These are the worst of times but they will bring out the best in us

By Nils Ling

If you’re an Islander ‘through and through’ it’s a good bet you know Nils Ling or have heard his name. Mr Ling, who ran for the Green Party in 2015 in the federal riding of Egmont, is an author, playwright, actor, filmmaker, syndicated newspaper columnist and former broadcaster who has served as president of Film PEI.

I miss my grandkids.

I miss seeing them face to face. Tousling my grandson’s hair. Digging my fingers into another’s ribs and tickling. Catching them off guard with a particularly groan-worthy dad (grand-dad?) joke.

And sure, technology helps. FaceTime and the like. But there’s no way to hug or tickle or tousle over the phone.

So sure, I miss them in this dark time of isolation. But I’m as okay with that as I can be. Because the alternative is so much more frightening.

I don’t like being scared. I mean, I know nobody does. But this is a particularly insidious form of anxiety. Waking up every morning and doing an inventory: is the room warm or is that a fever? Is that tickle in my throat something to pay attention to or is it because I yelled so loudly at that idiot of a president they have? I need bread – do I need it enough to risk going to the store? Did that cashier just hand me a toonie crawling with something? (She seems like a lovely person, so of course she wouldn’t do it on purpose but all the danger in the world is invisible now).

And I’m not comforted by people saying “Look, we have it easy: all we have to do is sit in front of our TVs for a few weeks. Think about Ann Frank or the Chilean miners or …”. Yeah, I know. Privilege. I do have it easy.

But it’s hard.

I’m not in physical discomfort. I’m warm and probably too well-fed and I can usually stave off boredom with Netflix or a book or YouTube makeup tutorials (“It’s easy to get that perfect smoky eye look …”). I’m acutely aware that I’ve got it better than 99% of the world’s population and have no right to feel miserable but … here we are.

What keeps me going is the sure and certain knowledge that things will get better. That when we are backed into a corner human beings come out kicking and flailing and doing whatever we need to in order to right the ship. Someone who I might have teased in high school is in a lab right now and they’re discovering this nasty, sub-microscopic splash of protein molecules has an Achilles heel, and they’re on the verge of figuring out how to fight back against it and stomp it out of existence.

These are the worst of times but they will bring out the best in us.

Whenever something bad happened to me as a kid my mom would say, “Look, I know it’s hard right now. But damn, it’s going to be a great story some day.” And she was always – always – right.

So, we’re all in this together. We all feel the same way about it. We hate it. We’re hurting.

But damn, it’s going to be a great story. Someday.

Someday.

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Coronavirus makes start of angling season a risky proposition

By Jim Brown

So far, I haven’t read anything about plans to cancel one of the biggest events of the spring in this country, an event that brings millions of people together in the same week. It’s the opening of trout season, which on PEI starts April 15.

On PEI there are hundreds of places to drop a worm on the opening day of the recreational fishery, but it seems anglers gather at a few favoured hotspots. There is something magical about that first day of the season. Many anglers only fish a few days a year and opening day of trout season is the mother of all festivals. Everyone wants to be out opening day. You only have to drive a few minutes in the Stanley Bridge, Trout River Road and North Granville area to find dozens of anglers clustered together seeking warmth and sharing stories about the big one that got away. It would be like cancelling Christmas Day, but I believe scraping the start of the recreational fishery is essential to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Not worried yet? Angling licenses can be purchased online but there are many fishermen who will still go to grocery and bait and tackle stores to buy them. They’ve always done that and always will. So that means more people lining up at checkout counters as April 15 nears and how many of those will be standing two metres apart?

On April 15, if the season goes ahead, thousands of anglers, from toddlers to doting parents and grandparents, will be gathering at streams, rivers and ponds. And despite pleas from public health authorities they will be drawn to places others are casting a line. Many will be sorely tempted to throw off the shackles of isolation.

It’s just a bad idea to continue this rite of spring in 2020, when a deadly pandemic is stalking the land. Do we want to vastly increase the chances of community spread?

Why did the provincial government close so many non-essential businesses and even threaten to fine Islanders who gathered in numbers that are fewer than what can be found at traditional fishing haunts all across the Island?

There is an urgency to make the announcement as soon as possible, since many grocery stores will likely start stocking worms and tackle. Do we want them spending money they can’t afford to, if a late cancellation to the season means they lose the customers they were counting on?

