Monday, September 28, 2009

Feds on the Rails

Every spring Home Hardware produces a flyer selling a very nice well priced hummingbird feeder. Only problem is that the island of Newfoundland has no hummingbirds. Sure there may be a scattered vagrant Ruby-Throated around Pasadena but that poor little creature is only visiting, and if one were to appear in Torbay he might likely be accompanied by a lion, tinman, and scarecrow. None-the-less they ship those humming bird feeders. That's the sort of head-scratcher that happens when Newfoundland and Labrador is perceived from a distance.

Not to pick on Home Hardware, it's the same thing with Walmart for example. On a particularly humid day this summer I remarked to a Walmart greeter "Bloody hot in here isn't it" (actually it was "Friggin' 'ot id-nit", but accent aside...) The blue vested lady replied, "we called the mainland - they won't let us turn down the heat." True! Local Walmart's don't have their own thermostat! But that's the way it goes isn't it: Can't trust a Newfoundlander to know what a comfortable body temperature is.

Someone, somewhere else calling the shots. That brings me to mother Ottawa. I get a flyer in my mail touting how great the federal government is for investing in rail transportation. Remember trains? They have them everywhere else in Canada except for Newfoundland. We did have trains, railway stretched from coast to coast, routes used for shipping paper to Botwood, a turnabout in Bishop's Falls. We put pennies on the track during recess, and when we heard the whistle we ran like hell to the nearest butman (that's what we called the piers on the tressle - Googling the word is a bad idea).

What happened to the trains? We traded the federal government's financial input into the rail system for some infrastructure money to upgrade highways. So it is difficult to applaud the fact that the rest of Canada is getting money pumped into its railway. It is even more difficult when the Conservatives send me a nice picture of a train to rub it in.

The investment in the railway is one that by default we cannot take advantage of in Newfoundland and Labrador. Given that Ottawa's has nar a clue when it comes to NL may I suggest we use our portion of investment into the TransLabrador Railway. It's a little different than VIA, it uses transport trucks instead of trains - but if a name change is what it takes then long live the TLR.

I think a great promotion would be to offer a free hummingbird feeder with every VIA Rail ticket. We can use the new TransLabrador Railway to ship all of those hummingbird feeders back west. It's a win win.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Lanier Phillips: Discovery in St. Lawrence

From Community Linkages Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Lanier Phillips: Discovery in St. Lawrence

There are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians born and bred, and then there are those who have found meaning here entirely by accident.

Lanier Phillips was one of 46 men who survived the Truxtun disaster. His story is not a simple story of survival but a story of the power of humanity. In a world of segregation and racism Mr. Phillips credits the simple generousity of the people of St. Lawrence, NL, not only with saving his life, but with their compassion - changing it forever. As a black man in the segregated south of the 50's he has said: "To experience instantly love and humanity that I didn't think existed between the races — it just changed everything for me."

This is a story that begs to be told and has had some great interest in the Newfoundland and Labrador film industry. Now the story has caught the attention of the American film industry. It has even caught the attention of Bill Cosby who invited Mr. Phillips on stage and told his story. A full length feature film is finally in the works.

The story is remniscent of a film called "Amazing Grace" that Ray Johnson likes to quote when we meet with Community Linkages. Mr. Phillips story, like Amazing Grace tells of the power of the individual, when love and compassion are the motivating factors for change. The upcoming film will perhaps offer a rare glimpse of the true virtue of rural Newfoundland and Labrador and why we so passionately love this place.

Listening to Lanier Phillips on CBC: