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Wish PEI’s Liberals would show some courage, start a basic income pilot
By Jim Brown. – Originally published November 16, 2017
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com

I can’t count the number of times I’ve written a column or an article on the guaranteed annual income (GAI), known more recently as the basic income.

It’s been more times than I can remember, and here I am doing it again. Of course all the other times I was a paid journalist working for newspapers across the country.

Now I’m out of journalism and writing about the GAI for a website operated by a non-profit corporation and not getting paid for my work but enjoying it much more.

What got me thinking about it again was the provincial government’s timid, predictable and utterly mind-numbing speech from the throne. There’s nothing new in this dog’s breakfast of a throne speech. Sure, they’re going to try to do something about poverty, but what exactly? I have a feeling it’s the same-old, same old. Lots of platitudes and little meat on the bone. A dog would maybe take a few licks at it and then find a place to bury this pathetic excuse for a meal.

A more discerning canine might even defecate on it.

So what happened to political courage? Why isn’t anyone talking about a guaranteed annual income? Or a basic income? Has the entire subject gone the way of the quickly embalmed electoral reform promise of the last election?

There was talk earlier of PEI launching a pilot project, but somehow that fell off the backburner and the Liberals seem to be treating the idea like it was something you’d catch off a wet toilet seat.

Too bad.

We need political courage more than ever since robots and automation are about to sweep away everything we know and hold dear. Jobs everywhere at risk, even good-paying white collar jobs.

Bread line in the 1930’s.

it’s already happening in major industrialized countries around the world and the Trump campaign was able to tap into a seething anger in parts of the US where hundreds of thousands of jobs dried up. Of course, they basically misled their supporters by claiming free trade was the major reason.

And so what are we doing about it? How are we going to cope with the inevitable social dislocation, disruption and turmoil?

How about starting by moving away from the idea of defining our lives by the hours we punch a clock every day and the work we do for a paycheque? Many jobs are dead-end soul-sucking jobs. Many are a serious threat to our health, thanks to stress and poorly designed office and industrial workplaces.

There’s only one thing worse than having a crappy job you can’t stand. Not having one, thanks to automation.

I admit I don’t have all the answers. I like what I’ve heard about the GAI and basic income. It all sounds so sensible. Pay every adult enough money to live comfortably and raise a family without worrying about falling into poverty.

Why not? I’m sure every one’s heard the arguments in favor of moving towards a GAI or basic income – eliminating a raft of social programs including welfare and employment insurance, improving overall health and even providing a boost to the economy thanks to all that money circulating around .

Things would suddenly become affordable to everyone and that would have a spillover effect on small business operators. Imagine how much easier it would be to find someone to work at a minimum wage job if the money they earned wouldn’t be clawed back, until they reached a certain threshold – much higher than benchmarks for clawing back EI and other social welfare benefits today.

That was the utopia many progressives were dreaming of ever since the 1960s when the concept was first explored. Now, however there is an urgent need to do more than simply write academic papers on the subject.

We have automation coming at us like a speeding train. Thousands of Island jobs in fishing and farming could disappear in just a few years. The jobs most at risk are low paying, physically demanding jobs that are the source of many injuries and declining health.

We need to find out – ASAP – what will mitigate against the loss of those jobs. We need research and pilot programs and evidence-based answers.

Fortunately, we may already have some.

Just in Stanley Bridge I know several neighbors who are retirees but are still engaged in their communities as volunteers. They are putting in long hours in “jobs” they are doing for free but finding far more satisfying than paid employment. They are able to live without a steady paycheque because they have investments, job-related pensions and monthly CPP payments.

They have, in fact, a guaranteed annual income.

Not every senior is that lucky, but many, and I would say a growing number, are.

And many have started their golden years in their mid-to-late 50s, meaning they could live another 30 years or so without drawing a paycheque.

I think that’s a good place to start if society wants to look at the impact of implementing GAI and basic income programs.

I know many seniors who are taking courses at university, signing up for distance education or even learning a trade they never considered signing up for when they were younger. Why can’t that happen at an earlier age, provided Canadians have the income to pay for it?

If you don’t need a job to put food on the table and a roof over your head, you can take the time to find work that is rewarding and satisfying.

Of course the PEI government could continue doing what it’s always done – providing lavish subsidies to large and small businesses to hire new workers, or just maintain their current payroll, but at a tremendous, and rising, cost to Island taxpayers. Eventually, in too many cases, the businesses go under, or shed workers or close up and leave the province, leaving employees without work and with few prospects for finding work. Many of these taxpayer supported businesses barely pay minimum wage and often lay off workers during lean periods, forcing them collect EI. How’s that helping the economy?

The bottom line is that governments need to launch pilot projects to find out whether the GAI lives up to its billing and if it doesn’t, to find something that does.

This week’s throne speech was an opportunity wasted.


Christmas hampers ready to roll out in Kensington
By Jim Brown. Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com – Originally published December 8, 2017

A woman drops by the Kensington Lions Club’s food bank and, at the urging of a food bank worker, she peers inside the pantry.

She’s a single mother with young children, struggling to make ends meet on a limited income.

“I’m looking at her and I’m wondering if there is anything wrong,” says Theresa Cousins, Chair of the Lion’s Club’s food bank committee, which will fill 70 hampers this Christmas for families throughout the Kensington fire district.

“She would not take anything. I had to make her,” said Theresa, who was told by the woman, “If someone else’s kids will go hungry, I don’t want it.”

People are very careful about taking food others, who are in more desperate straits, might use.

“They know there’s other people who have kids who are hungry.”

And that’s not an uncommon response from many who rely on the foodbank, she said.

The Kensington food bank serves residents of all ages, including a man well past retirement age whose pension leaves him with very little to live on.

