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.
I’m done with racist, hateful comments and people who follow Trump like mindless sheep
By Michelle M Arsenault
Back in the day, there was a song called Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying. Interestingly enough, it popped in my head earlier today. The much younger version of myself never would’ve thought that it would someday be so incredibly relevant as it is in today’s political climate in the USA.
The problem is that I feel as if I can’t avoid Trump. Whether I turn on the television, check out my daily newsletters or even go on social media, I’m bombarded with images of the fat, orange slob, always with a deeply etched frown on his face. Let’s be honest, the man looks miserable. I mean, he has all the money, the power, a family and attractive women he wants and yet, he looks consistently hateful, as if someone just struck him with a hot poker on his testicles.
But I’m getting off topic.
The reality is that everything going on in the states is shining a light on prejudices that have always been there but people now feel justified to attack others and even murder in the name of racism. I think we’ve all seen on some level, whether it be a racist remark made by a relative (we’ve all got one) or Islamophobia expressed on Facebook. It’s enough to raise the blood pressure of anyone with a heart and some form of rational thought.
It has gotten to the point where I have to watch news sparingly. I listen to The Left Daily Podcast to get the overall scoop on what insanity is taking place that day and scan through the highlights on various daily emails and that’s it. The days of me having the time, patience or tolerance to read hate-fuelled and ignorant comments made by the extreme right are over. I’m done.
Regarding people who follow Trump like mindless sheep, I have to say that I’m also done with them. I’ve deleted racist, ignorant and hateful comments from my Facebook wall (followed by the person who posted them) without bothering to argue. Is there really any use? Is that a productive way to use my time? I have, however, told off one Trump lovin’ moron who decided to attack my mother on her own Facebook when she posted a positive meme regarding Obama. I told her to keep her hate-filled comments on her own wall.
The point is just because Trump insists on controlling our news doesn’t mean we have to watch it. In fact, isn’t that what he wants? To have all the attention on him? Furthermore, you don’t have to take abuse from anyone who disagrees. I see comments by infuriating far right people all the time but I don’t have the time or interest in getting into an argument with them. Life is too short. And most of the time, they aren’t worth the frustration.
Delete people. Why keep someone on your social media if they are going to make your blood boil on a regular basis? I believe you also can mute them on certain social media platforms, which means you won’t see their crap, if you prefer to not give them the boot. The choice is yours.
Peace sells, but war makes a lot more money.
Is the rarely glimpsed Morrison Cottage about to be demolished?
By Jim Brown
Spend any time around Cavendish these days and you will probably hear rumors about the fate of a three bedroom bungalow, known as “the Morrison Cottage”, on Parks Canada property in the Prince Edward Island National Park. Also known as “the government cottage” it’s a building that few people have visited or even heard about until recently.
Now it could be ready to go under a wrecker’s ball, even though there are apparently Islanders, including possibly neighbors, who want to acquire it and/or move it.
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.”
Matthew Jelley, the Resort Municipality’s mayor, confirmed there is a good chance the cottage is probably on the chopping block. He said if it is demolished, it would be a waste of a valuable asset since there are apparently people who want to save it.
Mr Jelley is one of just a few Islanders, who wasn’t a dignitary or a friend of former provincial governments, who actually spent time in the cottage. But it was when he was much younger, about 23 years ago, and only for a few minutes.
Unfortunately, despite significant local interest, Parks Canada seems determined to knock it down, he said.
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 political hacks, off-Island dignitaries and even a succession of premiers.
It’s been described as a “secretive” retreat for those who pull the levers of power – not so much for ordinary folks.
And now, in a short period of time, it could disappear even before many residents in the Resort Municipality got a chance to pay their last respects.
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. Is the Morrison Cottage one of those non-core assets?
Parks Canada has approximately 15,000 infrastructure assets – bridges, buildings, roads, dams and so. The total value of its holdings is estimated in the $17.5 billion range.
I just have to wonder what Parks Canada has to gain by demolishing a building for nothing, when there are Islanders willing to take it off their hands.
