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Little time for the province’s rural communities

Bucolic, pastoral, picturesque this is a land bordered by fierce oceans with powerful breaching whales, with spectacular geology and some of the world’s oldest fossils to boot. This is a land of ancient tongues and ancient songs, brought over when Canada didn’t exist, a land the Province features in its award-winning tourism ads.

And where are most of the spots? Other than “ye olde Saint John’s,” these commercials largely feature rural communities. That’s right, Province. R-U-R-A-L.

Who’s going to be hurt the most by the most recent round of cuts in supposedly oil-rich country? Rural communities.

The latest pre-budget moves were 167 public sector layoffs of mostly temporary and contractual workers including almost 100 just a couple of weeks ago.

One bets they were not in St. John’s, but in smaller urban communities that service rural areas, as in central and western Newfoundland.

There’s also the decision to stop funding groups that provide employment assistance programs, many who help people in rural communities. What’s government’s response?

Oh, that’s okay, according to the Department of Advanced Education and Skills. They can go directly to larger centres to access the services needed.

Hit the whammy button that’s the wrong answer, people. We are talking about unemployed people who benefited from the services in the past because it was easier to go to the offices in question. If you are unemployed you may not even have access to a vehicle, let along gas money.

And you possibly don’t have access to a computer to fill out forms; if you are unemployed, you may not have the vehicle or the gas money to drive to the nearest local library to use the computer. You could rely on “shanks mare,” but walking can only go so far if weather doesn’t cooperate.

As for the revenues off Newfoundland coasts, who is seeing the benefits? St. John’s and some parts of the Avalon Peninsula, of course.

Government wants to reduce its deficit; that is tentatively common sense. But what good is it if rural communities are hurting and more Newfoundlanders are heading off to the ugliness of the Alberta tar sands to find work?

Rural communities, where much of Newfoundland and Labrador’s heritage and culture was born, are bearing the brunt of the cuts.

Those beautiful tourism ads won’t do our visitors much good if our rural culture is being scoured by government cuts, and the Province’s unwillingness to start reinvesting in that area.

There won’t be anyone to sing the old songs and play the bodran and ugly sticks for you, tourists, because they’re all going to Alberta.

The Advertiser

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