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.
Final thoughts on one of the wildest, wackiest elections in Island history
By Jim Brown
So who saw that coming a year ago? Who saw the Green Party sprinting to second place, winning eight seats in a minority government?
Who would have thought the dysfunctional Progressive Conservatives, who changed leaders in the past few years about as often as many of us change our underwear, would outlast the sagging Liberals and the surging Greens, to win 12 seats.
Unthinkable, until just a few short weeks ago.
Here are some scattered thoughts about the April 23 election and its aftermath, some of which might actually make sense.
Green Party women show the way
Talk about a game changer.
Of the eight Green candidates elected, five were women. Just one other woman was elected, from the PC Party, which (may) form PEI’s first minority government in more than a century.
So how did that happen? Researchers could be writing doctoral papers on that for decades to come. My guess? There is something about the Green Party that makes it easier for voters to elect women. Perhaps if you are a Green Party supporter you are more inclined to vote for women.
Is it possible Green Party female candidates were simply better candidates? Did they network and connect with voters better than their female counterparts in the PC, Liberal and New Democratic parties? I suspect that might be at least part of the answer.
Ponder this: Nine of 27 Green Party candidates were women, which is 33 per cent of the total. But that trails the NDP, which was shut out, yet again. Eleven female candidates carried the orange banner. The Liberals and PCs weren’t far behind the Greens in fielding female candidates, at seven and six candidates respectively.
Just imagine if the Green Party had fielded 20 female candidates instead of just nine.
Some serious horsetrading about to start
Did you think this election would severely crimp backroom deals on PEI? Then it’s your lucky day! I have some swampland in Arizona to sell you.
I believe even before the dust has settled on this wonderfully loopy election result, Green, Liberal and PC operatives will be huddling together, trying to come up with a deal that will work for two of those parties.
Don’t believe all that Kumbaya talk on election night – some serious horse-trading will be going on. I don’t know who will come out on top, but I believe the Greens better ignore their “play nice” instincts. The 2019 election represents a great opportunity for the party to make electoral hay by striking a deal with a tired, demoralized Liberal Party whose leader was unceremoniously defeated in his own riding.
Yes, that MMP
Elections have consequences. Hate to say it but Dennis King’s reign as PEI Premier may be over before it starts. The Greens, the Liberals and King’s PCs all finished within seven points of one another in the popular vote. Put any two of those parties together and you have a viable governing coalition. Why not the Liberals and Greens?
And consummate negotiator that he is, Peter Bevan-Baker could throw MMP into the mix. But wasn’t it narrowly defeated in a referendum? Yes, but does that mean it has to die? No.
Unpopular policies are adopted all the time without referendums. Remember the GST? The provincial HST? And how about free trade with the US and then Mexico and the US (twice)? And before that publicly funded health care, the Canadian Pension Plan, EI and so on.
Let’s get real here. Forty-nine per cent support for MMP in an election referendum is a lot more support than most other government initiatives get, such as Trudeau’s recent carbon tax.
If Islanders want more representative government and fewer blowouts in which nearly all the seats all won by a single party with 40 per cent of the vote, MMP has to be adopted. It’s as simple as that.
MMP should never have been voted upon in a referendum, whose results can be fudged six ways to Sunday.
Green MLAs and rising carbon footprints
My big question is how will Green Party candidates restrain their carbon footprints since they will be travelling back and forth to Charlottetown for legislative sessions and flying all over Canada to share the secret of their success with other Green Party apparachiks. Not to mention the very real possibility they could form a coalition government with the Liberals in which Peter Bevan-Baker could suddenly find himself PEI’s premier and an attendee at premiers’ meetings across the country. World travel could also be in the Island Green Party’s future.
Remember, most of the Green Party’s newly minted MLAs will be getting a big pay boost, with base pay, not including benefits and perks for attending meetings, nudging $75,000.
What will they do with the new cash, government cars (if the party gets in bed with the Liberals or PCs to form a coalition) and other perks of the job?
