Groundhog Day in Ottawa

Justice committee could take a while to get to bottom of SNC-Lavalin scandal
Story and photos by Jim Brown

It’s Day 334 of the House of Commons Justice Committee’s hearing into the SNC-Lavalin affair.

There’s been a federal election since the committee started its work in February, of 2019 and the Liberal majority has been reduced to a thin minority, propped up by the Green Party’s 35 seats.

On this day yet another high-level bureaucrat has demanded an appearance before the committee. An earlier witness said he observed the bureaucrat putting milk in his coffee, to which the indignant bureaucrat responded: “It’s a bald-faced lie! Everyone knows I’m lactose intolerant!”

Day 335

RCMP officials are invited to present details on the progress of their investigation into the PMO and Justin Trudeau. Trudeau was visiting PEI during the hearing and was spotted on a lobster fishing boat hauling a trap. His little finger was crushed in a three pound lobster’s claw.

Day 378 The very same day SNC-Lavalin closes its doors for good a legislative aide tells the committee he overhead Chrystia Freeland say the Tim’s donuts served at a Liberal party fundraiser were stale. Heated debate ensues.

Day 382 Three school buses disgorge more than 100 students at the hearing. They were there as part of a class project on civics. One was overhead telling a teacher, “This blows big chunks.”

Day 392

A White House staffer was in the visitor’s gallery. The staffer was on a fact-finding mission to Ottawa and was due to report back to the GOP conference the next day. “I don’t get it,” said the aide. “Where’s the million dollar payoff? Was anyone even groped?”

Date 398 Green Party Leader Elizabeth May testifies. She apologizes for not preparing for her appearance, having believed it was an emergency meeting on safety measures to protect the North Atlantic right whale.

Day 412 Justice committee members vote to take the show on the road, scheduling sessions for Thunder Bay, O’Leary, PEI, a legion in Calgary and the Hooters in Ottawa.

Day 433 Justice committee discovers it has blown through its budget. No more Tims.

Day 455 The backlog of witnesses wanting to speak at the hearings has reached several hundred. Here’s how a frustrated committee member described the situation: “Someone says something that’s at odds with an earlier witness so a nose is going to get out of joint. So he or she is going to want to rebut the witness’s testimony, and then someone else will feel wronged in the process. Or maybe Andrew Scheer thinks something is still being covered up so the committee will call more witnesses and the cycle will continue like one of those Groundhog Day loops.”

The committee member says this will continue until everyone is exhausted or there’s another election. “It’s the Canadian way and a lot cheaper than throwing people in jail.”

Day 456 “I can’t take it anymore! Make it stop,” is the anguished cry from an unnamed committee member, that somehow gets on CBC Radio.

Day 457 Andrew Scheer says the government is determined to cover up one of Canada’s biggest political scandals. He wants the witness list expanded.

Several members phone in sick and the justice committee adjourns for an indefinite period.

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Black History Month

Viola Desmond

 
Black History on Prince Edward Island
By Dale Amundson, Editor, SeniorsPEI.ca, February 2, 2019

Again this year there is a paucity of events related to Black History Month. A few related events at public libraries – one at each of 5 libraries and a second event at the Confederation Centre Public Library. The only listing related to Black History Month on the PEI Government website is of these events. Even the Black Cultural Society of PEI facebook page has nothing more to offer.

One wonders if there is a belief that there is no black history on Prince Edward Island. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Not only is there a black history, there is also a history of slaves and slave ownership. Some of Prince Edward Island’s most prominent residents were slave owners.

Under French rule, it was legal to own slaves on Île St.-Jean. However, the first record of enslaved Africans was in 1784 when 16 “negro servants” arrived with the Loyalists; by 1785 there were almost 100. After 1799, when the name was changed to Prince Edward Island, there were enslaved Africans in Charlottetown and Summerside. In PEI, perhaps due to the small number, enslaved Africans were allowed to be baptized and to marry legally. The wealthy owned enslaved Africans, including businessman William Shurman and the Lieutenant-Governor Edmund Fanning.