“I’m thinking the first time I met him I cried…we have seniors who come in here who don’t have enough,” said Theresa.

And there are older women in the community who were homemakers for much of their lives and when their husbands died didn’t have a large pensions to sustain them, said Scott Zimmerman, treasurer of the Kensington Lion’s Club, who is also a Christmas hamper volunteer.

It’s especially sad at Christmas time, when entire families are under heavy financial strain – many parents struggling just to put food on the table, let alone presents under the tree for their children.

Elaine Chessman, right, dropped off some donated groceries to the Kensington food bank, where she was joined by Theresa Cousins, a local Lions Club member who runs the food bank and Scott Zimmerman, the club’s treasurer and a Christmas hamper volunteer. Seventy hampers will be filled for families in this area in time for Christmas

Elaine Chessman, who works at the Kensington Post office, dropped off bags of grocery supplies at the Lion’s Club on Dec 7. She’s also a volunteer with the Christmas hamper campaign.

“Every once in a while I’ll pick up a few things and donate them. This is the first time I’ve donated it to this site,” said Elaine, who had collected foodstuffs every year for the post office’s annual food drive in October.

“It’s hard to imagine that in this day and age that there are people in need. A lot of people don’t see it or realize it,” she said.

People may greet friends and neighbors every day and never realize the hardships they are facing, said Elaine.

Too many kids are also going go school without a breakfast, said Theresa Cousins.

Poverty can happen to any family, she said.

“They might have built a new home and (suddenly) the wife’s not working any more, or the husband broke his leg and (then) there is no money or somebody ends up with cancer.

“I always say every family is one paycheque away from a food bank.”

Many Islanders work in seasonal jobs and are unemployed for long stretches in the fall and winter, making it difficult to make ends meet, said Scott Zimmerman, adding Christmas hampers bring welcome cheer to needy families throughout the area.

So what’s in a Christmas hamper?

“Everything. You’ll get a turkey and there’s potatoes, there’s bread, there’s eggs, there’s milk, turnips, carrots and other vegetables – that’s the fresh stuff. And then you get the canned stuff, the soups and the sugar, peanut butter and spaghetti,” said Theresa.

The foodstuffs are placed in a banana box by up to 10 volunteers. This year the crates should be packed by Dec 19 and ready for distribution.

Everyone receiving a hamper must register with the Salvation Army in Summerside.

There have been some big changes in the way the Christmas hamper program has been run.

Years ago hampers were distributed by Lions Clubs, the Salvation Army, the Christian Council and Legions, as well as churches.

It was possible for some families to collect as many as six boxes, and although cheating didn’t happen that much it was a concern.

Now everything is coordinated through the Summerside Salvation Army.

The food bank gets very generous support from the community, including the Malpeque Bay Credit Union which provides toys and clothes.


 

White Gables owner has big plans for Stanley Bridge Centre, potato soap.
By Jim Brown. – Originally published November 3, 2017

Pieter Ijsselstein isn’t someone who does things by half measures. Want some proof? Well, check this out.

Pieter Ijsselstein stands next to the Stanley Bridge Centre’s door. He’s got big plans for the building after leasing it for the June to September tourist season.

Pieter has just leased the Stanley Bridge Centre from June to September for his White Gables at Hope River business and he also vastly expanded sales and markets for a very successful line of potato-based soaps. There are now close to 30 different potato soaps including lavender, coffee, peppermint, beer and sea kelp. Many of the potatoes used for production are surplus spuds that would otherwise be tossed away, so there is an environmental benefit to his potato soap business.

And he’s not stopping there.Pieter is currently lab testing potato juice to see if certain molecules can be used in the making of an effective organic, potato-based sunscreen. The potato soap line of products was introduced in April, 2016. All soap is produced nearby. “We’ve shipped to California and to Taiwan and we have interest from China,” said Pieter.

And then there’s this.

Netflix, which is carrying the latest Anne of Green Gables TV incarnation, simply called Anne, could offer them as a branded Anne of Green Gables themed product.

“There is a possibility of Netflix picking it up as a merchandise product (tied) to Anne of Green Gables. Netflix has been expanding their merchandise unit in the US market. There are several merchandise shops that are selling Netflix products,” said Pieter. In little more than a year his sales have shot up approximately four-fold and his soaps can be found in as many as 150 retail outlets, many of them on the mainland.

Mr Ijsselstein has run White Gables with his wife Geraldine for the past seven years. She’s responsible for the image of one of the world’s most iconic orphans on the soap’s packaging.

Some of the nearly 30 different types of potato soap Pieter Ijsselstein is selling to markets around the world

But potato soap is just one log Mr Ijsselstein has on a fast burning fire. Pieter has made an ‘all in’ commitment to the Stanley Bridge Centre. He expects to operate the building six days a week, eight hours a day, providing space for his burgeoning potato soap lines, as well as White Gables pottery, a new line of potato-based hand cream, for which the potato juice is organically sourced, and a wide range of organic vegetables and berries (also jams), paintings and other merchandise.

Some examples of the striking pottery that will be available to visitors next summer at the STB.

Geraldine Yesselstein, in addition to being a talented water-colour, oil and acrylic painter, is also an accomplished weaver. Look for plenty of weavings, knitted products, oil paintings, watercolour cards and much more when the doors open in June.

The Stanley Bridge Centre operated a successful farmer’s market on Wednesdays and Saturdays for the past several years and Pieter plans to continue that tradition, but with a different spin.

His daughter, who is an expert quilter based in Halifax, will be joining him in his venture.

The sign is empty now but it won’t be in the spring, when Pieter Ijsselstein opens White Gables at Hope River at the Stanley Bridge Centre.