Government departments and bureaucrats tend to do baffling things every once in a while, but you have to wonder why they want to send a wrecker’s ball into the Morrison Cottage.
And what rough beast will wear the PC crown?
By Jim Brown
Nature abhors a vacuum and the Island PC Party’s inability to find a leader is one of the biggest vacuums there is.
It also represents a glittering opportunity for PEI’s version of Donald J Trump to move one huge step towards the top elected office in Canada’s smallest province.
PEI fits the mold perfectly. PC fortunes have rarely been lower, with the party continuing to poll abysmally. The party has been out of power since 2007 and its dwindling card-carrying members are desperate to find someone, anyone, to step forward.
Apparently a number of credible would-be candidates have been approached and all have turned their nose.
So who is left?
Why not a demagogue?
It’s the perfect match, a once proud, now down-and-out party with bleak prospects and a future champion to lead it to the promised land.
That’s what keeps me up at the night.
Doug Ford swooped in when Ontario PC Leader and premier-in-waiting Patrick Brown had to step down when he got caught up in an ugly scandal. Ford had the resources and the message to win out over a strong field of candidates.
He played his cards magnificently, pitting his beer-swilling, plain-talking, pickup driving base against the city dwelling, latte-sipping, university-educated elites. He offered to cut taxes and social programs and bring in policies that hurt those folks who had kept “his people” down for so long.
He captured enough votes to win his party’s leadership and then romp over a scandal-plagued, tired and desperate premier.
At the same time he transformed the Ontario PC Party in his own image. Angry, spiteful, sneering, a party seemingly with little room for anyone who wasn’t of a certain tribe.
Recognize the playbook? Donald Trump perfected it and it’s no secret that Doug Ford is an admirer of his.
But it can’t happen on PEI? Can it?
Think again. We have, on the surface, a much more prosperous, buoyant province than we’ve had in decades, but, as in Ontario, and in the United States and in Hungary, and Great Britain and in Poland and in the Phillipines, wherever the demagogues have found fertile ground, many feel left behind and treated shabbily.
Where do they go? Far right and right-of-centre parties are not afraid to sound all kinds of ethnic and racial dog whistles, to convince their growing legions of supporters “the other” is responsible for all their misfortunes in life.
But the Island PCs are not like the PCs of Ontario or the federal Conservatives, or the Conservatives in Alberta and elsewhere. Are they?
No, not yet, but they could be if the guardians of the party, its executives, are not careful. They can’t allow the void at the top to be filled by a demagogue-in-waiting.
They can’t get so desperate seeking a savior they allow the first person through the door with a smart line of patter to get the job.
The owe PEI’s citizens that much, at the very least.
It won’t be hard to spot a demagogue. Listen to one for any period of time and you are immediately struck by their limited vocabulary, but watch what they do with those few words and phrases, repeated over and over. It’s a siren call to the cranks, the racists, the bigots, the conspiracists. And there are many of them out there.
Those people generally can’t be found in progressive parties in significant numbers, only the right and the far right. They are drawn to right wing parties like a moth to a flame.
Demagogues often carry more than a whiff of corruption. There is something in their backgrounds that should make anyone vetting them hear loud alarm bells.
Odds are they will present themselves as successful pillars of the business community, but dig a little deeper and it won’t be hard to find former employees, contractors and other people connected to their business interests who have a less than flattering tale to tell. Donald Trump is a classic example of that.
I hope I’m wrong, but I believe PEI is ripe for a demagogue to move in. Our whitebread population is changing in many ways. A person walking down a busy street in Charlottetown is likely to see just as many brown, and black and yellow faces as white.
That diversity can be exploited quite easily to create division and sow mistrust.
The exploding PNP scandal which could bring down the Liberal government next election could be the ideal point of vulnerability for a demagogue to attack. They will argue we have to restrict immigration to protect our Island values and culture.
PEI has four political parties, including a surging Green Party capable of grabbing just as many seats as the Liberals, perhaps more, but also creating the possibility of vote-splitting that would allow a retooled PC Party to come to power.
This may all seem like wild, outrageous speculation, but just remember, many pundits wrote off Donald Trump’s chances of overcoming a strong field to become the Republican nominee and many more said he would never win the White House.
Are the odds any less steep for a made-in-PEI demagogue?
Many Kavanaugh supporters unwilling to support women who accuse men of rape
By Michelle M Arsenault
I recently had a conversation with a young man who informed me that he was ‘with Kavanaugh’ and there wasn’t ‘any proof’ that Dr. Ford was raped. I almost lost my mind.
Unfortunately, there are many people who feel the same way. And even more unfortunate is the fact that a lot of those people are other women.
I’m not saying no woman has ever lied about being raped. I’m not trying to suggest that women are always honest with the police, in court and anywhere else for that matter, but why is it our first assumption that they’re lying unless there’s cold, hard proof? We’re concerned about ruining the ‘good reputation’ of a man, but no one considers that a woman who comes forward against a man in power is probably risking her own reputation since there’s only about a half a chance people will believe her, even with proof.
This young male went on to say there were extremists on all sides. With this I did agree, however I was slightly concerned when he used the example of ‘extreme feminists’. He claims ‘extreme feminists’ are most likely to hate him simply because he’s white and male.
I’m guessing it might be another reason, but I remained quiet and listened to his views.
I then felt the need to point out even if Kavanaugh were innocent, he still wasn’t a great choice for this intensely powerful position. After all, the man is against abortion and once you remove this right other rights could easily follow. Think the Handmaid’s Tale. To this he appeared stunned and said I was being extreme (maybe I’m the ‘extreme feminist’) and that he was ‘pro life’ and somewhere in the midst of this conversation, religion was brought up and essentially everything began to unravel from there.
He told me that Trump wasn’t a racist, he just used ‘unfortunate wording’ when he called Mexicans rapists.
Ironic, isn’t it? When Trump says someone is a rapist, it’s unfortunate words. When a woman says it and testifies to it and puts everything on the line to stand up against her attacker, she’s just lying.
Could Amazon bring down America’s economy?
By Jim Brown
When America’s Potemkin economy finally collapses, in a year, two years or maybe a little longer, there will be much finger pointing by the usual pundits. Hey, maybe it was steady rounds of belt-tightening by the Fed, slowly raising interest rates as the economy and inflation heated up. Perhaps it was the inevitable toll claimed by reckless tariffs, creating a yuuuuge barrier to Chinese goods and services, and sowing the seeds of distrust and hatred everywhere.
I personally think when America goes into the dumper it will because Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hiked the giant corporation’s minimum wage to $15 US an hour (close to $20 Canadian).
When the US economy crashes and we enter a new dark age that could rival the Dirty 30s, I think unsustainably high wages will be what took America, and the rest of us, under.
Fifteen bucks an hour is not that big a deal for one of the world’s largest corporations, but it is for other corporations who blew their brains out on stock purchases and stratospheric CEO pay and bonuses.
But they don’t even make up the bulk of the economy – not by a long shot. Small businesses are responsible for creating as many as eight of every 10 jobs. When many can barely meet their payroll with the current wage structure, how can businesses afford to pay several bucks more an hour on top of all the other rising costs?
It’s hard for Canadians working for our public service to get their heads around this, but America’s federal minimum wage is less than eight bucks an hour. How can America’s public sector compete with Bezos?
At 3.7 per cent, the jobless rate is the lowest since 1969, so essentially everyone who wants a job can get one. The big question is, what’s to be gained by working for eight or even 10 bucks an hour if you can’t afford a place to live or to put food on the table or to buy a new car, even a second hand one? Everything is getting pricier thanks to those rising tariff walls.
America’s Captains of Industry rely on low wages and many made their fortunes hiring undocumented immigrants for far less than minimum wage. Now all of a sudden in a full-employment market workers are scarce. Illegal immigration is down, thanks to Trump’s border crackdown, so a big source of cheap labour has dried up.
So who is going to build homes and slaughter livestock and run cash registers at Big Box stores?
The cost of basic inputs for manufacturing are soaring, thanks to tariffs launched against imported steel and aluminum and don’t forget homebuilding costs are 20 per cent higher than they have to be because of tariffs levied against Canada’s softwood lumber when America doesn’t have enough to meet demand.
Then along comes Amazon with its $15 an hour minimum wage and pretty soon large corporations will be forced to match or better that wage just to attract the workers they need.
And that will light a fire under wages and then inflation will take off, followed by rising rates, which will make the cost of borrowing for businesses and consumers who buy what they produce much more expensive.
Remember the era of stagflation more than 40 years ago – high inflation, little or no growth? It will return with a vengeance.
Trump’s horribly misguided tariffs started America down the road to ruin, but Amazon finished the job with its 15 buck an hour minimum wage.
That’s how I fear the golden age of prosperity will end. God, I hope I’m wrong.
Some thoughts on the NAFTA deal that almost wasn’t
By Jim Brown
USMCA. That’s the new acronym replacing NAFTA, short for the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump wanted it renamed and it’s hard to believe anyone on Canada’s negotiating team would want to make that a hill to die on considering trade between the two countries is worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
I have to say it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Couldn’t they come up with something a little more imaginative, such as perhaps CANMEXUS?
But I guess the important thing is they have something on paper. It’s a godawful mess, but it’s the best Canadians could hope for, considering the deal was struck virtually a minute before the midnight Oct. 1 deadline.
I’m just relieved we kept the American wolf at bay.
Supply management is intact, though we gave up a 3.6 per cent slice of market share in the dairy sector and we surrendered a whole new category of dairy products to the US.
(As an aside, I believe media outlets have let us down in their coverage of the supply management dispute. I, and I imagine millions of other Canadians, want to know where the new American products are coming from and where they can be found in our grocery stores, fast food outlets, restaurants and coffee shops, so we can more effectively boycott them. Will Tim’s and McDonald’s, for instance, be loading up on cheaper price American eggs and milk products? What are the brand names of these products? Give us some practical information we can use).
On a brighter note, we also kept Chapter 19 (the dispute settlement panel) and chief American negotiator Robert Lighthizer must be really upset at that, considering he has wanted it gone for decades.
The other good news is that we’re phasing out Chapter 11, which means US corporations can’t sue us if we reject resource extraction projects over environmental issues, as they have several times in the past to the tune of several hundred million dollars.
We also get to keep our auto production and there’s a provision that allows us to produce significantly more before we run up against a soft cap.
Our cultural industries are also safe and the controversial five year sunset clause is gone, which means foreign investors have some certainty when they set up plants here they can maintain their preferred access to the US market.
We didn’t get Trump to drop the big club he continues to bludgeon us with – tariffs on our aluminum and steel industries, but I think we did about as well as could have.
Much has been made about Trump’s massive win on the dairy front, but I think the farmers of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and upper NY state are in for a bit of shock. Sure, they’ll sell milk, cheese, butter and ice-cream to free market supporters and families struggling below the poverty line but I predict there will be considerable resistance from many consumers.
After all, America’s brand has been trashed by their blowhard, belligerent president. They’ll also find, even if sales meet the rosiest of projections, that it won’t make much of a difference. There are far too many cows and too much milk produced in the US and milk production will only increase with the deal. Dairy farmers have been sold a bill of goods and they will find that out shortly. America’s farmers really need a supply management system similar to Canada’s to match production to demand, which continues to decline due to changing consumer tastes and health concerns.
My final thought: The new NAFTA is a pale imitation of the original. It was built on bluster and bullying and not true negotiations, so it will leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
But it’s a much meaner world out there since November, 2016, and the new NAFTA or USMCA does offer shelter from the gathering storm.
Could this be the end of everything?
By Jim Brown
A poll of Atlantic Canadians’ attitudes towards trade with the US, released on Sept 20, had some remarkable findings.
