Excuses, excuses, excuses

Posted on April 4, 2008
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            If I had a dog, he would be tired of eating homework. My excuses for for neglecting this site are about that lame.

            Between getting into holiday mode in New Zealand, internet access, computer and program glitches and coming home to several feet of ice and snow in the front yard and income tax time impending, I have been lax.

            As a result, Canadians let the country, province and city go completely to hell while I was gone.

            There has not been this kind of a winter mess since the 1950’s. A combination of snow, rain, sleet and alternate thawing a freezing put three layers of heavy ice in the yard. I chopped myself to exhaustion (almost a half hour!) twice a day for three weeks to get down to concrete.

            Since then, the sun has come out and constant melting has turned the walkway into a pool.

            It is not quite as attractive as the one in front of the Taj Mahal.


            Do I have to be here all the time?

            Meanwhile, a scandal over botched pathology at our hospital has put Miramichi up among a series of national scandals. Tests were botched in Newfoundland. An Ontario pathologist was discovered to be fitting his findings to the hopes of police investigators. Innocent people went to jail and families were torn apart.

            In New Brunswick, the provincial department of education minister revealed a new bilingualism program that eliminates early French immersion. His idea is to concentrate on a more intense core program and later immersion.

            This seems to contradict everything experts have concluded about the relative ease with which the youngest children pick up additional languages.

            The minister claims the present system has failed, which is true.

            I believe the reason for that is that the quality and approach of the existing programs has been feeble.

            Was it Isaak Walton who said that the successful fisherman selects his bait according to the tastes of the fish rather than to his own?

            I think second language education in New Brunswick has been designed to the tastes of bureaucrats, teachers, and people with political causes rather than in the interests and to the tastes of the children.

            To put it simply, there hasn’t been much emphasis on the interests, amusement, entertainment of and fun for children.

            Six year olds don’t want to learn French so they can get a government job.

            It isn’t hard to learn what they do like and figure out ways to give to them in a different language.

            The minister of the department of health has also come up with a new system. He’s cutting the number of hospital boards to two. He’s also contributing to the increasing language divide by creating one that will become almost exclusively English and one that will become almost exclusively French.

            In addition, the new plan will reduce local involvement with provincial government services by creating a situation in which most citizens don’t even know where their hospital board is much who is on it or what they actually do.

            The department of education already did that some years ago.

            Gutting local decision making and involvement may be justified. Most businesses did it years ago. New Brunswick has no more population than a small city.

            On the other hand, bureaucracies do not have a great record in looking out for the individual. Operating by the book, they often totally frustrate the purpose and public they are meant to serve.

            You all have hundreds of examples.

            The only long-term solution to the health care crisis is going to be to have the collective conversation none of us want to have.

            We have to decide how much, collectively, we are willing to spend and then shop for what we can have, collectively, for that.

            We can’t simply say we want everything medical science can develop but we want someone else to pay for it.

            Perhaps we have to decide a retired newspaper publisher doesn’t get an MRI for a possible torn rotator cuff but is offered a much cheaper scope. Maybe we have to save the rotator cuff MRI for a working person in a physical job.

            Maybe we have to tell some older people that we are going to have to live with a somewhat limiting injury so we can get younger people to the head of the line.

            I believe such decisions are already made for people who need organ transplants. A young person with a potential full, productive life, gets precedence over a fat old smoker. It isn’t because the fat old smoker made poor choices or is less deserving. It is simply because the odds of a successful result are better with the younger, more resilient person. Of two young people being considered, the one who is in most urgent need gets precedence.

            On that subject, by the way, I would like to see left over body parts automatically become available for transplant unless the original owner specifically informed government he or she did not want that.     Governments say they want public participation and input. What they mean is that they want cheerleaders and equipment managers.

            They have no real interest in establishing a consensus through consultation and true leadership. Mind you, one can hardly blame them.

            Seeing the latest issue the local conspiracy fringe has come up with regarding our local city councilors, one tends to despair of democracy.

            Lawrence Mahoney and John McLaughlin think that some councilors should be investigated by police for a perceived conflict of interest.

            The suggestion is that councilors are in conflict because they decide on the city employee extended health benefit plan while some councilors are members or beneficiaries of the plan.

            In case they did not notice, council determines its own rate of pay. Being included in the city benefit plan is simply an extension of that.

            Incidentally, conflict of interest is not a criminal offence. All it means is that someone has two or more interests that may conflict with each other.

            It is proper to declare a conflict and not participate in a decision about what to do with someone else’s money when such a conflict is between the public interest and one’s personal interest.

            We let politicians determine their own rates of pay. It would seem obvious that a benefits package would be part of that.

            I do wonder if we were not better off in the days when serving as a member of council was considered a civic duty rather than paid work.

            I would like to see what each councilor has received in salary, travel expenses, pay for attendance at other meetings, and all benefits each year.

            Could it be that service on council is becoming attractive for more mercenary reasons than we would prefer?

            I know governance and issues are more complex now than 30 years ago. Perhaps the solution to that is to engage highly qualified management to run the show and have council less hands on.

            Someone asked the other day why I don’t run for council. One reason is that I don’t think my ideas represent any kind of majority so no one would vote for me.

            A larger fear is what if they did vote for me?

            Sitting through some council meetings could be enough to turn me into a suicide bomber.

            I can’t imagine how Rupert Bernard has managed to remain so cheerful all these years. Anyone else would have to walk 10 times as far as he does and that would be a full time job for three Olympians.

            We need some new, younger, more energetic leadership with some management and team building skills.

            We don’t need half-baked, learning-challenged Rambos with tavern philosophy prejudices.



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