Category Archives: Humour

The sleep-walking cure

Oh to be a bluenoser now that the three-minute-long spring becomes us

It is one of those nights that occasionally afflict a man over a certain age when Morpheus refuses to show his drowsy face. I cannot get to sleep. Nothing works. Not chamomile tea. Not hot lemon water. Not even my regular go-to sedative: a good, stiff belt of New Brunswick’s very own gin thuya.

I think I’ll go for a walk.

One of my favorite observations about putting one foot in front of the other comes from American comic, Steven Wright: “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have time.”

Which is another way of saying the first rule of ambulating is to avoid destinations. If you know where you’re going, you’re not walking; you’re beating a deadline.

U.S. President Barack Obama once said, “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress,” which might have been a rejoinder to 20th Century author C.S. Lewis’s point that “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

Personally, I’m not all that interested in the progressive nature of my temperament. I’m going for a walk, and I’m going nowhere.

At 2 o’clock in the morning, my street is empty, and the air is as clear as my mind is cluttered. A mild breeze blows from the southwest, carrying on it the sweet scent of apple and cherry blossoms. I move down to the corner of Moncton’s Main West drag and Vaughan Harvey boulevard and head towards the new downtown event centre, rising lazily from the rubble.

I link my fingers through the fence and wonder what strange new structure will encompass the dinosaur bones of iron girders and cement foundation there. Will it be something the city’s citizens embrace, patronize, use? Or will it be another hockey arena? I begin to worry, so I move on. I am walking again.

I travel past the derelict storefronts just beyond the subway underpass, where restaurants and boutiques once delighted the urban core. Old signs about moving to new locations still festoon one window. I remember that time when, years ago, my wife and I entertained relatives at an early August lunch in that tiny, perfect district, and how we skipped home up Robinson Court, thinking about the little things that make life in a small city precious.

I trudge past the Capitol Theatre and stop, remembering my good friend, the late, great Marc Chouinard. As the General Manager there for many years, he was, in every important respect, “Mr. Downtown”.

I recall his acerbic wit and wisdom. Sometimes, he would turn to a patron of one of the city’s outdoor cafes and instruct: “Those pigeons up there aren’t going anywhere. I’m sure you don’t want poop in your soup. Tell the owner to clean up his act. We’ll all be happier for it.”

I laugh and head toward the river and remember the great effort to restore the mighty Petitcodiac to its former self – before the causeway of 1968. I conjure the image of California surfers riding the newly refreshed tidal bore 90 miles up from the estuary and into downtown Moncton.

As I walk home, I realize that I’ve been here longer than I’ve been anywhere – longer than the place of my birth and the place of my upbringing.

I crawl into bed, careful not to wake my wife, and as I drift into sleep, I realize that this nowhere is everywhere.

Tagged

Small business to the rescue?

DSC_0237

We could put aside any thought of rational problem solving and simply erect a wall along the perimeter of our fair province. Henceforth, anyone who wants to travel in, or through, New Brunswick must fork over fifty bucks.

After a few dozen years, I figure, the provincial debt will be settled, the wall paid for, and the 346 people who stubbornly remained, like crumbling Flowerpot Rocks, almost never worry about a guaranteed minimum income in their golden dotage.

Failing this eventuality, though, we’re stuck with what we have – a province that, last month, lost 5,700 jobs and posted its highest unemployment rate since the Great Recession. That’s not to say we are entirely bereft of ideas.

John Chilibeck, the Saint John Telegraph-Journal’s legislature staffer did the province a small favour the other day by asking leading pundits and academics what they would do, if given the chance, about New Brunswick’s ailing economy.

“Fixing the economy is the central question today,” said Marco Navarro-Genie, president and CEO of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies. “Obviously, there are more important things than money. But in order to take care of more important things that we love or are fond of – family, education, health – it’s hard to imagine how that can done without an economy. How do we stop our children and our grandchildren from feeing the place seeking opportunity?”

How, indeed?

There is, of course, no consensus. How could there ever be? But one approach that warms the cockles of my self-employed heart is a renewed commitment to supporting small-time entrepreneurs.

You remember those folks? Once, not long ago, governments fairly tripped over their double-wide brogues seeking to curry favour among members of the enterprise class – the reasoning being that if you can’t supply enough jobs in the economy, create the necessary conditions for people to create their own.