After all, you can only plant so many shrubs as carbon offsets.
Right wing media have it all wrong about Dennis King and the PCs.
So Prince Edward Island is yet another domino to fall, bringing Canada closer to that wonderful day when Conservatives control everything and those wicked progressives are shown the door.
Not quite. There is very little daylight between the Liberal and PC parties on PEI and many believe the PCs would embrace several Green Party policies. It’s the Island way, everyone moves towards the middle ground and consensus.
We’re simply not going to hear anti-immigrant dog whistles, or see slash and burn cuts to health care, environmental regulations and social programs on PEI, which is probably why we have one of the strongest economies in all of Canada. And unlike, Ontario under Premier Doug Ford, we haven’t experienced a bond rating cut.
It will be the kind of productive, civil government many Canadians in provinces like Alberta and Ontario wish they had.
Climate change is threatening our future and Canadians are not doing enough to fight it
By Jim Brown
Canada’s much-loathed carbon tax was greeted on April 1 with millions of clenched fists.
Many Canadians saw the tax as a threat to everything they held dear, not as something they must embrace for the planet’s survival.
Canadians are failing to pick up the torch in the fight against climate change, but we aren’t alone. So is nearly every other industrialized country, just when global warming threatens to destroy humanity’s only home.
The sad, sobering truth is that the carbon tax was never meant to be a ‘golden bullet’ to inoculate us against a nightmarish future. It was only the first step – and a baby step at that.
Canada’s rate of temperature rise is double the world average and a few cents extra a litre on gasoline and other petroleum based fuels isn’t going to have an immediate impact. It, alone, certainly won’t save hundreds of shore-hugging cottages on Prince Edward Island, which will swept away in the coming deluge.
But what the carbon tax represents is something far more valuable. Momentum.
It mobilizes us to take on even greater challenges. We take this one small step in unity and then the next, larger step, doesn’t seem as daunting.
And then an even bigger step after that, and then bigger yet and then perhaps we will make real, measurable progress towards saving the planet. Especially if the industrialized nations of the world, the largest greenhouse gas emitters, do the same.
But it is unravelling already. One of Canada’s major political parties, which will likely seize power in less than six months, is run by a cabal of climate change deniers. They’ve closed their eyes, their ears and their hearts to the peril ahead. The Conservative Party of Canada, and its provincial cousins in oil-rich Alberta and Saskatchewan, and in Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, are portraying it as a cynical money-grab.
Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer and other Conservative leaders appeared in a photo op April 1, carbon tax implementation day, fueling up their gas-guzzling cars and vowing to roll back modest climate change regulations already brought into law.
They might as well be chanting “Burn, baby, burn…”
History books, if they are to be written in the dark decades ahead, will not be kind to these deniers.
What brought us to this desolate stage? I think it all stems from an erosion of trust – in our institutions, in our governments and in ourselves.
We haven’t had a cause to fight for since the Second World War and we are incapable of mobilizing as a society to fight the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. We grumble over spending nickels and dimes when climate change will cost us hundreds of trillions in the too-near future, according to the vast majority of climate scientists.
Floods, famines, fires, diseases and hundreds of millions of hollow-eyed migrants moving across a ruined world, seeking refuge in the few places that might still be habitable.
Endless wars over water, land and resources will be the legacy we leave our children. And perhaps a vision of mushroom clouds.
All because we couldn’t put our petty, tribal interests aside for the common good. All because we wanted the extract the last drop of oil from a dying world.
Everyone who has followed climate change knows the real work lies ahead and humanity must confront the horrors that are coming or die.
But we have politicians promising to cut taxes and slash anti-pollution regulations in a shameless pitch for power and profit. They want government out of the way so they can complete the looting of the natural systems that sustain us all.
And it looks like Canadians are giving them a blank cheque to do just that.