More than two-thirds of respondents (including 300 Islanders) in the Corporate Research poll stated they would try to avoid buying any American products.
If that statistic holds firm across the country over the coming weeks, months and perhaps years, it will spell bad news for America’s brand. Think about how much damage is already being done overseas. Who wants to buy Harleys these days, after the EU slapped punishing retaliatory tariffs on the iconic American motorcycle company in response to America’s tariffs on their aluminum and steel.
Perhaps Putin-supported biker clubs in Russia?
On most days I alternate between bottled-up rage at the reckless stupidity in the White House and an ineffable sadness of what has been lost.
The long, tawdry mess that is the Canada, US NAFTA negotiations is a big reason for that, but truth be told, I haven’t felt right since election night November, 2016. Shortly afterwards Trump and his motley crew of cronies and enablers proceeded to strip away everything that wasn’t tied down.
For some reason Canada, which has rarely been acknowledged south of the border, is at or near the top of Donald Trump “Enemies List”, way ahead of Russia, North Korea and Saudi Arabia, those shining beacons of democracy.
Trump hates everything about us, especially our cows, and has imposed crippling sanctions on our steel and aluminum industries because we are seen, somehow, as a “national security” risk.
And he’s threatened to rip up NAFTA in favor of a bilateral deal with Mexico if we don’t sign up by Oct 1 and maybe dismantle supply management while we’re at it.
Our only solace is that Trump has also targeted China, the EU and other countries with tariffs.
Doesn’t he know there’s been no trade war in modern history that has seen a winner?
Well, there will be one this time. Vladimir Putin.
Without firing a shot his puppet in the White House has gravely wounded the strongest, most prosperous alliance of democratic nations the world has ever known.
An unparalleled era of peace and prosperity may be about to end.
Trading and military alliances are being ripped asunder under Putin’s watch and he’s probably loving every minute of it since a power vacuum will need to be filled and Russia is more than willing to fill it.
NAFTA, I fear is dead. Even if something is cobbled together and America declares victory, it will be pyrrhic win since Canada, the US and Mexico all become poorer.
Our standard of living will fall with a new, much wobblier foundation replacing the former sturdy edifice that underpinned the world’s most successful trading bloc.
Trump may claim a smashing win for his base and take his bows on Twitter, but he will be dancing on the grave of America’s former glory.
When America’s brand is damaged beyond repair, when trading partners can’t trust the US to keep its word, what happens to the global economy?
I fear, despite stock markets continuing to touch record highs every day, we are headed to a new dark age. America and the world will become meaner as the prosperity much of western industrialized countries took for granted vanishes.
America is no longer that shining city on the hill, it is the troll under the bridge brandishing a large club.
I hope I’m wrong, but I fear we could be looking at the death of the last great golden age of humanity.
Important lessons on writing and on life
By Michelle M Arsenault
One of the really cool aspects of writing is being able to get inside a character’s head. I love being able to see things through their point of view, to understand where they are coming from, due to their experiences, and being able to demonstrate this to the reader. There’s something really awesome about looking through someone else’s eyes and I wish everyone could do it more in everyday life.
It’s really easy to judge or put people in categories but it’s much more difficult to step back and get a sense of understanding; then again, that’s possibly why most people don’t make the effort.
With characters, you simply have no choice but to understand and appreciate their journey. This is probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from writing and probably one that I apply to my everyday life. Actually, when I first started to write as a teenager, I remember that as one of the key reasons why the whole process appealed to me. I felt there wasn’t enough understanding of other people and that through characters, we could all open our eyes a little wider and perhaps show some compassion, as opposed to ignorance.
Fast forward to years later and I think this lesson is even more relevant than ever. When we look at our world today, we definitely see a strong disconnect, a lot of judgment and even more so, a vast divide.
One of the beautiful things about the characters I write about is that they come from many different backgrounds and experiences and I make great efforts to show how this relates to their current situations.
Interestingly enough, real life isn’t that much different if we take the time to investigate.