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Friday 17 October 2014

Ideas + 1

For the next installment of my short series on ideas to make NL a better place to live I thought I should explain the two types or levels of ideas that I like to talk about. First is the practical on the ground and generally tangible type. It could be a simple Gov program, a new funding source, a slight shift in approach or adding a new planning angle to something that is already in operation. These ideas tend to be easier to implement and cost comparatively little as well. The other type of idea is on a larger scale that could involve a significant directional shift in how we do things. This ideas can be much more difficult to implement and potentially very expensive. In this piece I'll provide one of each.

Homemade Bread to Baker's Fog 
Today I'll start with an idea that has been brewing in the back of my head for quite a long while. I have read and heard about how people feel that Newfoundland and Labrador is such a unique and wonderful place because of the unusual economic and cultural landscape that encouraged our independent and resourceful spirit. Besides a few very rural and tourism related exceptions that unique culture and the related skills are being lost at an alarming rate. I think we need to raise the level of importance of our cultural heritage and start actively preserving it.

Can you bake a batch of bread from scratch? How many students who graduated high school this year can bake bread, or knit a par of socks, split a cod, pip a squid, play an instrument, spin a yarn? Or even understand some of our basic traditions, history or language? Unless we work to continue to spread those cultural attributes they will be lost to history. Now I'm not saying that those skills are essential for survival, however they can still provide important cultural lessons and transferable skills that we should celebrate.

What we need is a Newfoundland and Labrador Cultural Institute. This NLCI could capture and offer these key aspects of our history and culture and offer them up in various formats for those who wish to learn more. I want to learn to knit, but I don't have any immediate family members who are able to teach me. What if there was a place I could turn to where I could learn to knit a pair of mitts or vamps? It could be a combination of digital and concrete resources that would act as a repository of information and a learning resource for everyone. The focus would have to be on collecting and sharing the skills, stories, history, pastimes, languages and anything else that has helped NL become the place it has become. And yes I do include Labrador specific and aboriginal specific information. Why not collect and share all that amazing cultural information? This idea needs more fleshing out and I'm certainly not clear on every detail, but I do think it is certainly worth the time and effort to take a closer look at it.

Close to Home
It seems to be the general idea that many successive governments in NL have felt that consolidating services and offices is the best choice because it saves money. I would argue that saving money is not always the primary goal of government services. So over the years as we have seen decision making bodies move further and further away from the people who are most directly impacted, we have seen both the level of service and the quality of the decisions made erode significantly. I think that what we have seen is quite the opposite of what we need. Our decision making bodies should in fact be as close to those impacted as practical, and most of my larger scale ides focus around that very theme; as local as practical.     

One of the most ridiculous moves the current Government has made that is the complete opposite of my line of thinking was the consolidation of the school boards. There was a time when important school decisions were made by those in the community where the school was located. Then it moved to a regional basis with some consultation with communities, and now local community leaders and school administrators wait together while bureaucrats in the capital region decree the latest mandated changes.

Of course the Department of Education must set main education criteria and province wide policy, but with the English school Board taking in 99% of provincial schools why do we need two giant bureaucratic administrative bodies with so much overlap? Why not just scrap the school board and let the Dept of Education handle it all? Or why not do the proper thing and go back to the sensible approach of letting local people make decisions about local schools? It may cost a little more but isn't it worth it? Healthcare and education are always chosen as the top two priorities of taxpayers, so if we're going to spend the money then why don't we get some real local value out of it?

Stay tuned...     

You can read Ideas Part I here.

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