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Vacuum cleaner syndrome


There was a time not so long ago that in order to get a bottle of Johnny Walker whiskey or some good old dark rum you had to place an order in St. John's with the Newfoundland Liquor Commission. If you were lucky, you could get that order placed on the train for delivery to central Newfoundland. If it didn't get broken or stolen you could expect to receive delivery in roughly two, possibly three, weeks. Better still, if you knew someone who was traveling on that train you could ask them to do you a favor and pick it up for you. Some say those were the good old days when someone in St. John's called the shots on when you would receive your cheer package for Christmas. Despite the wait most in the area never complained. There was no point. St. John's was the centre of the universe. My grandfather was most appreciative of the service and was a frequent customer. It's no wonder he thought he had died and gone to heaven when they finally put a liquor outlet in Grand Falls-Windsor. By then, of course, the railway was gone and the highway across the province was being paved.

My perspective -

There was a time not so long ago that in order to get a bottle of Johnny Walker whiskey or some good old dark rum you had to place an order in St. John's with the Newfoundland Liquor Commission. If you were lucky, you could get that order placed on the train for delivery to central Newfoundland. If it didn't get broken or stolen you could expect to receive delivery in roughly two, possibly three, weeks. Better still, if you knew someone who was traveling on that train you could ask them to do you a favor and pick it up for you.

Some say those were the good old days when someone in St. John's called the shots on when you would receive your cheer package for Christmas. Despite the wait most in the area never complained. There was no point. St. John's was the centre of the universe. My grandfather was most appreciative of the service and was a frequent customer. It's no wonder he thought he had died and gone to heaven when they finally put a liquor outlet in Grand Falls-Windsor. By then, of course, the railway was gone and the highway across the province was being paved.

I'm sure there are still those who would like for us to do it all in St. John's. It's the centre for most everything today. Soft drink manufacturers have moved from central to St. John's. Even the breweries dare not brew a drop of the suds west of the overpass. Some still feel that if the bulk of the business is located in St. John's then that's where we should have to go to get it.

This is known in rural Newfoundland as the vacuum cleaner syndrome, where everything is sucked into one area of the province to benefit those living in that area. Something like that bottle of Johnny Walker that grandfather prized so much that brings me to my point.

Just recently concerns were raised about the location of a proposed $5 million dollar youth addiction treatment facility here in central Newfoundland. Several groups who work with young people who have problems as well as our provincial Liberal leader Yvonne Jones are now asking the Premier to reconsider this decision and have the facility located in St. John's.

Ms. Jones made it known on NTV News that the new addictions centre proposed for Grand Falls- Windsor should be a St. John's based facility. After all, she says, the bulk of the clients are on the east coast so why should they have to travel to central Newfoundland for treatment. She was supported by Ron Fitzpatrick, executive director of 'Turnings', a drug counseling service.

Mr. Fitzpatrick says having a service in Central Newfoundland will create all kinds of problems and extra expense. Over 80 per cent of his clients, he says, are from the Avalon.

Using that logic, most of the people who drink coffee and eat donuts are possibly located on the Avalon Peninsula as well, so all of the Tim Hortons shops should be located east of the overpass. Statistically speaking that can be said of most everything in the province. St. John's has half the population.

It's no doubt, by watching and reading the news, St. John's is getting to be a crime and drug infested city, but surely a professional treatment centre outside of the great city can't be all that bad. Look at it this way. Maybe getting out of St. John's would be a relief if you actually needed help. Ever think of that?

Why is it fair for clients from the Northern Peninsula, Gander Bay and Botwood to have to go to St. John's for treatment and not fair for clients in St. John's to have to come to central Newfoundland?

Folks in rural Newfoundland are starting to feel discriminated against these days. The vacuum cleaner concept that sucks everything to St. John's is starting to wear thin. Everyone wants everything to move east. Sometimes being from rural Newfoundland sucks but we are now beginning to wonder if there is a star in the east over the capital.

The Province (Nalcor) now wants the AbitibiBowater hydro resources to go on the grid to be used east of Grand Falls-Windsor. St. John's city council wants search and rescue in Gander to be located in fog-ridden Torbay. Heck, it's not that long ago that St. John's even got International Airport status to suck overseas flights out of Gander. No one in the Liberal party objects to St. John's criminals spending jail time in this neck of the woods, but god forbid if we treat them for some addiction.

Are you starting to get the point?

Just when I thought the Opposition Liberals were at least starting to get it together, we were subjected to this attack on expanding health care in central Newfoundland. The Liberal leader must still be smarting from the fact she was not allowed to campaign throughout the local hospital here in Grand Falls-Windsor during her most recent visit. Better still, I think she has a bad case of the vacuum cleaner syndrome which can only be treated in - you guessed it - St. John's.

Speaking out against this budget proposal to have a $5 million dollar professional treatment centre located in this neck of the woods does smack of politics and personal agendas. Having the Leader of the Opposition demand that central Newfoundland should not have a treatment centre is simply petty politics. Corner Brook has a professional treatment facility. They also have a paper mill that's working, too.

This province is made up of many rural communities, many of which are struggling to survive right now. There is no big influx of oil revenue coming into many of the smaller communities. Rural Newfoundland is fighting to retain and recruit young health care professionals for our health care institutions. Frankly, it's a difficult task.

But despite the vacuum cleaner mentality and all the negativity, young professionals are moving back to this part of the province to work in health care. They come because they like this part of Newfoundland and Labrador. Some even call it home. They come because central Newfoundland offers them a good place to work and raise their children.

So maybe the decision to build such a treatment centre here is a positive first step for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?

This proposed facility still serves a critical need for those who desperately require this specialized addiction counseling.

Unless you're playing petty politics or have a bad case of the vacuum cleaner syndrome it can't be all that bad - can it?

(Roger Pike writes from Grand Falls-Windsor. He can be reached at roger.pike@nf.sympatico.ca.)

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