Between a rock and the hard place


Only at election time does the rhetoric about the Maritimes’ proud and noble traditions – and its resilient and inventive people – soar above the Parliament buildings like so much papal smoke.

If we are to believe the campaign propaganda issuing from the mouths of all party leaders, we East Coasters are a sturdy and discerning bunch – willing to strip the shirts from our backs for those in need, sure, but equally suspicious of political carpet-baggers and snake-oil salesmen, fresh off the plane from the Centre of the Universe, asking that we buy what they’re merchandising.

Good for us, they say, rightly so: Handle us with care.

Of course, at any time other than an election cycle, they call us defeatists, welfare bums, worthless leeches sucking the life-blood from the national economy thanks to our alleged addiction to seasonal employment disorder and the requisite tankers of money Employment Insurance generously supplies.

The truth is, as always, somewhat more nuanced. Perhaps that’s one reason why we Maritimers are having a hard time making up our minds about who should own the keys to the castle in Ottawa later this month.

Shall it be the current prime minister, whom the decidedly non-conservative Toronto Star political columnist, Heather Mallick, castigated (rather brutally, if funnily) in a recent issue of the broadly left-wing American journal, Harper’s Magazine?

“What a long, strange slide it has been for Canada since 2006, when Stephen Harper became prime minister,” she wrote. “You thought you saw the last of Richard Nixon when he helicoptered off the White House’s South Lawn. Wrong: the man had a clone. And that clone must have been watching a lot of Sarah Palin speeches. Harper is Nixon without the charm, he’s Nixon without the progressive social and environmental programs. If he wins re-election in October, Americans might want to consider a northern wall.”

Nixon without the charm? Come on Ms. Mallick. I was 13 years old in 1973, when the world learned of the egregious crimes engineered by his bunch of thugs and supplicants determined to upend the U.S. democracy. President Nixon was famous for being entirely charmless. If anything, Stephen Harper is “Tricky Dick” on a good day.

Still, mistrusting democratically elected boosters of the so-called status quo has become our. . .well, status quo.

Shall our next federal leader be Liberal Justin Trudeau, about whom his political opponents say is untried, untested, elitist, infantile, unschooled, irresponsible, and, maybe worst of all, a true believer in the national Grit track record in this country?

Shall it be the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair, who is losing his base in Quebec as I write – the victim of his own hubris and arrogance?

Shall it be Elizabeth May, whose Green Party does a magnificent job of criticizing the mainstream parties in its sights, but seems to fail repeatedly in transforming popular opinion into votes?

Whatever the reasons are for our general, political lassitude in this part of country, we must shake ourselves awake, become who we must be: the heroes of our own lives.

It’s all very well to talk about New Brunswick’s emerging industrial clusters, technology centres of excellence, and innovative economic sectors, but none of it means much when the crucial resource needed to power these initiatives is vanishing.

As absurdly simple as it sounds, people, not governments, build long-term economic capacity. They launch businesses, invent new products and services, and employ relatives, friends, and strangers. They inspire others to become entrepreneurs, exporters, teachers, lawyers, doctors, and builders.

That’s not only at election time. It’s all the time

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