Examining The Big Reset, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Action Plan to Economic Growth, With a Compassionate Lens

We are cultivating compassion and kindness in 2021 calls all of us to respond attentively and wisely to the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team led by Dame Moya Greene, the passionate voices of our extraordinary community activists, and the highly well-written parallel report from the “People’s Recovery” team. 

As a kind and compassionate Newfoundlander and Labradorian by choice, I respond to the Forward of the report titled “The Big Reset,” released on May 6, 2021. The report is a plan of action to respond to the province’s immediate fiscal challenges and plot a new course for strong economic growth.

First, I wish to express my profound gratitude to all members of this team who graciously volunteered their precious time to kick-start much-needed healthy discussions and dialogue about how to address our genuine economic crisis.

As a 64-year-old widow recovering from lifesaving and life-altering breast cancer treatment, I am incredibly grateful to be alive. I am very committed to doing all I can to give back to my wonderful, adopted community. My breast cancer diagnosis on May 16, 2017, ended my excellent career as an Academic Hematologist/Oncologist. I began to study and train for a new career as a compassion, kindness, and meditation trainer.

This is a beautiful time to be alive and has time to study and learn. This is thanks to the miracle of our wonderful information age. It is amazing how many incredible people everywhere are researching and bringing us the best from all our collective great human wisdom traditions and cutting-edge science. Our children and youth call us to action, and we must listen and learn. Greta Thunberg, the tiny Swedish activist, motivated many of us toward positive change. I hope we respond to her clarion call to the best of our abilities.

During my wonderful career as a Hematologist, I studied all I could think about our miraculous Hemoglobin molecule. Becoming eco-literate was never required of my medical training or ongoing continuing medical education. Hence, it never crossed my mind that Hemoglobin is, in fact, a mirror molecule to chlorophyll. I learned that this year as I began studying the incredible work of the Irish Canadian genius Diane Kroeger-Beresford.  

As I look forward to summer 2021, I have learned enough to know I need to work hard to improve my personal ecological and financial literacy skills. I need these to understand how best to integrate my new knowledge, choose how to live, and use my energy and time wisely. I am studying how best to invest and manage my life savings. I have learned enough to be astounded that Dame Greene omits any land acknowledgment in the Forward of her report. I expect I will find a land acknowledgment as I continue reading.

Dame Greene and her team ignore the massive challenge of inequality in our home province, across our beautiful country, and globally. To verify this is an unusual omission, I did a quick search using my web browser. I found many credible sources of information on this challenge, including a review hosted on the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada website at https://www.cpacanada.ca/en.

Locally, our excellent Health Accord NL Taskforce identified the social determinants of health as critically important. We must learn all we can, choose wisely, and take appropriate action.

Engaging in the ideologically motivated structural change of our entire provincial governance system while also cutting funding to our vitally important Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, public education system, and publicly funded healthcare system shows a somewhat zealous commitment to failed, fundamentalist Libertarian and Classic Liberal world views. These views were prevalent among white male colonials in the Victorian era.

In 2021, I sought to enter into dialogue and discussion to work towards a more enlightened, inclusive, diverse, and partnership approach to addressing our complex ecologic, ethical, economic, and existential crises. Thankfully for all of us, a gracious, generous, compassionate, kind, civic-minded, and humanistic group called People’s Recovery began e-meeting in parallel and has been working hard to create a much-needed data and evidence-driven, more inclusive, and nuanced response to this very culturally, ecologically, and economically rushed and unwise report.

Ironically, I became an active member of the Provincial and National Liberal Party in 2016 for several reasons:

·      I was concerned by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s attacks on environmental scientists.

·      I was concerned by his deep bias toward the oil and gas industry. 

I joined the Liberal Party for several reasons. 

·      I enjoy finding common ground with others, and I love diversity.

·      I am deeply committed to reconciliation and restitution for First Nations.

·      I am committed to the survival of linguistic pluralism in Canada. 

