VOL. 3 ISSUE 52
ST. JOHN’S, NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR — SUNDAY THROUGH SATURDAY, DECEMBER 25-31, 2005
$1.00 HOME DELIVERY (HST included); $1.50 RETAIL (HST included)
Michael Harris on being the ‘retarded cousin’ of United States
Food columnist Nicholas Gardner on Christmas breakfast
Mount Pearl Fog Devils?
CANDY CANES AND PEPPERMINTS
Mayor reveals talks have taken place regarding moving Q team to Glacier DARCY MACRAE
he St. John’s Fog Devils have expressed interest in relocating to the Glacier in Mount Pearl, says Mount Pearl mayor Steve Kent. The move could not take place until after the team’s three-year lease with St. John’s Sports and Entertainment to play out of Mile One expires at the end of the 2007-08 season, but Kent reveals a move to Mount Pearl is a possibility. “I did have some discussions with the Dobbins last week,” Kent tells The Independent. “The Dobbins requested a private discussion with me on our infrastructure plans (for Mount Pearl’s proposed Lifestyle Centre) and my understanding from the meetings is that they’re exploring various options within the region to find a long-term home for the team. “But at this point in time, there’s no facility in Mount Pearl that would meet their needs.” The Glacier currently seats just over 1,000, but renovations to the building — as part of the city’s proposed Lifestyle Centre, a $40-million project that includes an expansion to the Glacier arena, the addition of a second ice surface, a 500-seat theatre, a new aquatics facility and enhancements to the Reid Community Centre — could be altered to make the arena suitable to the Fog Devils’ needs, says Kent. “If it made sense from a community perspective and if the owners of the team were prepared to invest the capital, See “Pure cash,” page 2
The Grade 1 class at Macdonald Drive primary school in St. John’s perform their annual Christmas concert. More than 400 parents, guardians and fans assembled in the gymnasium for a play to remember. The treats, presents and Christmas trees argued over which of them was the most important, but agreed to call it a truce when they realized the true meaning of Christmas. See In Camera, pages 16-17. Paul Daly/The Independent
QUOTE OF THE WEEK “Hockey Day in Canada has probably surpassed discussions about Santa Claus.” — Stephenville councillor Darren Roberts on CBC hosting Hockey Day in Canada Jan. 7 in west coast town.
Paul Daly/The Independent
Ivan Morgan sobs over It’s a Wonderful Life
Political protégé Brian Tobin’s former communications director Heidi Bonnell on private life in Ottawa and her connection to the Liberal ‘war room’ CLARE-MARIE GOSSE
eidi Bonnell might seem to be keeping a low public profile these days, but she still has a foot wedged firmly in the Liberal party’s door. Compared to her time spent as Brian Tobin’s director of communications throughout the latter half of his prominent political career, Bonnell’s current work is slightly less front-line — although still hectic. Not only is she co-chairing the
upcoming provincial Liberal leadership convention, as the party faces a structural revamp in 2006, but she’s also working in communications and research (otherwise known as the “war room”) for the current federal campaign in Ottawa. All while maintaining a full-time job as director of government relations with Rogers Communications. Her mentor, Tobin — who first hired her at the age of 16 to organize a dinner for Jean Chrétien — may have abdicated (for now) from the political arena, but Heidi says she will always be involved; even if it See “Kid,” page 2
Noreen Golfman’s discomfort and joy Life Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Paper Trail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Crossword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Upping the odds Gerry Skinner has developed a proposal he says will give cancer patients a better shot at early diagnosis — and survival STEPHANIE PORTER
erry Skinner knows, firsthand, what waiting lists can mean to cancer patients. Over the course of his six-year struggle with brain cancer, he was told, over and over again, “it’s a good thing you came to the hospital when you did.” His perseverance, quick action, and speedy diagnosis are no doubt the reason he’s alive and working today. Now that Skinner’s own treatment has gone as far as it can, he’s turned his attention to other cancer patients, trying to ensure they have the same shot at survival he had. He has planned out what he considers a dream diagnostics lab, including trained personnel and the latest in scanning equipment. He says he’s found an American financial institution willing to finance the $25-million price tag. Skinner says it could eliminate wait times, provide more accurate and timely diagnoses and save lives. The problem? He feels no one in government is considering his proposal. Skinner has focused his attention on screening equipment simply because he believes it will help fill what he sees as the biggest gap in cancer care in the province. “I’ve seen it happen so many times,” he says. “I go to the hospital and I talk to the doctors and the
patients and I read about them passing away in the papers … (cancer is) always found out about when they’re so far gone that there’s no hope.” Peter Dawe, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador office of the Canadian Cancer Society, backs up Skinner’s concerns. “Our rate of incidence for all types of cancers put together is lower than the Canadian average,” Dawe tells The Independent. “Our mortality rate, our death rate from cancer, is higher than the national average. “One of the reasons is people are coming in with cancer at a later stage … if you look at what the issues are, on the treatment side we’re pretty good. On the diagnostic/imaging side, we’ve got a real problem.” Dawe would like to see more community-based programs, education on prevention measures — and better accessibility to screening. Skinner is formerly the owner of a successful wholesale distribution company, and now the operator of Labrador Coastal Equipment Ltd., specializing in windmills, solar panels, generators and other “power solutions.” His survival story is one of determination — and being in tune with his own health. In May 1999, while on a business trip in Houston, Tx., Skinner noticed he was having trouble reading a newspaper. See “I’m not doing,” page 4
2 • INDEPENDENTNEWS
DECEMBER 25, 2005
‘Pure cash grab’ From page 1 and if we could do so without jeopardizing any of our current programs — particularly minor hockey and figure skating — then we would at least consider a proposal, but there is no proposal on the table,” he says. “I’m open to considering that possibility … I was certainly encouraged by my conversation with Mr. (Derm) Dobbin, but we haven’t done an analysis of whether or not this would be good. If it can be complimentary to our Lifestyle Centre plans … personally I’m open to exploring it.” Lisa Neville, general manager of Mile One Stadium, says the possibility of the Fog Devils moving has been raised before. “Throughout these whole negotiations, throwing that out there that they’ll move somewhere else — they’ll move to Corner Brook, they’ll go to the Glacier — has been thrown out there as, I guess, one of their negotiation strategies,” she says. “But we do have a three-year lease and we plan on adhering to the threeyear lease. “I can’t control negotiations they may or may not have with other parties, that’s entirely up to themselves.” Fog Devils’ president Brad Dobbin says the team has no comment on the issue at this time. The news of the Fog Devils investigating the possibility of playing out of the Glacier comes on the heels of the club expressing discontent with recently receiving a bill for use of the scoreboard and accompanying video board
above centre ice at Mile One. Dobbin says the team received a bill for $250 a game — for a total of $4,250 to date — shortly after winning an arbitration case regarding SJSE applying a game day surcharge of $1 on Fog Devils’ tickets. Dobbin says the two matters are related. “It’s a pure cash grab in response to losing the surcharge money,” Dobbin says. He says he thinks the bill goes against the lease the two sides signed in August. “We feel it contravenes the lease completely,” Dobbin says. Neville disagrees with Dobbin, and says the bill for use of the scoreboard and video board is not a new issue. “It wasn’t that we just out of the blue sent them an invoice for it,” she says. Neville says when discussions began concerning the surcharge on ticket sales, there were also a host of other issues to be resolved, including the use of the scoreboard and video board. She says it was agreed the scoreboard issue would be resolved after they took care of the ticket surcharge matter, which is why the bill for the scoreboard and video board was recently sent to the team. Dobbin maintains the bill is unwarranted. “You would think from a common sense level that when you pay rent for a hockey rink, that the scoreboard comes with it,” Dobbin says. Neville says SJSE has a right to bill the Fog Devils for use of the video scoreboard, even if the fee is not included in the lease. “There is nothing in the lease (with
‘Kid has potential’ the Fog Devils) that says we have to provide the usage of the video board … the lease clearly stipulates that any other services over and above those listed in the $9,800 (the fee per game the team pays to play out of Mile One) would be at the expense of Fog Devils Ltd.,” Neville says. Neville adds that SJSE is not treating the Fog Devils differently than any other lessee. “The World Curling Tour, Scott Tournament of Hearts, anyone who comes in and uses the video board gets charged for it,” says Neville. A team president of a QMJHL franchise, who asked not to be named, says it is not unheard of for a stadium owner to bill teams for use of a video scoreboard. However, he adds it is uncommon, and a practice he frowns upon. “If we rent the facility for the night, everything that comes with it should be part of it. We pay a flat fee for everything, and all the amenities that come with the building are part of the package. “To say ‘We’ll rent you our facility at full price but we’re only going to give you three quarters of the amenities’ … is craziness.” Dobbin says despite the disagreements, he hopes the two sides will eventually co-exist in peace. “I’m confident we’re going to get our problems resolved,” Dobbin says. “We’re still in year one here and we’re operating something they used to operate and they’re a partner we’re not used to having. So there’s some bumps along the road.” firstname.lastname@example.org
From page 1 does mean “late nights and early mornings. “I studied political science; it’s just always been a passion for me from day one,” she tells The Independent from Ottawa. “It was an enjoyable challenge, I mean, it’s been my whole life, you know. Really when I think about it, I finished university on a Friday and started in Ottawa on a Monday and all of a sudden you wake up one day and you’re 30.” At least election fever is stalled over Christmas, and Bonnell is looking forward to a one-week vacation back at her much-missed home in Corner Brook. It was there, as president of her graduating class at Herdman Collegiate, that Tobin, as then-federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans, first gave Bonnell a job. He was organizing a 10-year anniversary celebration at Wilfred Grenfell College for some 700-people including Chrétien — but there was a strike on. “He didn’t want to hire scab labour, so he hired my student union for the dinner,” she says. “So I organized his event for him. “I guess he thought, this kid has potential, and then I started to do some petition work for him during the cod moratorium.” From then on, interrupted by a stint studying political science at Memorial University, Bonnell soon became the youngest legislative assistant to a federal minister. She shadowed Tobin through the infamous turbot war and on through his campaign to become premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. Soon after his election, she was appointed director of communications, a job allowing her behind-the-scenes access during all major decision-making, including Tobin’s 2000 shockdeparture back to a federal position with Chrétien as minister of Industry. Unlike the general public at the time, Bonnell says the move didn’t come as a surprise to her. “You get the whole behind the scenes of what goes into the decisionmaking process, so that’s been an education in and of itself. I left two days before the decision was announced; I came with him to Ottawa and was present for the initial discussions with the prime minister at 24 Sussex … those things were quite interesting.” Bonnell soon settled back into the flow of federal life in Ottawa and was named one of the Globe and Mail’s top young leaders to watch in the millennium. She remembers back to her first day on Parliament Hill years before, when she was barely 20 years old and Tobin was in Fisheries and Oceans. Bonnell was standing with the other legislative assistants in a part of the government lobby of the House of Commons, where the ministers would prepare for question period and she was immediately mistaken for a young page (a message runner). “I’m standing in a dark suit, with a white blouse, my hair up in a bun, trying to look as mature as possible and
one of the members comes over and hands me a message to bring,” Bonnell laughs. “I’ll never forget, one of the prime minister’s staff sort of came over and scooped me up and then sort of initiated me into the group. I had to be taken under someone’s wing first day.” Working in both Ottawa and Toronto, she remains close to Tobin and his wife, Jodean. Bonnell says there seems to be no sign of any immediate desire for a return to politics. “I spend quite a bit of time with them and they are enjoying their life with their family. He’s got thriving business opportunities … they’re doing a number of things as family and they’re completely happy.” When Tobin resigned in 2002, many people speculated he had pinned hopes on running as prime minister, but felt frustrated at the popularity of thenFinance Minister Paul Martin. Bonnell says she doesn’t see Tobin returning any time soon. Besides, she adds, tongue in cheek, “he still doesn’t speak French.” Bonnell maintains strong ties with many other high-profile ex-pats and is involved in numerous organizations, including the Ottawa Affinity Newfoundland and Labrador annual dinner. As a result, she knows just about everyone there is to know from Newfoundland and Labrador living in central Canada. She says she misses home and hopes to be able to return full-time some day. Bonnell already rents a house in St. John’s and regularly visits the family home in Corner Brook. She says her father brought her up with an interest in politics. Although he was never aligned with any one party, he always emphasized the importance of getting involved. “As a kid I sort of went to the NDP breakfast and the Conservative rally and the Liberal dinner, sort of exposure to all,” Bonnell says. “Brian Tobin was my home MP and, you know, a member of the rat pack, a very dynamic guy who was fighting rather loudly in Ottawa for Newfoundland.” She jokes she wouldn’t mind introducing her own two younger sisters into the Liberal political arena. Playing the part of a truly seasoned politician, Bonnell is coy when asked whether she would ever consider officially running herself. “Do I ever want to run? You get the pat political answer, never say never, but I mean, I’ve always found other ways to contribute.” She adds her most recent goal was to get some business experience, one of the reasons she went to work with Rogers. Bonnell does, however, lament the lack of women in political positions. “I think it’s very unfortunate, even within my own party, Siobhan Coady is the only woman running in Atlantic Canada and I still think unfortunately, women face different struggles sometimes, in politics, than men. “Will I ever put my own name out there? Who knows? … in one way or another politics will always be a part of my life.”
