Fighting Words, where area residents offer their opinions on the issues of the day, from the serious to the whimsical. The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the Stanley Bridge Centre.
Why isn’t our premier throwing out the welcome mat for Harry and Megs?
By Jim Brown
Memo to Dennis King, Premier of Prince Edward Island:
You are the premier of a province named after a prince. PEI’s three counties are named Prince, Queens and Kings.
Why, in God’s green earth haven’t you already offered the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, more popularly known as Harry and Meghan, a house, a cottage, a car, a driver/plow operator and an allowance to move here? What are you waiting for?
Surely you know by now they’ve split from the Royal Family and want to nest with their young son Archie in their home away from home, otherwise known as the Great White North.
Imagine what they would do for our tourism sector, even in the dead of winter when nothing is stirring but the plows? Get them here wearing their matching Canada Goose parkas that can be seen from miles away and watch the ET, Extra and Access Hollywood crews and Britain’s army of royal correspondents take up residence year round! It’s a no-brainer Dennis. Now get on the phone to Buckingham Palace.
Just think what a boon Harry and Megs could be for our agriculture sector. They could sell a million bags of spuds without even trying. All Cavendish Farms has to do is plaster their image on every bag and transport truck.
That one million dollar yearly security tab could be covered in just one month!
Hell, Meghan, who was a lead actor on the long-running TV series Suits, could kickstart PEI’s fledgling film and TV industry. She’s been dropping hints she’d like to get back into showbiz.
Prince Harry could flog our golf courses or cut the ribbon on Phase 2 of the Stanley Bridge Roundabout. The branding opportunities are limitless.
Go for it, now, before some hamlet, town or city with a Prince in its name grabs them. We don’t want Prince Rupert, or Prince George, or even Prince Edward County, in Doug Ford’s Ontario, to win the Royal Sweepstakes, do we?
Can we put aside our cruelty in their final days?
By Jim Brown
I watched my cat die on an examining table at the veterinarian’s office a few years ago. It had been given an injection and I watched as its eyes gently closed. In a few minutes she was gone, the body relaxed, as if in a deep restful state. Of course Katie would never awaken. At least not in this world.
A couple of years ago I watched my dog die after being given two injections. The first snapped her back to life for a few precious moments, to push the cancer and the pain away so that she could say goodbye – tail wagging like we were playing a game of catch. She was nine, senior years for a golden retriever-German shepherd mix. Charly, led by a veterinarian, approached me with bright, laughing eyes, a barely noticeable umbilicus trailing behind her.
She had been brought to the clinic in the dead of night, an inert mass, every breath a struggle.
Now she was happy and pain-free and bounding just like a puppy.
But only for a few moments. Then the second injection was given and she quietly slumped in my lap, her eyes closing for the last time. Finally at rest. A long, deep breath and then a sleep from which she would not awaken.
I’m thinking of the passage of those two beloved pets now as I contemplate a bleak future in which much of the world’s wildlife will soon be lost.
Climate change. Global warming. The death of hope.
That’s what’s coming.
So much of the world we take for granted will be transformed forever. We will lose precious wildlife we never really noticed until the final years.
Salmon runs in BC and Nova Scotia are disappearing.
Billions of birds in North America have disappeared too, almost one quarter of all birds in the continent – in just the past five decades. Elk and elephants, rhinos, whales, polar bears, bees, giraffes, mountain lions and bluefin tuna and a long list of other wild creatures destined for extinction.
Does anyone notice when birdsong fades?
What sort of passage will we give them as the natural world collapses all around us – taking their habitat, their food and their lives with it? Will future generations of humans even remember these wonderful wild creatures once shared the same woods, jungles, grasslands and oceans with us?
Will humanity let them lay their heads down for the final sleep? Or will we hunt and trap and fish them to the last living creature – not allowing them a moment of peace to ease from this world into the next?
Could we not show them some kindness at the very end?
A HOMAGE TO JIMMY HOFFA – FILM REVIEW
By Richard Deaton, Stanley Bridge
When I was growing up labour leaders John L. Lewis and Jimmy Hoffa were my heroes. They still are. Jimmy Hoffa, the former head of the Teamsters Union, died under mysterious circumstances in 1975.
The Irishman, a blockbuster Hollywood film starring Joe Pesci, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, produced and directed by Martin Scorsese, has received considerable publicity. Contrary to the heady reviews in the mainstream media which have made the film into an Academy Award contender, let me simply say that the film generates a lot of hype bordering on garbage.
