The year of living gob-smacked


I can think of only one other year when circumstances conspired to render “yours truly” utterly speechless.

1995 saw me accidentally sever all the tendons in my right hand, deliberately dismiss my business partner of four years, and unwittingly lose my wherewithal in a reversal inspired (if not actually engineered) by the Halifax-based cadre of one-per-centers for which I worked.

Still, all things properly considered, 2015 was also a tongue-numbing moment in time for most of us on the East Coast.

To begin with, no one imagined that a Christmas holiday in late December 2014, when the temperatures hovered around the 15-degree Celsius mark, would transform into this:

“If you’re feeling like this winter is one of the worst you can remember, you’re probably right,” a CTV report confirmed last February. “A ‘misery index’ released by U.S. National Weather Service meteorologists shows the winter of 2014-15 is one of the most miserable on record. The Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index puts the ‘badness’ or ‘goodness’ of winter in context by looking at daily temperature, snowfall, snow depth or precipitation records to show the season’s severity compared to other years.”

Then again, no one thought to check the science around climate change and how a new phenomenon, the “polar vortex”, might be related to trending warmer temperatures in the Arctic and lower ones in the south.

Oh well, we believe in our political leaders who seem to know exactly what we’re thinking until, of course, they don’t.

When former Prime Minister Stephen Harper told us all to relax and relish the fact that he would balance the federal budget, we assumed he was as good as his word. We assumed, in other words, that oil prices would persist and that most Canadians would, as a result, return him to his perch at 24 Sussex Drive. Most Canadians didn’t.

Now, a scion of political history, Justin Trudeau, is charged with restoring the nation’s international reputation for fairness, environmental responsibility, justice, law, and the rest well in time for his state visit to the White House on March 10, before the cherry blossoms open; before the price of a barrel of oil drops down below thirty bucks.

So, then, what do we do with this economic calculus in New Brunswick? 2015 showed us that a very young premier, only 33 years old, can move in the polls from 45 per cent approval, to 24, and back to 45 within the span of 15 months. He showed us that youth does not beggar age or wisdom.

But where now is that wisdom in a place that needs to reinvent itself in the Canadian context on its own terms?

New Brunswick’s past year has been nothing short of miraculous, if miracles are built on faith, alone. Life, unfortunately, is built on hard, cold reality. And this province has become a place where too many believe in the big, rock candy mountains of government and not enough in the granite and grit that originally made this province and this nation from coast to coast.

What was 2015?

It was the year of living astonished by the climate of our attitudes in New Brunswick; by the weather report that our economy would never improve; by the signs of storm clouds, blizzards and downpours that just never seem to disappear.

A $500-million annual deficit should curb our fat tongues; a $12-billion debt should render us utterly speechless.

Unless, of course, we decide to speak, and do, and make, and build, and create, and turn to conspire to succeed together.

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