DECEMBER 25, 2005
INDEPENDENTNEWS • 3
Newfoundland nobles By Clare-Marie Gosse The Independent
“They said as long as the dog is there, he’ll keep him from drowning,” says Hynes. “This guy couldn’t swim. About six hours later at daylight they heard a bark and they could dimly see off in the distance, this dog, or this black dot. So they rowed over and they pulled the dog and the man into the boat. The captain, Ryan, said the only time the dog let go of his shoulder all night was that one bark and he said he kept his head above water all night.” The sad part of the tale was that Skipper died three months later. The vet said the strain had been too much for his heart. Newfoundland dogs were always thought to be lucky, and fishing vessels usually tried to carry one on board. Always happy when occupied, they were also used as working animals, most often to pull carts. In his book, Hynes writes there were more than 2,000 Newfoundland dogs employed in St. John’s alone in 1824 and “a working dog’s monetary worth was estimated to be £4,500 to £5,000.” He makes various suggestions regarding the origins of the breed, but ultimately, no one really seems to know the true story of where they came from. “I think people have the misconception that the Newfoundland dog, as it is now, was the way it always was,” says Hynes. “But they’ve changed over the years.” His guess is the Newfoundland is the result of breeding between island dogs or wolves and the bear-like dogs, Tibetan mastiffs (or dhoghee), the Vikings brought with them in 1001 AD. “I saw an item on the TV just a while ago about the dhoghee and it’s amazing how much they looked like a Newfoundland dog,” he says. “It’s very difficult to find anything on them (the dhoghee), but they have similar traits. They stay with the children, they watch the cattle.” Despite their gentle and loyal nature, there can be some drawbacks to owning Newfoundland dogs. The breed is massive and many have been known to easily exceed 200 pounds; they have a coat that sheds and needs regular brushing, otherwise it tangles
rguably, there was never a breed of dog as famous and noble as the Newfoundland — the province’s official animal since 1972. They have been immortalized by the poet, Lord Byron, beloved by the British Royal Family and were the inspiration behind J.M. Barrie’s babysitting canine, Nana, in Peter Pan. The massive breed (males average 150 pounds, females 130 pounds) is renowned for its strength, intelligence, gentle nature and an overwhelming desire to rescue people from hazardous situations. A famous Newfoundland named Boatswain is even rumoured to have (unfortunately) saved Napoleon Bonaparte from drowning — thereby paving the way for the Battle of Waterloo. “Newfoundlands seem to consider their raison d’etre to be keeping people from harm,” writes Bruce Hynes in his book The Noble Newfoundland Dog, published this year by Nimbus. “A good specimen has an air of lordliness and carries its head proudly, moving freely with a loosely slung body. A slight roll is perceptible when it walks or trots and it does not appear heavy or sluggish” The double-layered, water-resistant coats of a Newfoundland dog are usually black, bronze, or a mixture of black and white and they have webbed paws (most love to swim). “There’s some, they’re half fish I believe,” Hynes tells The Independent from his home in Eastport, where he lives with his family and their two Newfoundland dogs, Steffi and Dory. Over the years, Hynes has owned six Newfoundland dogs, all of which were rescued from animal shelters across the country. One dog was traced back to a breeder who had originally sold it for $3,600. In Newfoundland and Labrador, an average price for a pedigree runs between $1,000 and $2,000. Hynes says his children used to have trouble learning to swim around their pet dogs. “‘Mum, he’s dragging me out of the water,’” he quotes. “Poor old dog … every
time they got in the water, the dog would go out and make them come in.” Hynes says even now, his aging Newfoundland gets anxious if a small child runs around the nearby beach, and if they swim out, Dory follows to supervise. In his book, Hynes explores many of the stories both true and legendary, surrounding the Newfoundland. He recounts one of his favourite tales. Captain Ryan from Paradise was sailing
his schooner in October, 1932. It was the middle of the night and he was briefly left alone on deck with his Newfoundland dog, Skipper. A short while later, a crew member came back up from below to discover the captain had vanished. It was a windy night and it was thought the boom had swung and knocked him overboard. The crew spent all night searching with a dory and a lantern, but they couldn’t find any sign of the captain and his dog.
See “Thick as,” page 4
A Canadian tragedy Editor’s note: Vic Young, former chair and CEO of Fishery Products International (1984-2001) was also chair and CEO of Newfoundland Hydro and Churchill Falls Labrador Corporation (1978-84). He corresponded with then-prime minister Jean Chrétien in 1996-97, calling for a tripartite resolution to the “unconscionable” Churchill River situation. The following article, first published in the 1999 book 50 Golden Years, was based on the details of Young’s correspondence with Chrétien. The dates and figures have not been updated. The fundamentals of Young’s arguments — including a strong focus on the 25-year contract extension — have remained intact and make a major contribution to the ongoing debate over Churchill Falls. Published with permission.
he mighty Churchill Falls development continues to haunt Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, some 23 years after its eleven powerful turbines came on stream and the infamous Churchill Falls contract went into effect in 1976. The project was the driving force behind the largest private financing ever on Wall Street in 1968. It then became the largest and most successful
Paul Daly/The Independent
construction project in the history of our province with the first power coming on stream in 1972 and the plant being completed in 1976. The dreams and aspirations of politicians, financiers, engineers, contractors and construction workers were all fulfilled during the heady days leading up
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to the completion of one of the largest and most profitable hydroelectric developments anywhere in the world — then and now! The magnificent construction project, built by Brinco in the early 1970s, was not only supported by Newfoundland and Quebec, but had the
direct involvement of the Government of Canada. Indeed, the project would not have been possible without the introduction of the Public Utilities Tax Transfer Act by the federal government in 1965. It specifically put in place a series of tax rebates which significantly enhanced the viability of the Churchill Falls project. More meaningfully, Churchill Falls was developed in the context of a national policy that permitted Quebec to be the sole dealer in the subsequent export of Newfoundland energy to the northeastern United States. It was such a national policy which became the fundamental cause of what has become known as the “unconscionable inequities” of the Churchill Falls contract. Some years ago, the National Advisory Committee on Energy Options, chaired by Mr. Tom Kierans (now president of the C.D. Howe Institute), captured the fundamental essence of Canada’s energy policy in the following statement: “Energy is about Canadians, about our dealings with each other, directly and through our institution. Our management of this issue speaks tellingly of our respect for each other’s rights as well as our willingness to coalesce for mutual support. Canada’s energy policy should reflect
our sense of self and our collective vision of the nation. History tells us that we strain the bonds of our federation when we fail to formulate policies that meet these standards.” This statement serves as a fitting overview as to why the overall Churchill Falls situation has been straining the bonds of our federation for the past 22 years, with its extremely negative impact on the relationship between Newfoundland and Quebec. The ongoing dispute between our two provinces has escalated because (1) a national energy policy which prevented Newfoundland from transmitting its power to export customers in the United States; and (II) the incredibly one-sided contractual arrangements which govern the long-term sale of Churchill Falls power to Quebec. The total hydro-electric resources on the Churchill River in Labrador have the potential of producing 50 billion kilowatt hours of energy annually, the equivalent of over 80 million barrels of oil. Of this amount, 34 billion kilowatt hours, the equivalent of 55 million barrels, is already in production at the Churchill Falls plant and the bulk of this energy in being exported from Labrador to the province of Quebec. See “Quebec has,” page 21
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4 • INDEPENDENTNEWS
DECEMBER 25, 2005
‘Utterly dismal’ Senator jumps on decentralization bandwagon; Andy Wells not optimistic
By Alisha Morrissey The Independent
Canadians will soon see a change. Mayor Wells isn’t so sure. “The federal record is utterly disharlottetown Senator Percy Downe may be the latest mal and I don’t think the federal govpolitician to sign on to the ernment — I mean the liberal governidea of decentralizing federal jobs, ment — doesn’t care about but he’s more optimistic than long- Newfoundland. They don’t have to, time proponent St. John’s Mayor we don’t count for nothing,” Wells says. “We were a colony up ’till 1933 Andy Wells. Prince Edward Island is the only … and now we’re a colony of Ottawa province in Canada, outside of … and until we get the oil revenues Ontario, to have a federal department starting to flow and we become more headquartered there, and Downe says and more like Alberta that’s where we’re going to be, so the entire Island we should have no province benefits expectations from from having the Ottawa.” Department of A recent study by Veterans Affairs the Leslie Harris located in the capital Centre of Policy and city. He says the Regional Develfederal government opment at Memorial should be working University shows towards relocating the number of federmore departments to al jobs in this appropriate regions. province has “The Department dropped 32 per cent of Fisheries and since 1992. There Oceans Canada is in were only 76 execua high-rise building tive federal civil in downtown OtI’ve seen the service jobs in Newtawa on Kent benefits first-hand foundland and Street,” Downe tells Labrador in 2004, The Independent. of a successful compared with “You can’t see a fish 5,642 in Ontario. or a fisherman from decentralization.” Meantime, in a the highest window Charlottetown of the highest floor pre-Christmas press of that building.” release, the St. Senator In 1976, the John’s Board of Veterans Affairs DeTrade calls on the Percy Downe partment was relofederal government cated to Charlotteto re-examine the town and the 1,200 jobs and $70-mil- number of federal jobs in this lion annual payroll has played a role province – especially the lower numin the city’s growth. ber of executive positions. “In Atlantic Canada a secure posi“Newfoundland and Labrador has tion and a secure paycheque allows taken several hits over the past numpeople to make long-term invest- ber of years in terms of federal govments in homes and automobiles and ernment positions and presence, and other expenses that are good for the it’s high time for our politicians to economy. I’ve seen the benefits first- acknowledge and act on this probhand of a successful decentraliza- lem,” said board president Marilyn tion,” Downe says, adding the 1970s Thompson. Wells says while the province prorelocation project that moved the Veteran Affairs headquarters was duces 400 barrels of oil a day “there’s scrapped before any other depart- not a single employee of the Department of Natural Resources working ments could be moved. “All Canadians pay taxes and the in this province. “There’s 50 jobs … in the Bedford benefits should be throughout the country. There’s tremendous resist- Institute (in Nova Scotia) working on the geology and the seismic work on ance throughout the bureaucracy.” Through his research, Downe our oil and gas industry, which is dissays he’s learned more than 70 per graceful,” says Wells who’d like to cent of upper management jobs in see decentralization become an issue the federal government are located in the Jan. 23 federal election, but has in Ottawa. little faith the candidates will press “In this day in age of technology the issue. and communications, those positions Downe says the Senate and politiand those opportunities can be spread cians are on board — it’s senior across the country.” bureaucrats who aren’t. The senator has been actively fight“They would perceive that they’re ing the case all year, talking to Prime losing something, but my argument is Minister Paul Martin, Atlantic it’s disproportionately centralized in Canadian MPs and anyone else who the Ottawa are and they should be will listen. He says he’s optimistic moved around.”
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‘I’m not doing this for me, I’m doing it for my children’ From page 1 “I had a funny, mild headache constantly,” he says. Concerned, he returned to Goose Bay early and went straight to his doctor — who prescribed painkillers and a “wait and see.” Not satisfied, Skinner flew to St. John’s, determined to have a CT scan. There, he saw a neurologist, “gave him a sob story” and, between the nurses’ strike and a little bit of luck, he got the scan virtually right away. It came up clear. Shortly after, he went in for an MRI. “The doctor said, ‘Gerry, you’ve got a tumour, but I can’t tell you what we can do about it … but we can get you another appointment.’” He got that appointment the next morning. Within a week, Skinner had come through what would turn out to be the first of four surgeries. “It seemed to be reasonably successful,” he says, though he was taking dozens of painkillers daily. A few weeks later, Skinner was fairly certain he wasn’t out of the woods — and sure enough, an immediate MRI revealed the tumour had grown to four times what it had once been. He underwent three months of daily radiation treatment. Eventually, the tumour shrank and stabilized. For four years, Skinner went in every three months for an MRI, and was given a clean bill of health — until October 2004, when the tumour sprang back to life with a vengeance. They operated immediately. “They couldn’t get it all, but they took what they could get,” he says. Determined to find another solution, he went to the Montreal Neurological Institute and underwent stereotactic radiosurgery, a specialized kind of radiation therapy — and it didn’t work. He went through another operation, and a little more of the tumour was cut out. Along the way, an optic nerve was damaged, leaving him blind in one eye.
According to the specialists in Montreal, there was one option left: an incredibly strong beam of radiation directed exactly at the tumour — risky, because of other nerves in the brian. “But it was successful,” says Skinner. “One blast of radiation put the tumour asleep. I hope it’ll be paralyzed forever.” Through it all, Skinner says he kept positive and avoided possible side effects by keeping busy — retiring from the distribution industry, moving to St. Philips, and starting up his alternative power business. ALARMING TREND He also began gathering information on cancer patients in the province — and saw an alarming trend. He has a stack of newspaper stories on his desk; one after another about wait times for CT scans, for MRIs, about families having to fundraise desperately to travel for the evaluation and treatment they need, about diagnosis coming too late. He began to research new technology, meet with technicians to figure a way to rectify the situation. Obviously an idea man, Skinner seems a tireless and sincere researcher who takes on large issues — the clichéd, outside-the-box thinker. The diagnostic clinic he envisions would feature: a new, open MRI (eliminates the clausterphobic sensation of the traditional MRI, plus allows people of all sizes to use it); a PET/CT scanner (advanced, full-body imaging equipment providing three-dimensional images and accurate cancer — and other abnormal cell — identification); and ultrasound equipment. He pegs the cost of the medical equipment at $10 million. He adds another $10 million for warranties and trained technicians. A further $5 million would go towards rental of space and set up costs. Ideally, he says the $25 million lab would be open 24/7. “I found someone who is willing to
put up the money,” Skinner reiterates, referring to the American company that has reportedly studied wait times in this area and believes the equipment to be a sound investment. “I don’t want any money from the government at all,” he continues. “The only thing I would want is the assurance that, when this is up and running, they would send people our way if they couldn’t service them on existing hospital equipment. “I would be satisfied if the government would give me a permit to operate.” He says he could do an MRI at 75 per cent of the cost to MCP as the hospital’s machine. “This is not a two-tiered system. This is not private health care. The government is going to pay for this and it’s going to be cheaper than what they can do for themselves.” Skinner says he has the support of the doctors he has dealt with in the cancer clinic. (None of the doctors were able to speak to The Independent about Skinner’s proposal, citing client confidentiality.) A spokesperson confirmed Health Minister John Ottenheimer had looked at Skinner’s proposal, and has spoken with him. She says the government is taking the wait list times seriously and that there are plans within the department to deal with the issue, including three new MRIs for the province and regular “expert evaluation.” Skinner fears enough won’t be done, and not fast enough. “I’m not doing this for me,” he insists. “I’m doing it for my children, your children, for anyone out there. Any of us may have cancer … “It would save the province billions of dollars and it could save a lot of people’s lives so they could spend another 20 years with their families … instead of going to the funeral home to see another dead person who had cancer and it wasn’t caught until it was too late.”