The only award the film deserves is The Golden Shovel Award for Hollywood bullshit and anti-union sentiment.
The film is really two films rolled up into one. The first film purports to tell the story of Frank Sheeran, a Mafia hitman, who had close ties to Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters Union. How much is based on fact, and how much is fiction, remains to be seen. Many commentators, journalists, and family members have already stated that the film has taken considerable liberties with the truth.
The second or parallel story is that of Jimmy Hoffa’s rise and fall as a union leader in a notoriously violent anti-union environment. The film could have been titled, Homage to Jimmy.
The film weighs in at a cool 3.5 hours, enough time for any film aficionado to develop a callous on their backside. The film should have been cut by at least 1 – 1.5 hours and left on the cutting room floor. The fact it wasn’t says more about the luminaries acting in the film. The acting was generally first rate, but my own personal preference is for the more nuanced acting of Robert De Niro as the quiet, introspective family man who was also a hitman, rather than the blustery, gravelly performance by Al Pacino playing Jimmy Hoffa.
The film decontextualizes the subject matter. Historically, the U.S., Canada, and France have been the most violent anti-union countries in the Western world. Europe has always had a much higher rate of unionization. The current low unionization rate in the U.S. (13 per cent) and Canada (38 per cent) attests to that reality. When I was studying Industrial Relations and Economics at the University of Wisconsin in the mid- 1960s it was axiomatic that a “dirty” or corrupt union operated in a highly competitive labour market where an employer had to stabilize labour costs to stay in business. Employer-sponsored violence and bribes were merely tools towards that end. Unions learned from and reflected their employer’s practices. There was a symbiotic relationship.
The Teamsters in the U.S. have been stronger than their counterparts in Canada because they are deemed employees, whereas long haul truck drivers in Canada are, in law, deemed to be “co-adventurers”, that is, co-owners, because many own their own rig (this rule also applies to lobster fishermen’s boats).
And, yes, the Teamsters played hard ball. They had to. But they also got results. The Teamsters were among the first unions to negotiate a pension plan, health care benefits, and occupational health and safety provisions. Were the Teamsters dirty? Was Hoffa dirty? Certainly the mid-West Teamsters pension fund was like chumming the waters for sharks and the Mafia took its cut. But many defenders of Hoffa have argued that in reality he was a restraining influence on the mob’s greed.
Remember though, at this time in the U.S. there was no regulatory framework or standards for pension plan solvency, and many corporations used their pensions funds as a source of internal financing for their own business operations. So who was raiding and asset stripping the corporate pension fund?
Corporate pension fund assets were relegated to being a footnote on the last page of a large company’s audited annual report (literally). And with limited transparency there was no way of preventing the bloated pensions and salaries that corporate CEOs gave themselves. So who was “dirty”?
Was Hoffa himself dirty, and did he take a cut? Significantly, not even Bobby Kennedy in his vendetta with Hoffa could ever prove that Hoffa personally took so much as a dime! If Kennedy could have proven that allegation he undoubtedly would have beaten the drums. From all accounts, Hoffa lived in the same small bungalow, with a white picket fence (literally), with his wife for decades. No offshore accounts were ever found, nor was any money found stashed away in bank accounts. So if he was dirty, what did he do with the money?
After I became a CUPE union staff member in June 1970 a Windsor trade union contact told me this story. Hoffa would go over to Windsor from Detroit occasionally to do his heavy drinking, despite his image as a tea-totaller. According to this story Hoffa hated employer foremen who had daily shape ups to hire casual labour since they expected to be bribed by the men for a job. So Hoffa took money from the pension fund (usually $10K) to pay off the crew boss with the following ultimatum: take the money offered and quit his job as foreman, or face the consequences. Most took the money. Take this story at its face value.
Martin Seymour Lipset, a well-known American sociologist in the 1950-60s, wrote a classic article titled, “The Mafia as an American Way of Life.” He argued that the only thing that mattered in the U.S. was money and status, and how people acquired that money and power was irrelevant. A mafia chieftain using illegal means to make money, in this formulation, is every bit as legitimate as a corporate CEO making profits. Money, power, and social mobility are the end goals, the means are irrelevant.