Your creative side is waiting to be unearthed
By Michelle M Arsenault
Let’s face it. If you’re 17 years old and share your dreams of becoming a writer, a rock star or a painter, chances are you may not be taken as seriously as someone who talks about college, degrees and any profession that requires an intensive science program. In fact, most creative professions are kind of lumped into the same category as psychics, witchcraft, meditation, and anything spiritual. In other words, a little woo-woo. You know, it’s interesting but can you make money with it?
But the truth is if you’re really good at any of those things you probably can make a lot of money once you have a following. People are intrigued by psychics, artists and yes, even witchcraft! However, most people don’t take them seriously and one of the reasons is because many people pursuing these areas don’t either. We all know people who talked of writing a book, joining a band or studying herbs, only to flake out as soon as they realized it takes much more time and effort than they had assumed. After all, I don’t get up at 6 am for the hell of it.
Believe it or not, creative pursuits require a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, so overnight success is rare. There’s no easy formula. If you want to be a nurse, for example, teachers can help point you in the right direction. If you want to be a rock star, not so much.
For that reason, many people become discouraged. It just seems like a long shot and unstable. It causes people to bury their creative side – to believe it is all silly and useless. However, be reassured it’s there. If you were ever a child (and I’m guessing you were) you were creative. When you were five, chances are you weren’t talking about the stock market or politics but most likely were ass deep in paints, Lego or toys. There was no structure. Coloring inside the lines? What? That was crazy talk!
Coloring outside the lines as an adult is a whole other story but does it have to be? Maybe it’s time to explore that creative side because it’s there. I promise. Underneath criticisms you once heard about not being serious enough, not following the rules and of course, not sitting quietly, your creative side is waiting to be dug out.
Is it time for a digital rebellion?
By Michelle M Arsenault
Will there be a day when people start logging out, deleting accounts and just cutting back?
Do you often find yourself mindlessly scrolling through posts you don’t care about? Liking things you are only half paying attention to and reading ridiculous rants about trivial stuff? Perhaps their crispy chicken wasn’t crispy enough or something just as stupid.
Then one day you realize this is your life. You’re spending far too much time in front of a screen or smartphone, connecting with people in the most anonymous way possible. Congratulations! You’re officially wasting hours of your valuable time on something useless and irrelevant. You could be doing something more productive, like learning a new language or going for a walk.
The interesting thing is that many of us are old enough to remember a time when communication wasn’t so easy. You had to pick up a phone, when no one else was on it, and call someone. Then actually talk to them. If you were lucky it was a local call because long distance was too expensive. You were dying to talk to your pen pal or cousin in Europe, but it was so crazy expensive that it was impossible. All you could do was send a letter and not hear back for probably a month. Even paying that extra money on postage for international letters seemed a bit taxing.
Now, you can talk to your cousin in Europe or your friend down the road online, on camera, free (more or less) anytime. But we don’t. In fact, for all the ways to instantly communicate with people these days, we usually don’t bother at all and if we do, it’s a quick text, often full of poor punctuation and misspellings. It’s almost like the objective is to keep our communication as brief and impersonal as possible.
Unfortunately, this has seeped into our everyday life. I’m finding the longer social media is around, the less people are able to connect with one another. I shouldn’t say they can’t connect, it’s often sheer laziness combined with apathy. I recently had a birthday and received many birthday greetings from friends. It’s interesting how you can often sense the sincerity and affection from some, while with others it’s easy to see they’ve mindlessly typed the words.
It was after a few friends who I hadn’t heard from in a long time wished me a happy birthday that I sent them an inbox message attempting to get their advice on something. Some were great. Others were not. In fact, there was one friend who couldn’t have been less engaged. I think it was asking a lot to have full sentences in her reply, let alone a thoughtful and considerate answer to my question. It was too much effort.
The irony wasn’t lost on me. Publicly, this person had no problem wishing me a happy birthday. In private, however, after doing the robotic, mindless social media duties, it seemed way too taxing to have bothered with me. I’m glad we hadn’t actually met in person because I fear the effort this person would have to make to carry on an actual conversation.