‘Thick as thieves’ From page 3 and mats; they don’t have a great perception of personal space (“if these dogs had corners I would have been crippled years ago”); they need lots of company and they drool — although some more than others. “You’ve got it on the ceiling and everything,” says Hynes. “You buy paper towels by the truckload. “The bigger the dog, the more they drool. Males drool more than females — although the two I have now barely drool.” For the dedicated dog owner, though, they’re a perfect companion — and they love being around other animals, especially other Newfoundlands. “They’re thick as thieves,” Hynes says about his two dogs. “They’ll run down the trail in front of you, shoulder to shoulder … they lie, usually close together and one with his head on the other. And when one of them dies, then it’s a big loss, not just for you, but for the other dog.” Henry David Thoreau, a 19th century philosopher and author, summed up his feelings for the breed in a famous quote that has since been recorded in the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador. “A man is not a good man to me because he will feed me if I should be starving or pull me out of a ditch if I should ever fall into one. I will find a Newfoundland that will do as much and more.”
DECEMBER 25, 2005
INDEPENDENTNEWS • 5
‘That’s not true’ Former world champion of poker, Carbonear’s Phil Earle, says Atlantic Lotto wrong to criticize online gambling By Darcy MacRae The Independent
former world-champion poker player disputes Atlantic Lotto’s claim that unregulated Internet gaming sites have become a problem in Atlantic Canada. In fact, Dr. Phil Earle of Carbonear — winner of the 1995 World Series of Poker in Omaha, Ne. — says Atlantic Lotto is as much to blame for creating problem gamblers as anyone. In the Dec. 18 edition of The Independent, Atlantic Lotto spokesperson Robert Bourgeois stated unregulated Internet poker sites targeted problem and underage gamblers. He said money spent on such sites were funds that could have been returned to the four Atlantic Provinces were they spent on regulated Atlantic Lotto games, either purchased in a store or online. But Earle doesn’t buy Atlantic Lotto’s explanation of why unregulated online sites are a problem. “It’s a problem because it gives Atlantic Lotto competition,” Earle tells The Independent. Earle worked in Houston, Tex. for more than 20 years as a family practitioner before retiring from medicine and returning to Carbonear four years ago. He also majored in physics and honoured in math during his university days. During his time in Texas, Earle was a recreational poker player who won several major tournaments, often competing with and defeating professional players. While he doesn’t condone gamblers spending their life savings in a game of cards, he says people should be allowed to do whatever they want with their money, including playing poker online. “People want to be able to sit in their own home, take $20 or $30 and have a little game of poker with their slippers on and a cup of tea,” Earle says. “They don’t want to risk their lives driving around to smoke-filled rooms.” Earle takes issue with many of Bourgeois’ claims. For starters, Earle says Bourgeois is incorrect when he insinuates online games originating from countries with less gambling regulations than Canada are a risk to those playing them. Earle maintains that gambling regulations are used to create profits for organizations like Atlantic Lotto.
“When they put the regulations on it, what they’re doing is controlling it so they can take their profits out of it,” says Earle. “They make the odds in their favour and it’s not as free or as open and the odds and return on your money aren’t as good as you get in the open market. “When you control and regulate gambling it means you want to control the money, you want to get your cut out of it.” Earle uses Lotto 649 and Super 7 as examples of why he believes odds given by Atlantic Lotto are inferior to those found on unregulated, online gaming sites. “If you bought 10 tickets on Wednesday and 10 tickets on Saturday every week of the year, that’s roughly $1,000 a year. If you did it for 30 years, that’s $30,000. Do you know what the odds are of you hitting that lotto? That’s 600 to one … where do you see those statistics out? You mean to tell me that’s fair?” the former world champion asks. Earle says of the people who play online, the
percentage of those who win is much higher than those who gamble via lottery tickets, VLTs, scratch tickets or pull-tabs. “All kinds of people win all kinds of money (online). You never see that in the lotto and in the VLTs,” says Earle. “I know many people who cash out $10,000 a week (online).” Earle does not agree with Bourgeois’s claim that unregulated gaming sites with no limit on money a player can spend are a problem. Earle says the real problem is when players have a set limit they can spend each day. “If you allow people to have no limit, there are people who will go in there and get broke. They’ll lose their bankroll, but then they’re out of action for four weeks because they don’t have any money. They won’t gamble any more for a month or they might never come back again,” says Earle. “But do you know what limitations do to people? That’s even worse because it guarantees that person will come back every day with $20, $30 or
$100. He’ll come back for a lifetime because he’s being milked slowly. “The golden goose hasn’t been killed, he’s been bled and allowed to recharge himself and play forever.” Earle says he knows from experience that a nolimit game leads to fewer problems. “I can tell you from seeing games in Houston for 20 years that if you have a big game with high limits and you have 20 players who come every Friday for a few weeks, in three or four weeks the game stops because people lose so much they won’t come back. But if you put a small limit on it, they’ll come back every Friday night for 50 years, and the game owner makes $1,000 every night,” says Earle. Another issue Earle takes up with Atlantic Lotto is Bourgeois’ statements concerning money spent on gaming that leaves the Atlantic Provinces. Said Bourgeois: “All of our (Atlantic Lotto) profits are returned to the provinces and they go into general revenue and are used for programs, services and building infrastructure. So any money spent on gambling that isn’t governed by the Atlantic Lottery, is money that leaves the provinces.” Earle strongly disagrees. “That’s not true. They take their salaries, their perks, it goes to various expenditures and bonuses and expense accounts,” Earle says. “It (online gaming sites) is not going to take as much money away as they (Atlantic Lotto) take in the lottery. Government organized gambling takes hundreds of millions in through the lottery and VLTs.” Bourgeois also told The Independent unregulated online games target problem gamblers, while Atlantic Lotto provides “information to our players so if someone has a problem with gambling they’ll know where they can find help.” Again, Earle sees a flaw in that line of thinking. “They turn around to say ‘Well b’y, we know you’re broke and you’re sick and you’re ready to commit suicide, but here’s a little phone number on the back of this card, I’m here to help you,’” Early says. “Yeah, I’m here to help you after I’ve destroyed your life. “I’m so sick of this … A problem gambler is going to go wherever he wants to go to gamble, it has nothing to do with regulations. “A problem gambler is a problem gambler.”
eeping an eye on the comings and goings of the ships in St. John’s Harbour. Information provided by the Coast Guard Traffic Centre.
MONDAY, DEC. 19 Vessels arrived: Oceanex Avalon, Canada, from Montreal; Burin Sea, Canada, from Terra Nova oil field; Maersk Chancellor, Canada, from White Rose oil field. TUESDAY, DEC. 20 Vessels arrived: Newfoundland Marten, Canada, from Bay Roberts; ASL Sanderling, Canada, from Halifax. Vessels departed: Atlantic Eagle, Canada, to Terra Nova oil field; Maersk Chancellor, Canada, to White Rose oil field; Oceanex Avalon, Canada, to Montreal; ASL Sanderling, Canada, to Halifax.
Atlantic Hawk, Canada, from White Rose; Chokyu Maru #28, Japan, from sea; Chiyo Maru #8, Japan, from sea; Sauvier, Canada, from Magdalene Islands, Atlantic Kingfisher, Canada, from Terra Nova; Sir Wilfred Grenfell, Canada, from Long Harbour. THURSDAY, DEC. 22 Vessels arrived: Maersk Nascopie, Canada, from Hibernia; Zuiho Maru #5, Japan, from sea. Vessels departed: Burin Sea, Canada, to Terra Nova; Sauniere, Canada, to Magdalene Islands; Maersk Placentia, Canadian, to Hibernia; Chokyu Maru #28, Japan, to sea.
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 21 Vessels arrived: Arctic Endurance, Canada, from St. Anthony; Holly J, Canada, from Wesleyville; Atlantic Osprey, Canada, from Marystown;
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6 • INDEPENDENTNEWS
DECEMBER 25, 2005
Merry Christmas Mister Bond C
hristmas for me is a lot of good things. The natural excitement the season generates goes on steroids in Newfoundland, as it’s the guaranteed time of year to see a lot of moved-away friends and family home for the holidays. A friend of mine told me that at the Aeroplan call centre for Ontario when someone called and said they wanted to use their points to go home for Christmas, the operators knew they meant Newfoundland. Judging by the annual impossibility of getting a last-minute seat in here this time of year, and the huge prices for the tickets, I’d say Air Canada figured out a long time ago where our native sons and daughters had to be at Christmas and decided to make hay while the sun was shining. Christmas season is also the time of year that most of us kick back and ponder the year we had and the year ahead. When I look back at this year I believe it could be a defining time for us as a people. I think we saw the first real stirrings of what I hope is our future. To me, this was the first year since the Peckford era a generation ago that the provincial government really challenged the status quo, and unlike the Peckford years, we actually won a victory, with a much bigger allowance
Publish or perish cheque to show for it. Extra budget money aside, it was the conviction and defiance of telling Dad we want more that could signal the beginning of a new economic maturity. There was also a lot of work done by the Williams administration to look at how to develop our hydro resources ourselves — very encouraging. Did anyone else get a shock when they read some of the power stories in recent editions of The Independent? Two billion dollars! That is what Quebec is making a year on the upper Churchill deal? On top of the questionable tactics used during the “negotiations,” on top of the legal-political dimensions that could be altered if we so chose, by now the simple human morality of the arrangement should be called into question. The fact that it appears Danny is seriously considering a lower Churchill development on our own is a very encouraging sign indeed. In the midst of all the positive momentum this year there were some
reminders of our past and the economic challenges we still face. Fish plant closures and the fall of one of our paper mills was more of the same pain we have had here for the entirety of my generation. In all these cases, government put considerable time and energy towards finding a solution to the shutdowns, which they should have, but the reality is that you cannot find solutions in the Newfoundland cabinet for major industrial changes that are happening in the world. The offer of over $150 million in financial support to the Abitibi situation was quite a shock for me. To save 300 jobs in an industry plagued for years with undersupply and lowest-use-ofresource economics, it was quite a bit of money to commit. A week ago we were told by the province that $10 million for aquaculture development proposed by the finders of Voisey Bay is too much out of the budget ... hmmm. I’ve written too much in the past to say other than 1) everywhere else in the world that has tried it has made aquaculture a thriving industry in the last 20 years; and 2) It is not a niche industry anymore, it represents almost half of the seafood eaten every day in the world, and it is the long-term future of the fishery. There is no more obvious path for
rural renewal in parts of Newfoundland than this business. My hope for 2006 is that the province decides to direct significant investment into real industries that are the long-term future for us and are in early stage growth here. The oil is great and is a fantastic revenue stream for a while yet, get as much as possible, but for God’s sake let’s invest now while we can in the non-consumptive industries that we can do here for a really long time. Hydro power, aquaculture, tourism … these are not airy fairy consultant’s studies talking about the great potential of Newfoundland, this is real business generating real revenue that can be greatly affected in the next 12 months. Good work tackling the immediate issues of spending and cost control, fantastic to show our teeth over getting a fairer share of resource revenue, but can we start to get serious about our real future and get about the work of providing rewarding careers for generations of future Newfoundlanders? The truth is that there is only so much you can take on at one time, and I’ll give credit where its due, it was a good year for us and the government, but there were times the frustration of fighting a can’t-do inertia over the last
years sent me into dark and black moods. Earlier this year during one of these funks we ran a series on Our Navigators in Newfoundland history, and I relearned a lot about some of the special people who shaped us into what we are today. I had known of Robert Bond from spending some of my childhood in Whitbourne, and had learned more of him around Notre Dame Bay as an adult, but did not know well of his life until I read our piece. A passionate Newfoundlander, he believed greatly in the people who called this place home, so much so that he personally guaranteed the debt of our nation for the thenmassive sum of $100,000, almost a century ago. Can you imagine that happening today? I found that very inspiring, and it lifted my optimism about the job ahead of us, even though it happened so long ago. As I reminisce about this year and our journey to date, and contemplate our future path and what we can do individually and working together to secure our future here, I place it all in perspective to this individual act of love of nation. Merry Christmas everyone, and Merry Christmas Mr. Bond, I am very proud to be called a Newfoundlander.
YOUR VOICE ‘Wonderful sensitivity’ Dear editor, I feel compelled to write and express my heartfelt thanks for the absolutely wonderful article, Mind, body and spirit, written by Alisha Morrissey and presented in the Dec. 11-17 edition of The Independent. I must tell you I am sometimes hesitant about discussing my interest in the shamanic path as I never know the depth of knowledge of the reader.
