his intentions in visiting the festival the same time as Reid; the PCs are apparently putting in a special effort to unseat the Opposition leader in the upcoming election. One would assume that simply by running a candidate against him in the area it would provide a good race, but Williams seems very intent on making it personal. As in, crazy ex-girlfriend personal. One would figure two politicians with an axe to grind would at least make an effort to be condescending and out-smug one another with faux smiles and snarky well-wishes, but the visual of the two of them taking the stage without so much as a handshake seems to prop up the "trouble in Paradise" situation. Apparently this is what happens when politicians let the next day "get weird".

Cathartic breakup analogies aside, though, this snapshot of the campaign-to-be would suggest interesting implications for the race to October 9th. I'm going to go ahead and make a point of coining the phrase vendetta politics in describing electioneering which seems to take the political conflict beyond the professional and into personal-rivalry territory.

I mean, yes, obviously the Leader of Government and the Leader of the Opposition will not be best friends who go on hikes together only to be faced with some kind of random adversity which they triumph over and subsequently come out learning more about themselves and each other (with plenty of laughs along the way!), but it does seem to move the election campaign out of the "no hard feelings, this is politics" realm into the "I will crush your dreams" area, and I can't help but feel that sets an ominous precendent.

There have been rumours circulating on message boards and Open Line that the PCs are aiming to/will sweep every seat or otherwise leave Yvonne Jones to fend for herself against a 47-seat Williams Government, and Danny's insistence in personally stepping on Reid's turf would seem to reinforce this vague feeling that the PCs are aiming to go beyond just winning government and moreso trying to actually eliminate the Opposition from the face of God's green earth.

I don't know about anyone else, but for me at least this isn't doing much to lend credence to every PC candidate coming on Open Line and assuring us that everyone in the House contributes to the decisions government makes and it isn't just Danny calling all the shots in authoritarian fashion. Although, I suppose, one-party government does cut out all that time-wasting "democratic accountability" stuff. Who needs that anyways? There are roads that need paving, dammit.

Although, now that I think about it, I can't shake an image of Danny standing up at a town hall meeting, snatching back a contract for roadwork from the local townsfolk and barking, "No soup for you!"

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Suzuki Gored by Wells

St. John's mayor Andy Wells stepped up his fight against annoyingly smug environmentalists recently by taking a firm stance on pesticides; specifically, that pesticides are awesome and DDT will save sub-Saharan Africa.

Frankly I think this comes as a breath of fresh air. David Suzuki is an environmentalist, not a chemist. Obviously he has no idea how pesticides (which I might add are chemicals, not environments) work and anything he says on the topic is basically junk science because it's out of his expertise and he's basically just making things up. As for Al Gore, he doesn't even live in this country, let alone this province. Taking his word on anything is pretty much treason, any way you cut it.

Wells should also be congratulated for reminding us of the last time society got all up in arms about pesticides and the damage it caused. Remember DDT? Yeah, while society was patting itself on the back for saving some eggshells by banning DDT we were actually killing black people. And for what? Because it might be harmful?

Well I'll give you the what for: This Wikipedia article states, and I quote:

The EPA, in 1987 , classified DDT as class B2, a probable human carcinogen based on "Observation of tumors (generally of the liver) in seven studies in various mouse strains and three studies in rats.

You see? Probable. Somehow, pseudoscientists like David Suzuki concluded that people might get cancer based on the deaths of some rats, and even then they can't even say anything with full certainty. Plus, that information comes from Wikipedia, which is totally untrustworthy in every conceivable way and in light of that we can safely say DDT probably doesn't cause cancer at any time to anyone ever. Case closed.

It's shocking to see how many people apparently believe scientists like David Suzuki over politicians like Andy Wells. And it's not even like this is Wells' first term. The man has been consistently re-elected to the office of mayor as far back as anyone who matters can remember. Clearly, if he was unfit for the job or wrong in any conceivable way he wouldn't keep getting re-elected, because that sort of thing never happens. Right?

No relation to the capitol of North Carolina

For a really long time, I thought there was no real presence of Newfoundland and Labrador political writers here in this crazy place we call the blogosphere.

Then I found this thing called Google and used it to search the whole entire internet and boy, was I wrong!

Clearly, then, I must throw my hat into the ring. Look out, you Confederation/Parliament Building fat cats; the internet, like the sea, is a harsh mistress and her thirst to mock politics anonymously and passive-aggressively has too long gone unslaked in this province.

Consider this a heads up. Next time I strike, it will be like NAPE and pretty much come out of nowhere and ruin government's day.

And maybe even stop schoolbuses or something.