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Art by Gord Little

The Patient’s Progress, Part 2

in Featured/Longread/Satire by

Diagnostic Category: Repetitive Rural Loss Trauma Disorder (RRLTD)

Case study: Patient has recently moved from a depression over the loss of rural life to what appears to be an hallucinatory state in which rural Newfoundland and Labrador is flourishing.

Day 3 Out-patient Progress notes: Baymen vs Townie Dim Sum

Therapist’s note: the patient walked into my office for his third session and again instantly began talking. He spoke with such REV (Rapid Emotional Vocalization) that I asked for his permission to tape record his conversation:

“Then came Sunday morning October 24,  2007. At 10:30 AM, the members of the newly formed Rural Benevolence Party of Newfoundland and Labrador return to the Magic Wok restaurant for the one-week anniversary of the Eggroll Parliament. As it becomes public knowledge, thousands begin to gather outside the restaurant. Lorraine Michael telephones all the other metro MHAs and insists that they too go to the restaurant.

When the Townies arrive they are greeted with great cheers from the carnival crowd outside. Lorraine Michael, Danny Williams, and the other St. John’s-born MHAs are ushered into the restaurant. The St. John’s MHAs are going to receive a ‘Townie Deprogramming’ by their Baymen colleagues.

Therapist’s note: Again the patient claims all these proceedings at the restaurant were  recorded by waitress Vicky Goodland in her book, ‘Hansard On A Placemat.’

“By 11:30 AM Lorraine Michael and all the other townie MHAs are now sitting in the middle of the restaurant eating Dim Sum and are surrounded by 26 rural MHAs, a number of fishermen, storytellers, folklorists, rural social scientists, and cultural icons including opera and country/western singer Chad Bungay—whose remarks to the floor that day placed him among Newfoundland and Labrador’s greatest orators.

It is Bungay, in fact, who leads the Townies through an intensive (and secret) 14-hour “deprogramming.”

No one knows what words were said or rites performed during this strange ritual, but it had the desired effect. Lorraine Michael undergoes an almost religious conversion. She herself compares it to St. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. She arrives the following morning at the Confederation Building on a Newfoundland Pony. She ties up the horse, proceeds into the House of Assembly, and gives one of the great speeches in the history of the Legislature.

Lorraine Michael declares that all activities of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador should serve the ultimate cause of restoring the cod stocks. She proposes that Newfoundland become the United Nations of fish; that all countries in the world with fishing interests be gathered together right here, to sit down together and figure out what must be done to revive fish stocks of every type in every part of the world.

Therapist’s note: the patient actually imitates Lorraine Michael as he stands in the middle of my office and orates:

“From the Grand Banks to Georges Bank to the Banks of the Yangtze River; from the Bay of Islands to the Indonesian Archipelago; from Fogo to Togo, the destruction of every species must be halted and reversed, and fish stocks rebuilt until the waterways of the world are teeming with fish again, and fisheries everywhere can thrive.

“Newfoundland and Labrador must be the center for these united world fishing interests, for Mr. Speaker, we were given the greatest fishing grounds in the world. We were to be its steward. And we have been found wanting, Mr. Speaker.

“I am not proposing a constitutional change; we must simply say to the Federal Government, ‘We’re sorry but we must take over the fishery in practice for the next 50 years. Thanks for your help in the past, we are happily and forever to be part of this great human experiment called Canada, but on this one we have got to go it alone.’

“We will harness the university and hitch it to this cause. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I propose every major institution in the province, private and public, be mandated by law to join this effort. For when rural Newfoundland and Labrador is under attack, all of Newfoundland and Labrador is under attack. We are at war, Mr. Speaker!!”

Therapist’s note: Here the patient imitates the sound of the “hear hears” from the MHAs.

“…And from our efforts to win this war, all policies should flow. We all have to come to the aid of our nation. We will never surrender until the cod are back  in our waters and the rest of the world is similarly blessed. So, on that sad but inevitable day, when all our oil is gone, we can drown our sorrows in salt and vinegar on the beautiful purity and deliciousness of cod, back again by the basketfuls!!’