Of course, in fairness, maybe this person had something else going at the time, perhaps was sick, who knows, right? However, what is troubling is that this isn’t just one person and one day. This is a lot of people and all the time. It makes you wonder where that puts us in the future.
Personally, I’ve been moving away from social media. I post and connect with people on those posts and occasionally scroll through (although a lot less). I’ve deleted some of my old email accounts and to be honest, I’m becoming less engaged with social media. It makes me wonder if, in the future, we will see a social media rebellion.
Will there be a day when people start logging out, deleting accounts and just cutting back?
One can only hope.
It’s frustrating being ‘From Away’ and living on PEI
By Michelle M Arsenault
“If Islanders aren’t accepting others ‘from away’ from within our own country, how do you think they treat those ‘from away’ from another country?”
One of the most frustrating things about living on PEI is the insane distrust for people ‘from away’. It’s accompanied by this ridiculous belief that people from other provinces (and heaven forbid, even other countries) come here to swoop up our jobs, forcing native born Islanders to move away for work.
First of all, I’m a native Islander who moved away as a teenager. I didn’t do it because of the lack of work but because I grew tired of living in a smothering bubble of outdated beliefs and ideas. I left because I didn’t appreciate being defined by how quickly I got married or how relevant his family was in the community. I left because feeling pressured to ‘settle down’ so young made me want to set myself on fire. I left because I was pretty sure the world had a lot of things going on and I wanted to learn about them and not feel pressured to live by rural PEI social norms.
I returned many years later (we don’t have to go into specific numbers here….) only to find that little had changed. Racism, homophobia and those old ideas about ‘people from away’ continued to hold tight, as if the world hadn’t changed since the year I moved away. It was pathetic.
However, I will say that upon returning I knew immediately that I didn’t want to stay, and it wasn’t because those people ‘from away’ had taken the jobs, but because the jobs that were here had limitations; limited in hours, limited by season, limited in pay rates and unfortunately, sometimes limited by who you ‘knew’. In fact, one place where I was interviewed had no interest in my many references but asked for one ‘from here’ because apparently, even though I hadn’t worked for this person, her word was stronger than that of former employers who relied on me throughout the years.
One of the really odd events came when an Island suppertime newscast was being…well, recast and the network felt an obligation to explain the new host’s ‘connection to the island’. Personally, I didn’t feel the new host should be required to jump through these hoops to do the job. She just had to be able to do the job.
Of course, this isn’t anything new. I’ve been hearing this complaint for years. When I first moved to Moncton as a teenager, I recall someone telling me how a friend/relative/someone they knew had moved to PEI because they thought it was captivating. Turns out, this captivation happened only when she was visiting as a tourist, because once she moved to the Island she received a less pleasant reception. Despite her lengthy resume and abilities, employers wouldn’t hire her and it appeared they were leaning more toward someone ‘from here’. She ended up moving away with some bitterness in her heart.
Immigrants who come to PEI often don’t stay. Can you guess why? If Islanders aren’t accepting others ‘from away’ from within our own country, how do you think they treat those ‘from away’ from another country?
Maybe it’s time we, all Islanders, made an effort to stop living in a bubble and pretending the rest of the world doesn’t exist beyond our shores.
Shame the GOP by drafting legislation giving federal workers a temporary pay boost
By Jim Brown –
At the time of this writing the US government shutdown over a $5.7 billion wall no sensible person wants is 33 days long. And barring Trump’s declaration of a national state of emergency, it looks like it won’t end any time soon.
Of course there will be Islanders who read this who will ask: Why do we care? How does a shutdown in another country affecting 800,000 federal workers and millions of other employees in related businesses affect us?
But it does in so many ways. For one thing, our food security is at risk since we get most of our fruits and veggies from America and with large numbers of food inspectors furloughed or working without pay the risk of contamination is much higher. Also, the FBI, which does the bulk of counter-terrorism work, is grossly understaffed and underfunded and unable to pursue many investigations. What will happen to the Canadian economy if a terrorist, who could have been stopped, slips across our border and commits a horrific act of mass murder?