On the day of this interview, on Oct 31, the floor was being sanded and shelves stacked along the walls. Much of the clutter in the storage room has been cleared out. There is the smell of sawdust in the air.

Many visitors from previous years who drop by the Stanley Bridge Centre over the summer will find a wide range of foods and crafts from area vendors – including cheese, honey, maple syrup, garlic, eggs and fresh vegetables. There’s room for as many as 12 to 15 vendors in his new venue, said Pieter, who is also attempting to secure history storytellers.

Mr Ijsselstein has agreed to allow the Stanley Bridge Centre’s board of directors to organize several evening concerts during the spring and summer months.

“We want to capitalize on the fact there’s lots of cars going past and that this is a historic site,” he said, adding the nearby roundabout is one of the busiest on the Island during the tourist season.


Remembering CJRW’s early days.
By Jim Brown. – Originally published October 19, 2017

CJRW was the little station in Summerside that made an outsized contribution to the lives of thousands of people in that city and much of western PEI.

Paul H. Schurman had been a part of Summerside’s pioneering AM broadcasting station for 33 years, beginning in March, 1959. His recollections of the glory days of radio in Summerside haven’t faded even after his retirement in 1992.

Paul H. Schurman

Paul H. Schurman, in a lighter moment, during his presentation on the history of CJRW.

Radio was the life-blood of the community, connecting everyone in Summerside and through much of western PEI.

“CJRW always took the lead in assisting people and organizations who might have fallen on hard times…fires, automobile mishaps, shootings,” said Mr Schurman, at an Oct 16 history circle on his years at CRJW, held at the Stanley Bridge Centre.

“In one stretch of time from 1975 to 1982, in nine appeal broadcasts, more than $275,000 was raised – representing an average of approximately $33,000 per appeal.”
Many loyal and talented people worked at CJRW over the years, often putting the community’s needs above their own, he said.

Mr Schurman would succeed his late brother, Robert Clayton Schurman, as the station’s owner. Robert Schurman passed away in 1973.

The Schurman family had deep roots in the station, with mom and dad Grace and Benjamin C. Schurman also helming CJRW.

Among the honour role of CJRW luminaries over the decades were Mike Gallant, Roger Ahern, John Perry, Rose Anne Gaudet, Kaye Ferguson, Phyllis McInnis, Florence Anne Cameron, Bob Schurman and his wife Lois and their son Paul M Schurman, Al Bestall, Bob Tabor, Al Nicholson, Roy Turner, Bob Johnson, Doug Ferguson, Wayne McLure, Chuck Hickey, Diane Dewar, Barb Skinner, John Burke, Roma Gallant, Allan Rankin, Grant Sonier, Ray Arsenault, Sonny Huestis, Ivan LeClair, Jean Gordon Whitlock, Lois MacDonald Clark, Fred MacFarlane, Mike Surette, Donna LeBlanc, Vivian MacPhail, Rosemary McSweeney, Nancy Boates Drummond, Whit Fraser, J.P. (Paul) Gaudet, Al Brideau, Elizabeth Logan, Mary Silliphant Kelly and Rob Millette.

There were others who shot up to the top rungs including James Murray, now based in Canada’s largest media market, Toronto, with the CBC national news. And George Matthews, a local school teacher, got his start at CRJW announcing hockey games. He went on to enjoy a very successful career that included 14 years as the voice of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets.

There was also Don Cameron, who went from hockey broadcasts at CJRW to a stellar career calling games for St Catharines and Kitchener OHL teams. He retired in 2014 with 50 years of work as a sportscaster under his belt.

CJRW was the nexus of everything – providing coverage of church services and devotionals, school assemblies, Miss PEI pageants, Lobster Carnivals, Northumberland Strait swims, harness racing, hockey, boxing, baseball, curling, farming, fishing, politics – everything that touched upon the lives of Islanders.

There was even a “Hi Neighbor” weekly segment that ran for 40 years during the summer months in which tourists taking the ferry across the Strait would find themselves facing the business end of a mike held by a roving reporter.

CJRW offered local, regional, national and international news, sports and weather.

And of course, there was the music – from gospel, to swing, the big bands and jazz, to country and western, to rock.

CJRW also provided a showcase for local, emerging musical artists in the wildly popular West Prince Party Line.

The little station based in Summerside has undergone a number of format changes over the decades as well as changes in its ownership and its signal (now FM). It is currently owned by Halifax-based Maritime Broadcasting, a move Mr Schurman said hurt its identity as a “local” station.

Long before CJRW was unveiled Summerside had boasted a broadcasting station. In 1926 the new station opened. It was operated by the former department store R.T. Holman Ltd., and went by the call letters CHGS.

“CHGS stood for “Call Holman’s Guaranteed Satisfaction,” said Mr Schurman of the 100 watt outlet on the AM dial.

The then 250 watt CJRW went on the air 22 years later, on Nov 17, 1948.

Over the coming years and decades Summerside residents would rise in the morning to CJRW and would fall asleep to it.

Gordon Phillips, one of Mr Schurman’s life-long friends, brought along an audio clip of a hockey game Mr Schurman announced.

The radio was everything in those early years of Schurman’s tenure.

But by the 1980s and into the 1990s small town commercial radio was in sharp decline across Canada, including Summerside.

Staffing declined and so did the programming so many Islanders had grown up with.

“Gone is (a source) we could turn to for reliable news, sports and a variety of music. It’s a different age of commercial radio…one I would not want to be part of today or tomorrow,” said Mr Schurman.

But there is hope for a return to what radio once was, a vital part of a community’s life.

“It’s called community radio. It’s an FM signal, operated by a local non-profit organization (staffed) by volunteers and serving an area about 15 miles in radius,” he said.