A federal government report published a few years ago stipulated that “The birth rate of new firms that have paid employees is consistently higher than the death rate, which means that the pool of businesses with entrepreneurial potential is being replenished regularly. The birth rate improved from nine per cent in 2001 to approximately 12 per cent in 2006. Canada compares well in this regard with virtually every country.

“New firms in Canada have high survival rates at both the one-year and the five-year point. Again, Canada compares well with the other countries. The proportion of Canadian manufacturers that are rapidly growing rank among the best (in the world).”

The study continued: “With respect to Canadian small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and their owners, between 2003 and 2008, there has been an increase in the percentage of working Canadians who are self-employed and own an incorporated business. Canadian SME owners are becoming more diverse and more educated, and this trend is likely to increase the number and the innovativeness of new businesses.

As Pierre-Marcel Desjardins, an economist at UdeM, argued cogently in the T-J piece, “The big projects are sexy and if they work, fantastic. But economic development isn’t always a grand slam; it’s a marathon. You’ve got to look at three, four, eight jobs being created here or there. If you only have a few very large employers, you’re vulnerable.”

In other words, let’s start considering what’s actually scalable in a province as small and modestly equipped to handle big or sudden growth as New Brunswick.

In the end, putting all our eggs in one or two economic baskets makes about as much sense as erecting a wall around the province and charging an admission fee.

Tagged ,

Avoiding the ‘T’ word

IMG_0261

To the best of my knowledge, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant has been silent on the guy, whom some oddsmakers now insist, could become the next president of the United States.

On the other hand, the Dread Pirate Donald has had plenty of things to say about Canada – mostly benign, if not exactly kind.

For one thing, he insists, he will not “build a wall” on our shared border to prevent legions of illegal Canadian immigrants from flooding into the Red, White and Blue (as if, pal!). For another, he says he “loves” us (if only on camera).

Of course, what he actually knows about the sparsely populated, monstrously sized geography just north of him could fill a plug in one of his artfully coiffed toupees. But let’s give him the benefit of our doubt.

Better yet, let’s imagine that once he assumes residency in the Oval Office, he will reach out his manicured hand and seek to shake that of Mr. Gallant’s. How would that conversation transpire?

President Trump: “Brian? It is Brian isn’t it? You know I really like that name. . .Reminds me of ‘Life of Brian’. . .You know. . .the Monty Python movie. . .though I gotta say, I preferred John Cleese doing silly walks. . .Hey, did you ever see the one about grandmas beating up thugs on the streets of London?. . .You know, they really had something there. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do with America. . .So, Brian, what did you want to talk to me about?”

Premier Gallant: “Uh. . .you phoned me. . .”

Trump: “So I did, so I did. Well, now, Brian. . .I’ve met your President Jason Treacle. . .”

Gallant: “I think you mean Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. . .”

Trump: “Trudeau. . .huh. . .Listen, is he any relation to that Doonesbury comic guy Gary Trudeau?”

Gallant: “Not that I’m aware of.”

Trump: “That’s good. . .good. . .good. I don’t care for that Gary character. . .Kind of a pinko, if you get my drift. . .Now listen Bri-Bri – by the way, you can call me the Trumpenator – what do you think about getting some good, patriotic Americans up to that Cape Breton of yours? I think it could be a win-win for both of us. . .I hear you have some great golf courses there and, as it happens, I build golf courses. . .So, you can see the. . .what’s that darn word?. . .Synergies?. . .You can see the synergies going forward, right?”

Gallant: “Sure, I guess. . .Except that Cape Breton doesn’t belong to New Brunswick. It’s a part of Nova Scotia. . .so. . .”

Trump: “Details, details Bri-Bri. . .Listen, I didn’t get to be president of the United States by sweating the small stuff. You gotta start thinking extra-box-like. . .I just made that up. Start being a boxless person, and you, too, could become president of the United States someday.”
Gallant: “I’m pretty sure I’m not allowed.”

Trump: “Don’t worry, I’m working on an app for that. . .By the way, can I land one my helicopters on this Cape whatchamacallit? I only ask ‘cause I got a lot of helicopters.”

Gallant: “Sure, I suppose.”

Trump: “Good. Oh, by the way, you’re fired! Ha, ha, ha. . .See what I did there? Geeze, I kill myself sometimes.”