“Accordingly,  Mr. Speaker, I propose that this House immediately establish the United Nations of Fish.”

Therapist’s note: at this point the patient drops his imitation of Ms. Michael and sits down, exhausted. He continues his fantasy but seems to lack many details:

And now twelve years later, Doctor, the world’s fishery is beginning to turn around—through some of the most painful legislation in history, I might add. Yes, the Plastic Free World Initiative—oh, that was a painful one.

Therapist’s note: I ask him to be specific. What was done to save the fishery? He replies that “there were 27 painful things that had to be done to save the world’s fisheries, but my head is beginning to hurt.”

I urge any reader who suffers from Repetitive Rural Loss Trauma Disorder (RRLTD) and lives in this alternate reality to please send us any information about the recuperative rural programs that apparently revived the planet’s fisheries and oceans.

As the patient leaves, he makes one final point:

This historic day, however, was somewhat tarnished by what some called “mischievous events” inside the House of Assembly that same day.

Day 4 Out-patient Progress notes: The Gander Proclamation, or: Beef and Broccoli Done It All

Therapist’s note: the patient seems calmer today.  He is more focused as he picks up his narrative.

It is 3:47 pm on October 25, 2007. Lorraine Michael has just finished her stirring speech establishing what would go on to become the United Nations of Fish, and most of the members leave the House of Assembly in celebration.

By now hundreds of people, hearing about Lorraine Michael riding to the Confederation Building on a pony, arrive at the Confederation Building with their own ponies, Newfoundland dogs, and Labrador retrievers. Ponies are hastily arranged for Premier Hazel Penashue-Hutton, Danny Williams, Gerry Reid, and former premiers Clyde Wells, Brian Tobin, Brian Peckford, Tom Rideout, Roger Grimes, and Beaton Tulk. Led by Lorraine Michael they all ride around the Confederation Building three times in what becomes known to legend as “three magical rings that wind up the charm which guides the people throughout the next twelve years.” (It also leads to the Newfoundland Pony being declared an official breed).

This ceremony becomes a recurring event and now takes place at the beginning of each session of the House of Assembly. It is usually called the “The Ring Ceremony” or “Spectacle of the Ponies and Dogs,” and people either ride along with the politicians on horses of their own and hand them petitions, or stand along the route shouting out requests (among other things).

While all this activity is happening outside the Confederation Building, however, the Legislature is still legally in session. But there are only ten members present and they are very tired and hungry. It is moved and seconded to send for Chinese food. After they have eaten, some members literally fall asleep at their desks in the House of Assembly.

MHA Emeril Anderson (Summer Labrador) awakes from what he later calls “a Chow Mein-induced coma” and mischievously proposes that—and I quote from Hansard—“WHEREAS it is difficult to always say ‘Newfoundland and Labrador’ and WHEREAS many Labradorians find the inclusion of the second name a condescending afterthought, BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the name of the province be changed to Gander.”

The other members are awakened and apparently pass the motion without going through Speaker Calvin Brehm, who was in the bathroom.

The Speaker returns and is informed of the passage of the Bill, called the Gander Proclamation. Brehm explains to the now fully-awake legislature that they have renamed the province  ‘Gander’. There is some confused applause.

But rather than simply dismissing the name change as illegal nonsense, the House instead decided to change the name back to Newfoundland and Labrador, thus enshrining forever on the order papers a note explaining that for a few hours, the province actually was called Gander.

In the Canadian parliament now it is common for most MPs to address Newfoundland and Labrador as “the province formerly known as Gander.” The Mayor of Gander is often jokingly called “the Premier”—most famously, of course, in the ‘Two Premiers?!’ duet from the second act of Come From Away.

Unknown to the crowd of people and animals dispersing from the legislature into the autumn sun, an era in Newfoundland and Labrador was coming to a close. While the next morning will see the introduction of the historic “Linney Hole Legislation,” that afternoon will see these well-laid plans nearly come a cropper when the Great Rural Sadness grips the province.”

Art by Gordon Little.

Read Part 3 here, or go back to Part 1.

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