Tales from the Road

  • 2017-09-21 14:21:03
  • Column 9 Bugging You
  • No Flies On This Kid Something’s been bugging me this week, so I’m going to start my column with an apology. If you find yourself scratching incessantly while reading it, I’m sorry. It’s all about bugs. I was inspired when I learned of the great work of New Brunswick’s Dr. Reginald Webster, who discovered and named a new species of beetle, the Apimela canadensis, so named to honour our country’s 150th birthday. Right on, Reggie! As a native of the North Shore, I was particularly proud to learn that Apimela canadensis was discovered near the outflow of a brook in the Jacquet River Gorge Protected Area. Hold my coat, give me a rock, let’s celebrate something new on the North Shore! Sure it’s just a bug, but it’s our bug. The timing of this exciting discovery coincided not-so-nicely with the official start of our insect season, as we transition from cold and wet spring to hot and buggy summer. Let’s be real. Insects rule the world; always have, always will. They’re everywhere, from the deepest depths of the ocean to the tops of our highest mountains. They thrive deep underground, high in the sky, on and in plants, and of course, all over our bodies. They’ve been here long before us and they’ll be here long after we screw things up and shuffle off our collective mortal coils. Be (or not be) in this place. Here’s my dilemma: we have a provincial flower, a provincial bird, but no provincial insect? Insects may not be cute, cuddly or aromatic, but they’re everywhere in New Brunswick. How many new species of mammal or amphibian have been discovered in our neck of the woods? Bugs are us. I now respectfully submit a shortlist of insects that I hope might achieve official status, and maybe one of them might even sneak its way onto a corner of our provincial coat of arms. The mosquito! Is there more deserving candidate to be our entomological ambassador? There are three things New Brunswickers can count on: death, taxes and mosquitoes. When Minister-of-Amost-Everything Donald Arsenault was in Ottawa last week, he visited the powers-that-be at Canadian Blood Services, trying to change their position on the cancellation of mobile blood donor clinics in Campbellton and Dalhousie. No dice, but because of our large mosquito population, folks on the North Shore can count on giving blood for many years to come. The Monarch Butterfly! Butterflies are pretty, graceful and ephemeral. The aforementioned Dr. Reginald Webster has also identified the Maritime Ringlet Butterfly (Coenonympha nipisiquit), a species limited to the salt marshes of Chaleur Bay and another strong contender for official bug mascot. I like the Monarch Butterfly because of its beauty and the perilous migration it makes each year to and from Mexico. Think of the casualties when it starts slamming into that huge Trump Wall. .. .huge! The June Bug! As its name suggests, it’s around not for a long time, but a good time, crashing high school graduation parties and backyard bonfires. Some of those bugs are so big, their impact on a car windshield can be like clipping a deer at 100 kmh. Head lice! Not to be confused with its not-too-distant cousin the crab louse, the head louse has a long and storied past in our province. Resistant to fine-tooth combs and kerosene raids, head lice have been a mainstay of our education system for centuries. With our Department of Education, no matter what the grade we start French Immersion, the lice are able to adapt. Blackflies and No-see-ums! Technically, they’re not the same species, but as someone who has spent many a day fishing along our province’s rivers and streams and golfing on some of our fine courses, I’ve learned enough curse words to decry both of them with equal gusto. Perhaps Noseeums would better serve as the official insect of the Canadian Senate. Fireflies! If you think the June bug has a short run, just think about the poor Firefly. It’s bright, bold and makes a pretty good first impression, but soon fades to oblivion. Hey - it’s a metaphor for our last three provincial governments! Dragonflies! Also known as ‘Devil’s Darning Needles’, these insects are local heroes because they eat mosquitoes. North Shore folklore says dragonflies will sew your eyes shut and make you blind. Ants! A couple of colonies of ants are building sandy homes on my front lawn. While it’s tempting to pour hot water on their plans, I enjoy watching them work. It’s reassuring to see socialism functioning effectively. As a sidebar, New Brunswick has Piss-ants. I mention them simply because I love to get away with saying their name. They are also known as Pissmires. There, I did it again! Speaking of colonies, we can’t overlook the humble bumblebee. Bees are amazing creatures. Without them, our crops would fail. Bees shouldn’t be confused with wasps. The Bee is noble. It pollinates, makes the only food that will never spoil, and rarely stings. The Wasp, on the other hand, is basically an arsehole. Our official bug ought to be the Pesky Provincial Politician. I think you know where this is going. The word politician from the root politics: Poly, the Greek word for ‘many’; and ticks, little bugs that suck our blood. Bugs, bugs, bugs, if I had them all in jugs! Or in Bon Ami Festival mugs.