With community radio it may be possible to restore much of the programming that has been lost to communities across the country, said Mr Schurman.

“Local radio can once again be a medium of community assistance, if one, someone, is prepared to expend that same commitment of years past…Perhaps you know of one or more such persons!”


Where are you going to go when you have to go in Cavendish?
By Jim Brown. – Originally published October 12, 2017

It’s October and the weather is still warm and inviting.

But if you are a tourist travelling through the Resort Municipality of Cavendish you’ll soon discover nearly everything is closed.

There is so much to see and do, especially with spectacular fields and seascapes burnished to a golden glow under a bright, early autumn sun.

It’s the perfect time for communing with Mother Nature, but what are you going to do when you have to go and everything has a padlock on it, including the public washroom facilities at the Prince Edward Island National Park?

Even gas stations have shuttered up in the resort municipality, home to just 250 permanent residents – a number that swells to more than 10,000 with the arrival of hordes of seasonal residents in the spring and summer.

On Thanksgiving weekend there was a knot of cars and people at Grandpas’s Antique Photo Studios, but once inside I was informed it, too, would be closed for the season by the end of the weekend.

Less than a week earlier I bought a coffee at a gas station near the Visitor Information Centre, only to be told it would be closed the next day.

So if you want to enjoy the Great Outdoors – to kayak, canoe, hike or ride a bicycle through the area, visitors better make sure they have a strong bladder, or be prepared to do their business behind a bush or a tree. God help them if they have to do more than sprinkle the bushes.

A businessperson actually brought the issue to my attention, otherwise it would have never occurred to me.

Just imagine you are an elderly couple driving through in a rented car trying to catch the sights of an enchanted part of the world, at a time of the year when you are far less likely to be confronted by screaming kids and their harried parents and thousands of inebriated country music festival goers – not to mention chubby. thong-wearing beachcombers.

What if you got a deal on an overseas flight to travel to PEI during the shoulder season, but you don’t know much about the area you are visiting other than it’s an incredibly beautiful and largely unspoiled part of the country?

Imagine what it must feel like to have that sense of urgency as you drive past cottage after cottage and many restaurants, stores and other commercial establishments, only to find they are all closed?

I’m sure many visitors in the fall would be gobsmacked to hear there are more than 650 cottages in the resort municipality, with three new developments poised to deliver 82 additional cottages over the next couple of years or so.

And take a wild guess how many of those 82 cottages would be open past Labour Day?

If I were in their shoes and searching desperately for a public washroom I wouldn’t feel so inclined to make a return visit.

If visitors like the idea of enjoying Mother Nature on their own terms, especially if they are recently retired and afflicted with the travel bug, they will probably find Prince Edward Island a welcome respite from mass shootings, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires and crazed politicians.

But I’m reminded of a line from an old Seinfeld episode. In that episode Elaine had rushed into a public bathroom and hoisted herself onto a toilet, only to learn from the bathroom’s only other occupant that she didn’t have “a square to spare.”

PEI has enjoyed four straight record-smashing tourism seasons, with Cavendish drawing a lion’s share of the visitors. Tourism is booming around the world and many more tourists are choosing to travel in the fall.

The resort municipality could be a big beneficiary of those changes.

But, seriously, if tourist operators want to get more people into the Resort Municipality of Cavendish in the shoulder season they better make sure there are more places to go once they get here.


First council meeting draws less than overflow crowd
By Jim Brown. – Originally published September 20, 2017

I have to admit I was a bursting with curiosity when I attended a monthly council meeting in Cavendish recently.

It had been so long since I had last covered a meeting as a journalist on the hunt for headline grabbing stories.

What captured my attention the very first minute I walked into the resort municipality’s boardroom at the Visitor Information Centre was the lack of places to sit.

I squinted at the sight of four padded chairs. Then I squinted again. My eyes must be deceiving me. Really, only four?
But that will barely address the media presence, I thought. Where are the throngs of spectators going to sit? Good thing I got here early.

So I helped myself to coffee from the pot, making sure I didn’t fill my cup to the brim in case there wasn’t enough for late arrivals and after a few friendly introductions the meeting was underway at just a couple of minutes after the appointed time of 5 pm.

Right off the bat I saw councilors were intent on getting down to business. They had a long list of items to get through, 43 at my count, and little time to waste.

So where were the reporters and members of the public?

Surely they’ll arrive some time soon? After all, big ticket residential and business developments were going to be talked about as well as boardwalk repairs, lights, signage and a host of other items.

A good 20 minutes in I realized I would be the lone spectator. Good, that means I can get another cup of coffee.

So Council is underway and I glance at the agenda and my eye is drawn to something I’ve never noticed before at other meetings.

Each report is allocated a fixed number of minutes and a time window. For instance – the signage bylaw report in the Business Arising from Minutes section is allocated two minutes and runs from 6:38 pm to 6:40 pm. Another item in the Business Arising from Minutes section, a report on internet servicing, is given exactly three minutes – from 6:35 pm to 6:38 pm.

In New Business, the bike lane on Cavendish Road gets two minutes (6:58 pm to 7 pm).

The biggest block of time, at 31 minutes, was set aside for Planning Board/Signage, comprised of two items: bond releases for the Cavendish Beach Music Festival and Orchard View Cottages.

Are these councillors efficiency experts or what? House of Commons parliamentary committees should send representatives down to take notes. I also think Province House could learn a thing or two about good time management. Come to think of it so could just about every council I ever covered in 30 plus years of journalism.