Many people are not aware that there were black people on Prince Edward Island in the 19th century, but there were. A black community known as The Bog, developed around Euston and Rochford streets in Charlottetown, near Government Pond, in the 1800s.

Most of the descendants of these black Islanders have been assimilated into the population and are no longer a visible minority. There are black people in thousands of families, from one end of the Island to the other.

In 2014, as part of the celebration marking the 150 anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, a stage production called Tales from the Old Stock: Stories and Songs of P.E.I Black History was performed at the 2014 Celebration Zone. It chronicled some of the missing pieces of Island history through skits and storytelling, as reported in the Guardian at the time.

Historian Bruce Ziff maintains that the first “abolitionist statute” in the Empire was Prince Edward Island’s 1781 act regulating slavery. The only statute in the post-revolutionary, second British Empire to regulate slaves explicitly. A detailed academic analysis of slavery on Prince Edward Island in the article Slave Life and Slave Law in Colonial Prince Edward Island, 1769-1825 by Harvey Amani Whitfield provides some compelling information, along with detailed footnotes and a bibliography. A list of known slave names or identities exists in the appendix of the article.

The 1781 act regulating slavery was abolished in 1825 by an act of the Legislature. By that time there were no slaves remaining on the island.

Those of us who care that the history of Prince Edward Island is represented honestly and inclusively look forward to the time when the Government is willing to commit resources sufficient to bring awareness of the meaning and importance of Black History Month, and black history generally to everyone on the Island.

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Morrison cottage to be demolished on December 14

By Jim Brown
A mysterious building on Clark’s Lane in Cavendish that few Islanders ever get to see, but has been a favored haunt of visiting dignitaries and eight of the past 12 premiers, will be demolished on Dec 14.

Parks Canada officials made that decision some time ago, despite a letter from Resort Municipality Chair Matthew Jelley urging them to spare The Morrison Cottage.

According to Brenda MacDonald, the Resort Municipality’s CAO, Parks Canada staff have already been to the building several times removing items of importance and perhaps even the windows.

There has been significant interest by business and residential owners in the resort municipality in acquiring the building, including leasing it or moving it.

The three bedroom bungalow’s fate was brought up at the Resort Municipality’s planning board meeting on Dec 5. It will surface again at the monthly meeting of Resort Municipality Council on Monday, Dec 10.

The Morrison Cottage, built in the 1950s, is owned by Parks Canada but managed by the Province in a deal struck in the 1970s. The Province also handled bookings. Over the decades it’s served as an upscale bunk for visiting dignitaries as well as premiers.

According to a Charlottetown Guardian article in 2016: “Little has been done in the way of major upgrades to the property. It has a garage, hardwood wall interiors, a stone fireplace and chimney and typical cottage-style furniture.”

An internal Parks Canada report, prepared by KPMG, is investigating the feasibility of unloading “non-core” Parks Canada assets to earn hundreds of millions in revenues, perhaps more than a billion dollars.

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The most wonderful time of the year for shopping

There were lots of beaming smiles on the faces of vendors and holiday shoppers alike on Saturday, Dec 1 at the Christmas craft fair held at the Stanley Bridge Hall (Sterling Women’s Institute). Many lucky shoppers came away with the perfect gift to slide under the tree or into a Christmas stocking.
Jim Brown photos

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Bad weather forces North Rustico Remembrance Day ceremonies indoors

Story and photos by Jim Brown

Fierce winds and plunging temperatures moved Remembrance Day ceremonies indoors in North Rustico.

Hundreds of people packed the North Rustico Lions Club for the ceremonies, marking the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that silenced the guns of World War 1. Attendees included District 18 MLA Brad Trivers and PEI’s Senator from Cavendish, Mike Duffy.

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An early start to Christmas shopping season

New London Community Complex Craft Fair held Nov 4
Story and photos by Jim Brown

Auxiliary power may have been needed to keep the lights on, but the annual New London Community Complex Christmas Craft Fair still went ahead on Sunday, Nov 4, drawing hordes of shoppers looking for that perfect item to slip into a stocking or under a tree.
By early morning close to 3,000 Maritime Electric customers were still without power after a fierce windstorm, with gusts as high as 100 km an hour, lashed PEI. No doubt a good number of them found their way to New London.

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Light standard knocked down

Department of Transportation work crews were busy across the province on Oct 16, fixing much of the damage caused by fierce winds of up to 90 km an hour. The winds were accompanied earlier in the morning by heavy rains. Above, shortly after 9 am, workers were attending to a fallen light standard about 40 feet from the Stanley Bridge roundabout, on the Cavendish side.


Jim Brown photos

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Helen MacEwen and the new resort municipality council: How our past has become our road-map to the future.

By Mike Duffy

Senator Mike Duffy

On Monday, Sept. 10 the new, post-election Resort Municipality council was to hold its first monthly meeting.

Mayor Matthew Jelley was acclaimed on July 27 and so were all the councillors seeking election. Bill Drost, Chris Robinson, George Clark Dunning, Lee Brammer, Linda Lowther and Kenny Singleton will steer the development of this growing community over the next few years.

It is an interesting mix of older, experienced councilors and new people with new ideas for the future of our community.

These are critical years for the municipality, as we see a new generation of visitors and retiring baby-boomers come home from years spent “away”, bringing with them new ideas about housing, zoning and culture. It will be a challenge as the tried and true learns to live with the new.

Our past is our road-map to the future. That certainly is the credo of Helen M. MacEwan, who is finishing a decade as President of the Stanley Bridge Memorial Society.

Charlottetown gets most of the attention when it comes to discussions of Island history. After all that was where the Fathers of Confederation met in 1864, to begin the process of creating Canada.

But if you ask Helen M. MacEwen, you’ll quickly learn our Island history extends far beyond Charlottetown.

Until 1865 Stanley Bridge was known as Fyfe’s Ferry, named for the ferry which carried traffic across the Stanley River. The name changed after the bridge was built.

These were the days before motor cars and paved highways linking rural areas with the capital City. Water was the key means of transport, and Stanley Bridge with its access to New London Bay was a busy port with schooners lining the wharves.

Farmers used the schooners to send their produce to market, and merchants used the ships to receive supplies which they sold to local people. The community truly was the hub of our small universe, with a busy blacksmith, a harness maker, tailor and millinery shop, and a shipyard.

All of this is documented in the Stanley Bridge Memorial Society’s richly illustrated book, the History of Stanley Bridge, Hub of the Universe. It was published in 1997, and as the older generation passes on, the book remains a valuable resource for those interested in our past.

The Stanley Bridge Memorial Society, a group of local history buffs, led by Helen MacEwen, volunteered the countless hours that were required. Now after a lifetime of work, and a decade as President, Helen MacEwen is moving into the past-president’s role. She is being replaced by Clayton Smith.

In recognition of her hard work, I was delighted to present Helen M. MacEwen with a Senate of Canada Certificate of Appreciation.

The citation reads: “In Recognition of Your Lifetime Commitment to the Preservation of the History of Stanley Bridge”

Helen M. MacEwen is a community leader, and this certificate of appreciation is a well-deserved thank you from her countless friends, fans, and neighbours.

Never one to rest, Helen’s latest community project is the 100 by 100 campaign.

The Stanley Bridge Centre, a former United Church decommissioned in 2009, will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2020. The Memorial Society’s latest project is to raise $100,000 for renovations to make the building accessible, to repair the roof, and add a kitchen and washroom.

This community centre needs the support of our caring community. Your generous donation can help the Stanley Bridge Centre thrive for another 100 years.

Cavendish resident Mike Duffy represents PEI in The Senate of Canada. Your comments are welcome. Please submit them to peijim@hotmail.com..

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