I could not have asked for a better presentation than what was published. It exhibited wonderful sensitivity to the topic and given the short time we spent together, Alisha captured the essence of what I had hoped I had said but was not sure. Thank you again and my very best regards. Carolyn Seeley Mayo, Portugal Cove
‘Take the blinders off’ Dear editor, I had never paid attention to the political process or the going ons of the American government. As an American citizen, I can say now that I am ashamed of that statement. I have taken a very keen interest in the provincial and federal government here in Newfoundland. It has been a real culture shock for me. The differences between the States and this island are huge. I believe I have taken such an interest in your politics because of the injustices I see here, such as the terrible condition of the health care system (wait times and lack of diagnostic equipment), infrastructure (roads and ferries), fisheries, lack of employment and opportunities. How can people flourish and grow when there aren’t any opportunities to better yourself by working or going to secondary schooling without it costing too much. It is frustrating and defeating. I can only
imagine how a born-and-raised Newfoundlander and Labradorian must feel if I feel this way after only a few years. Something has to change here. Voters — please think about each candidate and what they bring to the table. Please do not vote for the same old party just because you always did before and your parents and grandparents always did as well. If you pulled up to the gas bar where you always buy gas from and notice that the gas bar across the road is selling gas for 50 cents less, wouldn’t you go across the road and buy it there? Take the blinders off and make informed and researched decisions. Rural Newfoundland and Labrador deserves more chances and growth. St. John’s may be booming but your brothers and sisters outside of the big cities are trying to keep warm. Donna Boardway, Stephenville
‘Deficient in mental powers’ Dear editor, First I will take the opportunity to extend to you and your staff best wishes for a joyous Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year. Now I will make my feelings known about remarks made by a Toronto Sun sports columnist (Bill Lankhof) who has shown he is deficient in mental powers. This unfortunate individual made insulting remarks to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador because Brad Gushue and his team excelled themselves and showed their ability to our great nation by winning the curling championship. His remarks, in my opinion, were degrading and ignorant in all respects. Recently another individual remarked
about the way parents would spend money in a wasteful way (Scott Reid, Prime Minister Paul Martin’s director of communications, who said some parents might spend the $25 a week Conservative Party is promising for child care on “beer and popcorn.”) I say to this unfortunate individual you have my sympathy because if you are trying to win brownie points you are on the wrong track. Before making insulting remarks about a great province such as ours consult and investigate for it is an old saying, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and be thought of as a fool than to open it and prove beyond a doubt you are.” Christopher Cleary, Cupids Crossing
AN INDEPENDENT VOICE FOR NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR
P.O. Box 5891, Stn.C, St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador, A1C 5X4 Ph: 709-726-4639 • Fax: 709-726-8499 www.theindependent.ca • firstname.lastname@example.org The Independent is published by The Sunday Independent, Inc. in St. John’s. It is an independent newspaper covering the news, issues and current affairs that affect the people of Newfoundland & Labrador.
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The Independent welcomes letters to the editor. Letters must be 300 words in length or less and include full name, mailing address and daytime contact numbers. Letters may be edited for length, content and legal considerations. Send your letters in care of The Independent, P.O. Box 5891, Station C, St. John’s, NL, A1C 5X4 or e-mail us at email@example.com
Election rerun I
know it’s Christmas and you probably don’t want to hear or talk about the already old federal election, but that’s it, the reality we’re stuck with today. Ladies first: Siobhan Coady can start things off — the very same Missus who not so long ago wrote a column for The Independent (all’s fair in love and commentary). Siobhan — if you’ll excuse me, dear reader, so I can speak to the federal candidate for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl directly for a moment — your winning smile is a formidable strength, but watch you don’t go over the top and make people sick. Voters can only take so much sweetness before their stomachs turn. Siobhan used “sponsorship” cash to rent an entire movie theatre one Saturday earlier this month and invited 350 parents and their children to see The Polar Express, free of charge, as part of a “holiday-oriented approach” to the federal election campaign’s preChristmas leg. No doubt that was a lovely gesture on Siobhan’s part — indeed, key words on the press release put out by her camp included “festive,” “family” and “friends” — but is there really a difference between a free movie ticket, a free chicken snack pack or a free bottle of beer when it comes to influencing a vote? Let’s not forget a two-piece chicken and chips and a scattered Blue Star have been known to buy a vote or two around these here parts. In politics, there’s a fine line between being seen as doing something nice for the community and being seen as doing something nice for yourself (being and seen are the key words; it’s all tied to the perception-isreality thing). If Siobhan didn’t cross the line by renting out a movie cinema smack dab in the middle of her desired riding, she may have inched closer with the free scarves (the candy canes and hot chocolate are too petty to count). “You’ve heard the expression, ‘If you are handed a lemon, make lemonade.’ Well, if you’re handed a
Fighting Newfoundlander Christmas election, you make hot chocolate,” Coady is quoted as saying in her campaign material. To take the quote a step further: “If your stomach is turning and you feel like retching, stick your finger …” Siobhan’s news release went on to say: “On a matter unrelated to the campaign, Coady and the entire staff of her company … will be off work on Monday evening (past) to stuff Christmas hampers for the Salvation Army. However, this is not related to the campaign — the staff have given their time to the Salvation Army every year for five years.” This may be a stupid question, but if the matter was so unrelated, why was it included in a news release from the elect-Siobhan camp? But that’s enough picking on Siobhan, a successful businesswoman and worthy candidate by all accounts. She’ll give Conservative Loyola Hearn a run for his money. MY MONEY’S ON LOYOLA In the end, my money’s on Loyola, who’s made a name for himself in Ottawa as a hard worker and Newfoundland champion. Norm “Doyle’s Bulletin” Doyle — whose claim to fame is a regular pamphlet mailed out to constituents listing off the beneficiaries of his provincial MHA pension — may have a harder time in St. John’s East. Doyle is a constituency man who can work a Lion’s Club dinner or Firemen’s Ball as well as the master, John Efford himself, but when it comes to big-ticket files, Doyle doesn’t exactly wow an Ottawa room. Paul Antle, Doyle’s Liberal competition, has the weight of the party and what’s said to be a decent bankroll behind him (maybe even rivaling Ron Ellsworth, whose poster collection
during the St. John’s municipal election campaign may have outnumbered street signs). The strength of Doyle’s grassroots support will be tested this time around. On to Avalon, where bad-boy Fabian Manning is taking on a relative unknown, lawyer Bill Morrow. Manning certainly has the name recognition and reputation as a statusquo fighter behind him, but the Liberals are solidly entrenched in the Kingdom of Efford, where they still love their fallen king. (If Manning doesn’t make it maybe Danny, his old buddy, will hire him to fill Bill Rowe’s old job.) The four other Liberal incumbent MPs in the province — Bill Matthews, Gerry Byrne, Scott Simms and Todd Russell — should have no trouble keeping their jobs, which doesn’t say a hell of a lot about A) the expectations of their constituents; and B) the health of the federal Conservative party in Newfoundland and Labrador today. On a side note: it was interesting to see Joe Goudie, 66, resurrected from the political dead in Labrador. Who knows, maybe there’s hope yet for a John Crosbie comeback. The pre-Christmas campaign hasn’t exactly torn up the highways in this neck of the woods. On second thought, maybe tearing up highways isn’t a good analogy given the state of our cow paths. The issues are certainly piling up for the New Year. There’s the ever-shrinking population and the fact the few immigrants interested in planting roots here are forced to sleep in churches to avoid the deportation police. Then there’s federal jobs, upper Churchill redress and lower Churchill address, the fishery, the future — and on, and on. There’s a lot to think about, much to consider. Voting for the party your father or grandfather voted for doesn’t cut it anymore. There’s a hell of a lot for each of us to contemplate, with time enough for a movie after Jan. 23. Ryan Cleary is managing editor of The Independent. firstname.lastname@example.org
DECEMBER 25, 2005
INDEPENDENTNEWS • 7
Yes, indeed, it is a wonderful life But, as Ivan Morgan writes, only if we want it to be
’m a big baby. We all have our Christmas traditions, and I am no different. Every Christmas I settle down to watch director Frank Capra’s 1946 classic film It’s a Wonderful Life, possibly the best Christmas movie ever. And I resolve not to cry. Every year I fail. I watched it for the first time when I was 20. It snuck up on me. I had stumbled home from a party in a state best described in Green Days’ classic hit Brain Stew. So in an effort not to throw up I thought I’d try watching TV. And this movie was just starting. Black and white! It was 1979, what was I going to do? For those of you of a tender age, this was a long, long time ago, when a young Danny Williams was still looking for a sure bet utility to buy, and our viewing options were limited to CBC, the Stirling station with its Captain Newfoundland and the Golden Dove
Rant & reason (don’t ask), and an incomprehensible French channel. Slim pickings indeed — but we didn’t know any better. So the black and white movie it was. Little did I know it would change my life. Two hours and ten minutes later I was lying in front of the TV blubbering like a baby. Crying! Me! What the hell was that? I chalked it up to the — ahem — bad combination of Christmas cheer I had partook of. Never again. Some things just don’t mix with alcohol. The following year I saw it advertised. I laughed. That was the movie that made me cry. I watched it again. I cried again. It was infuriating! What the hell is this!
Mr. Lankhof, I read your latest article in the Sun and it disappoints me, as a Newfoundlander and as a Canadian, to see such ignorance in print. I get the feeling you may be a little misled when it comes to Newfoundland and Labrador and that a visit to the province would show you the kind of people who live here … good, honest and hardworking people. I’ll even take the time to show you around. To bring you up to speed and fill in some of the gaps, the biggest thing to hit Newfoundland and Labrador over the past 50 years is not Employment Insurance — it has been our economy, which leads growth for the entire nation. We send billions of dollars to Canada in oil revenue and personal income taxes every year. It’s the billions of dollars the upper Churchill project pumps into Quebec every year. It’s the billons of dollars the fishing industry pumps into the Newfoundland and Labrador economy ever year, benefiting all Canada. It is the centre of Ocean Excellence as noted by the leading governments around the world. It is the Voisey’s Bay nickel find, generating millions of dollars. It’s the clean, fresh air we breath and clean drinking water we
more’s great-uncle Lionel Barrymore, this is a work full of wonderful character actors with lovely, real human faces. The movie is an allegory of the idea that all of us have inherent worth, and each of us as individuals have important roles to play in each other’s lives. Capra has a lovely feel for lighting (one of the glories of black and white) and dialogue. And he has a heart as big as all outdoors. The movie was made in 1946, a year after Stewart had returned from flying bombers over Germany in the Second World War. He flew many sorties, earning (among other things) the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Croix de Guerre. I have always thought it astonishing that a person could return from such stress and devastation to make such a naive and hopeful film. I have watched this movie over 25 times. I know a lot of the dialogue by heart. I have read the reviews, and the books and commentaries. I can see the
point of the people who dislike the film, but I respectfully disagree. I think one can be too cynical, too worldly, too critical. I think people who criticize this movie have missed the obvious sincerity with which it was made, and miss the sincerity of the message. And I think its saving grace is its ineffable sweetness and earnestness. By God, Capra is right. Every person does have value, every one of us does make a difference — or more accurately — can make a difference, if we choose to. Wealth is much more than money and possessions. In the end the only thing any of us has is each other, and if we don’t love and support each other we are all doomed. It is a wonderful life, but only if we all make it so. Oh shit, where’s my hanky … Ivan Morgan can be reached at email@example.com
FROM SANCTUARY TO CUSTODY
YOUR VOICE ‘Lazy way to write’ Editor’s note: the following letter was written to Bill Lankhof, a sports columnist with the Toronto Sun, with a copy forwarded to The Independent.
And so it has gone for over 25 years. No matter who I am with, no matter how hard I try, I cry at the end of that stupid bloody movie. It is my yearly, utterly humiliating Christmas tradition. For those of you who don’t know, the movie is a sentimental look at a mythical small American town called Bedford Falls where everyman George Bailey— played by the incomparable Jimmy Stewart — runs into some money troubles and, in his moment of darkest despair, finds out, through the most hoaky of plot lines, what the world would have been like had he never been born. The movie has been damned by many as a maudlin piece of American kitsch. Maybe, but it is also a heartfelt attempt by director Frank Capra to show what the world can be like, if we just allow ourselves to make it that way. With a stellar supporting cast featuring the lovely Donna Reed and Drew Barry-
Alexi Portnoy (left, with daughter Valerie), who had been living in sanctuary in the basement of the Marystown Sacred Heart Church to avoid deportation, was arrested Dec. 21 and turned over to the Canada Border Agency. According to a release from the Portnoy Action Committee, he had left the church to run an errand, and was picked up during a “routine traffic check.” The Portnoys — Alexi, his wife and children aged 13, 7, 4 and a few months — are Israeli citizens and have been seeking refugee status in Canada for nine years. They entered the church in early October, and only the children were permitted to leave to attend school. According to the family’s immigration lawyer, Nick Summers, a detention hearing was scheduled for Dec. 23 to determine if Portnoy would be allowed back to Marystown while a deportation order is being readied. No criminal charges have been laid. As of the Independent’s press deadline, the result of the hearing was not known. Community support for the Portnoys has been stony; the action committee says they have been overwhelmed with offers of assistance and will do all they can to take care of the remaining family members.
drink that tourists come from all over the world to experience. Every province has its issues. The easiest form of writing for “media” is negative and misleading or inflammatory, as it gets the best reaction. I feel it’s a “lazy” way to write. You can say what you want and you don’t have to do the research. If you want to be well informed regarding the Newfoundland and Labrador of today read our local paper The Independent. Well written, well researched, positive and optimistic. Please congratulate this young man (Brad Gushue), who beat the best in order to represent Canada in the Olympics, even though he was distracted by his mother suffering from cancer. Now there’s a good story that I am sure your readers will enjoy. And it will sell papers too. I am sure you are a good person deep down inside. Please, why not show some good will, as it is the season. As a footnote, I am in the capital City of St. John’s. I own my own business. I employ eight full-time people, with above average incomes. They are all well educated and hard working and want to live here. I’m proud of Brad, as a Canadian and a Newfoundlander. Regards and best wishes for the holiday season. Sleep well tonight. Stephen Tessier, Conception Bay South
Paul Daly/The Independent
Rate of infection ‘seriously troubling’ Dear editor, I wish to draw your attention to a mistake in the article It’s crazy (Dec. 18-24 edition of The Independent). To state that the Hepatitis C (HCV) infection rate has not increased dramatically in the past year is incorrect. Yes there were 47 new infections in 2004, but the 50 infections cited in the article were to the end of July 2005. In light of this fact we know that the number of HCV infections to the end of July have exceeded that of last year (end-of-year stats have yet to be released) and we can only speculate that these numbers will continue to rise. This rate of infection is seriously troubling. Not only in terms of the potential health care costs (estimated to be potentially over $100,000 per person), but also in human costs with respect to the infected individual’s quality of physical, mental and spiritual health. The Safe Works Access Program (SWAP) strives to reach people who
Chances of Senate reform ‘slim or none’
inject drugs, who are at very high risk to contract HCV, offering information on the health risks involved with this activity. We provide education and supplies and safe disposal of used needles in an effort to reduce the harms for these individuals and for the broader community. HCV is a serious health concern. You cannot tell if someone has it by just looking at them. In fact, most people infected with it have no symptoms at all. There are several genotypes of HCV and it is possible to get infected multiple times. There is no vaccine for HCV. While it is possible to live healthy with HCV it’s better to avoid infection in the first place. It is important that people know that the infection rate is rapidly climbing and how to protect themselves from exposure to HCV. Tree Walsh, AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador
Dear editor, The Dec. 18-24 edition of The Independent included at least two references to Senate reform and constitutional change. It seems that few people realize how impossible such reform is. Thanks to Pierre Trudeau and his misguided attempt to codify our laws (in the French tradition) by bringing in a Charter of Rights which is constitutionally enshrined, changing the Senate
requires the agreement of all provinces and both Houses. Yes, the Senate would have to agree to abolish itself! Most citizens are of the belief that such reform falls under the general amending formula of seven provinces with 50 per cent of the population. However, in order to get his precious charter through, Trudeau agreed that the monarchy, the vice-regal offices, and Senate reform would not be subject
to the general formula but would require everyone’s agreement. In short, the chances of reforming the Senate are slim or none. In reality, more like none or none! Just another example of a Liberal PM damaging the nation to ensure his party’s goals are met. Paul Walsh, St. John’s
‘Informative and penetrating’ Dear editor, The story, Life or death, a portrait of Meredith Hall in the Dec. 18-24 issue of The Independent is very informative and penetrating about what makes a successful classical singer. Having followed Meredith’s career for the last 20 or so years, hearing her
in Toronto consort (an early music ensemble), on radio and playing the lead role of Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro with Opera Atelier in 1999 in Toronto, I was surprised to learn that she was/is terribly shy. Learning that her first voice teacher played so decisive a role in her later
success, I was saddened that this lady, Katherine Harrington, was not named in the article. Readers may also be interested to know that Meredith Hall has a second CD with La Nef, featuring the songs of Robbie Burns. Frank R. Smith, St. John’s, NL
DECEMBER 25, 2005
8 • INDEPENDENTNEWS
‘Lady playing the accordion’ MINNIE WHITE 1916-2001 By Alisha Morrissey The Independent
Daily News, Dec. 20, 1967
FROM THE BAY “The Christmas tree, which has become almost a universal symbol … seems to have had something of a counterpart in Egypt. The palm tree is known to put forth a branch every month and a sprig of this tree, with 12 shoots on it, was used in Egypt as the same time of the winter solstice as a symbol of the year completed.” — From The Fisherman’s Advocate in Port Union, Dec. 20, 1929 YEARS PAST “Members of Parliament will get their Christmas holiday after all, not that anyone expected it to be otherwise. But rather than take a chance on the opposition’s willingness to fight up to Christmas, the rule that would allow the government to limit debate in the advance, a compromise has been offered.” — Daily News, Dec. 23, 1968 AROUND THE WORLD “Recent rumours in Wall Street that a crop of Christmas melons “was ripe to be cut up for Christmas presents” were fulfilled today with the declaration of extra or increased dividends by a number of leading companies. The increased or extra dividends were well scattered over the list, including rails, rail accessories, steel, telegraph, banking, coal stocks and one or two specialties, and will result in enlarging dis-
bursements to stockholders about $11,000,000.” — The Daily Globe, Dec. 15, 1925 LETTER TO THE EDITOR “Dear sir, please allow me, through the columns of your valuable paper, to express the surprise and great disappointment felt on Xmas Day at seeing the Hercules — “mail steamer” — pass by without calling for or to our mails. There had been many anxiously awaiting the mail … we puzzled our brains to conceive a reason why the boat did not call, as the harbour was quite smooth and no difficulty whatsoever in the landing. There were snow storms at intervals, but certainly nothing to prevent a steamer going to regular ports of call. It is very annoying to the public to see the mail boat passing in a good time, expecting her so long, and having mails ready, especially at this important season.” — The Colonist, Jan. 12, 1891 QUOTE OF THE WEEK “Uncle Si says he’s all set for Christmas. He has a gallon of rum, a barrel of beers and 10 bottles of moonshine. ’Course he says after Christmas day he’ll bum off his friends.” — The Stephenville News, Dec. 14, 1957
nown in her later years as the “first lady of the accordion,” Minnie White couldn’t afford an accordion while she was raising her children — and so she waited. There was always music on the family farm in the Codroy Valley, says White’s daughter Barbara Skinner — although never an accordion. “As we were growing up we never knew what the accordion meant. Fiddle players would come in and she (Mom) would chord with them on the old organ we had and that was all the music we grew up with,” Skinner tells The Independent. “After we all grew up … that’s when she picked up and started playing the accordion. She dedicated her whole life to us.” White was born in St. Alban’s on the south coast of Newfoundland, moving to a farm in the Codroy Valley at the age of 16. It was at the age of 10 that she learned to play the accordion from her father. She often accompanied musicians on stage and at dances, although her music was apparently put on hold after her marriage to Richard White, a farmer for half the year and a highway worker the rest. Skinner describes her mother as tough and strong, a real community member and friend in the small village of Tompkins in the Codroy Valley. “Oh, she worked hard, Mom used to carry water, she milked cows, she did all that hard tough work. That’s why she was so bent over in the end with osteoporosis I suppose,” Skinner says. “We couldn’t take what they took — we’re not strong enough. “When I think about mom I miss the laughs we had. I looked through the pictures she got … and there she’s sat on Dick Nolan’s lap with this look on her face — laughin’ to kill herself.” Skinner says her mother was the happiest when she began her musical career. Jim Payne, performer and owner of SingSong Records, says White was a visionary in Newfoundland music, but faced challenges others of her generation didn’t. As a woman in an isolated community, White chose her family over her career. Payne says she could have been much more successful than she was. “I’ve always really thought of her as a pioneer in Newfoundland music, something for which I don’t feel she really ever got a great deal of credit,” he says. “She didn’t have the freedom to go traipsing
Shane Kelly photo
around the world like people like Rufus (Guinchard), for example, and people like Emile (Beniot).” White produced three albums on her own, Payne says, something even her male counterparts couldn’t achieve. “(She) financed them, recorded, distributed, hired the band, arranged the music, fired the band — if she didn’t feel they were up to scratch,” says Payne, who produced White’s fourth and final album. White headlined an afternoon act at the Starlight Motel on the west coast for 13 years, always wearing an evening gown on stage. Payne says someone once referred to her as a “lady playing the accordion” and White thought she should dress like a lady. “She was always insistent that it all had to be done with dignity, if any of her players got the least bit vulgar on the stage … they were fired just like that,” Payne says. “When she was on the stage she never spoke into a microphone. She wasn’t real animated … the accordion barely moved,
but you know she was able to pack so many notes into it and get so much rhythm.” Moving from the mainly Irish-English area of the south coast to the ScottishFrench Codroy Valley region helped White create songs that were an undefined blend of cultures. She played several instruments including mandolin, piano, fiddle and organ, but it was the accordion that won her numerous awards. “She was a frail looking woman, she wasn’t very big,” Payne says. “People would just take it for granted that she was like this little old lady and you could do what you wanted and if you thought that just by sitting in and backing her up that you were doing her a favour you were sorely mistaken. “The thing about Mrs. White is what you see is what you get. She didn’t put on any airs for coming out in public or anything. “She was a straight-forward, matter-offact kind of lady. She worked really hard all her life, you know.”
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Join us for a Gala evening celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of the esteemed composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 27, 1756). Enjoy a sampling of some of his great music including concertos, sonatas, operatic arias, quartets and serenades performed by the NSO Sinfonia, the Atlantic String Quartet, pianists Maureen Volk and Kristina Szutor, Duo Concertante, vocalists Jane Leibel, Catherine Fitch, Caroline Schiller, Shelley Neville, and Robert Colbourne, the MUN Chamber Orchestra with conductor Vernon Regehr. Also Alison Black violin, Pemi Paull viola, Victoria McNeill horn, Michelle Cheramy flute, David Reid euphonium and members of the NSO oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn sections.
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SUNDAY THROUGH SATURDAY, DECEMBER 25-31, 2005 — PAGE 9
Former federal New Democratic Party leader Alexa McDonough says the number of female candidates is “unbelievable.”
Women are staying away
Despite all the rhetoric, the number of female candidates has dropped dramatically in some regions
HALIFAX By Kelly Toughill Torstar wire service
n a political career that spans 24 years, 10 elections and terms as leader of both the provincial and federal New Democratic Party, Alexa McDonough says she has never seen numbers so troubling for women. Not a single woman is running for the Liberal party or Conservative party in Nova Scotia. In New Brunswick, there is just one woman running for office who is not a member of the New Democratic Party. Across Atlantic Canada’s 32 ridings, the Liberal party managed to nominate only two women, the Conservative party only one. “It’s unbelievable,” says McDonough, whose party has nominated 11 women to run for office in Atlantic Canada. “There has been serious backsliding in Parliament in the time I have been there.” Despite endless rhetoric about the need for women in politics, the number of female candidates has held steady across the country, and dropped dramatically in
some regions. Conservative candidate: Cynthia Downy, a McDonough is not the only one who town councillor from Stephenville, who is sees it as a problem. Conservative and running in Random-Burin. Across Canada, Liberal politicians in Atlantic Canada are 25 per cent of Liberal candidates are also discouraged. women, and 11 per cent of Conservative Marcelle Mersereau is a former New candidates are women, though the Brunswick Liberal cabinet minister who is Conservatives could add more women to running against an NDP the roster in 15 ridincumbent in Acadieings where nominaBathurst. She does not like tions are not yet final. the fact that she is the lone The NDP has 11 “There has been seri- women torchbearer for her party in running in the three Maritime Atlantic Canada and ous backsliding in provinces. 108 across the coun“It seems like we win Parliament in the time I try, far more than any one, we lose one,” she said. other party. But crit“I would like to think that ics accuse the NDP of have been there.” my daughter, rather than dumping women into my granddaughter, will be no-win ridings and Alexa McDonough able to sit at a table where saving the safer seats we are not stuck at 15 or 20 for men. per cent, but have 30 or 40 “You have to look per cent of the seats at the table — enough not only at how many women are running, to make a difference.” but where they are running and who is getSiobhan Coady of St. John’s is the only ting elected,” says Rob Batherson, other female Liberal candidate running spokesperson for the Conservative cameast of Quebec City. paign in Nova Scotia. Newfoundland and Labrador also hosts “The NDP has work to do, too.” Atlantic Canada’s only female In Nova Scotia, for instance, women are
taking the NDP banner into races against Conservative deputy leader Peter MacKay and powerful Liberal cabinet minister Scott Brison. Ed Wark is campaign director for the NDP in Nova Scotia. He says nominations are important, and points out that his party doesn’t decide where women run. One of the things his party does do, he says, is insist that riding associations scour their communities for good female candidates. Each riding must submit a list stating who has been approached to run for office. “If the list has 20 men on it and three women, we tell them to go back and try again,” says Wark. “But we don’t interfere in the nomination process.” Kay Young is a former cabinet minister from Newfoundland who is the Atlantic Canada representative for the National Liberal Women’s Committee. She says the NDP isn’t the only party that has had trouble fitting women to winnable seats. “Over the years, it’s been true of all parties,” See “A level,” page 10
Come on up, Tuck
‘Retarded cousin’ Michael Harris volunteers to to give Carlson a guided tour
ucker Carlson is a desperate man. When you’re the only man in America with worse numbers than George Bush, and wear bow-ties on network television, everyone knows you have to do something. So Tucker, dumped like a bag of boiled turkey bones by CNN, did just that this week when he called Canada America’s “retarded cousin.” Hey, wait just a minute, Mr. Poison Ivy League, we haven’t voted the Liberals back in just yet! Still, this retarded cousin for one was not surprised. Canuck-baiting is a regular feature of the outer orbits of neocon, nut-encrusted deep space America.