For the record here are the people who sit on the Resort Municipality of Stanley Bridge, Hope River, Bayview, Cavendish and North Rustico. Matthew Jelley chairs the resort municipality, with Linda Lowther the vice-chair and strategic development chair, while the councilors are Edmond Richard, David Gauthier, Kathleen Benoit-Hryckiw, Gwen Wyand and George Clark-Dunning. Brenda MacDonald is the chief administrative officer.

I’m sure many of the 250 or so people who dwell in the resort municipality year round know who their councillors are – they just have better things to do when council business is discussed. Maybe they’re watching Compass or a rerun of Murdoch Mysteries or something on Netflix.

I have to admit I was really curious to see how long it would take them to get through the Cavendish Sewer Utility report (three minutes allocated) or the Route 13 Crosswalk item (two minutes) or the Swimming Rock Infilling (part of a 10 minute report on trails and paths).

I checked my watch when the meeting concluded only a few minutes past the appointed hour of 7:10 pm.

I remain confident attendance will be vastly increased at the next meeting. If not, maybe I’ll get to drink an extra cup of coffee.


Sept 22 auction had something for everyone
Originally published September 25, 2017

There were some great deals to be had at the Sept 22 fundraising auction held at the Stanley Bridge Centre. Included in the items were four black and white prints of Winston Churchill’s last state visit to Canada in the early 1950s. In one of the photos auctioneer Dennis Lowther shared a lighter moment hoisting an unusual handbag. Money from the sale of hundreds of items donated by residents and business owners will be directed to the SBC’s building fund, to be used for the construction of a new foundation for the former United Church as well as other improvements. The Stanley Bridge Centre would like to thank Mr Lowther for generously providing his services free of charge.

Photos by Jim Brown.
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com


 

A Rousing Show

The first concert of September kicked off at the Stanley Bridge Centre Sept 17 with a rousing performance before an appreciative crowd by The Just For Fun Band, fiddler Jason Campbell, Denton MacSwain, saw-player Brad Fremlin and others. The two hour show set a lofty standard for other shows to follow later in the season. Proceeds from the performance will support the Stanley Bridge Centre’s Building Fund.
Photos by Jim Brown.
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com

 


 

Splatter Paint Fun

Kids and their parents visiting the recently opened Lupin Studio and Gift Shop on the Stanley Bridge wharf were in for a treat Sunday, Aug 27 – the last day of the 15th annual River Days Festival.

Kids got to work with paint and splash it around during the free workshop, having a great deal of fun in the process. Lupin Studio and Gift Shop is operated by co-owners Elizabeth Campbell and Natalie Slater.

During the two hour session kids received an introduction to potato stamp art and they also got to engage in an exercise where the paint flew everywhere, called splatter painting.

There were lots of smiles, giggles and laughs – a sure sign participating kids were in the early stages of becoming life long art lovers.

Photos by Jim Brown.
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com

Lupin Studio

Two-year-old Kate Morrissey, with co-owner Elizabeth Campbell, was one of the younger children visiting the Lupin Studio and Gift Shop Sunday.

Flashing a smile

Evangeline Sawchuk, six, flashes a gap-toothed smile during the splatter painting session.

Passing on pointers

Natalie Slater passes on some artistic pointers to Claire Morrissey.

Dabbing her brush.

Claire Morrissey, six, dabs her brush into brightly colored paint during a splatter painting session. Not all of the paint made it to her paper.

 


 
River Days photos from Saturday, Aug 26

The River Days Festival was in full swing on Saturday in bracing, late summer weather. Dozens of illuminated boats glided under the Stanley River bridge at the wharf to loud cheers, followed by an impressive fireworks display. Earlier youngsters took turns diving off the bridge into the water, many leaping under the watchful eye of their parents. In the morning and early afternoon the Stanley Bridge Centre’s farmer’s market drew a heavy crush of visitors. Awards were to be handed out to the best jumpers throughout the day on Sunday, the final day of the three day festival.
Photos by Jim Brown.
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com

Spectators watching bridge jumpers plunge into the water

The Stanley Bridge wharf was filled with spectators watching bridge jumpers plunge into the water.

A youngster enjoys her Smarties donut

A youngster enjoys her Smarties donut from one of the Stanley Bridge Centre’s vendors, Samuel’s coffee house.

A dip in the Stanley River.

Splashing jumpers, of all ages, enjoyed a dip in the Stanley River.

 

Girl and her father

A young girl and her father watched the parade of boats Saturday evening.

Passengers were in a celebratory mood

Passengers were in a celebratory mood as their vessel passed under the Stanley River bridge at the wharf.

Brightly lit vessel

Dozens of brightly lit vessels glided under the Stanley River bridge for the parade of boats shortly after 8:30 pm – one of the most popular events of River Days.

 


 
Bringing the house down

Photos from the Aug 13 Roy MacCaull, Marcella Richard and Larry Campbell performance at the Stanley Bridge Centre. The talented trio, which played largely original music, cast a spell over an appreciative hand-clapping, foot-stomping crowd for the two hour set. If you missed them this time around you will still have a chance to catch them at the SBC. They will likely be back next summer.

Jim Brown photos.
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com


 

Marco Polo resurfaces at SBC history circle
Originally published July 27, 2017

Its sinking is still talked about at many Island dining tables nearly a century and a half later.

The three-masted 184-foot long Marco Polo, once the fastest sailing vessel on the seas, was deliberately run aground by its captain near the Cavendish beach dunes 134 years ago on July 25, 1883. Miraculously, nobody died that day though the ship was battered by heavy gales.

A history circle on the Marco Polo was held at the Stanley Bridge Centre on the same date. The session was led by Philip Gallant, whose late father Tommy Gallant discovered the submerged ship in 120 feet of water in 1959 and salvaged anchors and other materials from the vessel, as did Philip. Mr Gallant was joined by a large crowd which included Tommy’s widow Anita Gallant and Warren Grove resident David Thomson who crafted a beautiful seaworthy model of the Marco Polo with wood recovered from the actual ship.

Phillip Gallant

Philip Gallant, standing in front of a Queen-size quilt, kept a packed crowd enthralled with his hour long presentation.

“I hope my son and daughter and their offspring will also have some involvement with the ship,” said Philip Gallant.
Up to 25 per cent of Australians can trace their family roots back to the Marco Polo, which brought thousands of passengers there from North America, he said.

Philip said his father Tommy tried to earn a sustainable income through salvage work and then organizing chartered trips for divers. He has happy memories of growing up in a yard filled with memorabilia from the ship.

“It’s always been a great pleasure to learn about the ship and have many discussions with people from all over the world, from as far away as Australia,” he said.

“The site of the wreck is now a national historic site and is protected as such…I hope the stories never die.”

Wood planking, brass pins and bolts, anchor chains, copper fittings and lead pipes have been recovered over the years.

One of the larger items, the ship’s storm anchor, which weighed 3,500 pounds, was eventually sold by Tommy Gallant to industrialist K.C. Irving for $800.

When it was a passenger ship the Marco Polo could carry close to a thousand passengers, and it weighed 1,625 tonnes.

David Thompson

David Thomson, standing beside his magnificent seaworthy model of the Marco Polo he built in 2005.

David Thomson holding a book on the Marco Polo.

Attendees viewed the Marco Polo exhibit.

There were lots of newspaper articles, books and several items from the doomed Marco Polo itself to prick the interest of attendees.

Story and photos by Jim Brown.
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com


 

Stanley Bridge Centre hosts tomorrow’s business leaders

They are the Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Warren Buffets of tomorrow.
Young Millionaires, some as young as eight, have been displaying their entrepreneurial smarts at the Stanley Bridge Centre’s farmer’s market since its opening on July 5.

Among this year’s crop of budding business owners are jewelry handcrafters, scarf, bracelet and candleholder makers, bath fizz makers, coaster designers, landscape photography artists and flying stick manufacturers. The list of products offered to customers is seemingly endless.

Anyone wishing to participate in this exciting program can fill out a registration form online at www.ymppei.com.

Want to see tomorrow’s titans of the business world in action? Why not drop by the SBC’s farmers markets, running Wednesdays and Saturdays, 9 am to 1 pm.

Story and photos by Jim Brown.
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com


A fragrant business

Meet the Stanley Bridge Centre’s newest vendor, Helene Bouchard, who sells lavender from her decorative, specially designed bike. She’s one of only a handful of commercial producers on the Island.


Bouchard grows her plants on her 1.5 acre property on the Rattenbury Road. She sells them at markets, stores and restaurants around the area including the SBC’s farmer’s market.

Yes, restaurants.

The flowers and herbs are quite tasty and can provide flavor and texture to a wide variety of prepared dishes and snacks including soups, stews, salads and cookies. And of course lavender can be brewed in tea.

Bouchard said growing the aromatic plant requires much patience, adding it’s taken two years of cultivation to get her plants to the harvest stage.

“You have to be very patient, because everything is done by hand. It’s cut by hand and grown by hand.”

And all without the use of any chemicals.

“Lavender very useful in different areas – antiseptic, anti-inflammatory…you can cook with it, you can keep anxiety away, so it has a lot of purposes.”
It’s very easy to grow, “but you do have to like to work all the time because it takes a lot of maintenance and cutting and taking care of the bushes,” she said.

It wasn’t exactly a straight line to the lavender cultivation business.

“I come from the classical world of dance and training, but I did study in the flower business because of all my family’s background. So it’s in my genes but it wasn’t something I was doing professionally. I did something else but I had to retire. So this is my second career.”

On Wednesday, July 12 she wheeled her bike to the Stanley Bridge Centre and set up shop on the lawn outside the door – displaying her cut lavender in a basket at the front of her bike.

Later she took her bike indoors, where she was immediately surrounded by knots of people, including several young children.

Helene, who built her home on the Rattenbury Road before launching into her lavender business, hopes to be at the SBC this summer on a regular basis. Why not drop by (Saturdays and Wednesday’s, 9 am to 1 pm) and catch a glimpse of what the lavender business is all about?

Story and photos by Jim Brown.
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com

 


 
 
Lady Singers deliver the hits

The Stanley Bridge Centre’s parking lot was packed half an hour before the curtain lifted and space had to be utilized at the nearby WI to accommodate the crush of ticket-holders Sunday, July 9 to see Lady Singers of Our Century. Truly gifted performers Colleen MacPhee, Joan Reeves, Judy MacGregor, Jolee Patkai and Keila Glydon tripped merrily down memory lane, taking us along for the ride.

They knocked it out of the park with songs from the playlists of Tanya Tucker, Linda Ronstadt, Rita MacNeil, Patsy Cline and others. Not to mention a dizzying swirl of costume changes, all handled seamlessly. Didn’t get a ticket to the July 9 show? Don’t worry, you will still get a chance to see them at the SBC. Lady Singers of Our Century will be back for an encore performance at 7:30 pm, Sunday, Aug 13.

Story and photos by Jim Brown.
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com


 
SBC doors swing open on another farmer’s market season.

Wednesday, July 5 was the opening day of the farmer’s market season at the Stanley Bridge Centre and vendors were greeted with a steady stream of visitors enticed by tasty delicacies, outstanding local artists and artisans and entrepreneurial youngsters under the banner of the Young Millionaires. There were also several new vendors including Samuel’s Coffee House and By the River Bakery and Cafe, of Hunter River. The Stanley Bridge Centre’s farmers markets will run all summer, every Wednesday and Saturday, 9 am to 1 pm.

Samuel’s Coffee House was a welcome addition to the lineup of vendors at this year’s farmer’s market.

A steady flow of visitors greeted vendors on the opening of the farmer’s market.

Not all vendors’ booths were set up indoors. This young entrepreneur enjoyed the sun while selling bundles of firewood.

 

Young Millionaires display some of their products.

The first official day of the farmer’s market drew many people, young and old, to the Stanley Bridge Centre.

Young Millionaires stand next to a beautiful Queen-size quilt marking the 150th anniversary of Canada and featuring exquisitely designed cascading Maple Leafs. The quilt was made by a talented group of Charlottetown quilters.

Lots of delicious treats were prepared on the spot by By the River vendors.

By the River Bakery and Cafe was a new vendor at this market, with the owners drawing many visitors to their table.

 
Story and photos by Jim Brown.
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com


 
Auctioneer shows how to empty a building real fast.

Auctioneer Dennis Lowther, who generously donated his services, made brisk work of hundreds of items up for sale at the Stanley Bridge Centre’s live auction on Friday, June 16.

Watching Dennis at work was like watching a pro athlete at the top of his game. Items flew off racks and tables and out the door into cars and trucks, causing more than a few suspensions to sag. Everything went – from gift cards to boxed barbecues to dining sets, paintings, jackets, coats, suitcases and hockey jerseys, to bags of railway spikes and fashion accessories to plush toys, stacks of books and golf clubs. They were all snapped up by eager bidders, who often walked away with eye-popping bargains. Many items were purchased for dimes and even pennies on the dollar.


 
 
Money from the event, which drew a good turnout, will be used to help pay for a new foundation for the former United Church and move the building to another part of the property so it can access water and sewer services.

Among the many items snapped up in the auction was a hockey stick autographed by Ottawa Senator blueliner Dion Phaneuf.

Story and photos by Jim Brown.
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com

 


 
Dream ends for owner of Bedeque’s Village Store.

Pop, chips, DVDs, milk, chocolate bars, bread, newspapers, ice cream, lottery tickets and postal services – all the essentials of life in cottage country.

And that’s what family members and visitors to the Brown summer cottage in Fernwood relied on from Bedeque’s Village Store.

It was also the source of many happy memories.

For more than 20 years, ever since the cottage was purchased, the Village Store was there when we needed it.

The first clue something was amiss came when I was driving past the store on Victoria Day and I didn’t see the trademark “World’s Greatest Ice Cream” sign out front.

“Very curious,” I thought, as I turned back and parked nearby.

Then I looked more closely at the façade – it was weathered and fading and the windows were papered over.

I thought to myself, they’ve closed it for Victoria Day, but isn’t it always open on Victoria Day? It appeared to be sealed up tighter than a mummy’s tomb. The Village Store looked like it hadn’t been open for months.

And, truth be told, it hadn’t.

One of the most recognized buildings in all of Bedeque had been closed as of February 13. How did I know the precise date?
After spending two hours in Fernwood opening the cottage for the season with my sister, her husband and my nephew, I was on my way back home to Stanley Bridge when I passed the store again. I saw someone with a truck, who had opened the building’s front door and was removing materials from inside.

Being a curious person I just had to stop again and ask if he knew what was happening to my beloved store.

It turned out the person I had bumped into was Erik Gerlund, 56, who had bought the store in September and was forced to shutter it just two weeks shy of six months.

Village Store owner Erik Gerlund.

Village Store owner Erik Gerlund.

Gerlund knows all about dreams, having worked in the dream factory for much of his life as a successful set designer and artistic director for numerous film and TV productions including popular shows such as Lucifer, The Dead Zone, Eureka and Smallville.

From Vancouver BC, he had never lived in PEI before and on a whim visited the province and immediately fell in love with the Island and then the community of Bedeque and then the iconic corner store, which was for sale at the time.

Of course, the dream of owning a small country store in a small village more often than not does not have a happy ending. Bludgeoned by larger retail outlets which could afford to sell larger volumes of products at lower prices, the odds were stacked against him from the start.

And the revenues from a small population are just not enough to offset the costs of running a store.

“Just to maintain the building for electricity and for your insurances runs between $1,350 and $1,500. We never turned a profit in any one of those six months,” said Erik.

His catchment area numbers 95 homes, not enough to sustain an operation on a year-long basis.

“People only have so much money in their pocket,” he said.

Gerlund figured he needed $500,000 in yearly revenues just to break even and he never came close to that.

“Some people are very upset and I understand. I didn’t want to close it. I (ran) it as tight as I could but we simply didn’t have the volume locally to make the numbers work.”

Now Gerlund is gutting it, and turning it into a home for himself and his mother, now 80.

“I still have the World’s Greatest Ice Cream sign,” he joked.

“There’s a lot of history to this building,” he said wistfully, adding the front part was 148 years old.

Of course there had been many add-ons over the decades.

Gerlund doesn’t anticipate making many structural changes that will drastically affect its appearance and, in fact, he wants to burnish its historic roots.

He allowed there is a chance once he’s done some more renovations it could yet be sold to someone else harboring the same dream he had – to run a country store in a picturesque village in an enchanting province.

Gerlund offers some blunt, practical advice to anyone considering buying the Village Store building as a full service country store – “Open it just for the season – June through September. In the summer months you get tourists, the people who go to the beach, you get the fishermen. That makes sense. Yes, you can turn a profit, but in the winter months when the sidewalks have been folded up it’s a real challenge,” he said.

I think many who own cottages or permanent homes in the Bedeque area will miss the charming store with the World’s Greatest Ice Cream sign out front.

It just won’t be the same without it.