The Teamsters Union weren’t choir boys or small “d” democrats. In the summer of 1967 the Teamsters Union attempted to unionize the Pepsi Cola bottling plant in Madison, Wisconsin, where I was attending university. Many student radicals became involved in doing a lot of the grunt work involved in organizing the plant, over the objections of the Teamsters. But the student radicals refused to go away. Subsequently, the leader of the student radicals was pulled aside by a cop who told him he was being arrested for having a concealed weapon. And a revolver was found in his car’s glove compartment. Surprise.
If the Irishman is to be faulted for anything it is its excessive and unnecessary length and its failure to provide historical context. As Emile Zola, the French social critic and author, wrote in his classic proletarian novel, Germinal, we are all the victims of the capitalist system.
No cure for Post Harper Syndrome
By Jim Brown
There’s a new and disturbing clinical condition and hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of Canadians, have it. It’s called “Post Harper Syndrome” or PHS for short.
Symptoms of PHS include a state of euphoria that can last up to 12 hours a day, interrupted by ever lengthening periods of restlessness and unease. Other symptoms can include a sudden loss of desire to post political-themed news items or observations on Facebook and other social media sites. Or conversely, an inexplicable urge to post “cute kitty or cute puppy” videos. Also, photos of restaurant meals.
Extreme sufferers say life has lost all meaning since the Harper government was taken to the curb with the recyclables on Oct 19.
What do you do with the rest of your life when everything you had hoped and dreamed would happen on Election Day actually did? Why, many millions of Canadians thought the best they could hope for was a minority Liberal or NDP government. They were over the moon when the Harper Conservatives were soundly threshed and the Justin Trudeau Liberals captured an improbable majority mandate. Four more years of rational, compassionate, responsible, incorruptable government. What ever will us PHS sufferers do with ourselves if we can’t bitch about Ottawa and the Harper government’s disturbing authoritarian twitches? All that greed, corruption, incompetence and overweening arrogance swept away with a clean broom.
Of course PHS sufferers could always hope the newly elected Liberal government would experience an ethical lapse or two. Maybe some cabinet ministers might be caught with their hands in the cookie jar? Maybe some influence peddling? Perhaps the Red Chamber might once again turn into a cesspool of immorality and kited expense claims.
But we all knew when the white knights were voted into office by millions of Canadians the odds of that happening were miniscule at best. The Trudeau Liberals have been paying close attention to what has happened under Harper’s watch since 2006 and it would take a special kind of stupid to let it happen to them. Oh My God, what happens if we get good governance for eight years, or 12 or even 20?
How will we, including TV and print pundits and the messiahs of the Internet with their uncounted legions of followers, survive the coming decades? It will be like winter on the Game of Thrones.
I find myself increasingly anxious about the future. Will there be any more malfeasance in high office to rail about, to expose to the light of public scrutiny and outrage? I fear not. I fear I will live a shallow, barren existence for my remaining years.
Only a couple of things would have made Election Day and its aftermath more satisfying. Maybe a half dozen public floggings on Parliament Hill (isn’t that sort of what they do when military dictatorships are toppled?). Or maybe seeing Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre lose his seat and be forced to accept work as a Wal-Mart greeter.
Sure would be nice to think it will all go sideways in a year or so once the Liberals get accustomed to the perks of power. But, sadly, I fear it won’t. There is no cure for this malady unless I crank up my interest in the American election cycle. Of course, the Democrats will likely win, so it will be short-lived relief.
Racism topping my list of reasons for wanting to leave PEI
By Michelle M Arsenault
When I moved back to PEI a few years ago I never had any intentions of staying. It was my ‘in-between places place’ and essentially where I would stay while putting more focus on my writing.
Fast forward and I’m still here but lately it’s been much more difficult. Of my top three reasons why I don’t want to stay, the concern of local racism is steadily pushing its way to the top of my list.
Not to say everyone on PEI is a racist. However, I certainly feel that certain areas of the island are much more racist than others. Unfortunately, I live in one of those specific places. And you know what? It makes me sick.
From those who hate the Muslims, complain about the Filipinos, the Mexicans or basically anyone who isn’t white and Christian, I’m repulsed. In fact, I’m embarrassed for them because their limited attitude really speaks to their lack of education and often exposure to other cultures. Living in 2019, in the Age of the Internet and with unbridled access to information, this ignorance is pathetic.
