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.
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.
I live on Cancer Island
By Michelle M Arsenault
I’m going to be blunt. Since returning to PEI a few years ago, after living in a couple of other provinces, I was shocked by how often I heard the word ‘cancer’. It was literally every day. Literally. Every. Day.
People tried to justify this by suggesting it was because PEI is a small province, so I know more people and therefore it only makes sense that I would know more people with cancer. This logic is ridiculous to me. In fact it doesn’t even make sense. I lived off island for many years so really, I don’t know many people here anymore. And it doesn’t matter because regardless of where I live, I’ve met, worked with and was friends with a lot of people over the years. And yet, before moving back to PEI, I didn’t hear the word cancer every day.
I’ve been told it’s the way of life here. People live a sedentary lifestyle. I guess that’s unlike other places? I’ve known lots of people who lived a sedentary lifestyle and they don’t necessarily have cancer.
I’ve been told it’s the large, aging population here. If that’s true, then why are so many people dying young?
Let’s get honest, it’s the pesticides. Many people in rural PEI (especially West Prince) have a potato field on one or both sides of them. Fields are sprayed a lot. I’ve been told the sprays used here are banned in other places. I’ve also been told that it’s been documented that our cancer rates are extremely high. I’ve been told farmers are pressured by companies (in a contract) to use large amounts of specific kinds of pesticides. I’ve been told many alarming things and although it may not all be true, I think logic suggests that spraying a poison around a human being, especially over time, has the potential of causing health effects. Maybe they are killing more than just weeds.
So, what’s the solution? Considering our government is unlikely to do anything to shake up the farming industry (or to offend the fat cats that farmers are selling their potatoes to) I think the best solution for those suffering from cancer believed to be related to pesticides is to start a class action lawsuit. If you don’t think this will work, you might want to Google the words ‘Monsanto’ followed by ‘class action lawsuit’ and see what comes up.
The only way that anything will be done is if companies start losing money and start getting negative national and international headlines. This also forces our politicians to open their eyes and maybe even squirm a bit in the hot seat.
It’s time that we started to take a stand. After all, lives are at stake.
Startling discoveries from decades-old women’s magazines
By Michelle M Arsenault
I recently stumbled upon a couple of women’s magazines from 1986. Although I was originally fascinated by the vintage fashions, makeup and overall sense of nostalgia, I quickly noted that a few things have changed since the 80s.
Diversity. Good luck finding someone who isn’t white in old issues of this popular women’s magazine. I flipped through numerous times. So far, I’ve only found two. Both are celebrity interviews. One is Oprah. Need I say more?
Sex appeal. The odds of you getting lost in anyone’s cleavage (boobs or butt) in these old school magazines is pretty unlikely. There’s also no danger of finding many muscular, 6-pack men either. Not that you’d notice if you did because this was apparently before male body hair became a no no. I’m assuming this was pre-Photoshop too. Everyone looks relatively normal especially compared to what we now see in magazines.
Weight loss. This was a hot topic. From diet pill ads to tips on how to avoid gaining weight during the holidays, it was clear that women were strongly encouraged to stay slim. One article actually recommended a specific concoction to fill you up before going to family meals. There was tomato juice and other things involved. It sounded pretty disgusting. The same article also suggested avoiding ‘plump’ hosts since they are ‘known to push more food on their guests’ and speaking of which…
Political Correctness. If you hadn’t noticed from my last category, people weren’t as careful about what they said in 1986. I’m not sure the ‘plump’ remark would fly these days but then again, we also live in a time where curves are considered sexy not something to necessarily shame women over.
One ad that captured my attention was for men’s cologne. In it, a shirtless man talked about how he ‘wasn’t just a piece of meat’ (He wasn’t. If you don’t believe me, refer back to the ‘sex appeal’ section above) and how he resented being used for his body.
On an interesting side note, I don’t believe this cologne still exists. In fact, many of the products advertised in these editions have long disappeared.
Also, there was a fascinating article from a congresswoman who spoke about how Democrats only seemed interested in finding ‘white men’ for their party. It would only take about 22 years for that to change.
What hasn’t changed? People and our problems. Glancing over the articles back then and you realize that people are people. A young woman in 1986 struggles with many of the same issues and problems as they do now. Society, styles, and products may change but people don’t.