MICHAEL HARRIS The Outrider It was always part of Tucker’s performance on Crossfire, that spittle-flecked bunfight that CNN finally axed before another eardrum could be ruptured. ACT HASN’T CHANGED So now Tucker, bow-tie and all, yodels down the empty well of MSNBC to the delight of family and
friends. His act hasn’t changed. He wouldn’t criticize President Bush if he nuked Los Angeles, but he declares Canada retarded after Paul Martin rebukes the U.S. for its deadbeat approach to global warming. Goodness, it’s almost as bad as our own. So we’re retards, the French are cheese-eating surrender monkeys, and the guy who reads the newspaper upside-down when he’s not invading countries or square dancing down by the fishpond at Crawford Ranch is Tucker’s hero. That’s what happens when you put mouse ears on the news. But one part of Tuck’s calculated
provocation did interest me: “it’s unrequited love between Canada and the United States,” you said. “We, meanwhile, don’t even know Canada’s name. We pay no attention to them at all.” CLINICAL NARCISSISM So we are retarded, and you are proudly ignorant about Canada? Hmmm. That could open the door to an interesting discussion on clinical narcissism, but let’s leave that to the thumb-suckers in the white coats. But Tuck is absolutely right about one thing. Canadians do love the United States, they do share a continent
See “Peace if possible,” page 10
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and to some extent a culture, and yes, we are your best friends on the planet. Here is what the polls say on the subject. A whopping 86 per cent of Canadians believe that we have one of the best relationships with the United States of any two countries in the world. Seventy per cent of Canadians “value and respect the United States.” A full 980,000 of us actually think we should become the 51st state. Only 15 per cent are self-described antiAmericans. Since you admit to knowing nothing about us, let me also add that we do
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DECEMBER 25, 2005
10 • INDEPENDENTWORLD
No cars for dropouts
ONE YEAR LATER
A tsunami survivor plays outside a makeshift rehabilitation camp in Cuddalore, India last week. Aid groups say one year after the tsunami there are signs the worst-hit countries — Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India — are starting to revive. Parth Sanyal/Reuters
lder teens can vote against the cent of a nanny state. Ontario Liberals in 2007 if While Kennedy said the restriction they’re angry over a law that is a small part of a larger plan offerwould stop dropouts from getting a ing students more hands-on, practical driver’s licence, that province’s and co-op programs encouraging Education minister says. them to stay in school, detractors The government has no plans to maintain the limit on driving will back down from the controversial have no impact on students with no proposal, part of a access to cars and be program requiring hard on teens in rural kids to stay in school areas, where driving The restrictions until they graduate or is more important turn 18, Gerard in urban areas have been attacked than Kennedy says. with public transit. “If anyone wants The plan is a “gimas hard to enforce to know if we’re sinmick,” says Progrescere in this effort, the sive Conservative 16 year olds of today will be old MPP Bob Runciman (Leedsenough to vote by the next election,” Grenville). “They take a basically says Kennedy, who introduced the good idea — keep kids in school — legislation last week. and botch it up with dumb and That election will be held Oct. 4, unworkable schemes.” 2007. Teens are not now required to Kennedy, who has pledged to cut in stay in school past 16. half the 30 per cent dropout rate in The driver’s licence restrictions, an high school within five years, said he idea borrowed from several American is not surprised at the reaction to his states, have been widely attacked as plan and welcomes the debate. hard to enforce, punitive and reminis— Torstar wire service
‘Peace if possible, but truth at any cost’
‘A level of extraneous matter’
From page 9 know something about your great country. We know that Benjamin Franklin said “those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” We know Martin Luther King said, “Peace if possible, but truth at any rate.” And we know that on Jan. 17, 1961, one of your presidents said this in his nationally televised farewell address: “America knows that this world of ours must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate and be instead a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect … We must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.” And we know that one of the things that same Republican president and patriot warned against was the acquisition of “unwarranted influence” by the
then new military/industrial complex. Last year the world spent a trillion dollars on armaments. George Bush’s America accounted for half of it. When you add in the half-trillion dollar price tag for Iraq, it is not surprising your country is the most indebted in the world, at an unimaginable $8.1 trillion and counting. In fact, 19 per cent of your total federal budget is now used to pay interest charges on that debt. THE PROBLEM FOR US … After 40 years of deficit budgeting by Washington, I guess no one should be surprised at that ugly number — especially the 45 million Americans who have no health care, including five million children. The problem for us retards in Great White North is we don’t see how illegal invasions, presidential lies, torture, planted news, sticking poor blacks in football stadiums, spying on your own people or ambassadorial threats reflect
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American values. But then we regularly barbecue our politicians on the spit of the media up here. You prefer to let the office sanctify the man — no matter how unAmerican he may behave. Gunther Grass only had it half right when he said the job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open. What comes out shouldn’t be sucking up to the boss. So why not come up to Ottawa, our nation’s capital, and allow yours truly to give you the guided tour. We may be retarded, Tuck, but our government has shown seven or eight straight surpluses, everybody gets health care, there’s enough to invest in daycare rather than smart bombs, we hardly ever eat blubber and I can’t remember the last time I visited Lenin’s tomb. We’d love to see you. Besides, there’s so many Liberals around here, we could use your help in disposing of a few of them. Michael Harris’ column returns Jan. 8.
From page 9 she says. “If we have a seat that we don’t have a hope in hell of winning, a seat where we can’t get a man to run, we will get a woman. Really, it’s kind of insulting.” Mersereau says it is often the bareknuckle fight of nomination battles where women face the toughest hurdles. Several Liberal and Conservative women lost nomination battles in the current election. “The nomination is often an issue, an issue of money, or networking,” she says. “Once you’re nominated, voters are ready. In some ways voters are ahead of the game.” FAMILY OBLIGATIONS Both Mersereau and Young are blunt about the fact family obligations often hold back mothers in a way they don’t hold back fathers. Many women
are reluctant to either uproot their families to move to Ottawa or leave them at home while Parliament is in session. “I think as fathers become more involved in family life, that will have a positive effect and more women will decide they can run,” says Mersereau. It wasn’t the lure of hearth and home that kept Sheila Fougere off the campaign trail this time. It was her firm belief that she can be more effective at Halifax City Hall than as a backbencher in Parliament. Fougere is a popular municipal politician in Halifax who was one of the first women elected to city council. Last year, she carried the Liberal torch in the federal election, running against McDonough. It is something she swears she will never do again. “There is an extra level of, well, let’s call it extraneous matter, at the federal level that doesn’t exist at the municipal level.”
DECEMBER 25, 2005
INDEPENDENTWORLD • 11
VOICE FROM AWAY
Christmas in Korea
In some ways, says Greg Demmons, being away from North America’s Christmas culture isn’t so bad By Greg Demmons For the Independent
worked in a mall for a long time, through my university years and then for a few more years after graduation. After I left the mall life, I swore I would never enter another mall during the Christmas season. The constant barrage of music and carols, Santa hats and jingle bell sale signs have been the subject of nightmares over the years. There are several wonderful aspects of Korea that make Christmas a more tolerable time of year for me. When I turn on the radio in my van I don’t hear Bing Crosby, Elvis or the most recent version of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Malls, in the way that we know them in the West, are not popular in Korea … yet. Schools don’t spend time decorating the halls with bells of holly or ribbon or tinsel. There aren’t Santas on every corner ringing for donations or Ho-Ho-Hoing to keep warm. Some of you are thinking I am a Grinch and that I have a big smile on my face as I write, but it is not completely true … well, the smile part is correct, I do feel a certain sense of satisfaction/relief here in Korea. But I do
Employees of Samsung present candles to South Korean children in Seoul.
like the roast beast and the gift-giving and even, to a certain degree, the music and generosity of the season. I think it is an absolutely wonderful thing that people want to adorn their family and friends with a cornucopia of Christmas gifts and holiday meals. My objection has always been the commercialization of holidays, especially Christmas. Being in Korea has been like being around for Christmas in 1930 North America. Although Korean Christians cele-
brate Christmas, it is not the same. In the classes I teach, some students tell me their families do not have a Christmas tree, nor do they exchange gifts. The Christianity here is more along the fundamentalist or evangelical line. The kind of celebration that has become the norm in the West is shunned, even discouraged. So amidst all of this, English teachers from Western nations, most of whom do not get the opportunity to leave the Korean peninsula during the holiday
season, come together in various ways. Not surprisingly, most focus on the consumption of mass quantities, as our Conehead friends might say. Mass quantities of food and of course alcohol will be the way of the world for most of us. During the month of December, Korean companies have “Year End” parties almost every evening. I teach at a large beer brewing company, so I could, theoretically, drink every night of the week until about the middle of January. Fortunately, we live 20 minutes outside of town, so I cannot indulge that frequently. Foreigners have “I miss my family” parties. Not that we call them that, but when we get together people never stop talking about home, “real” Christmas trees, eggnog, turkey dinners (rarely do teachers have ovens in their apartments, and turkeys are usually only available on American Military Bases), and the friends and family back home that they will call after getting really drunk, waking them in the middle of the night to cry about how wonderful they are. This year is special for us because we have a house. When we moved in the first thing we decided was that we had to have an oven. We decided to shop
around, but bought the first one we saw, as though it was the only one available. So we have invited 15 or 20 teachers for dinner on Christmas Eve. It will be a potluck party, which our friend from Australia thought was a really wonderful idea; until we explained to him that the “pot” meant a food dish. We have a small Christmas tree up and we had the neighborhood children over to teach them how we decorate trees. Patti, my wife, had a cookie-making party last weekend, and the whole neighborhood showed up to make M&M shortbread snowman cookies, gingerbread, and so on. So we are all set for the Christmas festivities. We have cookies out the yin yang, a freezer full of chickens to bake, so much wine that we feel like an estate, hundreds of downloaded Christmas carols, a large roast of beef and I, the Grinch, shall be barbecuing, yes, barbecuing wings and filet for the occasion. And did I mention that I work for a brewery … need I say more? Clarenville native Greg Demmons has been living in Korea for three years. Do you know a Newfoundlander or Labradorian living away? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
DECEMBER 25, 2005
12 • INDEPENDENTWORLD
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SUNDAY THROUGH SATURDAY, DECEMBER 25-31, 2005 — PAGE 13
The Celtic Fiddlers: (front row, from left) Elizabeth Drover, Andrew Fitzgerald, Brittany Pike, Brian Kenny, Mitch Fowler; (middle row, from left) Liz Shallow, Korona Brophy (director), Gillian Skinner, Robyn Peddle, Julia Bowdry, Aimee Richard; (front, from left) Cathy Fowler, Angela O’Brien, Maria Peddle, Meghan McDonald. Missing from photo: Jamie Wilkinson, Steve Lee. Paul Daly/The Independent
By Stephanie Porter The Independent
he Celtic Fiddlers — 15 of them anyway — gather together, jostling for a spot on the backdrop, giggling, teasing each other. At a time of year when everyone’s involved in festive concerts and performances, plus the usual grade school, university, work and music lessons, it takes some effort to get the young musicians in one room for a photo. But when they’re all in place, the Fiddlers need little instruction: instruments poised, winning smiles on their faces, they’re ready for the camera. Members of the group range in age from nine to 27, and are as comfortable in front of the lens as they are before an audience — they have plenty of experience with both. WELL TRAVELLED Formed in 1993, the group has played gigs of all sizes in this province, travelled to Ottawa and Nova Scotia, and toured Ireland twice. Next summer they’re headed to Scotland to perform in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
‘It’s a laugh’ The Celtic Fiddlers, ages nine to 27, have been playing for audiences here and abroad for 13 years
Last summer, the group recorded their third CD, A Time for Christmas, in part as a fundraiser for their upcoming trip. “We started in June and recording was quite a long process,” says Korona Brophy, who has directed the group since the beginning. “Because I kept saying to them, if you don’t like anything, fix it now, because you’re the ones that are going to be listening to it when you’re 50 or 80. “I was in that studio every morning every day last summer.” The CD’s 12 Christmas standards or medleys feature the group’s regular members on fiddle, bodhran, guitar, bass, piano, mandolin, drums, tin whistle and vocals.