I recently had someone comment on how there was a fire in a building where some Filipinos lived. Not only did she assume it was their fault (because apparently they are not as worldly and sophisticated as her) she also implied if they had died in the fire it ‘wouldn’t have been a loss’. I couldn’t believe how hateful and vicious she was toward people she didn’t even know.
Not to mention another woman who informed me she couldn’t find an apartment because ‘all the foreigners are taking them’. This, by the way, falls under the same category as ‘the immigrants are taking all our jobs’.
Interesting, this reminds me of a Chinese lady I used to talk to when I lived in Vancouver who once commented people from her former country come to Canada and take the jobs most Canadians won’t do. I’ll never forget her saying, “How many people want to do a pedicure and have deal with someone’s dirty feet?” Exactly.
Regarding the housing issue, this is something that is bigger than immigrants. We’ve always had immigrants. We didn’t always have a housing crisis. Airbnb, anyone?
These are, of course, just a couple of examples of what I hear on a regular basis in West Prince. Comments like the ones I mentioned here make me embarrassed to be from this area. However, I’m not as embarrassed as the ignorant people saying them should be.
As Reality Bites – Your Vote Counts
By Zane Affa
I’m afraid to turn on the TV anymore. With wildfires, tsunamis, blizzards, floods and hurricanes every day, I don’t understand why climate change is not the No 1 priority for Canadians and human beings in general. Once everything is gone what else matters?
The Green Party is the only party that has an actual plan to reduce climate change – right now! https://www.greenparty.ca/en/platform
The Green Party is supported by individual taxpayers and only beholden to us.
The Liberals just keep making promises they don’t keep. They are supported by big business and the oil and gas industry and seem beholden to them. They only care about climate change as long as it doesn’t interfere with the money they make.
The Conservatives have no plan at all, except to cut services and take away individual rights. They are also supported by big business and the oil and gas industry – whom they believe in and owe favors to. They don’t believe in climate change at all, despite what they say.
The NDP is just copying the Green Party platform and have shown, in the past, to be financially irresponsible. They are supported by unions – whom they are beholden to.
We are on a path to destruction and no one seems to care unless it affects them directly. It is bad and will continue to get worse for all of us, while the politicians play games and we remain in denial.
Taxes aren’t evil
By Jim Brown
I got a pleasant surprise when I checked my bank account recently – a GST rebate of $144.12, which millions of Canadians below a certain income threshold qualify for.
It’s hard to believe when the GST was introduced in 1990 it was greeted with howls of outrage across the land. Remember when Liberal senators protested in the Red Chamber by blowing loudly on kazoos? Remember how the Progressive Conservatives were reduced to a rump of two seats just three years later, defeated by the GST and the stink of corruption (and would eventually became extinct)? Remember Liberal Leader Jean Chretien vowing to axe the tax during that election, only to break his promise?
The Liberals saw the value of a seven per cent GST, which was a perfectly designed consumption tax since it wasn’t applied to basic foodstuffs and returned rebates to Canadians of modest incomes. Imagine how difficult it would have been to bring Canada back from the brink of disaster after years of massive deficits under the Mulroney government without tens of billions in revenues from the hated GST. What essential services and programs would have had to be slashed or eliminated without it?
And then of course, decades later, Stephen Harper slashed the GST by two points, from seven to five per cent, in a blatant grab for votes. It worked and the Conservatives eventually came to power with a majority government, also bringing deficits back into the national conversation by forgoing tens of billions in potential revenues with the GST cut. And, it’s not a two per cent cut, as many journalists’ mistakenly claimed, it’s closer to a 28.5 per cent cut.
I have to admit I never gave Mulroney the credit he deserved for implementing the GST, knowing it would cost his government at the polls. It was a political act of courage rarely seen in Ottawa.
Now in this election Canadians are debating the merits of a carbon tax, which most economists consider one of the best tools for fighting climate change, and a new Conservative Party, railing against all forms of taxation, is again making a cynical play for votes. What a shame they couldn’t do the same thing they did decades ago with the GST. I personally don’t care if the revenues from the carbon tax go towards make work projects or any other program or service as long as they aren’t used to subsidize the fossil fuel industry or polluting corporations.
The whole point of the tax is to discourage consumption of GHG emitting fossil fuels. And, like the GST, millions of Canadians will be getting money back from Ottawa. There are bad taxes and good taxes and this is a good one. We should embrace it, for our children’s future.