Reflections on Dorian
By Jim Brown
The roar of the chainsaws has eased and my ears are no longer throbbing with the noise of generators running full blast throughout Stanley Bridge.
On this day, Friday, Sept 13, I’m counting my blessings, while watching election coverage on CBC Newsworld, flipping to CNN during commercials, and catching up on Facebook posts.
The house went dark shortly after 7.30 pm on Sept 7, barely into the second set of Bianca Andreescu’s amazing win against the greatest female tennis player of all time.
It was very disorienting, even with flashlights at hand.
I didn’t sleep that first night and hadn’t slept well for the three days I was without power. It felt strange to get up and not flick a switch and have instant running water, illumination, heat, TV shows, Facebook and emails.
I realize many others across the Island, at one time more than 57,000 Maritime Electric customers, had it much worse. How did Islanders cope with aging parents requiring oxygen? Where did they go if they didn’t have reliable generators? Warming centres, also known as emergency centres?
Where exactly were those, since we don’t hear much about them on media sources before a natural disaster strikes, and certainly not much if the electricity is suddenly gone.
Yes, I was fortunate I was only deprived of the amenities of 21st century life for just three days. Many thousands of others were still without power on this day, considered unlucky since the 13th fell on a Friday.
I did have a car to get around and I had the foresight to gas it up before Dorian struck. I would catch snatches of hurricane recovery updates as I drove from devastated community to community – from Kensington, almost totally dark for much of the three days I was without power, to Hunter River, to North Rustico, Cavendish and Charlottetown.
On Sunday morning, Sept 8, I was driving to Charlottetown to meet friends for coffee. I heard in stunned disbelief Timothy’s was open. When I arrived I was shocked to see long lineups to the door and beyond. Much of Charlottetown had power, including gas stations and fast food outlets and the long lineups reminded me of Soviet Russia before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Imagine if Hurricane Dorian had arrived in the depths of winter – with plunging temperatures and heavy snowfall in its wake?
How would Islanders have fared in the cold? It’s hard to imagine there wouldn’t have been deaths.
Power has been restored to most Island homes and businesses, but the scars remain. Just drive down a road, anywhere, and Hurricane Dorian’s presence is still felt.
We were very fortunate this time, but I can’t shake a growing sense of unease.
Really, we shouldn’t have faced a hurricane so late in the season. Our cooler waters should have stopped it in its tracks, turned it to a slashing rainstorm instead. But waters are warmer now, and getting warmer every year and that’s the rocket fuel for future hurricanes.
Islanders were lucky this time with the weather still retaining summer’s heat, but what about the next time and the time after that? Do we have an evacuation plan yet for an entire province?
I sure hope we do, but if we don’t, we better come up with one soon.
We are an island connected to the mainland by the engineering marvel known as the Confederation Bridge, but the bridge is not safe in high winds and certainly not during hurricanes.
The continuing horror story that is the Bahamas, where thousands of bodies buried under rubble and hurricane tossed debris have yet to be found is a template for our future. We, on PEI, have no high ground to flee to.
Climate scientists are predicting by sometime after 2100 PEI will be transformed by rising waters into three fragmented islands.
But timetables, with the rapid melting of polar ice and accelerating global temperatures, will inevitably move up.
I fear the next hurricane will be stronger than Dorian and unleash even greater misery on our fair island.
Will we be prepared?
Friendship is more than just keeping in touch
By Michelle M Arsenault
I recently learned the difference between an acquaintance and a friend. It took me many years and much disappointment to get to this point but I think I finally got it.
As a child, like most children, I wanted everyone to be my friend. After all, when you’re young the word ‘friend’ is thrown around quite casually. Everyone from your teacher to your stuffed animals are your ‘friends’ and we consider this a positive thing. In fact, it’s encouraged.
It doesn’t take long once you’re in school to quickly discover that friendship isn’t as simple as you originally thought. Being nice to someone, sharing the treats from your lunchbox and inviting someone to a birthday party doesn’t make them your friend. This is especially cutting when you realize that they don’t share anything from their lunchbox or invite you to their birthday party. There comes a point where you start to wonder WTF?