Fortunately there will be a silver lining or two to cancelling the opening. Perhaps the biggest one is that there will be far fewer cigarette butts, foam coffee cups and beer and liquor bottles near stream beds and far fewer nests of tangled fishing line to ensnare helpless birds and other wildlife. Trout populations could also see a welcome boost in numbers, which could lead to better luck for many anglers next season.

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Searching for Gucci, a German Shepherd that is shy around humans

By Jim Brown

It’s been epic adventure for a two-year-old German Shepherd, who has been on the loose for nine days, as of March 19. Gucci was one of dozens of dogs seized from a puppy mill before finding a loving owner, Tawnya Thompson.

Unfortunately, her forever home didn’t hold Gucci for very long.

“She was spooked by a horse in the pasture next door, pawing at the ground,” said Tawnya, who lives in Suffolk, near the Winter River hiking trail.
Gucci filled a void in her life after the death of another beloved dog.

“I had a rotweiller who had passed away a year ago from cancer,” said Tawnya, who is originally from Ontario and has a background in animal psychology.

Since her great escape Gucci’s been seen many times, only to elude her searchers each time. A more recent sighting was in Hunter River.
Tawnya says she is overwhelmed with the support she’s received from Islanders, including many on the PEI Lost Pet Network Facebook page. Tawnya has also created a FB page dedicated to finding her dog called Come Home Gucci.

Her dog travels fast and far, said Tawnya, adding she’s been seen in Brackley, Covehead, Oyster Bed, Hunter River, Winsloe and elsewhere.
“We may have to trap her,” she said. Live traps provided by the PEI Humane Society and the Canadian Kennel Club have been used to catch other skittish dogs on the Island.

Tawnya advises anyone who spots Gucci not to engage her because she will likely run again. She suggests they get a photo of the dog they think is Gucci on a cell phone and sent it to her, so she can confirm it is her dog.

There have been multiple sightings since Gucci’s escape, but she has always managed to slip away.

Tawnya said a neighbour even offered the use of his drone locating her.

In a recent post on Facebook Tawnya wrote:

“Today is Day 9 in our search for Gucci and we had no new sightings since yesterday, in the Darlington/Johnson Road area. You have shown us just how quick you can move and easy you can hide. Please, we ask to spread the word about Gucci to Hunter River and all surrounding communities. Please watch fields, roads and barns. Please remember, do not approach/follow or call out to her. We need eyes out there to help us track where she is.”

Anyone with any information that could help reunite Tawnya with Gucci is asked to call 1-902-316-0939 or 1-902-393-0553. Tawnya says the calls should be made after recent sightings, preferably right after she is spotted. Gucci can cover large distances in a short period of time, so if someone saw her a couple of days earlier she may have long left that area.

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Uncertain times for those who travel and play music

By Rachel Beck Colwill

Rachel Beck Colwill is a PEI singer-songwriter, now living in Stratford, who was nominated for many music awards. Her single, Reckless Heart, reached No. 1 in the CBC Top 20 Music chart. The video for another chart-topping tune, Hearts on Fire, was filmed in Stanley Bridge.

These are uncertain times to make your living travelling and playing music at public gatherings. These are uncertain times for many. Let’s do our best to stay calm and support each other however we can.

My newsfeed is filled with artist friends around the globe who are having shows and festivals cancel with little warning. Public health is, of course, the number one priority — but these cancelations mean the income my friends were counting on has disappeared. Moreover, many of them have already spent money on travel arrangements, purchasing merch to sell on tour, marketing, publicity, and a host of other things, all with the expectation of income on the road. They can’t get refunds on those investments.

Please, if you can, choose some of your favourite independent artists and go to their websites. Purchase a CD or vinyl or a shirt or whatever sweet original merch they have. Purchase directly from the artists. Let’s make sure our creators can continue creating.

On another note, if you are based in or around Charlottetown and you are self-quarantined for health reasons, I am happy to help you out if you need grocery or pharmacy runs or anything at all. I have a van, I have flexible work hours, and I’m a pro shopper. Please just reach out.

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It won’t go back to normal after this pandemic fades away

By Jim Brown

On March 14 I drove to Summerside to stock up for the inevitable day when I will have isolate myself from others, and I saw many shoppers flashing bright smiles at the grocery stories I visited. But others couldn’t hide their disappointment and frustration when they couldn’t find toilet paper or hand sanitizer, or other items on their list.

Later I read PEI had recorded its first case.

COVID-19. The coronavirus. The gravest threat we have faced as a country and as a civilization since the great flu pandemic of 1918.

Only in 1918 the world was much bigger. There were no transatlantic flights. No commercial flights at all across vast oceans. Travel between continents took weeks, not hours. Supply chains for everyday products didn’t extend thousands of kilometres.

We have an economy based on our mobility. What if we can’t fly, drive or move around freely? What if we were told we have to isolate ourselves from others so that our elderly and most vulnerable can live?

What happens when our entire world is disrupted, when everything that connects us to each other is suddenly taken away?

Parliament has been shut down for five weeks, schools are closing, professional sports venues have gone dark – and so have universities, colleges, art galleries, libraries, concert halls, churches, public offices – and the list gets longer by the day.

It’s humanity’s vanishing act. We are disappearing from public spaces, leaving a haunting emptiness behind.

Even the poorest Canadians have Internet access and cable television, but there are no sports or live entertainment shows to watch. Only a 24/7 stream of frightening news about a virus that is devouring our way of life.

It looks and feels like the death of hope.

We, humans, are a fiercely optimistic species. We are resilient, we fight back, we expect things will get better, because there have been dark times before, an entire dark age when the black death culled much of humanity.

Yes, humanity has been through worse.

I believe we will come through this, but we won’t go back to the way things were before.

Whether it’s two years or two months, when the virus fades away we will emerge into a transformed landscape.

Many bedrock assumptions will fall away like dry leaves from an autumn tree.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where demand for consumer goods, for services, for other trappings of civilized society in the 21st century will be fully restored. Jobs we took for granted and thought would be around forever will be gone.

Our world will have shrunk dramatically – to the dimensions of a city or a county or even a village. We will have learned to look after our neighbours, families and friends – watch over and care for them without actually being physically close to them.

When the great tribulation eases the world we rejoin will be a poorer one in many ways, and perhaps a better one in a few others.

I can’t imagine living in America and not watching the scaffolding of a universal health care system take shape. So many Americans will have died in a patchwork system that buckled and broke despite the heroic efforts of besieged health care workers, many of them sacrificing their lives so that others may live.

The long con has run its course, bringing civilization to its knees.

Even the most tribal of partisans in America will have been forced to confront an ugly truth – they were lied to and made complicit in one of the largest heists in history – the looting of their country.

They will have seen grandparents, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons, struggle to breathe and then die.

I think the world’s industrialized nations will turn their backs on a predatory ideology that maims and kills so many for the sake of a very few. They will demand a much more compassionate system of government that blends the best of capitalism and socialism – a form of communalism that ensures everyone’s basic needs are met.

Consumerism will become a dirty word since we will know, after the pandemic, there are more important things in life than material goods.

No, we won’t go back.

We won’t let one tenth of one per cent of the population control nearly all of the world’s dwindling resources, and our lives.

Corporations won’t be allowed to continue poisoning the commons we all own – oceans, lakes, rivers, meadows, rainforests, the blue skies above.

Industrial activity will have declined sharply during the coronavirus pandemic. Pollution and greenhouse gases will have been slashed.

I believe corporate culture will have changed forever.

We will no longer live and die by the value of our gross domestic product.

It’s a mug’s game predicting the future, but I feel this in my bones.

Will it happen? I honestly don’t see how it doesn’t.

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New oyster, lobster storage building nearly finished in North Rustico

By Jim Brown

Lobsters and oysters harvested in the New London area will soon have a new home – a storage building capable of holding 150,000 to 200,000 pounds of lobster and more than a million oysters.

Workers were busy in early March working on the roof of the Raspberry Point Oyster Company building.

Manager James Power said the building should be finished no later than May.

It would hold oysters from Dec 1 to May 1 and lobsters from May 1 to Sept. 1.

Mr Power said the building would serve an important purpose in providing convenient storage for oysters during a time of the year, in the depths of winter, when ice conditions are often not suitable for harvesting the highly prized molluscs.

In the past the company relied on oysters harvested under ice and that has proved tricky at times since conditions, including slushy or deep ice, make it hard to reach the oysters.