News headlines from Canadian Press confirmed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “intends to steer clear of contentious topic during” his U.S. visit this week: Donald Trump.

Indeed, in this circumstance, perhaps silence is golden.

Tagged , ,

For the man who has everything

 

It will be Canada’s first shot at the head table in 20 years. In fact, a state dinner with the putative leader of the free world is no small honour for a greenhorn prime minister of the Great White North. So, the order of the day, off the main menu or a la carte, is simply: Don’t blow it Justin.

Specifically, don’t use the salad fork to cut your rubber chicken. Don’t haul out a bottle of Niagara vino and invite your hosts to dump their overpriced French Bordeaux in favour of it. And, for heaven’s sake, scrupulously avoid lecturing anyone about Canada’s superior health care system and gun laws.

Not that any of this is likely when Mr. Trudeau assembles with his wife and entourage behind the Rose Garden this week in Washington. After all, he’s too smart to blow a free lunch, as it were.

He knows that, at the moment, everyone, including U.S. President Barack Obama, positively adores the cut of his jib. (Why, even the Dread Pirate Trump, whose own Republican Party is figuring ways to make the usurper in their midst walk the plank, has issued a few blandly nice comments about this country’s decidedly Liberal, political honcho).

Still, for Mr. Trudeau, none of this settles the question: What do you give a man who has everything?

Indeed, ‘gifting’ between heads of state is a long, honoured tradition in this and other corners of the globe. Late last year, a Bloomberg Politics report had this to say about the practice:

“The late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz lavished the president (Obama) and his family with six gifts with more than $1.3 million. They included a men’s watch for the president, which was estimated to cost more than $18,000, and a ‘diamond and emerald jewelry set including earrings, necklace, ring, brooch, and wristwatch’ for Obama’s school-age daughters.’”

Meanwhile, according to the news item, “Various Chinese officials were also generous: President Xi Jinping gave Obama two computer tablets. Many gifts are traditional offerings – fountain pens, vases, cognac, and the like. Others demonstrate pride, including French wines or traditional garb of a given country. In the past, though, Obama has also received wackier fare, including 20 baseball caps with his face on them, as reported by Yahoo.”

Oddly, there’s very little literature on the subject of official state gifts from Canada’s Prime Minister to America’s Commander in Chief (although the satirical, online magazine The Lapine once had a field day ‘reporting’ Stephen Harper’s bequest of a two-year-old beaver named ‘Slick’).

Certainly, the circumstance demands immediate redress. Mr. Trudeau could choose from a cornucopia of obvious trinkets and delicacies with which to honour Mr. Obama: A plank of pricey salmon from British Columbia; a hockey puck from the 1972 showdown between Team Canada and the former USSR, a cutting of winter ice from the Rideau Canal preserved in a summer cooler.

None of these, though, strike me as novel or even emblematically Canadian in the second decade of the 21st Century.

Might I suggest an alternative?

Somewhere in the back country of New Brunswick, a little distillery with a big international reputation, produces the best gin that has ever passed these (or anyone else’s) lips. As this province helped hand a convincing electoral victory to Mr. Trudeau last fall, it would apropos to ship a case of Distillerie Fils du Roy’s ‘Thuya’ to the White House.

There, behind the Rose Garden, may the two world leaders sip away their worries, plot world peace, and admire the cuts of their respective jibs.

Tagged , , , ,

Waiting to breathe

DSC_0237

Apparently, we, in certain boroughs of the Maritimes, display a unique method of offering our approbation (or opprobrium, as the case may be) to those who would tell us how to think about ourselves.

Some of us tend to inhale “yep, yep” when we like what we hear. Some of us are prone to exhale “nope, nope” when we disagree with our Tim Horton coffee companions.

According to Anne Furlong, at the University of Prince Edward Island’s English department, this is. . .well. . .a real thing. It even has an official designation. As the CBC recently reported, “In linguistics, inhaling in agreement is called ingressive pulmonic speech or an ingressive particle.”
Says Professor Furlong: “Ingressive means breathing in, pulmonic refers to the lungs and a particle is a part of speech which is not necessarily a full word like cat or dog, but which is used in conversation.”

Furthermore, it seems to be a Northern European phenomenon. Again, says the good professor, “We don’t know whether it’s. . .something that is native to Celtic speakers, but we do know, however, is that there is a long overlap – hundreds of years – between the Vikings (from whom these verbal affectations are thought to have originated) and the northern people of the British Isles.

“We do know that (this patois is) widely distributed in Scotland, Northern Ireland, parts of the north of England, which is exactly where you’d expect the people from Prince Edward Island, and parts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, to come from. . . (Prince Edward Islanders) are perfectly well aware that when they move to other parts of the world – even to other parts of Atlantic Canada – they are immediately recognized as Islanders because of the way they speak.”

Yep, yep.

Still, let’s test this theory.

If I were to propose that, henceforth, all university tuitions in New Brunswick would be waived for people earning less than $50,000 a year, what would you say?

Yep, yep, (take a big breath).

If, however, I were to stipulate that free higher education comes with a cost – say, another two points on your annual income tax and a bit more on the provincial portion of the HST – how would you emote?

Nope, nope, (exhale at your leisure).

Good, now we’re getting somewhere.

Does clean wind energy in this province, which possesses some of the finest, most reliable breezes in the world, make sense?

Yep.

Do you want to live anywhere near a turbine, which might reduce your property values because somebody says it will?

Nope.

Should your kids learn how to read, write and speak both French and English in Canada’s only officially bilingual province?

Yep.

Should you spend your time ensuring that public officials work hard to do just that?

Nope.

And what about early childhood education in New Brunswick? The statistics say that a good start in life breeds better citizens and munificent economic opportunities down the road. Does this sound good?

Yep.

On the other hand, are you willing to put in the hours, the effort, required to keep this issue before the eyes of those who we elect to protect and preserve our best interests?

Nope.

Yep, yep.

Nope, nope.

The pendulum swings daily, hourly, minute-by-minute.

All the while we wait to inhale, wait to exhale.

This is, in fact, our very own version of what Professor Furlong describes as “ingressive pulmonic speech”. Apparently, we inherited it, as we have so many nasty habits of history in this region.

Breathe people and then bark like the glorious citizens you are.

Tagged ,

Who needs a weatherman?

IMG_0743

Every year at about this time, I find myself unable to leave the weather app on my smart phone alone. I check it obsessively to determine what fresh hell will descend on southeastern New Brunswick just in time to ruin a planned trip to visit one my kids or, indeed, a largely unplanned getaway to a sunny destination.

For this reason, most winters here along the East Coast of Canada have been misery to me. Ruminating about what’s coming does nothing to ameliorate the dread of. . .well. . .knowing that the universe thinks weather apps, and those who trust them, are robotic idiots.

Exactly 12 months ago, my wife and I sojourned for 10 days in Charlottetown, tending our grandchildren while our daughter and son-in-law vacationed in Costa Rica.

“No problem,” I gamely offered to my beloved of 35 years. “My weather app says the days in these parts should be cold, but beautiful.”

“That’s good to know,” she who must be obeyed replied. “We are going to spend all of our time outside, making snowmen and snow forts with cups of hot chocolate to keep us warm.”

It sounded idyllic. And so, with visions of ice angels dancing in our heads, we hit the road from Moncton. Two days later, the news, courtesy of the CBC had this to say:

“People in Prince Edward Island are being asked by the province to stay home if possible today after a blizzard dumped a record 86.8 centimetres of snow at Charlottetown Airport on Sunday and Monday. The mainland was cut off from P.E.I. for more than a day and a half, as Confederation Bridge was closed at 4:50 p.m. Sunday and didn’t reopen until 7:20 a.m. Tuesday. General manager Michel LeChasseur told CBC News this may be the longest the bridge has been closed to all traffic since it opened in 1997.

Ahem. . .so much for my vaunted weather app. Still, I check it. I just can’t seem to help myself.

So it was the other day – whilst happily trolling through the long-range forecasts for Los Angeles; London, England; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Guysborough County, Nova Scotia – I landed on Moncton.

There, I saw how gentle the temperatures would be in late February, how mild the predicted snowfall was. Then, I came upon a report for March 4: Thirty-five-to-forty-five centimetres of the white stuff with at least 15 more the following day. What?

I immediately phoned a tech-savvy friend and demanded an explanation.

“You know I actually have a job,” he began, alluding to the fact that he was at work and that I am a lowly freelancer who prefers to scribble in his “leisure suit” between bouts of weather-induced paranoia.

“Sure, sure,” I conceded, “but what do you make of this forecast? I mean, how can they know 14 days in advance what’s going to happen in my backyard?”

One word, he said: “Algorithms . . .The less snow that falls in any given winter, the more snow gets computer modelled and pushed to the end of the year. It’s math, boy, simple math.”

That, I protested, doesn’t make any sense. In fact, I declared, “It’s not fair.”

No, it’s not, he sighed. “Neither is the fact that you’re an idiot.”

I went back to my weather app and found that the forecast had changed again. It would be, after all, much milder and gentler. Crisis averted. Paranoia mitigated. All’s right with the world again. Thank you, weather app.

It’s funny how I never do this in the middle of summer.

Tagged , , ,

What’s in a word?

IMG-20120908-00198

It’s awfully nice work, if you can get it, though I suspect a facility with words – specifically, the ability to pull them from thin air – doesn’t hurt.

Meet Sir Michael Barber, once a high-ranking serf in the former British government of Tony Blair and now co-chair of something called the Centre for Public Impact (a creature of the Boston Consulting Group).

He’s been hanging around Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s various offices of late, banging on about a little something he likes to call “deliverology”, which is, as near as anyone can tell, the art and science of getting things done in the civil service.

Actually, it’s a tad more complicated than this, as Sir Michael and co-authors Paul Kihn and Andy Moffit explained in their 2011 monograph, Deliverology: From idea to implantation.

“Now more than ever, governments are under pressure to deliver results in public services while ensuring that citizens’ tax dollars are spent wisely and effectively,” they write. “Nearly all governments – and individual public agencies – have set ambitious reform goals and developed strategic plans to achieve those goals. . .The challenge for public-sector organizations is to find ways to define and execute their highest-priority objectives so that they have the greatest possible impact.”

Enter deliverology, an approach the authors say “leverages and extends the key principles of best-in-class performance.” (In fact, they also say the word was originally crafted as “a light-hearted term of abuse” for the process adopted by the Prime Minister Blair’s Delivery Unit, and only later transformed into the expression it is today, replete with positive connotations).

Whatever its derivation, Prime Minister Trudeau and the Privy Council Office appears to be taking deliverology with deadly seriousness. News reports say that Deputy Secretary to Cabinet, Michael Mendelsohn, now runs the new Results and Delivery unit. According to Tony Dean, quoted by the Globe and Mail last week, “I suspect (he) will be talking to the Prime Minister and his senior staff about whether or not there are top-level, five or six, high-level priorities that the delivery unit will be initially rallying the system around.”

And why not? As silly as the word sounds, there’s some evidence that the management approach it represents actually works. Even the venerable, sometimes stodgy, Economist has given Sir Michael’s innovation a mild endorsement. “The lesson is that doggedness and consistency are of more use to the deliverologist than popularity,” a review last year of the former civil servant’s book on the subject reads. “(The) 57 rules for success range from the commonsensical – ‘Review the capacity of your system to deliver agreed goals’ – to the controversial – ‘Successful markets and effective government go together’, which has as many exceptions as proofs around the world. Yet this account of a potentially dry subject has an uplifting brio to it.”

All of which suggests, apart from anything else, that after years wandering the political wilderness in Canada, high-powered consultants have re-entered public life. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was famously intolerant of any advice, save his own, on how to run a government. Mr. Trudeau is a far more consultative sort. And it seems to be going around.

Last week, Brunswick News reported that one of New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant’s friends and, until recently, a provincial Liberal Party operative, has been recently enlisted by TransCanada to lobby the feds on the Energy East file. According to the story, Justin Robichaud will “seek government support for the proposed project, including updates on. . .development and stakeholder consultation progress.”

Can we then expect a little more pipeline deliverology in the offing?

Tagged , , , ,

Yankee come home!

Oh to be a bluenoser now that the three-minute-long spring becomes us

Oh to be a bluenoser now that the three-minute-long spring becomes us

New Brunswick’s department of tourism (or whatever they’re calling it these days) should take a page from one Cape Breton radio personality’s playbook on luring wandering Yanks to these shores.

As Canadian Press playfully reported last week, “The creator of a cheeky website that encourages Americans to move to Cape Breton before Donald Trump can be elected president says he’s been shocked by the response. . .Traffic to the website has increased steadily, reaching over 35,000 unique visits on Wednesday (February 17).”

The spillover effect has also been pretty commanding. Said the CP story: “The site includes a link to Destination Cape Breton, which promotes tourism on the island. CEO Mary Tulle says U.S. traffic to her website over the past three days has jumped from almost 1,300 visits last year at this time to almost 12,000 this week.”

The man behind the fuss, Rob Calabrese, was, himself, gob smacked by the reaction. “I’m in disbelief,” he told the wire service. “I wish everyone from Cape Breton could read them (emails from Americans), because they really make you proud of living here. Some are writing about how it feels nice to know that they are welcome somewhere. A lot of Americans think that they’re not very popular in the eyes of the world.”

Heavens to betsy! Wherever did they get that idea?

Here, then, are a few collected quotes (courtesy of the CBC) of Mr. Trump from 2015:

“I don’t need anybody’s money. . .I’m using my own money, I’m not using the lobbyists, I’m not using donors, I don’t care. I’m really rich.”

“The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.”

“When Mexico sends its people they’re not sending their best. . .They’re sending people that have lots of problems. . .They are bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists.”

“Obamacare really kicks in in 2016. Obama’s going to be out playing golf, he might even be on one of my courses. I would invite him. . .I have the best courses in the world.”

“I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. I will bring back our jobs from China, from Mexico, from Japan, from so many places. I’ll bring back our jobs and I’ll bring back our money.”

“I’m a free trader, but the problem is you need really talented people to negotiate for you. . .But we have people that are stupid.”

“I like China. . .I love China. . .Their leaders are much smarter than our leaders.”

Need we say more?  Or, as Heather from Missouri points out on the ‘Cape Breton if Donald Trump Wins’ website, “As an American who has spent time in Nova Scotia exploring new opportunities and the idyllic landscape over the last three years, I would highly recommend a visit Northeast – destination Cape Breton Island. Fair warning, though, you WILL be charmed and delighted. Political asylum seeker, curious traveler, or modern nomad seeking jaw-dropping beauty, rich culture, and inspiring collaboration value, oceanside? Pack your skill set, and explore island life beyond the confines of a tourist/visitor visa. Consider the NAFTA Skilled Workers Program as a path to legal residency for American immigrants.”

In fact, the website has received an enormous amount of publicity over the past few days, having received write-ups in mainstream print and online news organizations across North America, including The National Post, Winnipeg Free Press, Vancouver Sun, Fortune, and the Huffington Post.

All of which may only prove that Mr. Trump is the greatest gift God ever created for improving Atlantic Canada’s anaemic immigration record.

Tagged , , ,

Polling for the truth

DSC_0242

If you are New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant, reading in a provincial newspaper that a recent poll indicates he’s no longer the flavor of the month among voters, you might be tempted to issue your own press release sardonically headlined, “alert the media”.

Except, oh yeah, they already know.

The relationship between the public, per se, and public opinion surveyors (and purveyors) is both close and ancient. It started sometime back in the 18th Century when a guy with a quill and piece of parchment stopped a passerby on a fetid London street and queried, “What ho, young man; what say you about the Jacobites? Aye or nay?”

Naturally, the results of such straw polls quickly traveled far beyond the coffee houses and gin dens and eventually made their way into the hands of the era’s pamphleteers who dutifully reported that, according to popular opinion, the king was a fool, the queen was a harlot and that even the most educated man couldn’t spell the word ‘Jacobite’, let alone venture an opinion on what it signified.

Thusly, dear reader, was born what we affectionately, if somewhat ruefully, refer to as popular democracy. As a member of the modern Fourth Estate who spends altogether too much time parsing opinion polls in the interest of hearing himself talk, I have. . .ahem. . .only one thing to say, a rare example of concision, if you will, amongst my ilk: You’re welcome.

Specifically, you are welcome to my conviction that public opinion polls are, for the most part, blunt instruments (with a margin error of plus or minus 100 per cent, 20 times out of 20) for digging at the truth about the electorate.

You are also welcome to my belief that the recent craze in this industry for providing online surveys to all and sundry (except, naturally, to those without high-speed Internet connections) only further blunts these instruments.

Still, let none of this dissuade the Angus Reid Institute from pursuing its appointed rounds. Its new survey indicates that 33 per cent of New Brunswickers approve of Brian Gallant’s performance in office. That’s a point lower than he scored in December, but a convincing improvement from his 25 per-cent showing in September. (Las Vegas odds makers must be salivating over their potential windfalls in April, when the latest provincial budget fully influences opinion).

According to a piece in the Saint John Telegraph-Journal, the premier’s performance numbers put him right in the middle of the pack of his provincial peers across Canada, which is a sort of glass-half-empty-glass-half-full result. After all, if a third of New Brunswickers like the man, then as much as two-thirds do not.

What, exactly, does that mean?

Former premier David Alward held onto power within the first few months of his mandate with less than 30 per cent of the popular vote; his approval ratings actually rose in the weeks before the provincial election that ended him.

Again, what does that mean?

In the Telegraph-Journal piece, reporter John Chilibeck issued the following caveat: “While Angus Reid says its results are based on a sample size that carries a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20, the sample size in New Brunswick was the smallest, with only 301 people polled. . .The margin of error (here) would be plus or minus 5.6 per cent.”

Statistically, then, that would mean Mr. Gallant is either enjoying the best ride of any sophomore premier in the history of the province or the worst.

In either case, alert the media.

Tagged , ,

We don’t mean to be rude, but. . .

IMG_0656

We’re the best, the brightest, the fastest. We’re so exquisitely fine, the sun glints off even the ugliest girders in our fast-corroding downtown core, just as it does off the brand, spanking new strip malls along the ribbon roads and circumferential highways that encircle us.

Welcome, Canada, to the eighth-fastest growing ‘metropolis’ in the country, the purebred greyhound of the Atlantic region.

Say hello to Greater Moncton. . .again.

Sure, we’ve been here before – before your adoring eyes. You know we have. You’ve read about us in the headlines. We’re the little city that could. We’re the home of social and economic pugilists who famously (if sometimes nauseatingly) “punch above their weight class”. Does the phrase “resurgo” ring a bell? It should.

We’re one of the world’s “smart cities” (if only because we weren’t entirely too late to the global party of installing free public Wi-Fi in our downtown). We’re the nexus of economic dynamism in southeastern New Brunswick (whatever that means), of transportation, light manufacturing, university innovation, and information technology. We’re great, and we know it. We just don’t brag about it; that, after all, would be rude.

And we don’t want to be rude. Heaven forbid that we let our hubris run away with our modesty and bury it in a muddy flat of the Petitcodiac River, which, in case we failed to mention, now hosts one of the greatest displays of tidal-bore activity on the freaking planet. Did I say planet? I meant universe.

Of course, we don’t have to brag about our achievements here in the Hub City. We have Statistics Canada to do that for us. Except for Moncton, said the agency in a recent report, “Preliminary estimates indicate that the seven CMAs (Census Metropolitan Areas) with the highest population growth rates were all located in Western Canada. In 2014-15, the population growth rate was two per cent or higher in four CMAs: Kelowna (+3.1 per cent), Calgary (+2.4 per cent), Edmonton (+2.4 per cent) and Saskatoon (+ two per cent). They were followed by the CMAs of Regina (+1.9 per cent), Abbotsford–Mission (+1.4 per cent) and Winnipeg (+1.4 per cent).

“In contrast, the CMAs that posted population decreases were all located in Eastern or Central Canada. The population decreased in the CMAs of Greater Sudbury (-0.3 per cent), Saguenay (-0.2 per cent), Peterborough (-0.2 per cent) and Thunder Bay (-0.2 per cent).

Population growth also varied in areas outside of the CMAs. In 2014-15, the non-CMA part of Alberta grew at a rate of 0.7 per cent, the highest among the non-CMA areas for the provinces. Population decreases were recorded in the non-CMA parts of three provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador (-1.1 per cent), Nova Scotia (-0.7 per cent) and New Brunswick (-0.4 per cent).

Except, naturellement, good, old Moncton, which posted a population growth rate of 1.3 per cent over the past year and a bit.

We are obviously overjoyed to be counted in this company of speedy CMAs. We also mourn the loss of vigour amongst our closest civic neighbours (Saint John at -0.4 per cent? Oh, for shame!).

But I wonder what any of this actually means in the larger scheme?

New Brunswick’s population can’t compete with Mississauga’s. Noting that Moncton is a “fast-growing” community is akin to observing that a snapping turtle runs more quickly than a tortoise.

If this province hopes to reverse its economic and demographic fortunes, its major communities must work together to determine how we all become the best, the brightest and the fastest.

Tagged , ,
%d bloggers like this: