Eastern Graphic Columns and Opinions

When evidence can’t be found, use rhetoric

Rhetoric should never be confused with leadership, a fact that routinely escapes Premier Robert Ghiz.

Seven years into his administration and Ghiz is still feeding Islanders catch phrases he hopes will be confused for competency.

When first elected it was ‘One Island’, government’s attempt to convince us centralizing services and growing the bureaucracy in Charlottetown equates to better delivery of services.

It doesn’t.

Earlier this year Ghiz trotted out a new phrase ‘evidence based research.’ He leans on it to support decisions on everything from education to addiction treatment. The problem is the rhetoric doesn’t match reality.

Harper offers total misrepresentation of reality

“The time for a decision on Keystone is now; even if its not the right one” ...Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

What is that thing about being careful of what you wish for?

Mr Baird, who flails about Ottawa and other foreign capitals of the world with all the finesse and agility of an overweight wrestler on speed - was right on the mark.

The very next day, his Boss was accusing President Barack Obama of playing politics with his decision on whether to go ahead with the pipeline designed to carry Canadian bitumen from the oil sands of Alberta to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

It is extremely doubtful that President Obama gives two hoots in hell to the opinions of Steven Harper with respect to the Keystone pipeline (or anything else for that matter), seeing as how they are hardly political soulmates.

The youth are speaking, it’s our turn to listen

If you ask them, most youth will say they feel ignored, dismissed or under represented. Often these answers are misconstrued as teenaged angst and, ironically enough, dismissed.

But when enough youth begin to speak out and share a voice, it demands our attention.

Talk of more youth centres is beginning to sprout into action, but it’s the youth, not the councils, asking for change. Communities across eastern PEI are beginning to notice the increased demand for youth entertainment and socialization, a place they can go, meet and have fun. Venues that replace the potential for drugs and alcohol, (which is ever-present, but increased by boredom) with clean, safe fun.

People are dying

People are dying

It happens far too often. Issues like addictions and mental health services are given a human voice and attention is drawn to the problems. But then, they become political issues elected officials can argue over and they cease to have the true impact and meaning they once had.

The issue of addictions on PEI cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet. If a person wants to overcome a problem, they need to be given the proper supports to do so.

So many issues come back to addictions. Theft, assault, spousal abuse, impaired driving, and more can all be caused by addictions problems.

People are given the tools but no instructions. We have used substances to change our minds for centuries, but it is often done behind closed doors, illegally and often times dangerously.

Social Assistance should be for more than just survival

It’s been a couple of weeks now since the provincial budget has been tabled and slowly stories of how monies were spent are trickling to the surface. While it’s easy for us to sit back and judge on an individual basis where things went wrong and it may seem petty to look back and judge, we are the taxpayers and have every right to judge nonetheless. It is inconceivable to see that there has been money left over in departments that are so vital to our province.

Just look at the $2.3 million unspent in the Community Service department that provides social assistance to vulnerable Islanders. Minister Docherty said they didn’t need the money. I beg to differ. Minister Docherty said we have fewer social assistance clients. Good news right? Maybe not when that decrease can be paired with the dramatic increase in food bank users. People don’t want to be on social assistance.

Evening Grosbeak appears at feeder

I had an email this week from Bernadette McInnis of Red Point reporting that there was a male evening grosbeak at their feeder.

She sent along a photo of this bird, taken as he was eating away beside two mourning doves.

They were an interesting trio, for the doves are about as plain as any bird you are going to see at your feeders, whereas the evening grosbeak, how would you describe the coloration of that bird? The word that comes to mind is “dramatic”.

It’s years since I saw an evening grosbeak but when we lived in Freetown they were regular visitors some years.

The PEI Field Checklist of Birds tells us that this bird is common to very common here on PEI in spring so keep your eyes open and you may see one.

The female looks much like an overgrown female goldfinch. Please send a note if they show up at your feeders.

PEI must focus on real priorities

The following is text of a speech made last week by Graphic Publisher Paul MacNeill to the Kensington and Area Chamber of Commerce that outlines four major issues dramatically impacting PEI’s long-term sustainability.

It is a pleasure to be with you tonight. I very much appreciate the opportunity and I thank you for changing your evening to accommodate my schedule.

I must admit I was a bit surprised when Glenna first broached this idea with me. I don’t really consider myself Chamber of Commerce material. The majority of my public speaking is done in front of an audience of one or two, or in complete isolation when I produce one of my rants from my Ivory Tower in downtown Montague.

But I do relish this opportunity because there are messages that need to start winning a broader audience if our Island, and in particular our rural communities, are to thrive into the future.

Jim Flaherty, a warrior of words

“May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.”
....Old Irish Blessing

Well boyos, today’s the day they bury Jimmy Flaherty, with a state funeral for the burial no less: all pomp and circumstance and just the third time such an honour is bestowed in Canada, beyond a narrow list of governors - general, sitting cabinet ministers and past Prime Ministers.

There wasn’t a whole lot of him in a physical sense. He was vertically challenged at five foot three inches in socks and shoes, something he often poked fun at, while others made jest at the often godawful green neckties he sported.

Recalling a referendum

My Dad was 73 years old back in the fall of 1995 when he drove to western PEI and climbed on a bus bound for Quebec.

It wasn’t a pleasure trip; He joined thousands of other Canadians in a rally to let Quebecers know they are just as much a part of Canada as the rest of us.

Every now and then that memory surfaces and I think how proud I am of his actions.

It certainly came to light over the past couple of weeks during the most recent election campaign in Quebec when the mere mention of the word sovereignty by PQ leader Pauline Marois made many voters turn their backs to the idea of another referendum.

The referendum took place in Quebec on October 30, 1995, with 49.42 per cent voting yes and 50.58 per cent voting no to the question of becoming a sovereign state.

The Chinese market wants their lobster... Alive

In the US, May 1 is the National Day of Prayer. In PEI this year, it’s quite similar, except it's opening day of lobster season.

As Island lobster fishermen prepare their traps, mend their lines and gear up their boats for the upcoming start of the 2014 season, the feelings are mixed. While many fishermen will say it’s a way of life, a passion, last year on May 1, when fishermen should have been celebrating their return to work, they were told the market had bottomed out and they’d receive less than four dollars per pound. Forced to lump or leave the bottom of the barrel prices, fishermen tied up, headed west, went on strike or refused to fish. Others kept their boats in the water, hoping to weather the economic storm.

Despite their best efforts, fishermen ended the season with prices for their catch still at an all-time low.

Hidden tax hikes to Islanders

An increase to minimum wage was announced in the PEI Legislature this past week. But with a hidden tax hike in 2014, Islanders won’t see much of a benefit.

PEI, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba are the only three provinces affected by a phenomenon called the bracket creep, which was addressed by other provinces years ago. In other provinces, tax bracket increases and basic personal exemptions are tied to inflation. That means residents of those provinces are allowed to make more money before they have to pay more taxes.

PEI does not have that luxury.

When the minimum wage increases on PEI, Islanders will simply have to pay more taxes. Really, the biggest earner from the increase to minimum wage is the government itself.

Spring is for the birds

The following note was from Jacques St Cyr of Hamilton Rd Route 20: “My finch count is down compared to the two previous years. It was 25, down from 80. Also Snow Buntings, down from 180 to 12. Two years ago I saw all winter a totally white(cream) finch, the only one ever. I feed only niger seed.”

Thank you for sending along your bird count, Jacques. I don’t believe that I had even one snow bunting this year but a few winters back there were dozens of them here. I took a look at our PEI Field Checklist of Birds and it tells us that this bird ranges from uncommon to very common and they are here from autumn through to spring. I guess that fits in with what you are seeing. They are not here in the summer.

And a white finch! I wonder if you were able to get a photo of that bird?

Surprise!

Hoodies are getting a bum rap

Not so long ago the social stigma attached to anyone wearing ripped or faded clothing was that they were poor.

But before you could say Levi Strauss people leapt on the proverbial bandwagon, mimicked the look, and called it grunge.

Some school administrators wagged their judgemental fingers and said no way, this is not how we want our institutions portrayed. Bans on the tattered togs were put into place.

Another popular item of clothing is the dependable and cosy hoodie. Most homes have at least one in their closet.

Hoodies are popular because they come in a rainbow of colours and designs. They are versatile. Dress up or dress down and somewhere there’s a hoodie to go with the outfit.

However, as practical and trendy as hoodies are, the people wearing them are getting a cool reception from some PEI shop owners.

Politicians love when we play dumb

WARNING: This column contains opinions about boring financial information that politicians expect you to ignore. Please prove them wrong.

So here is an opening question for all Islanders: How dumb are we?

Now you may think that is a little rude? Perhaps. But stupidity and ignorance is the only explanation for allowing PEI politicians to run roughshod over us and govern in a manner that will – not may
– decimate our standing as an economically viable province.

The Auditor General report is an annual counter-balance to the puff and spin that passes as governance in PEI. Once a year, the auditor shines a bright light into the dark workings of government.

How does government spend taxpayers’ money? Are rules followed? Is there adequate transparency? Are we dealing with issues now or simply passing them on to future generations?

There are answers to all of these questions in the 2014 report.

You don’t need a gaping pothole to realize this world of ours is in serious trouble

“Ultimately in life you have to stand by the person that you care for and love in a difficult moment.”
... Dmitri Soudas, famous Conservative Party backroom guy and currently unemployed lover to MP Eve Adams.

There seems to be a lot of pothole talk making the rounds hereabout these days.

On Friday night last, I found out why - at a cost of $238 and change.

The Missus MacAndrew was on the cellphone telling me she had unwittingly (it was covered with water) driven into a pothole on North River Road and two tires had blown.

Saturday morning, when we went to pick up the car with two brand new beauties installed at Canadian Tire, the genial guy behind the counter told me ours was the twelfth car they had fixed after a confrontation with the same pothole.

I appreciated that potholes could be good for business, and suggested he drop Mayor Clifford Lee a thank you note.

How to learn

With a plethora of winter storms causing multiple school cancellations, instructors and administrators for the PEI School System are trying desperately to figure out how to make up for lost class time so students can get the entire year’s curriculum finished.

They are proposing things such as adding additional days to the school year and cancelling field trips to make up for lost time.

To me, it seems like these administrators are far too removed from the actual student experience to understand the implications of these measures.

To remove experiences like field trips so that students can spend more hours at a desk doesn’t seem conducive to the actual learning experience. Many students look forward to things like field trips because it breaks up the monotony of mindless hours in the classroom.

Where’s the lobster love?

PEI Burger Love is in full swing and a prime example of what is achievable when an Island industry and clever marketing come together.

Known to Island beef producers as a tough month for beef sales, until recently, April was always a slow month for the beef Industry on PEI. Now, in its fourth year, the month-long event has expanded to include 54 restaurants. Each offering it’s best version of an award winning hamburger, the event has completely altered the financial landscape of the Island beef industry and restaurant attendance for the month of April.

To say PEI Burger Love is a game changer for the industry would be an understatement. Last year, a total of 21,917 pounds of PEI beef was consumed by Islanders. That equals 46,224 burgers sold in total at an average of about $10 per burger. The increased revenue is remarkable.

Remarkable bird surfaces at another feeder

In early March I reported on the remarkable bird sighting made by Alan and Mary MacDougall of Annandale at their bird feeders, that of a melanistic American Goldfinch. I just got word this week that a neighbour of theirs saw the same bird. Readers, there may be others who will spot this bird yet and if you do, please let us know. It never hurts to have the camera close by.

Busy

Young in years but each has a story

May 18, 2013 offered freezing rain, wet snow, high winds and bitter cold temperatures. But on the Cardigan ballfields dozens of people of all ages were taking part in a tournament to raise money for an autistic child.

One of those players was Brandon Quinn, a young man who is now in a Halifax hospital being treated for serious burns.

Brandon was one of four young people involved in a fire in Charlottetown on the weekend that claimed the lives of three of his friends.

Something stood out on the diamonds that early spring day almost a year ago. It wasn’t the actual play on the fields but rather how courteous Brandon was to those around him. That, and his willingness, despite the bone chilling cold, to take the time to help identify people in some photos that had been taken for this newspaper.

A community rallies in face of unthinkable tragedy

It is the news no parent or community want to hear. But inevitably with every generation there are moments when our lives merge in shared grief for the loss of a child.

Accepting death is never easy. It is magnified when children are involved.

A fire of unknown cause ripped through a vacant building in Charlottetown in the early morning hours of last Saturday. Trapped inside were three Montague area youth. All perished. The youngest was barely 15. A fourth victim managed to escape the flames and is now in intensive care in a Halifax hospital.

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