Yes, we have a lot to lose if the shutdown lasts for much longer.
But I have a modest proposal for painting GOP lawmakers and Trump into a tight space they can’t slither out of.
Why doesn’t Nancy Pelosi (Democrat Speaker of the House) draft legislation calling on furloughed and essential workers to receive three times their regular pay during the shutdown? This could help many facing cold-hearted bankers ready to snatch their homes because they’re behind in their mortgage payments.
It could also cause landlords to think twice about throwing them out of their rental units or car dealerships from seizing their vehicles.
Just imagine what a difference it will make to creditors knowing when these workers get their back pay it will be three times what they are normally entitled to.
At the very least the economy will get an immediate spending boost when government is re-opened.
Unfortunately, not everyone will come back to work when the shutdown ends. In some departments sharp-eyed managers will see they can achieve greater efficiencies by reducing the workforce. So the 300 per cent pay boost during the shutdown will provide workers who find themselves suddenly jobless with a financial cushion.
It’s obvious neither Trump nor his party cares that much about the plight of government workers living from paycheque to paycheque, with many forced to turn to food banks and GoFundMe campaigns to put food on the table and save their homes. Many others are left with the heart-wrenching choice between rent, food or medication for their children.
GOP lawmakers may not have much compassion for ordinary people down on their luck but they won’t enjoy the harsh, unrelenting public shaming they will receive if they don’t support legislation that would boost the pay of desperate workers during a shutdown they were responsible for.
With apologies to Donald Trump: “What do the Democrats have to lose?”
It’s not up to someone else to make you happy
By Michelle M Arsenault
For some reason earlier today I was thinking about a blog I wrote a few years ago called The Stigma of Being Single.
I originally wrote about this topic in 2014. At the time I had just moved here from Vancouver and felt a bit judged when I first returned to my hometown. Where have you been, what have you been doing and why aren’t you married seemed to be the most common questions I was asked by relatives, acquaintances and strangers alike. Considering I had moved away years earlier, attempting to answer any of these questions would’ve stirred up a complicated pot, so avoidance was usually a better chose.
In truth, most people aren’t genuinely interested and invested in our lives, so really, do you want to go down that rabbit hole? Life is complicated and that’s why most of us are exactly where we are right now, regardless of wherever that may be. We try our best and sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t.
When it comes to being single, I’ve always believed that being involved in a serious, committed relationship such as marriage isn’t something people should do lightly. At least it’s not something I could or would do lightly. Not to suggest that anyone does but sometimes I believe people tend to find themselves following other people’s visions for their own lives, and that’s unfortunate because it can very quickly turn into a hornet’s nest. I know. I’ve seen it.
I also think that you need to be at a certain level of personal development. In other words, I think people need to a grow up a lot before they start hitching their wagon to someone else’s life. It’s not up to someone else to fulfill you, to make you happy or to keep you entertained. They always say that a child shouldn’t be born with a ‘job’ in the parent’s life and the same can be said for a partner. It’s no one’s job to fix you, inflate your ego, pay your way or make you feel valued. Most people can barely manage to do these things for themselves let alone themselves and someone else. I’ve seen it play out many times, including in my own life, and it does not go well.
Not to say I’m the expert or that I will ever know everything there is to know about relationships. I think we’re all constantly learning, as we should be, and we just keep trying to do a little better each day.
I will say I do love men. I know a lot of women (both married and single) who seem to hate men. I simply adore men. I think some of the most loyal friends I’ve had have been men. I know other women who feel the same way too. These are the people who would be there to help you bury the bodies (not literally….well, then again, maybe…) if you needed them. I’m fortunate to have some of those friends from coast to coast (not in every province but a few strong friendships) and it’s awesome. I love how men think. They solve problems and move on. They get in arguments and move on. They end one thing and start the next. There’s a logic to everything they do, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it.