  • 2017-09-21 14:19:54
  • Column 8 Water Boy
  • Noah, Wherefore Art Thou? While sitting at my desk last weekend pondering the topic for my weekly column, I looked out my window for inspiration. Animals were lining up two by two, and an idea came flooding in like a river breaching its banks: cool clear water. The great floods of 2017 will surely be a story that will be recounted for many years to come. But while New Brunswick has been soggy, there’s a feeling that we’ve dodged the proverbial bullet, especially when we see the watery devastation across Québec, Ontario and BC. Is it just me, or has the weather become more wacky over the past decade? Lightning strikes in January, severe hail storms in August, balmy days in December, freezing rain, big blizzards, and torrential downpours at the drop of a hat—climate change is alive and well. Those who deny it ought to be filling sandbags in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, PQ. The human body is comprised of about sixty percent water and our planet is comprised of seventy percent water, so what’s all the fuss about a little flooding? As someone who has experienced a couple of major basement floods over the past decade, I should reprimand myself for posing such a stupid question. During our last experiment at attempting to install an indoor pool in our basement this past January, I found myself at four a.m. standing in the dark holding a flashlight (this took place during a prolonged power outage) up to my unmentionables in freezing water. All of a sudden, I felt a major kick in the ass. I swung around to discover our floating chest freezer as the culprit. If you think that was bad, you should have been there the time our ass freezer whacked me in the chest. As the saying goes: ‘One person’s misfortune is another person’s gain.’ Rather than deny climate change, we ought to accept it and adapt. While visiting Fredericton last week, I watched the rising waters of the Saint John River, and found myself imagining a tourist campaign pitching our capital city as the Venice of North America. I can visualize it now: a revival of the Chestnut Canoe Company manufacturing custom-made gondolas to transport our politicians. After a boring day of passing watered-down legislation, these ornate boats would transport our elected officials in leisurely comfort from the Legislative Assembly to the River Room across the street. And yes, I’m talking about a room in the river. And isn’t Saint John overdue for a Magic Mountain Water Park franchise? I can picture the entire uptown transformed into one of our country’s biggest tourist attractions, as the cruise ships navigate neighbourhood streets and excited tourists ride the Kamikaze Slide down King Street into wet ’n wild Market Square while buskers outfitted in scuba gear dive for dollars. Moncton will reinvent itself once again. It will re-establish shipbuilding. Champlain Place will become the world’s largest floating mall. Lobster traps will be set along the sidewalks of Assumption Boulevard. The city’s motto will be changed from Resurgo (Rise again!) to Satis Iam Resurreximus (Enough already!). The tourism impact will extend well north of the Golden Triangle. Salmon anglers will be able to practice hook-and-release on Roseberry Street in Campbellton. The Dalhousie Marina will be bigger than it’s ever been, expanding to downtown Balmoral. Grand Falls will request a name-change to Ripples Believe it Or Not. The crab riots on la Péninsule will take place at the Paquetville wharf. And the weird boat on the provincial flag will be transformed into a yellow submarine. Before you get upset and consider my proposal to be dark and downright apocalyptic, consider the possibility that this is part of the natural course of events on our planet. According to the Theory of Evolution, we started out in the water and gradually developed fins with toes, gills that could hold air, and attitudes that positioned land animals as superior to our ocean-dwelling cousins. As we gradually find ourselves back in the water we’ll have come full circle in the lifespan of Planet Earth; ashes to fishes, dust to dolphins. As a child I was fascinated by the story of Atlantis; as an adult I was disgusted by the movie Waterworld. While it was a bad movie, I see Waterworld as a more likely template than Atlantis for our future submerged society. I foresee an all-new, made-in-New Brunswick remake of this film. Campobello Island would be the principal location, Brian Gallant could take on the Kevin Costner role, although Donald Arseneault and Victor Boudreau might have better water-treading abilities. Blaine Higgs could sub for Dennis Hopper, and Cathy Rogers would be an admirable replacement for the glamorous Jeanne Tripplehorn. It might even induce the provincial government to get behind our New Brunswick film industry. Take me to river. Drop me in the water. Don’t bail me out.
  • 2017-09-21 14:17:54
  • Coumn 7 NAFTA
  • Trade Ya! This week I’m all about trading. The news from south of our border regarding our country’s “disgraceful” trade practices involving dairy products and softwood lumber have got my spidey senses really tingling. In the category of he does not play well with others, a certain news-inducing megalomaniac has caused Canadians to feel a certain amount of stress concerning NAFTA, our so-called free trade agreement with the United States. I speak of course of the Donald, who when he took the oath of office 103 days ago and signed on as president, probably thought of himself more as a professional athlete with a no-trade clause. If there is one thing we New Brunswickers have hard feelings about, it’s softwood lumber. For a province that has historically relied on hewing wood and drawing water to drive its economy, we have been hit across the forehead by a two-by-four far too many times. It my late teens and early twenties I had worked in the giant paper mill in my hometown of Dalhousie-by-the-Sea, NB. Among my many jobs was spending many a graveyard shift in the Groundwood Department. The work consisted of hauling pulpwood out of a pond using a picaroon, placing it on a chain, then artfully stacking the logs in deep magazines where they would get crushed by giant grindstones. It was a job where you got to witness firsthand how softwood could suddenly get softer. You would also witness how the soft hands of a university student could suddenly get transformed into a black and blue nailed mess. It was a made in New Brunswick operation. The trees came from nearby forests, the power was generated from our very own NB Power, and the giant grindstones were quarried in Stonehaven, NB. The weedy substance that got you stoned at four a.m. came from parts unknown. That mill, like so many in our province is sadly now only a memory as the operation has not only shut down, but the building that once occupied the entire front street of the town has been completely removed. It has ceased to be. It’s difficult to say the name New Brunswick without conjuring some notion of seeing a forest for the trees. Our economy was built on harvesting wood and waving it under the noses of our American cousins. As long as there was news to be read, as long as the Canadian dollar was worth less than its American counterpart and as long as there was no such thing as the Internet, Dalhousie and so many small towns like it, prospered. So now what little remains of our silvicultural sector is in jeopardy because of threats to tear up (again) our existing deals on softwood lumber. Softwood is a good reference point for this story, as the person responsible for all the turmoil could be described as soft in the head. We can’t however accuse our premier Brian of being soft (in the head or otherwise) as he is poised to play hardball on this issue. We recently learned that he initiated a conference call with all living former NB premiers in order to tap their sizeable brains for saps of knowledge on this trade issue. I’m told he even hauled out an Ouija Board in an attempt to reach out to Richard Hatfield, Louis J. Robichaud and Hugh John Flemming, who after all has a forestry centre in Fredericton named after him. Good on you, Brian, a gallant effort akin to peeing in the wind in an attempt to wash your face. Is trade really ever fair? Ever since there have been humans there has been trade. From cave-dwellers swapping sabre-tooth tiger skins for fire recipes, to modern day condo-dwellers swapping tiger shrimp recipes for a bottle of Fireball, we two-legged intelligent apes have always been about the art of the deal. As kids, we traded marbles, toys and hockey cards. I vividly remember a transaction from 1973, “I’ll trade you two Stan Makitas for one Ken Dryden” followed by “No, but I’ll give you two Tony Espositos for one Yvan Cournoyer!” When things went awry with our trading, we sometimes ended up trading punches. As we celebrate the sesquicentennial of our country it’s important to remind ourselves that the place was founded because of the fur trade. After all, the beaver did not become our national symbol because of its teeth or work ethic. If we are to believe the myth about the Dutch purchasing Manhattan from the Wappinger Native Americans for a few beads, we can make ourselves feel a little better about the proposed twenty percent tariff on our lumber. In fact, we need only look at North America and its dealings with its first nations’ peoples as a way to not cry over the spilled milk from proposed changes for our dairy farmers and all the present bluster from the Trump administration. Free trade may be a thing of the past, but I say instead of getting mad let’s just get even. I propose a 90 percent tariff on orange hair dye, hairspray, mail-order Slovakian brides and golf carts destined for Mara Lago. Yankee Doodle went to town, a-riding on a pony; snuck a feather-pen from his cap, and signed another stupid executive order.
  • 2017-08-28 15:17:11
  • Column 6 Earth Day in NB
  • Signs of Spring in New Brunswick By Marshall Button The calendar tells me that spring arrived three weeks ago. Fake news! I grant you we’ve had a few mild days, (so what, we had nice weather in January too!) but springtime in New Brunswick is a myth. Here’s my argument. Maritimers have long understood the profound difference between the first day of spring and the first spring day. We’re a weather-obsessed culture. Who could argue that when the most powerful and sexy Atlantic Canadian Woman alive today is, without a doubt, meteorologist Cindy Day? To quote essayist Alexander Pope, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” As New Brunswickers, we’re nothing if we aren’t hopeful, especially at this time of year. To fully appreciate our most optimistic season, a vital tool is our sense of humour, and this is a humour column. So with that in mind, I’ll share with you the sure signs of spring in Atlantic Canada. The weather! Spring is noteworthy for featuring 116 kinds of weather in a single day. As the expression goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute. ” As a matter of fact, one day this spring, I experienced black ice, freezing rain, wind, rain, hail, sleet, snow, shivering and sunscreen. Automotive challenges! You know it’s spring when you put the key in the ignition, attempt to start your car, and it actually starts! There are so many pressing issues when you drive a car on the east coast: When do you take off the studded tires? When is it safe to wash off the salt stains? Is it finally time to exchange your scraper for one of those windshield shade thingies? Road kill! Skunks, deer, porcupines, and slow-moving crossing guards are all in danger during the spring season. But the biggest target has got to be the groundhog. We love exacting our revenge on the groundhog for failing to see his shadow and duping us into believing we’re getting an early spring. Potholes! If there’s an enduring symbol of springtime in the Picture Province it’s those crater-like, car-murdering depressions that continue to baffle the minds of the most adept road builders. Potholes are so ubiquitous that I almost dedicated this entire column to them. Every year we wait with bated breath for them to be filled. However, the attempts to fix them seldom seems to satisfy. We have to be forward-looking. With marijuana about to be legalized, why not fill our potholes with real pot? Just get a self-driving car, make a pit/pot stop, then sit back and really enjoy the beautiful, undisturbed symmetry of all those Irving trees. Birds! Isn’t the first sighting of a robin synonymous with the arrival of spring? After all, seeing a red breast is always pleasurable, especially one that hasn’t been reddened by frostbite. Spring birds are fat, mobile and pregnant, so they blend in with much of the year-round population who have been similarly shaped by the inactivity of a long New Brunswick winter. Snowbirds! Their return is always a sure sign of spring. Parents, aunts, uncles and friends head home at this time of year so full of themselves and displaying their bronzed faces while recounting tales of near holes-in-one, flea-market conquests, and managing to avoid being gunned down in their trailer parks. Dog poop! Despite all efforts by community leaders to provide poop bags near our walking paths, in our parks and in our neighbourhoods, the melting snow reveals the sins of entitled dog owners who won’t stoop to scoop. East Coast winters are cold enough to freeze the stink off a dog turd, but spring reminds us that we’re all destined to join a giant compost heap eventually. Wouldn’t it speed things up to throw a sampling of those negligent dog-walkers onto the pile right now? Tax time! As the weather changes and the days grow longer, we’re reminded of our obligations to our governments. We fill out our federal returns dutifully each April and wait to see whether we owe or they owe. We happily pay our provincial and municipal taxes based on the goof-proof property assessment practices of our elected leaders, aware that the hopefulness of spring can be dashed in the blink of an eye with the stroke of a pen or the flight of a drone. Wardrobe! A sure sign of spring is the day we store the mukluks and parkas in the basement and take out the plaid shorts and bug shirts. Hand warmers and wool socks are happily exchanged for fly dope and sunscreen. I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the signs of spring. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Much of New Brunswick is still covered in heaps of snow. Some say we have only two seasons: eight months of winter, and four months of bad snowmobiling. Mosquito season and Must-Skidoo season. Should we eliminate spring altogether, thereby giving us one less thing to complain about? As an infamous American presidential candidate once said, “What the hell do you have to lose?” Spring fever is here at last, Spring fever, my heart is beating fast!
  • 2017-08-28 15:15:07
  • Column 5 Malala Ottawa Easter jaunt
  • Signs of Spring in New Brunswick By Marshall Button The calendar tells me that spring arrived three weeks ago. Fake news! I grant you we’ve had a few mild days, (so what, we had nice weather in January too!) but springtime in New Brunswick is a myth. Here’s my argument. Maritimers have long understood the profound difference between the first day of spring and the first spring day. We’re a weather-obsessed culture. Who could argue that when the most powerful and sexy Atlantic Canadian Woman alive today is, without a doubt, meteorologist Cindy Day? To quote essayist Alexander Pope, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” As New Brunswickers, we’re nothing if we aren’t hopeful, especially at this time of year. To fully appreciate our most optimistic season, a vital tool is our sense of humour, and this is a humour column. So with that in mind, I’ll share with you the sure signs of spring in Atlantic Canada. The weather! Spring is noteworthy for featuring 116 kinds of weather in a single day. As the expression goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute. ” As a matter of fact, one day this spring, I experienced black ice, freezing rain, wind, rain, hail, sleet, snow, shivering and sunscreen. Automotive challenges! You know it’s spring when you put the key in the ignition, attempt to start your car, and it actually starts! There are so many pressing issues when you drive a car on the east coast: When do you take off the studded tires? When is it safe to wash off the salt stains? Is it finally time to exchange your scraper for one of those windshield shade thingies? Road kill! Skunks, deer, porcupines, and slow-moving crossing guards are all in danger during the spring season. But the biggest target has got to be the groundhog. We love exacting our revenge on the groundhog for failing to see his shadow and duping us into believing we’re getting an early spring. Potholes! If there’s an enduring symbol of springtime in the Picture Province it’s those crater-like, car-murdering depressions that continue to baffle the minds of the most adept road builders. Potholes are so ubiquitous that I almost dedicated this entire column to them. Every year we wait with bated breath for them to be filled. However, the attempts to fix them seldom seems to satisfy. We have to be forward-looking. With marijuana about to be legalized, why not fill our potholes with real pot? Just get a self-driving car, make a pit/pot stop, then sit back and really enjoy the beautiful, undisturbed symmetry of all those Irving trees. Birds! Isn’t the first sighting of a robin synonymous with the arrival of spring? After all, seeing a red breast is always pleasurable, especially one that hasn’t been reddened by frostbite. Spring birds are fat, mobile and pregnant, so they blend in with much of the year-round population who have been similarly shaped by the inactivity of a long New Brunswick winter. Snowbirds! Their return is always a sure sign of spring. Parents, aunts, uncles and friends head home at this time of year so full of themselves and displaying their bronzed faces while recounting tales of near holes-in-one, flea-market conquests, and managing to avoid being gunned down in their trailer parks. Dog poop! Despite all efforts by community leaders to provide poop bags near our walking paths, in our parks and in our neighbourhoods, the melting snow reveals the sins of entitled dog owners who won’t stoop to scoop. East Coast winters are cold enough to freeze the stink off a dog turd, but spring reminds us that we’re all destined to join a giant compost heap eventually. Wouldn’t it speed things up to throw a sampling of those negligent dog-walkers onto the pile right now? Tax time! As the weather changes and the days grow longer, we’re reminded of our obligations to our governments. We fill out our federal returns dutifully each April and wait to see whether we owe or they owe. We happily pay our provincial and municipal taxes based on the goof-proof property assessment practices of our elected leaders, aware that the hopefulness of spring can be dashed in the blink of an eye with the stroke of a pen or the flight of a drone. Wardrobe! A sure sign of spring is the day we store the mukluks and parkas in the basement and take out the plaid shorts and bug shirts. Hand warmers and wool socks are happily exchanged for fly dope and sunscreen. I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the signs of spring. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Much of New Brunswick is still covered in heaps of snow. Some say we have only two seasons: eight months of winter, and four months of bad snowmobiling. Mosquito season and Must-Skidoo season. Should we eliminate spring altogether, thereby giving us one less thing to complain about? As an infamous American presidential candidate once said, “What the hell do you have to lose?” Spring fever is here at last, Spring fever, my heart is beating fast!
  • 2017-08-28 15:12:39
  • Column 4 Signs of Spring in NB
  • Signs of Spring in New Brunswick By Marshall Button The calendar tells me that spring arrived three weeks ago. Fake news! I grant you we’ve had a few mild days, (so what, we had nice weather in January too!) but springtime in New Brunswick is a myth. Here’s my argument. Maritimers have long understood the profound difference between the first day of spring and the first spring day. We’re a weather-obsessed culture. Who could argue that when the most powerful and sexy Atlantic Canadian Woman alive today is, without a doubt, meteorologist Cindy Day? To quote essayist Alexander Pope, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” As New Brunswickers, we’re nothing if we aren’t hopeful, especially at this time of year. To fully appreciate our most optimistic season, a vital tool is our sense of humour, and this is a humour column. So with that in mind, I’ll share with you the sure signs of spring in Atlantic Canada. The weather! Spring is noteworthy for featuring 116 kinds of weather in a single day. As the expression goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute. ” As a matter of fact, one day this spring, I experienced black ice, freezing rain, wind, rain, hail, sleet, snow, shivering and sunscreen. Automotive challenges! You know it’s spring when you put the key in the ignition, attempt to start your car, and it actually starts! There are so many pressing issues when you drive a car on the east coast: When do you take off the studded tires? When is it safe to wash off the salt stains? Is it finally time to exchange your scraper for one of those windshield shade thingies? Road kill! Skunks, deer, porcupines, and slow-moving crossing guards are all in danger during the spring season. But the biggest target has got to be the groundhog. We love exacting our revenge on the groundhog for failing to see his shadow and duping us into believing we’re getting an early spring. Potholes! If there’s an enduring symbol of springtime in the Picture Province it’s those crater-like, car-murdering depressions that continue to baffle the minds of the most adept road builders. Potholes are so ubiquitous that I almost dedicated this entire column to them. Every year we wait with bated breath for them to be filled. However, the attempts to fix them seldom seems to satisfy. We have to be forward-looking. With marijuana about to be legalized, why not fill our potholes with real pot? Just get a self-driving car, make a pit/pot stop, then sit back and really enjoy the beautiful, undisturbed symmetry of all those Irving trees. Birds! Isn’t the first sighting of a robin synonymous with the arrival of spring? After all, seeing a red breast is always pleasurable, especially one that hasn’t been reddened by frostbite. Spring birds are fat, mobile and pregnant, so they blend in with much of the year-round population who have been similarly shaped by the inactivity of a long New Brunswick winter. Snowbirds! Their return is always a sure sign of spring. Parents, aunts, uncles and friends head home at this time of year so full of