Unless you are me, of course, and you continue to refer to people as friends who aren’t capable of living up to that status. These are people who have you in their lives but in a limited capacity. They might call you after school to talk your ear off (back when people used phones for that kind of thing) but pretend they don’t know you in the lunchroom. They might text you to spread malicious gossip but not want to (or aren’t capable of) having a meaningful conversation. They might talk to you on Facebook but not really want to associate with you in real life.
Any of these situations sound familiar? Well, they do to me because I’ve experienced them all.
Recently, a voice inside my head (and not the ones that usually chatter away to me in the form of fictional characters) let me know it was time to start drawing strong, solid lines in the sand and stop crossing them in order to have a ‘friend’. The person who bails on you in the last minute or doesn’t include you in their plans is not your friend. The person who doesn’t really care if you’re depressed and need to talk isn’t really your friend. The person who gossips with you in passing but can’t congratulate you on your latest book is also not your friend. You can always fill in the blank here with whatever accomplishment you’ve recently had…lost weight, got married, bought a house, got through a nasty divorce without murdering anyone. It really depends on the person.
But recognizing friendship goes both ways. I’ve recently pledged to make sure I keep in regular contact with people who I care about, even though we sometimes lose touch. These are people who I know, deep down, really care about me. I may not hear from them often but I know that if I’m in their postal code range, they’ll want to see me and really mean it. So, from today on, I decided that EVERY DAY I will (at least) send a quick email to someone I’ve lost touch with in my life. I literally just wrote it in my agenda book, so this is happening.
Maybe it’s time for you do the same? Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
White nationalism, race terrorism and mass murder
By Richard Deaton, Stanley Bridge
The U.S. has, again, been rocked by another series of white nationalist mass murders. By any other name this is domestic terrorism. This trend has been on the upswing since Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 Oklahoma City terrorist attack killing 168 people and wounding another 680. McVeigh was a young white guy.
In 2019, to date, there have been 251 mass killings, mostly by young white males. Most of the targeted victims have been blacks, Muslims, and Jews. Compounding this situation is the behaviour of American police who are attempting to pacify the black ghettos by terrorizing their inhabitants. American politics has become a counter-insurgency campaign.
While many liberals blame the laxity of gun control laws for this grim situation, Republicans blame the mental health problems of “sick” individuals. Both these explanations obscure the underlying reason why these events are occurring now. The recent blood lettings, and their commonalities, must be understood in terms of mass political behaviour, rather than the individual psychology of some “nutter.” This is a social phenomenon.
The young men who perpetuate these acts of mass murder are racially motivated white nationalist ideologues.
In short, what we are witnessing is politically and ideologically motivated terrorism. These homegrown young, white guys are clearly alienated from the mainstream of society. And their terrorism serves a very real political agenda.
Racially motivated violence and nativism, however, have been an integral and continuous part of American history, resulting in what historian Richard Hofsadter has called the “Paranoid style in American politics.” The recent rise of the radical right-wing occurred with Barry Goldwater’s (R-AZ) abortive presidential run in 1964. What is completely forgotten is the parallel rise of a paramilitary and survivalist group called the Minute Men. Since then these groups have metastasized like a lethal cancer.
The increase in white nationalist violence corresponds closely to the resurgence and legitimization of racism, in its various forms, under the Trump administration. Many would suggest that Trump has deliberately cultivated this toxic social environment.
While Simmel’s theory of violence (1922) may explain the actions of a so-called “lone wolf” who uses violence to strike out against an oppressor, this does not explain the violence carried out by an organization. As criminal anthropologist, Elliot Leyton (1986) has demonstrated most mass murderers (as opposed to serial killers) are motivated by real or perceived grievances. Organizational violence is intended to fulfill a purpose.
Many white nationalists have left manifestos attempting to explain their motives and murderous actions. These manifestos are intended as political and ideological statements. An ideology however, is not a mental health problem, it is a philosophic and political framework or world view. The racist putrescence now surfacing in the U.S. has been smoldering for decades. And Canadian politicians such as Scheer and Bernier are now stroking the flames of ethnic discord.
The United States is a badly divided country, socially and politically. Those who hope that the 2020 elections will resolve these problems will be badly disappointed. The Furies have been turned loose. White nationalism and its murderous racism must be fought by any means necessary, including the ballot box and in the streets.
