We touched down on the tarmac of the delightfully and grandiosely named Greater Moncton International Airport, and a line from an old Eric Clapton tune immediately sprang to mind: “Hello old friend, it’s really good to see you once again.”
We had been away, out west, where the news from the cities of our births had been simply and detestably rotten.
My Toronto was riven by controversy. Mayor Rob Ford had failed to obtain a clean bill of moral health from Hog Town’s top cop, Chief Bill Blair, who announced the results of his full-metal-jacket foray into a nest of alleged drug dens in the city’s north end. Writing in the Globe and Mail, municipal affairs columnist Marcus Gee reported, “The raid centred on the Dixon Road apartment complex associated with the purported Rob Ford crack video. Minutes away is the house where a photo was apparently taken showing Mr. Ford with three men, one of whom has since been murdered.”
As Mr. Gee archly observed, “What is not excusable is the mayor’s own persistent refusal to answers questions about the affair. He told reporters. . .that he knew nothing about the raid and had nothing to hide, but has yet to say. . .whether he has anything to do with the men in the notorious photo, what he was doing at the house where it was taken or whether he knows the people who live there (two of whom have criminal records, one for trafficking in cocaine).”
A few hundred kilometers up the St. Lawrence, the mayor of my wife’s Montreal, Michael Applebaum, had just resigned after Quebec police slapped charges of fraud, breach of trust and corruption on him.
As the CBC recounted the sorry saga, “(Mr.) Applebaum was selected as mayor by Montreal city council Nov. 16, 2012, following the resignation of Gérald Tremblay amid allegations of corruption. . .The province’s anti-corruption unit, UPAC, said the charges (against Mr. Applebaum) relate to obtaining permission and political support for two real estate projects in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough between 2006 and 2011, during which time Applebaum was the borough’s mayor.”
All of which caused me to wonder whether Moncton’s Hizzoner, George LeBlanc (as honourable a fellow as the summer day is long), had misplaced his invitation to the party of Canadian mayors acting out. Thank Almighty God for the small mercies of prudence in public office, rare though this quality of character may be. These days, the headlines from The Hub are nothing but good, nothing but fortifying.
After a vote of 8-2, Moncton City Council agreed to purchase the former Highfield Square site in western part of the downtown area – the logical move towards building an events centre that could generate millions of dollars a year in tax and private-sector revenue. In fact, a related ballot green-lighted a request for proposals. According to a report in this newspaper, “If all goes according to the city’s timeline – funding help from the federal and provincial governments being the overwhelmingly large missing piece of the puzzle – work could start in 2015 and the project would be completed in early 2017.”
Meanwhile, the Moncton-based Atlantic Cancer Research Institute has made national news with its novel technology. Again, this newspaper reports, “(It’s) a time-sensitive, non-invasive clinical test in which a sign of cancer could be recognized without having conducted a biopsy. . . .Not only could the product detect early concentrations of diseased cells attributing to cancer, it could be used in detecting heart disease, neurological ailments, and many more health issues in both humans and animals.”
Granted, the ACRI – which has received many plaudits from leading scientific think tanks around the world – does not benefit directly from the good works and sound planning of the municipal authority. But both institutions say something larger about the community in general. And, compared with the sick melodies sung in certain other urban centres in this country, it’s a welcome and familiar refrain for a weary, returning traveller.
“Hello old friend,” indeed.