“Pretty much, they all play three instruments,” says Brophy, a music and social studies teacher at Gonzaga (and musical director for their recent and very popular spring musicals). “A lot of them play bodhran, and they feed off each other and teach each other … that’s how traditional music gets passed along.” Brophy looks over at Andrew Fitzgerald, one of the newer members of the group, having joined about a year ago. “Andrew here came to me for one fiddle lesson and the next thing he had a whistle and a bodhran.” Fitzgerald, for his part, says being in the group is “a lot of fun,” and “it’s something I
want to do … it’s not like some things you feel you have to do.” At 22, Angela O’Brien has spent fully half her life as a member of Brophy’s band. She says The Celtic Fiddlers have “always been like a second family.” The range in ages around her is only a bonus. Even nine-yearold Maria Peddle is “really mature … and really fun to be around” — and a strong singer too, as her performance on Silent Night goes to show. “The idea of the group is to keep traditional music alive,” O’Brien says. “Through younger generations like us playing it, it gives a good impression to other younger people. “And whenever the Fiddlers get together, we always have a good time, singing and playing and fooling around. It’s always been a good experience.” TO EACH THEIR OWN O’Brien admits not all her friends are into the kind of music she plays. While some will come along to catch a session at one of the Irish pubs downtown, she says others See “Makes you appreciate,” page 18
Newfoundland to Nashville Damian Follett of Placentia Bay has new CD; shot at Rock Star fame By Clare-Marie Gosse The Independent
lot of things have happened to Damian Follett over the last five years. The singer/songwriter met his wife, turned 40, his father died and his son was born. Such dramatic events are bound to change a person; Follett channelled it all into his most recent solo CD project, The Reason. “It’s been a floodgate of creativity,” he tells The Independent. “I was at that crossroads. Life to me, when you reach 40 years old, is very introspective. I was looking at life going, you know I’m 40 years old, I’ve
achieved some stuff, but I’ve got so much left to do.” As a seasoned performer in St. John’s for the past two decades, Follett has been branching out into international waters since 2000, pushing his talent for writing rock/country on the market in “the songwriters’ Mecca” — Nashville, Tennessee. During multiple trips back and forth from the U.S., he’s been learning everything he can about the industry, courting potential clients and generally building up his reputation. Follett’s already signed several single-song publishing deals and is hoping for more to come. The Reason, an unpretentious, heartfelt collection of inspired songs created
over the past few tumultuous years, is made up of just some of his many Nashville demos. “For years I’ve been trying to push my music up here in Canada and getting zero response,” he says. “But after going to Nashville, spending the last five years in Nashville, I mean the feedback I get down there, the positive vibes … that’s why I needed to go south.” Just not to live permanently. Although Follett recorded many of his songs in Nashville, he says he’d rather stay in the province and commute now and then. Follett is lively, softly spoken and See “You’re a star,” page 18
Paul Daly/The Independent
DECEMBER 25, 2005
14 • INDEPENDENTLIFE
NAN LEE Folk Art
he Bosun’s Whistle sits by the water, overlooking Upper Cove, Happy Adventure, near Eastport — a dream location, says Nan Lee, for her art gallery/tea room/craft store. Not
only do the water and scenery provide inspiration, but also a wealth of raw materials for her to work with. The store itself is two small rooms, covered floor to ceiling (inclusive) with Lee’s work. A painter, craftsperson and folk artist, Lee will turn just about anything — from the more usual painter’s canvas to found objects like driftwood, shells, rock, antlers, and rope — into
colourful, friendly, and often humourous, pieces. This time of year, though the rooms look crowded to the untrained eye, Lee says the shelves are empty compared to
the way they are when the shop opens for the season. “On the first of May it’s all stocked up,” she says. “That’s when the regulars know to come by for the best selection … I’ve got quite a following,” Lee calls herself an “army brat,” having moved around Canada and Europe with her parents as a child and young adult. She settled in Toronto at age 21, only moving east recently. Art has been
part of her life as long as she can remember. “In the ’50s and ’60s we had art in school, and that’s where I learned,” she says. “One year in Europe I went to art camp for a month, but I was pretty young then too … I was self-taught as well. “It’s only lately, the last 15 years, I’ve gotten into it to make a living out of it.” In 2004, Lee was awarded a provincial Arts and Letters award for a piece called Ram’s Horn 233 — a wooden crate painted, inside and out. The Bosun’s Whistle is currently closed for the season. But it’s still busy for Lee as she restocks her shelves for the tourist months ahead. “These days I’m working away,” she says. “I do all my stuff for next year, that’s what I do all winter, just create things and have my store ready for next season.” She and her husband, Gord, walk their dogs daily along the beach, keeping eyes peeled at all times for anything that can be turned into art. Her favourite finds, she says, are always pieces of driftwood. “You can see shapes in (the driftwood) or some kind of feature and my work is pulling that out of it … finding something in a driftwood, focusing in on it and pulling it out. “But it’s enjoyment, it’s not even work, it’s just something I do. And thank God I have some place to put it afterwards or my house would be full.” — Stephanie Porter
The Gallery is a regular feature in The Independent. For information or suggestions, please call (709) 726-4639, or email email@example.com
Ode to cod Like drifting snow in a winter’s storm, ’neath melting ice in spring you swarmed. To shallow banks from the ocean deep, a sacred covenant to keep. Nature’s urges — eons old spewed untold eggs in the nesting fold. Generations born, no ships nor man, Just playing out the master plan! Then yesterday in realm of time, a ship was spied on the ocean brine. From across the deep in search of gold Came men from Spain and Portugal. Riches more than gold were found when basket lowered in the shallow sound. Filled to the brim, a gift from God and the race was on for the Northern Cod! Four hundred years and more, our reason on this distant shore. Years you tricked us, we thought it odd, But we never doubted, we called you Cod. But sad to say, your match was found in ships of steel and things that sound. The bottom of your ocean home, that solved the mystery, where you roam. And as you tried your best to mate on shallow banks you congregate. Great threads of steel and balls like lead tore you from your mating bed! They ripped you from the ocean floor with net and warp and huge steel door. Your seeds meant for a fertile bed, on decks of steel lay cold and dead! Where once you swam uncharted sea, unfettered — wild, just moving free. You’ve zones now like 3K Cod. Reprieve, it seems, now rests with God. So if a prayer, we might implore, on your behalf to Heaven’s shore. We pray God’s wisdom to bestow, On those your destiny control! David Boyd, Twillingate
DECEMBER 25, 2005
INDEPENDENTLIFE • 15
veryone loves to laugh but Newfoundlanders are particularly good at laughing at themselves. Newfoundland theatre thrives on this fact, from the hee-haw mockeries of Spirit of Newfoundland’s dinner theatre shows to the hard dark ironies of experimental or alternative theatre, such as we’ve seen at the LSPU Hall over the years. Indeed, there is a spectrum, with the humour of the harmless spoof on the one end and the humour of biting satire on the other. Not surprisingly, audiences always turn out in greater numbers for the safer humour of the spoof. The blacker comedy of satire is harder on the head, if actually easier on the pocketbook. This is an interesting moment in which to compare these two kinds of spectacles. No Mummers Allowed In, written by an ensemble cast and directed by Andy Jones, recently wrapped up after a successful week-long run at the LSPU Hall. Soon to be playing at an arts and culture centre near you is Rising Tide’s annual Revue. Both productions spear local politicians, drawing on familiar character types and local trends. But they are as different from each other as Everybody Loves Raymond is from Arrested Development, or A National Lampoon Christmas Vacation is from Dr. Strangelove. Rising Tide’s Revue bills itself as satire but this is true only in the very broadest, tamest, softest sense. And it is political only in the sense that it takes the theatre of politics as its subject. We always get the jokes because we have all lived through the year together, watching the same repetitive media coverage of events. We have all denounced or praised the same politicians, shared our disgust or guarded
Paul Daly photos/The Independent
Discomfort and Joy admiration with taxi drivers, shopkeepers, co-workers, friends, and lovers. By the time the year is almost spent we have all come to pretty much the same conclusions about Danny Williams, John Efford, Jack Harris, Ray O’Neill, and Andy Wells. In a way, watching the annual Revue is like watching a rerun. We already know the jokes. We can hear the next gag winding up an ocean away. We could have written the material ourselves. It is practically sacrilegious to criticize the Revue, and, really, there’s no point. It is what it is: an opportunity for the tribe to get together and laugh at the familiar, like insiders on a life raft. The Revue is that comforting seasonal ritual in which we see Efford mocked, Williams chided, and Canada sent up and down the flag pole, in good fun and without heavy offense. The Revue hits the funny bone with a pillow. And that’s why the arts and culture centres across the province sell out
NOREEN GOLFMAN Standing room only every time the Revue comes to town. In January, when you are bloated and broke from holiday excess, the Revue is a head colonic. It purges the head of all things serious. No Mummers Allowed In is a different and more adventurous thing altogether. The title more than hints at the subversiveness of its intent. This is political theatre, not safe satire. The play takes direct aim, and with poisoned pen, at the province’s department of Tourism, Culture, and Recreation. The generically moulded Minister of the department, a certain addle-headed Mr. Pike, bears the misfortune of actively promoting dinner theatre, choirs of folk-singing schoolgirls, sentimental balladeers, and,
one imagines, the Revue. Played with aggressive gusto by Steve Cochrane, Minister Pike openly favours the tourist-friendly spectacle over anything more threatening, risky, or inventive. He is vulgar and bullying, pees in a bottle of Corona, is wasteful, forgetful, and crude. Of course, he is surrounded by nervous toadies, or so it seems. Although No Mummers Allowed In works through a murder mystery plot (some Mummer is killing those aforementioned tourist-friendly performers), it also offers up a series of loosely connected sketches. Some of these work better than others, but behind the laughs is a palpable contempt for the shotgun marriage of tourism and culture. Up for particularly savage and hilarious satiric assault is the kind of dinner theatre enacted by Spirit of Newfoundland and the Folk of the SeaIrish Descendents rant-and-roar Celtic brand of music that sells CDs by the
thousands. There’s no missing the joke, but the surprise keeps coming in seeing just how far the performance goes. Satire works best when it is savage and shocking, jolting people out of complacency, giving offense, and making audiences feel uneasy not only about what they are seeing but also about their own feelings of unease. The satirist wants you to think: why don’t I approve of what I am watching? Is there something wrong with me? Have I become too uptight? Am I brain dead or brain washed? No Mummers Allowed In draws on the kind of shock effect so famously practiced by Jonathan Swift, arguably the greatest satirist in English literature. Among other devices like exaggeration, his Gulliver’s Travels relied on scatological humour to unnerve polite society. Such humour focuses on the body and its naturally impolite ways of ridding itself of food, gases, or liquids. Andy Jones’ play pulls the same plug, so to speak, and No Mummers Allowed In goes a fair distance beyond adolescent fart jokes to make the chattering classes squirm in their seats. Whereas Rising Tide’s Revue is about politics in Newfoundland No Mummers Allowed In is political theatre. The latter kind of theatre is typically marginalized, forced into the outsider role, by the former. Popular theatre purrs gently and laughs affectionately at its patrons. Political theatre bites back at the hand that feeds it. Vive le difference! Since the time of the Greeks, the stage has been the place where political issues have been examined. We are still doing it here. Oh tidings of discomfort and joy, let’s see more of it in 2006. Noreen Golfman is a professor of women’s studies and literature at Memorial. Her column returns Jan. 8.
Setting sail Newfoundlander selected to lead Canadian delegation on youth expedition By Clare-Marie Gosse The Independent
fluent in several languages with international work experience (including a recent stint with the Canadian embassy in Greece), she’s more than qualified to be Canada’s national leader. The Ship for World Youth program looks for candidates with leadership experience and international or multi-cultural experience. Stassis’ parents are both Greek and they first moved to Newfoundland when she was two years old. Although she always understood the transition must have been hard for them, particularly as her parents couldn’t speak any English, Stassis says it wasn’t until she spent a year teaching in Japan, without any handle of the language, that she fully appreciated what they had gone through. “You can only imagine what that must be like, but having experienced it myself, in Japan, and having much better circumstances than they had when they came here … the huge uphill battles they were fighting on a daily basis amazes me.”
hen Japan’s international 2006 Ship for World Youth program kicks off in January a Newfoundlander will be leading the Canadian team. Anna Stassis of St. John’s remembers back to 2000 when she was 26. A friend had sent a group e-mail about an international program called Ship for World Youth, recommending people apply. The program, put off by the Japanese government to promote international co-operation and understanding, gives around 300 young people (between 18 and 30) from around the world the chance to spend six weeks together on a ship. The ship travels to several different countries every year and passengers participate in group discussions and activities covering international issues. Stassis, who is one of only two Newfoundland residents ever to be chosen for the program (which has been running for 18 years), says she wasn’t overly surprised when she found out she had been picked back in 2000. This year, Stassis was a little more surprised when she was told her application to enter the program again as Canada’s 2006 national leader in charge of all
Paul Daly/The Independent
11 delegates had been accepted. “I’m very excited,” she tells The Independent. “It was actually on my to-do list, one of my life goals. Since I came back from the last program I said I am going back as national leader
some day. I didn’t quite expect it to be so soon.” At 31, she was just old enough to qualify. Stassis recently got back from an initial meeting with all the national leaders in Tokyo and will be fly-
ing back to Japan for the beginning of the official program on Jan. 10. Nine days later, the ship sets sail and this year it will head off on an Indian Ocean route and will stop off in Singapore, India, Kenya and
Mauritius. Stassis comes across as animated, passionate and smart. As an actor and one of the original board members for local theatre company Artistic Fraud, a business commerce graduate and
Stassis is organizing a presentation introducing Canada to the 2006 Ship for World Youth program. She is also fundraising to purchase Canadian products to showcase and give as official gifts to country leaders. Anyone interested in offering a local product can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DECEMBER 25, 2005
16 • INDEPENDENTLIFE
Picture editor Paul Daly and managing editor (and Dad) Ryan Cleary went behind the scenes for an inside look at the Macdonald Drive Elementary Primary Christmas Concert. They caught all the drama, passion, tears, and pure and simple joy that comes with witnessing youngsters in pretty dresses and pressed pants stand on stage and spot their parents in the audience … and watching the audience wave back.
Christmas concert M
y six-year-old son Christopher is a true, wide-eyed believer in Santa Claus. Not necessarily the one who hangs out at the Avalon Mall or the other one who dangles by one arm from the helicopter above the downtown St. John’s Christmas parade (although not this year … too overcast — and Rudolph was apparently delayed waiting for his luggage at the Air Canada counter). Christopher believes, body and soul, in the real St. Nick himself — the one he saw on Cooking with Karl the other night during the supper news. Christopher jumped off the couch and stood at attention when he saw Santa had dropped by Karl Wells’ place to bake Rocky Road Cookies. “Shhhhh Dad, the news is on,” he said, which caught me off guard, because it’s usually the other way around. Other than chop nuts, Santa didn’t do a whole lot in Karl’s kitchen. He was pretty much useless, in fact. Poor old Karl would have been better off inviting Mrs. Claus into his kitchen to do her magic, but she apparently had a date with her favourite food expert,
Nicholas Gardner (page 18 of this week’s Independent … Nicholas explains why a turkey’s “over-excited water molecules” need a break after departing the oven.) Swaying slightly, as if in a trance, Christopher stood in rapture the entire time Santa mixed it up with Karl on CBC. I accidentally on purpose flicked the remote at one point (to see what Toni Marie was at) and he went ballistic — a rage comparable only to the mother who lost her mind in front of the television cameras recently after some kids butted in the lineup ahead of her for Rex Goudie tickets. Standing outside the Avalon Mall, the missus, who was sane before spending a night in the lineup, looked mad enough to execute the kids, their relatives (immediate and distant), and assorted family pets, over tickets to see Rexy … he’s that sexy. For my little boy, Santa is the only game in town, as real as his Mom or Dad or his brother, Ben. This Christmas, as with every one while the boys are small and believe, should be another one to cherish. Nothing kick starts the festive spir-
it like good theatre, an old-fashioned Christmas concert — especially when you’re in Grade 1 and quite new to the stage, although Christopher would say otherwise. “Are you nervous?” I asked him the day before the big show. “I’ve done this before, Dad,” he sighed. “Remember kindergarten?” That’s right, how could I forget the runaway hit of Christmas 2004 — Macdonald Drive school’s kindergarten concert? Christopher had a speaking role, but I can’t remember what he said or the identity of the character he portrayed. (I do remember him waving to his Dad from the stage, a totally unscripted move that stole the scene, drawing rave reviews from the audience of parental critics who lap up such remarkable ad lib.) “So what role do you have this year?” I asked. “I can’t remember if I’m a candy cane or a peppermint,” he said, rubbing his chin, puzzled. The next morning, the morning of the concert, he told me he had consulted with Ms. Decker, his teacher, who told him he was indeed playing the role of a candy cane.
