“Finances bleak, but province not bankrupt” – headline news in the Moncton Times & Transcript, Friday, January 23, 2015
Dear New Brunswick,
Here’s what you do when you’re about to go under: Put on your Sunday best, paint a smile on your face, take a walk through all your favorite haunts, count your blessings, and, above all, keep your mouth shut.
You would not believe how ennobling simple measures can be when you are about to lose everything.
After all, what is “everything”?
Is it a house, a car, a snowmobile?
Is it a wife, a husband, a son, a daughter?
Oh well, easy come, easy go.
We can’t have it all.
Gone – that’s the poetry of our times.
In fact, when you think about it (and you’ll have plenty of time for that), “Gone” is a pretty fantastic place to live.
No more obligations, expectations or dreams. No more plans, plots or potting beds. No more of. . .well, anything, really.
Just silence, sleep, and the slow inexorable crawl to the circus tent, where all are destined to find their final resting places – just some sooner than others.
Still, dear New Brunswick, don’t forget to slap on that lipstick, don that boater, adjust the suspenders on the oak barrel you’re wearing. The world is watching you. You want to be presentable when you finally succumb.
Fear not at all, noble province. Those who were smart enough to leave in time to make their bones in far-off places – where big, rock candy mountains still transform black gold into fountains of toonies – will return to bless your own inert skeleton.
Speaking of them, what of Jules and Jim 15 years from now.
In January 2031, Jules is running a hand through his thinning, grey hair, glancing occasionally at the clock on the wall of the departure lounge. “Looks like we’re running out of time,” he mumbles. “What else is new?”
The storms of late December had minced the schedules of the one airline that still bothers to call on New Brunswick. Normally, any delay en route to the oil and gas fields of northern Alberta mean long lineups for itinerant Maritimers arriving late to Fort Mac’s weekly job lottery.
But, today, Jules doesn’t mind so much. His traveling companion is late. Might as well sit tight, he tells himself. A pipe-fitter by trade, 25 years of going down the road and back has taught him how to wait. He’s good at it; waiting and thinking.
He’s old enough to remember a different New Brunswick, when his native home was not just a regional staging ground in the brisk business of exporting human capital. That was before the Wall Street money lenders had called the loans, effectively throwing the province into receivership.
Really, he thinks, what other choice did they have?
In 2024, the provincial government had failed to make the minimum payment on its long-term debt of $42 billion. Sporting an operating budget deficit, in that fiscal year, of $7 billion, it had needed a miracle to cover its financial obligations. And there hadn’t been one of those in this benighted corner of Canada for some time.
Still, Jules recollects the word “miracle” being used when he was a boy and Greater Moncton, for one, was an authentic economic nexus of the Maritimes.
He checks the clock on the wall again.
“Where is that whelp?” he mutters to no one in particular. “The boy is 45 minutes late, and the plane is here, finally.”
As his 16-year-old nephew Jim’s bonded master, Jules is almost looking forward to showing his young apprentice the ropes in Alberta.
Jim, apparently, has made other arrangements.
Dear New Brunswick, here’s what you do when you’re about to go under: Put on your Sunday best, paint a smile on your face, take a walk through all your favorite haunts, count your blessings, and, above all, shout from whichever rooftop you still own.
Shout loudly and shout boldly.
“I am still here.”