The good, the bad, and the mostly ugly of cruise ships
By Jim Brown
Recently, I had the good fortune to sit down with a person who provided me with a jaw-dropping assessment of Charlottetown’s deepening involvement with cruise ships and what it could mean for all Islanders down the road. Spoiler alert! It’s mostly bad.
My source has deep roots in the industry so if anyone is going to have a well-informed perspective it would be this guy, who not surprisingly, doesn’t want his name published.
“Cruise ships are such big polluters,” he said.
“They (use) dirty bunker fuel and (have) no scrubbers on the stacks. That’s been highlighted in the media recently and I think it’s going to come around and bite them shortly.”
Even when they’re not sailing the high seas they keep spewing pollution.
“They’re still running some onboard power. They’re running big generators to get the ship going. Washroom water, water to the kitchens…”
A German environmental organization issued a report in the past couple of years showing how devastating cruise ships were to the environment, with a mid-size cruise ship consuming 150 tonnes of some the dirtiest fuel a day. That single ship’s carbon emissions are about the same as one million vehicles, according to the report.
So what are we doing about this pollution-spewing marine juggernaut? In Charlottetown, at least, we are spending large amounts of money building places for them to safely dock and disgorge thousands of customers every summer. By the time the work is done as much as a million dollars could be spent providing the belching behemoths with dock space.
“We can do four (vessels at the same time) in Charlottetown now,” says the source.
“From the small, 200 (capacity) up to one of the floating palaces – 3,500.”
Recently four ships docked in Charlottetown, disgorging more than 11,000 passengers and crew. That’s almost as many people as the City of Summerside.
Seven years ago there were 42 cruise ships a year docking in Charlottetown. This year, according to my source, the number soared to 98 and next year? Try 112 to 115 ships. And expect the numbers to keep growing.
Where has the Island’s Green Party been on this? I would say conspicuously, deafeningly silent. We certainly haven’t heard much since the election.
Sure, says my source, there’s the prospect of more than $350,000 worth of cash sloshing around Charlottetown and the rest of PEI every time one of these marine leviathans disgorges its human cargo. When they walk down the ramp they head to restaurants, bars, craft stores, art galleries, souvenir shops and grocery stores.
That’s money in a lot of Islanders pockets, but is it enough to make up for what we’re putting at risk?
I just wonder how growing numbers of cruise ships every year are impacting on our emissions targets. I also wonder what sort of an impact they will eventually have on our health care system if the numbers keep rising. We all know cruise ship passengers aren’t exactly in the plum of their youth.
Will there come a day when PEI’s hospitals run out of space, because of the burgeoning cruise ship traffic? Can you imagine if thousands of passengers were released with the norovirus at once?
The bottom line is Charlottetown is a pearl on a necklace stretching from the American eastern seaboard into Atlantic Canada and Quebec.
“Boston, Barr Harbour, Halifax, Sydney, and Charlottetown, Gaspe Bay, Quebec City and Montreal. The favorite stop for many of the cruise ships is Charlottetown for a couple of reasons,” he told me.
“Charlottetown is very concentrated and small and easy to walk around. A lot of people on ships have mobility issues. Compare Charlottetown to Halifax. Halifax is fine as long as you walk along the waterfront but as soon as you turn off the waterfront you’re faced with a steep hill.
Lack of serious traffic challenges is another thing Charlottetown has going for it.
“You talk about the traffic but there really isn’t any. Accidents can delay tours,” he said. Try sticking to a very tight deadline after a pileup on a major Halifax road, he suggested.
PEI is so small geographically it’s easy to see much of the Island in just a short visit. Within about 50 km of Charlottetown visitors, even those with wobbly legs, could take the tour bus or a taxi to such iconic Island landmarks as Anne of Green Gables house, Cavendish beach, North Rustico and the Glasgow Hills golf course.
Believe it or not there are huge cruise ships on the seas right now that offer year-round permanent accommodation in the form of condos going for more than $100,000 annually.
They may be horrible for the environment, but really, where would you rather be when climate change turns ugly and much of North America is under water, thanks to catastrophic flooding? Talk about travelling the modern-day equivalent of Noah’s ark in style.