He wouldn’t go into detail about the plot — refusing to give away the story line. He’s a smart one, my Christopher. His favourite show, other than cartoons (and, for a while there, Big Brother 6 … ask his mother about that), is Wheel of Fortune, which I’m sure he’ll find more pleasurable once he learns to read better and guess the words Vanna spells out. The evening of the concert arrives and Paul Daly, The Independent’s picture editor, drops by to pick us up and travel to Macdonald Drive together. “You’re going to have your picture in the newspaper, Christopher,” I tell him. “A whole two-page spread in the middle of the paper.” “Why not the front page?” he asks (like I said, smart kid). It doesn’t take long before the 400 or so orange plastic chairs assembled in the school gymnasium are filled by parents, guardians and other assorted fans and biased critics, who pay good money, $5 a head, to be here on opening night (the only night, actually) of the Macdonald Drive Elementary Primary Christmas Concert. There’s standing room only at the back when Principal Daphne Lilly
takes the mike. “There’s no rewind button on childhood,” she says. “I hope tonight will be a magical evening.” There are a few songs and skits before the Grade 1s take to the stage. Parents sitting a mile or two from the front row crawl, soldier like, on their bellies up the centre aisle near the stage to get the perfect camera angle (a focused shot would do). The Grade 1 skit is full of Christmas intrigue and scandal. It seems the treats (candy canes and peppermints) think they’re the most important part of Christmas. But then so do the presents, known by their wrapping, and Christmas trees, known by their star headbands. The debate rages back and forth, back and forth, escalating steadily until — at the point the tension is about to explode, pretty dresses, pressed shirts and toothless smiles blowing to the wind — everyone on stage, presents, treats and trees, realize none of them is the most important part of Christmas. That would be love, of course. “Really the magic of Christmas is love,” the children reveal. The performances continue — a
DECEMBER 25, 2005
holiday line dance by the Grade 3s. (At this point I have to be critical: some of the boys didn’t look overjoyed at having to dance with girls … until they started throwing the girls around the stage in a rather brutal interpretation of ’50s swing). The night continued with a Grade 2 performance of The plight before Christmas. The last skit was the nativity, involving a few angels, a scattered shepherd, Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus born in a manger. The night went off without a hitch, a musical extravaganza that drew a roller-coaster of emotions — we laughed, we cried (well, some other people cried), and then we slithered back to our seats on our bellies, cameras hanging from our necks, to our plastic seats 10 or 15 rows back, six or seven seats in. Later, while back at home eating our Rice Krispie cookies purchased at the after-concert bake sale, I asked Christopher what he liked best about being a candy cane and how he thought the night had unfolded. “It was great,” he said, “simply great.” And it was. The end.
INDEPENDENTLIFE • 17
DECEMBER 25, 2005
18 â€˘ INDEPENDENTLIFE
Feast of family E
verything in the city is a blur right now â€” people moving quickly, tempers short, no parking, endless lists. But this is also the time of year where everyone puts away their differences and concentrates on family. It is the time for celebrating and sharing one of the most pleasant elements of the holiday season â€” great food. Over the last little while I have rekindled my traditions of good cooking. I have embraced everything that making food brings â€” happiness and a warm belly. There is something to be said about the traditions of the holidays. I am a firm believer that the traditions started when we are young have a profound effect upon what we want as adults. Take, for instance, breakfast on Christmas morning. I love the smells of the Christmas mornings of my youth. I love that fresh smell of large bowls of CafĂŠ Latte (drunk in the Belgian fashion, from cafĂŠ-au-lait bowls) and dipping a chocolate spread-laden croissant into the coffee. The pairing of coffee and chocolate is perfection and made better by having it in the morning. Not only is the pairing great, but we get the hioctane boost of rich espresso and the warmth of hot milk. This is the power breakfast of hungry present-opening people. I love my familyâ€™s tradition of warmed French croissants and preserves. There is little decision making as
NICHOLAS GARDNER Off the eating path croissants are a must for Christmas morning. We have had croissants from every baker in the city but few have compared over the years to the consistent product from Manna Bakery. The only thing is that you have to order them in advance or else they are sold out very quickly. It would be terrible to suffer the fate of not having them this year. Once breakfast is well behind us we get down to the seriousness of eating. The quintessential element of the festive season is the carving of the roast turkey. I love the smell of the bird as it roasts in the oven. It is that rich, almost buttery smell, wafting through the house that makes it a special day. My family tradition is that we eat over lunchtime so as to be able to sit and relax after the great repast. This year we are preparing for a large gathering as my sister and her family arrive to share some much needed family time. As for the family dinner this year, because I am home for the first time in a while, I would guess that I will have a hand in planning the menu â€” but, oh no! Tradition has said that we are having
â€˜Makes you appreciate your homeâ€™ From page 13 â€œwouldnâ€™t step through the door if they were paid.â€? She shrugs her shoulders â€” to each their own. Brophy chimes in, saying she sees more young kids playing fiddle â€œthan ever before,â€? and has no worries the traditional tunes wonâ€™t be passed along through the next generations. Meghan McDonald, a Celtic Fiddler for about five years, says sheâ€™s only become more interested in the provinceâ€™s music as time goes on. â€œWhen I was younger, I didnâ€™t like listening to my dad play it,â€? she says with a laugh. â€œNow, the way we do it is different and newer and better and makes you appreciate your home a lot more.â€? The Celtic Fiddlers meet every week to practice, and have regular shows everywhere from senior citizensâ€™ homes to birthday parties to weddings. And while â€œ98 per cent of the audiencesâ€? respond enthusiastically, there have been a handful of duds over the years. â€œThe gigs are obviously a lot easier if the audience is into it and that gets you more into it,â€? says Elizabeth Drover, a Fiddler for four years. â€œBut if theyâ€™re not, weâ€™re still playing and weâ€™re still friends and itâ€™s still a
laugh.â€? Drover met Brophy while in high school at Gonzaga. Now in her first year as an engineering student at Memorial, sheâ€™s starting to feel some strains on her time. Most disappointingly, sheâ€™ll be in a work placement this summer and unable to travel overseas with the group. â€œIn some ways itâ€™s hard to balance it all because Iâ€™m really busy,â€? she says. â€œBut playing is a good outlet and way to relax and forget about all the other things you have to do.â€? Besides the Scotland trip, the musicians are busy plugging their CD, playing Christmas and New Yearsâ€™ shows, preparing for the Cabot Club dinner in February and, of course, St. Patrickâ€™s week in March. All in all, more than enough to keep a bunch of feisty, goodhumoured musicians busy. â€œI never imagined it would last this long,â€? says Brophy, smiling. â€œI find with this group, right now, theyâ€™re so diverse in their talents, they know now what they want â€Ś â€œItâ€™s not me always saying â€˜Letâ€™s do this,â€™ theyâ€™ll suggest something or add something, they can play harmonies now without me teaching it, they do it spontaneously, which is great.â€?
579-STOG 77 Harv Harvey ey Road
Stoggersâ€™ Pizza Theâ€œbest The â€œbestpizz zzain intownâ€? townâ€?is is
fresh turkey roasted with the appropriate vegetables (in our home it is parsnips and carrots) as well as steamed Brussels sprouts, potatoes and, of course, the all important stuffing. We always like to have a choice, so
we are having a traditional sage and bread stuffing as well as a walnut and mushroom stuffing. The walnut stuffing is moist and succulent. It is a more traditionally English stuffing and one we must have every year.
But before I run off and have a great time eating and drinking my way through the holidays, Iâ€™ll leave you with this, a few tidbits of advice to make that Christmas dinner even more memorable. Rest and relaxation â€“ not just for the family during Christmas. Resting a turkey for up to 20 minutes after roasting allows all the over-excited water molecules to slow down and take a break. This in turn allows the juices to stay in the meat and not run all over the carving platter. Slice, donâ€™t mince â€“ the most important thing for any carving ritual is having the right tools. A good sharp knife and honing steel are your friends come Christmas day. The more sharp the knife the less the meat will tear and this also allows the juices to stay put as well. This means more succulent meat for eating. Take your time â€“ the most important part of any great dining experience whether at home with family or out for that dinner at a fancy restaurant, the best thing to do is enjoy the company of others and enjoy the time that you have together. For I believe that Christmas is about the feast of family â€“ every thing else is just dessert. Merry Christmas to all of you and a prosperous New Year. Nicholas is an erstwhile chef and current food writer now eating in St. Johnâ€™s.
EVENTS DECEMBER 25 â€˘ St. Thomas Anglican Churchâ€™s Christmas Dinner for those in need. There are two seatings 11:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. Pre-register at 576-6632 ext. 0, Cannon Wood Hall, Military Rd., St. Johnâ€™s. DECEMBER 26 â€˘ The Mark Bragg band, Sherry Ryan and the Remarkables, and Jody Richardson, the Ship Pub, 10:30 p.m. â€˘ Bumpâ€™s Boxing Day bash and CD celebration, Club etomik, George Street. â€˘ Hey Rosetta! with John Lennox and special instrumental guests, The Republic, Duckworth Street, 9:30 p.m. DECEMBER 27 â€˘ Trimmed Naval Beef and Roundelay, CBTGâ€™s, George Street, 10:30 p.m. â€˘ The fifth annual Feast of Cohen with Vicky Hynes, Sandy Morris, George Morgan, Bryan Hennessey, Colleen Power, Dave, Geoff and Sean Panting, Jill Porter, Jenny Gear, Blair Harvey, Joel Hynes, Des Walsh, Mary Barry and Lindsay Barr. 8 p.m., LSPU Hall, 7534531, until Dec. 30. â€˘ Are We There Yet? musical comedy, dinner and show, at the Majestic Theatre, 390 Duckworth St., 7 p.m. Also playing Dec. 28 and Jan. 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 27, 28, 579-3023 for reservations.
â€˘ Ian Foster Band at the Ship Pub, 10 p.m. DECEMBER 28 â€˘ Folk night at the Ship Pub with Bart and the Bread Picks, 9:30 p.m. â€˘ St. Johnâ€™s Jazz Festival presents jazz saxophonist John Nugent in concert with Loco Motif (Bill Brennan, Scott Mansfield, Jack Daw, and Kirk Newhook) at the MUN school of Music, 8 p.m. â€˘ Workshop with jazz saxophonist John Nugent, in MUN musicâ€™s choral room, 1-3 p.m., www.stjohnsjazzfestival.com, 739-7734. â€˘ Fergus Oâ€™Byrne and Dermot Oâ€™Reilly at Oâ€™Reillyâ€™s Irish Pub, George Street, 10 p.m. DECEMBER 29 â€˘ Spirit of Newfoundlandâ€™s Christmas cabaret, dinner and show featuring Shelley Neville, Sheila Williams, Peter Halley and Steve Power. Majestic Theatre, 390 Duckworth St., 7 p.m., 579-3023. Also running Jan. 3-5. â€˘ The Novaks with special guest The Mark Bragg Band at Club One, George Street, 10 p.m. Tickets available in advance at the Sundance and Big Benâ€™s. â€˘ The Nightmare After Christmas, all ages show at the Paradise Community Centre featuring Call the Ambulance, Donâ€™t Fade Away, Eunomia, Embers
Fade, Flatline and a mystery band. â€˘ Fog Devils vs. Moncton Wildcats, Mile One stadium, 7 p.m. DECEMBER 30 â€˘ Fog Devils vs. Moncton Wildcats, Mile One stadium, 7 p.m. DECEMBER 31 â€˘ Mount Pearlâ€™s Family First Night Celebrations: entertainment by Terry Rielly and Sonia Abbott, skating, loot bags, refreshments, 4-6 p.m., Smallwood Arena, 748-1008. â€˘ Dermot Oâ€™Reilly and Fergus Oâ€™Byrne, Fat Cat Jazz and Blues bar, George Street, 10:30 p.m. â€˘ Ducats rock and roll show with guest Gord Tracy at the Bella Vista, Torbay Road, 753-2352 ext. 5. â€˘ 30 Plus Club New Yearâ€™s Eve dinner and dance, St. Theresaâ€™s Parish Hall, 120 Mundy Pond Road, 364-1761. â€˘ The Moonmen play MexiCali Rosaâ€™s, George Street, 739-6394. â€˘ New Yearâ€™s Eve with Spirit of Newfoundland: cocktails, dinner and dance at the Majestic or Spiritâ€™s Pub and Thai Room, 579-3023. â€˘ Eastern Edge Galleryâ€™s New Yearâ€™s Eve Bash (where you can really bash old computer equipment) starts 9 p.m., 7391882. â€˘ Bump, Martini Bar above Peddlerâ€™s, George Street, 9 p.m.
â€˜Youâ€™re a star instantlyâ€™ From page 13 passionate about his music (â€œnothing ever appealed to me, basically, but playing guitar and singingâ€?). Many local live-music lovers know him best for his rock, mellow voice and trademark â€œmarathonâ€? sets at Green Sleeves on George Street. With an idol like Bruce Springsteen inspiring his work-ethic, Follett likes to give an audience his all. â€œI wonâ€™t get off the stage until everyoneâ€™s had their fill. â€œFor me itâ€™s about good music, I mean itâ€™s not really country, itâ€™s not really rock. Play me some good songs â€Ś donâ€™t play for an hour and walk away.â€? He says he wishes music these days could be less pigeon-holed. â€œI like bands from the â€™70s when music was just music and there were no genres,â€? he says. Despite his dislike for categorizing, Follett admits his music could swing towards both rock and country. He recently auditioned for reality TV
shows Nashville Star and Rock Star (recently known as Rock Star: INXS). Heâ€™s fascinated by the concept of the mammoth exposure even a short stint on the popular shows gives its contestants. â€œFrom a business point of view, if you get on a show like that â€Ś youâ€™re popular. Twenty million people are seeing you instantly. I couldnâ€™t care less if I win,â€? he says. Although he recently discovered he didnâ€™t make the cut for Nashville Star (43 people were chosen out of 20,000 applicants), he has yet to hear back from Rock Star. Last season, Nova Scotian J.D. Fortune won the contest, and signed a contract for at least one album and one tour as the new lead singer of INXS. Itâ€™s still unknown what concept next seasonâ€™s show will follow. Follett says heâ€™s heard rumours of a Van Halen version, as well as a potential solo star search, giving the winner the chance to be the lead singer of the talented house band. â€œGive me that band,â€? laughs Follett.
â€œYouâ€™re a star instantly.â€? Heâ€™d be just as happy selling his music for other stars to record, which is the ultimate motivation behind his Nashville visits. Follett, who grew up in Placentia, says his whole perspective on life dramatically shifted over the last few years, personally and professionally. He says he and his father were often at odds over his choice of career and it wasnâ€™t until a few years before he died that his father called a truce and accepted his sonâ€™s decisions. Follett says he was surprised at how much his fatherâ€™s good will affected the quality of his work, which flourished rapidly after his Dadâ€™s acceptance. Now a brand new father himself, he says heâ€™ll try and nurture whatever his son Taylor Jack chooses to do. â€œBecoming a dad has obviously changed me in the best possible way, but I think it â€Ś just gets you more focussed. You know, if you want some inspiration to be successful at what youâ€™re doing, you just look at that kid.â€?
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