Life should be an adventure. Dating should be an adventure too, not a marketing campaign. You don’t need to create a dating profile involving the display of as much cleavage as possible (the guy equivalent to this is the shirtless man flexing in front of the mirror) and talking about how cool you are, nor do you have to drop a pile with your stories about how your mother’s your hero and you once saved a puppy from drowning. And warnings like ‘no psychos please!’ probably say more about you than you think.
Which gets me to my final point and it’s important. Everyone you’ve had in your life or want in your life is a reflection of you. Not to say your ex who threatened to stab you with a butter knife suggests you’re also ‘coco for cocoa puffs’, but it does suggest that maybe you also have something broken in yourself to have a broken person in your life. It’s not meant as a criticism but rather a sad reality that we’ve all had to face from time to time. Hey, life’s hard so why wouldn’t we be broken from time to time? Sometimes you’ve got to fall apart before you can see what needs to be healed.
The other side is that if you’re attracted to cool, smart, thoughtful people, maybe you’re pretty cool, smart and thoughtful too. It seems like the perfect fit.
I’m a member of the two per cent, deal with it
By Michelle M Arsenault
Earlier this year, I applied for a job that required me to take a personality test. As it turns out, I’m an ENFJ personality, which is apparently only two per cent of the population and essentially means that I’m a ‘natural leader’. In fact, I’m in good company because I’m in the same category as Oprah and Obama.
I thought that was super exciting and assumed if a personality quiz was a major part of this application process (in fact, it seemed to be the most relevant) then I should at least get an interview. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
The interesting thing about life is that we’re told to be ourselves, to be bold, to be honest, to be confident and to not allow anyone to hold us back. But have you actually ever tried to do this and if so, how well did it go for you?
It’s interesting how the traits that we often idealize in society aren’t necessarily appreciated. We want to believe they’re not only accepted but encouraged. However, what looks good on a television show, in a book or in theory, doesn’t always resonate in everyday life. A perfect example of this is how we idealize people telling the truth. We hear how the truth shall set you free, how the truth always catches up with you and how people respect the truth. It’s apparently also a faster track to heaven.
Unless, of course, you tell a truth that hurts someone’s feelings. Then you’re automatically an asshole and on the road to hell.
I’m proud of the fact I have a strong personality. I know I can take on anything and anyone at any time. I’m not saying I’m a superhero or I don’t have my moments of doubt but my many struggles in life have made me the person I am today.
It didn’t happen overnight. I was a shy child, turned self-conscious and ostracized teenager to an anxiety-ridden adult. It wasn’t the easiest path but it certainly prepared me for anything that was ahead and as I move forward, I’m sure many new challenges in the future.
Unfortunately, there are just some days where I don’t feel so strong or confident. There are days that I don’t feel like I can take on any monster that comes my way. I recently had that kind of day. It was a situation where I was physically tired, stressed about various events and everything just kind of broke me all at once. I felt frustrated and isolated.
I just happened to be having a conversation with a friend who knew nothing about my state of mind, but somewhere along the line we started talking about introverts vs. extroverts. More specifically, we discussed wolves vs. sheep in our society. (If you’re less inclined to the dramatic comparison, that’s leaders vs. followers).
The longer we discussed this topic the more I began to realize that perhaps my feelings of isolation actually stem from the fact my personality type isn’t exactly common. Most of the time that’s not a big deal but it’s during times when I feel isolated, due to a situation, that the difference is glaringly obvious to me. And I’m willing to bet if I feel that way there are probably others that do too, but for different reasons, whether it be where they live, their economic status, personality traits, a disability, a family situation, etc.
As much as it might seem like an inconvenience to be in the two per cent of anything, it’s that small percentage that actually makes me unique. Who the hell wants to be like everyone else? For me being bold, being strong and being confident certainly is more appealing than the alternative. And, as one of my favorite characters always says, in life you always have two choices; either you can be the sheep or you can be a wolf but if given a choice, always be the wolf. I think he might be right.