One of the worst winters on record, in 2015, saw Raspberry Point unable to sell any product for weeks because workers could not easily get through the ice.

That shouldn’t be as much of a problem now, said Mr Power.

Passerby will notice the building isn’t a typical industrial structure. It was constructed to look like it’s part of a fishing village, to blend in with other marine-themed businesses in the area. It’s nestled in the same general location as the Lighthouse Cafe, Blue Mussel Cafe, Outside Expeditions and Seagull’s Nest Gift Shop.

“It’s not just a flat steel building,” said Mr Power.

He went on to say the owner, Scott Linkletter, wanted the image, the “aesthetics”, to be just right – right down to the white cedar shingles with red trim.

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Swimming Rock fix could cost hundreds of thousands

By Jim Brown

If the steps leading to the beach at Swimming Rock park aren’t refurbished they could become a significant public liability issue, warned an engineering consultant at the Jan 20 meeting of the Resort Municipality of Cavendish. The stairs aren’t up to code since they have four-inch gaps between the steps, when the gaps should be wider.

“I don’t mean to be negative but these stairs open you up to some (significant) liability situations…we encourage the stairs be done in accordance with the national building code, even if the national building code isn’t fully implemented here…there’s a high risk…There’s a very high bank,” said Tom Harland.

“It would not be an inexpensive proposition,” to do the work, he added.

The steep bank, which is also a concern, needs to be reinforced.

“(If) you go for a permanent long term structure to protect from erosion, $100,000 wouldn’t come close to it. Maybe not even $200,000,” said Mr Harland.
“The protection side really has to be done right, or you come out of a good storm and lose it,” he said.

That happened with the stair’s landing, which was swept away by post tropical storm Dorian.

The possible options for building temporary and permanent structures for the steps, including anchoring them into rock, featured a range of costs from tens of thousands of dollars, to hundreds of thousands.

Council will look at several options investigated by Mr Harland.

The first option involves doing nothing, while the second would involve building a “semi-permanent structure” that could used over a number of seasons and anchored on the land. Made of wood, it would be brought in and out every year with the seasons. And the third would cost as much as $300,000 or more.
Mr Harland will provide a further report at a later date.

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Cavendish man has defibrillator in home, wants residents to know they can access it if they have a cardiac emergency

Story and photos by Jim Brown

Ten minutes.

That’s roughly how long a person can live without medical intervention after a sudden cardiac arrest.

In PEI’s largest urban centres, Summerside and Charlottetown, the average response time for ambulances is nine minutes.

The problem for many rural Islanders, including those living in the Resort Municipality of Cavendish where councillor Chris Robinson resides, is that it can take up to half an hour or even longer for an ambulance to arrive.

“We’re a lovely rural area of the province, but we’re almost equidistant between Prince County Hospital and the QEH in Charlottetown. We’re almost as far away from those two facilities as you can be, short of being in Tignish,” he said.

“Defibrillators are key. If you don’t have access to a defibrillator within the first 10 minutes or so after a sudden cardiac arrest, your odds of surviving are only about five per cent,” said Chris, who also chairs the Resort Municipality of Cavendish’s emergency services committee.

Chris has taken the need for defibrillators to heart, and is offering access to the one at his house on 8537 Cavendish Road, across from Captain Kidd’s Dairy Bar and Take-out. His mission to spread awareness and potentially save lives is shared by his wife Stephanie Scharf, who is a registered nurse supervisor and a registered massage therapist, working from her home clinic.

AED sign in front of Chris Robinson’s home in Cavendish

A sign on the lamppost in front of their house, installed by the municipality, shows local residents that an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available for public use 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Chris wants people to know one is there if they need it. If they can get there he will help them hook up to it.

“If people wish I would be prepared to go out as a first responder in an emergency if people had chest pains and were waiting for an ambulance. They can call my cell phone, which is 628-9831.”

Chris went on to say “we want to make sure local residents are aware that waiting for an ambulance for half an hour, particularly in stormy weather with icy roads, is not a feasible proposition. You only have eight to 10 minutes in the case of a full sudden, cardiac arrest when the heart is stopped. You only have that 10 minute window, so being prepared and knowing where to find the nearest AED is an important precaution to take, just as people should be checking their smoke detectors this time of year and having a fire escape plan in case their house catches fire.”

