Fan Mail 2020

Readers provided many comments on this year’s articles. Sometimes their views were sharply divided.

They responded positively to the pieces on the Coastal Gas Pipeline: “Thanks for putting the various thoughts that so many of us have had during the past three weeks so succinctly.” “Thanks for thoughtful, calming pieces on hereditary chiefs.” “Yours was an excellent article this am.”

An article that looked at initial government responses to the pandemic (“Overall, the Liberals get a passing grade. Compared to the White House they look brilliant.”) dissatisfied some readers. “Mr. Black must feel that he is betraying some deep, immutable, personal belief if he offers any kind of compliment to the federal Liberal Party and Justin Trudeau.” And from south of the border: “…why you are trying to make the US, and especially President Trump look bad.”

Advocating regional differences in COVID protocols attracted stark differences of opinion: “I read your article “NS must be flexible while easing COVID-19 restrictions” this morning with great interest. I agree with you 100%.”, “Your “opinion” article for the Saturday newspaper is disturbing and dangerous…You should be ashamed of how ignorant and dangerous you and your writing are.”, “At this point, it seems to be the government, not the virus, that is causing hardship for people. I am a senior and I am tired of being scolded.”

Pursuing the topic the following week I said about calls for strict adherence everywhere: “How would that resonate with someone in Digby whose zone has not seen a new case in 24 days?” and was properly chastised by health professionals there: “As far as many of us know, there have been no cases in Digby.”

In March, I made some guesses about how the pandemic would evolve. One reader responded: “Possibly the most negative and depressing article I have read about this virus to date…” Unfortunately, most of the guesses proved to be at least partly accurate.

About the review of Peter MacKay’s candidacy for the Conservative leadership, one reader wrote: “Today’s summary of Peter MacKay was instructive and useful…”

MacKay’s platform had been conspicuously short on specifics. Having noted the slimness of his climate change platform I continued: “His content on fiscal management is even more succinct…”

This effort at dry humour was a complete failure with at least one reader: “Well, if that isn’t St. John the Baptist announcing the second coming I don’t know what is! How much is MacKay paying you?”

An article examining the costs of a Guaranteed Basic Income received criticism from several academics. Notwithstanding the labour shortages experienced by employers following the introduction of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), they feel that people will continue to work even when the combined taxes and clawbacks necessary to pay for the program approach 75% or more of their earnings.

One argued that: “…people work for all sorts of reasons, and only one of them is money. We work because we derive a sense of identity from it… feel a sense of purpose… it is one of our primary venues for socialization… for prestige… to help others.”

A less persuasive argument was: “The fact that the cost is so high demonstrates how far our current level of social support falls short.” High cost does not necessarily mean high value. Has the doubling of the cost of Muskrat Falls to $13.1 billion strengthened the argument that the project is needed?

The articles on the Mi’kmaq moderate livelihood lobster fishery in St. Mary’s Bay were generally supported: “You are to be commended on your intelligent and factual commentary which was featured in today’s Chronicle Herald. At last, a few people are approaching this terrible situation in an unbiased and reasonable way.”

I was contacted by several locals saying: “Your column is good but it does not go far enough…” and going on to allege various abuses not reported in the news.

A reader rightly criticized an important omission: “What Mr. Black fails to mention is that this situation has been greatly ignored by governments of all stripes since the Supreme Court decision over 20 years ago.”

It is always encouraging to receive comments like this: “I am writing today not to comment on a specific column of yours, but simply to let you know how much I enjoy reading your pieces… your columns provide information and insight in addition to opinion.” and “Well done Bill! You always do a great job of explaining complicated issues. Keep up the good work.”

This has been a difficult year for people everywhere. Since the beginning of May, we have been among the least affected people on the planet, but the ongoing constraints wear on us more and more, especially at Christmas.

A hopeful prediction. This time next year we will be with as many friends and family as we want and sing Christmas songs as loud as we want, wherever we want. The season will be that much more joyful when we remember all the things we could not do this year.


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