·      I believe in maintaining and improving our superb quality of life. We must all relearn to deeply connect and live in harmony with each other and the natural world.

Over a decade ago, the outstanding Canadian Wade Davis alerted me to the links between linguicide and ecocide. Professor Davis was the first of many incredible scholars to awaken me to the reality that our ancestors were exceptional human beings. Many had knowledge and skill unparalleled in our modern age.

In 2021, those with access to Wifi had an incredible opportunity to connect with our sisters and brothers all over our beautiful planet. We can access the great richness of our collective human Wisdom Traditions and our collective ancestors.

Thanks to the work of incredible polymaths and systems thinkers in every field of human endeavor, we modern disconnected human beings are now learning the essential importance of individual and collective human health and the well-being of relationships.

Professor Rianne Eisler teaches us the importance of always holding a partnership rather than a domination focus to create healthy relationships. Jeremy Lent is one of many working in the field of system change to create ecologically advanced civilizations.

Locally, we agree our province is in financial trouble. We need a genuine and profound soul-searching effort to see how we got ourselves into this mess. We must find the most enlightened way to overcome the many dangers threatening our survival.

Our government is becoming increasingly indebted. It is having difficulty borrowing money. According to data from the People’s Recovery Team, unfair changes in our taxation system and reckless decision-making around developing massive hydroelectric projects along the mighty Churchill River created a severe imbalance for our Provincial Government.

Every principal economist and current thought leader identifies biodiversity with the rise in toxic levels of plastic pollution and the challenges of industrial fishing, massive inequality, our local and global lack of nurturing equity, systemic colonialism, and a global economy founded on endless war combined with climate change as our challenges.

Apart from the terrible effects of our recent Western European unwise pursuit of the industrialization of warfare, animal husbandry, and fishing and our collective human choice of recklessly and wantonly creating a toxic hydrocarbon linear, wasteful, and inefficient economy, the problems we face today are no different than those faced by every generation that came before us. We need to re-evaluate our use of “progress,” “progressive,” and “conservative.”

Our ancestors and Indigenous Elders taught that we, the five-fingered ones, are part of an incredible web of life. The big reset needed in 2021 is for we who are disconnected modern professionals and indoctrinated to love technology more than ecology. We need to fall back in love with our extraordinary human capacity for compassion, kindness, connection, and creativity. We need to love and serve each other and all life to create abundance to the Seventh Generation.

Our precious babies and children are our most excellent resource. We must protect all babies and children from being treated as mini machines to be exploited. We need massive cultural, educational, and social paradigm changes away from “normalizing” all forms of abuse, cruelty, Greed, selfishness, violence, and wealth accumulation. As Michael Clair so wisely wrote, we retired can contribute at this time of crisis, and most of us do not wish to place unnecessary burdens on our beloved children and all the generations to come.

Memorial is a beautiful university led by a visionary leader, President Vienne Timmons. At this critical time, when most of us need to become ecologically literate, we need to become part of the vital circular economy to replace plastic from every aspect of our lives, especially from our marine equipment, food supply, and hospitals. There is an incredible opportunity for us to become a Leader in the new life-affirming carbohydrate, seaweed, plant, and forest-based economies.

There is no question that we are collectively experiencing a massive ecological, economic, and existential crisis. I experienced a long period of the problem starting in 2007. Reviewing my finances retrospectively through a prolonged period of family and personal illness, grief, and loss, I see I made many mistakes that I would not have made if I had not been stressed and unwell. I am deeply grateful to the wonderful people who carried me through these past 14 agonizing and rewarding years.

With my late husband, Dr. Chau Nguyen, I experienced the dislocation and trauma of suddenly and unexpectedly losing a much-loved and well-paid position. Our wonderful life was first really challenged on June 8, 2007, when he suddenly had his hospital privileges removed which prevented him from continuing to work as a physician. Tragically, he was enduring the long-term effects of lifesaving, life-altering surgery and whole-brain irradiation for a malignant brain tumor diagnosed and successfully treated in 1987. 