The Cavendish Resort Municipality has several publicly accessible AEDs. There is one at the municipal office, but the office is only open during regular business hours. There are also several other AEDs available at local businesses, which are only available during certain hours and certain times of the year.

Chris Robinson wants to improve the odds for local residents who suffer sudden cardiac arrest

Chris says it’s a also good idea for anyone who might be at risk of a heart attack to carry orange flavoured 80 milligram aspirin, which can be very effective.

“You don’t swallow them, but hold them in your mouth under your tongue and the large blood vessels under your tongue will allow the aspirin to dissolve quickly in your blood…and may make the difference while the ambulance is in route or until you can get to a defibrillator.”

Chris’s defibrillator was bought for personal use for about $1,000, but he decided “why just keep it for my own selfish use when others in an emergency may need it.”

In one of her AED community presentations Stephanie stated “I am speaking to you today as a member of the community who owns an AED for personal use…This topic is especially concerning for me since I have a family history of heart disease and I live in a rural setting, which means slower emergency response times.”

Every year more than 45,000 Canadians suffer from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

“Of those SCA that happen outside a hospital, less than five per cent survive due to delays in recognizing the cardiac emergency and access to appropriate care such as CPR and an AED…The survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest without CPR and AED is zero,” she states in her presentation.

Stephanie says using an AED with CPR within the first three minutes of a cardiac arrest can boost the chance of survival by up to 75 per cent.

Chris says anyone in the Cavendish area experiencing a heart attack after calling 911 to get the ambulance on its way, can give him a call and hopefully find someone to drive them to his house within 10 minutes.

Canada has a very poor survival rate for cardiac arrest, only about five per cent.

“It’s largely because of very poor awareness and access to defibrillators on a timely basis,” said Chris.

One other thing he thinks would make a big difference to improve emergency response times in PEI would be for Health PEI to implement a PulsePoint Network of volunteer first responders, who would receive early notification of a nearby emergency on their Smartphone.

“This PulsePoint app has been shown to have a significant impact in improving survival odds for cardiac arrest. Volunteer first responders such as off duty nurses, firefighters, police (and others) can respond to the scene of a cardiac arrest by phone notification and they can stabilize the patient before the ambulance arrives.” he said.

“Saving minutes can save a life.”

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Getting into the festive spirit at the Stanley Bridge Hall

Photos by Jim Brown

It was bitterly cold outside the doors of the Stanley Bridge WI on Dec 7 for the WI’s annual Christmas craft fair but it was warm indoors with several vendors attending to hundreds of visitors over the four hours the craft fair ran. There were lots of wonderful gifts to purchase and the building was filled with the sights and scents of Christmas, including plenty of evergreen boughs, apple cider, wooden ornaments, candies and baked delicacies, landscape photos and paintings and woolen goods of all kinds. Some vendors also set up displays outdoors. Click on an image to view images in a lightbox

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Launching a new strategy, logo to draw tourists

By Jim Brown

A new brand and a new strategy for drawing more tourists to the central part of the Island were unveiled on Nov 25 at a public workshop in Kensington.

Presenter Brianna Flood.

The collaborative ‘Heart of the Island Initiative’ drew dozens of tourism operators to Kensington’s Murray Christian Centre.

Partners for the event were the Town of Kensington, the Kensington and Area Chamber of Commerce and the Central Coastal Tourism Partnership. One of the speakers was Kensington Mayor Rowan Casely.

Organizers want tourist operators to use the hashtag “Heart of PEI” to showcase the area’s many beautiful, striking attractions and the operators’ businesses. Tourist operators were encouraged to work together and pool their resources to draw more visitors – including working with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. They were asked to apply the hashtags to scenic photos posted on websites and across social media platforms.

Click a thumbnail to view full images in a lightbox.
Participants described a wide variety of opportunities ready for seizing, including capturing more of the booming cycling market by making businesses ‘cycling friendly’ and even offering stations where cyclists can fix deflated tires and complete minor repairs. Others talked about the great opportunities offered by the legalization of cannabis and by drawing more tourists from the LGBTQ community.

Still others talked about the need to promote the area’s many culinary destinations, as well as local artists, farming, beaches and outdoor adventures.

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