Story and photos by Jim Brown.
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com


 
Setting out for the lobster fishing grounds.

Close to 70 vessels left the port of North Rustico for lobster fishing grounds on the opening day of the spring lobster fishery. The weather was good, with only a slight drizzle and mild temperatures, although some fishermen were saying the water was likely to be cold during the first few days and the lobsters would not be moving much, making it harder to catch them. All the vessels had left the port before 6 am. Dozens of family, friends and onlookers were at the wharf for setting day. All told, nearly a thousand vessels were expected to head out to lobster grounds from PEI ports.

 

Story and photos by Jim Brown.
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com


Job Fair draws large crowd.
Close to 40 business operators set up their booths at the Stanley Bridge Country Resort on Saturday, April 22 and they were impressed with the turnout of job seekers. Many of the tourism-related businesses were from the Stanley Bridge, Cavendish and Rustico area.






 
Story and photos by Jim Brown
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com

 

 


 
Fighting pests without chemicals.

It’s mid-April and snow is fast disappearing across the Island.

Many thoughts are turning from snowshoes and snow shovels to the start of gardening season and the inevitable invasion of garden-ravaging pests.

Millvale environmentalist Sharon Labchuk, former leader of the PEI Green Party, says toxic chemicals aren’t necessary to dispatch most pests. It can be done naturally, in ways that protect wildlife, human health, the soil, the water and the air. She should know, she’s been gardening chemical-free for 40 years.

Less than a week ago much of her 50-acre property was covered in hip-deep snow, but heavy rains have come and washed much of the snow away. Now several plants she has carefully tended in trays indoors, near a large picture window, are ready for planting. She hopes to have the earth turned on her garden by the end of the month.

Labchuk says it all starts with the soil. Poor soils mean poorly nourished plants which are deprived of the nutrients they need to make them strong enough to fight off insect pests and disease organisms.

PEI’s soils are sandy and need all the help they can get to store nutrients efficiently. But that doesn’t mean dumping manure on them, she stressed.

“If you add organic matter it gets consumed so fast. It’s a constant battle to keep plants healthy,” said Labchuk.

“Adding too much manure can cause stunted or even dead plants because phosphorous builds up in the soil and may not go away for years. It’s better to add organic matter to the soil in the form of plants, like compost, mulch or a cover crop,” said Labchuk, who collects large amounts of seaweed from the nearby North Shore.

“If I go to the beach I always take bags with me.”

Adding a cover crop is an ideal way for gardeners to enrich their soil.

“I use winter rye and plant it before the middle of September and it will grow into the fall.”
Winter rye can grow to six inches tall and in the spring it can be grown a bit more before being turned over into the soil where it can rot for a couple of weeks before planting begins, giving the soil the valuable nutrients, such as nitrogen, necessary to support healthy plants.

“Or you could also take a section of the garden, use it for a cover crop and don’t plant anything (else) for a year,” she said.

“It’s never a good idea to leave the soil bare,” explained Labchuk.

A thick mulch of organic material, such as straw, seaweed, dried leaves and dried grass clippings not only helps conserve soil moisture and improve the soil itself, it also provides habitat for important beneficial creatures, such as spiders and ground beetles.

“They’ll help control populations of Colorado potato beetles, cabbage worms, cutworms, slugs, aphids and other insects that eat your garden plants.”

There are other things that can done, too, to improve the odds of a productive, abundant garden.

For instance, barriers around plants can block insects from getting through and laying eggs that can have a devastating impact on harvests.

“Carrots are plagued by the carrot rust fly,” said Labchuk.

“I’ve got them in my garden. The small fly lays an egg in the soil and the maggot (that emerges) burrows into the carrot.”
The damage is easy to spot. It’s sort of a rusty tunnel damage when the fly burrows into the surface of the carrot and then right through it.”
The larva leaves “a mess behind” in the form of excrement or “poop” inside the carrot, said Labchuk.

“It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t taste good and it promotes rot if you store it in your cellar. It will attack anything in the carrot family (such as) parsnips and dill.”
The solution? Cover the carrots with garden fabric. Labchuk has used two to three foot high plastic fences. Since the adult pest can’t fly higher than two feet it is effectively blocked.

Of course nothing beats getting down on your knees and hand picking eggs left on the undersides of leaves, and crawling insects. That’s especially the case with the Colorado potato beetle, which she argues only becomes an issue when a commercial potato field is in operation close to people’s homes and gardens.

If potatoes aren’t harvested commercially nearby that greatly lessens the odds of potato beetles showing up in a hobby gardener’s plot, she said.

“Learn their life cycle. The beetle lays eggs in big masses. They are bright orange and super-visible. And you just take your fingers and rub them (eggs) between the leaves and crush them,” said Labchuk.
The same applies to other insect infestations.

If the Colorado beetle eggs (or other insect pest eggs) have hatched, all is not lost. Just go to your gardening store and buy a certified organic spray called Bt.

“There’s a Bt spray for potatoes and a Bt spray for everything else,” she said.

Bt is a commercial form of bacteria. When it is sprayed on the plant the caterpillar ingests the bacteria when consuming the plant. The bacteria crystalizes in the pest’s stomach, killing it.

But Sharon acknowledges that humans don’t always win against garden pests and that there’s no shame in admitting defeat from time to time.

“If you have a crop failure once in a while, so be it,” she said.

“Sometimes the potatoes get so blighted you don’t get any (to harvest). So I don’t have potatoes that winter. Big deal,” said Labchuk.

“You can’t go around poisoning yourself, the soil, the things that live in the soil, the birds possibly, just because you feel you want to have a crop that year.

“We’re not talking about a ‘life or death’ situation. You can go to the grocery store,” she said.

Story and photos by Jim Brown
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com
 


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