Sadly, Dr. Nguyen was not treated with compassion and kindness in 2007 and 2008. Instead, his health and disability challenges were ignored. He was humiliated, shamed, and severely punished for his diminished performance. The reality is that his routine was diminished due to the late effects of his cancer treatment. Whole Brain Irradiation remains a very challenging area of cancer practice today. Sadly, for my late husband, our family, and many other long-term cancer survivors, there are no programs for long-term survivors in Canada and no treatments to mitigate the effects. Also, sadly, the literature is evident in that those of us who belong to visible and invisible minorities are all at high risk of workplace bullying and harassment. Current laws, policies, and procedures are ineffectual and, in fact, often make workplace environments even more toxic.

My beloved husband was never comfortable acknowledging his hearing and communication challenges. Instead, he suffered terribly from self-blame and shame. This often occurs to people who are highly ethical and motivated. All too often, the best among us doggedly pursue excellence, whatever the cost. To add to the misery of sick physicians and their families, there are no retraining programs for ill specialist physicians in Canada. We are learning the cost of overwork is very high indeed.

As with so many facets of our modern life, cancer efforts and clinical trial research focus on the short term. Our cancer centers concentrate on treating people and developing treatments to prevent a recurrence. Long-term follow-up is expensive and forces us to address very uncomfortable truths. Terry Fox famously sacrificed himself by courageously and doggedly running across our beautiful country from sea to shining sea to raise much-needed attention and funds for cancer care. Appropriately, Terry is cherished as one of our truly great Canadian heroes.

Locally, Geoff Eaton courageously fought an incredible battle with leukemia and survived two extremely challenging allogenic bone marrow transplants. He devoted his extraordinary creativity and talent to supporting his beloved wife and children and creating Young Adults with Cancer Canada. Geoff’s story is essential when we need to think creatively and plan for abundance and health for the Seventh Generation.

Why am I writing so much about cancer and cancer care in my response to Dame Moya Greene? My experience with cancer as a survivor, caregiver, and former clinical Hematologist/Oncologist, led me to see that, as a society, we are not great at addressing complexity. We much prefer to avoid focusing on long-term outcomes and quality of life. In our limiting focus on patients as independent individuals, we ignore the costs borne by patients and their families. We also totally miss how vital relationships are for all of us.

I’m afraid I have to disagree with Dame Greene that our children and following generations be asked to become more productive and efficient. In 2021 we knew we needed to improve our ecological literacy collectively. Life is a precious and wondrous gift to be enjoyed and cherished. There are abundant resources to provide an excellent and healthy quality of life to everyone in our province, provided we learn that less is more. In clinical medicine, gentle, less aggressive approaches are often more productive and must be championed.

Over the past many years, an impressive number of Noble Prize-winning economists have been working to reverse the brainwashing campaign of Milton Friedman, a celebrity economist whose misguided notions cause grief today. While we can agree that we are all faced with a profoundly severe economic crisis, I agree with the People’s Recovery Team – we are experiencing this crisis partially because of unfair and unsustainable changes made to our provincial and federal taxation system almost a decade ago. There are good alternative sources of revenue our government can tap into. 

Here is a link to New York Times articles published under Greed is good. Except When It’s Bad. In 2021, we knew privatization does not lead to peace, order, and good governance. Drastically cutting and reorganizing our publicly funded education and healthcare systems will cause chaos, take a lot of eyes off the ball, and hinder serious efforts to innovate and do better. 

In 2021, we knew the answer to bad is always better. We know that under stable conditions, better is possible.

Over the following weeks and months, I will continue to study this report. I will encourage myself and others to avoid knee-jerk reactions and make a serious effort to become as ecologically literate as possible. 

The Netflix documentaries “My friend the Octopus” and “Seapiracy” may be an excellent place to begin comprehending the magnitude of the challenges we have created for the survival of life in our precious oceans.


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