themselves and displaying their bronzed faces while recounting tales of near holes-in-one, flea-market conquests, and managing to avoid being gunned down in their trailer parks. Dog poop! Despite all efforts by community leaders to provide poop bags near our walking paths, in our parks and in our neighbourhoods, the melting snow reveals the sins of entitled dog owners who won’t stoop to scoop. East Coast winters are cold enough to freeze the stink off a dog turd, but spring reminds us that we’re all destined to join a giant compost heap eventually. Wouldn’t it speed things up to throw a sampling of those negligent dog-walkers onto the pile right now? Tax time! As the weather changes and the days grow longer, we’re reminded of our obligations to our governments. We fill out our federal returns dutifully each April and wait to see whether we owe or they owe. We happily pay our provincial and municipal taxes based on the goof-proof property assessment practices of our elected leaders, aware that the hopefulness of spring can be dashed in the blink of an eye with the stroke of a pen or the flight of a drone. Wardrobe! A sure sign of spring is the day we store the mukluks and parkas in the basement and take out the plaid shorts and bug shirts. Hand warmers and wool socks are happily exchanged for fly dope and sunscreen. I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the signs of spring. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Much of New Brunswick is still covered in heaps of snow. Some say we have only two seasons: eight months of winter, and four months of bad snowmobiling. Mosquito season and Must-Skidoo season. Should we eliminate spring altogether, thereby giving us one less thing to complain about? As an infamous American presidential candidate once said, “What the hell do you have to lose?” Spring fever is here at last, Spring fever, my heart is beating fast!
  • 2017-08-09 09:48:23
  • Column Three Assess-Gate
  • Okay, we’re having money problems. So what is a have-not province to do? We have a projected deficit of $200-million and an accumulated debt approaching (I’m going to put the zeroes in here for effect) a cool $14,000,000,000.00. Most New Brunswickers would agree we need to do something to reduce the $18,000 every man, woman, child and confused citizen must pony up to settle this account. In case you’re not great with zeroes, that’s 14 billion dollars we owe. It also happens to be a bit more than I have stashed under my mattress. Our provincial budget delivered in February by Cathy Rogers, our first-ever female Minister of Finance (yay!), included neither tax increases nor spending cuts. As a taxpayer and a recipient of fabulous provincial funding, I’m thrilled to drape myself in that yellow and red flag with the goofy boat and shake my red, white and blue pom-poms adorned with yellow stars. Come on people, we need to fix this money problem. Just keep your grubby fingers off me, okay? The solution to our financial dilemma seems to come down to two words: tax assessments. Yes, we’re mired in what is sadly becoming known as the Assess-Gate scandal. But seriously folks, let’s give our government a break! Oh, and I meant to add that second ’s’ on the end of the word ‘Asses’. We’re starting to figure out a few things here in the Picture Province. We’re taking the lead from the business world, on how to operate a well-oiled bureaucratic machine. We need only look south of the border to admire how a country can become the envy of the world by putting a prominent businessman in charge of purse strings and nuclear codes. If you’ve ever purchased an inkjet printer or one of those Mach-Five razors, you know how our pockets are picked. Forty bucks for the printer and a hundred and forty for new cartridges; buy a super new razor for only a dollar-forty-nine and hope you win Lotto 6/49 to be able to pay for replacement blades. It’s our golden New Brunswick ticket: don’t raise taxes, just raise property assessments. Oh what heights we’ve hit! I’ve heard that our province has a newfangled computerized system involving air surveillance of our humble abodes. Premier Gallant isn’t old enough to be considered a father figure. He’s more like a little brother. So it’s official: Little Brother is watching us! I did mention we are a have-not province. This story is evolving as I write, and I’m aware of the many changes afoot, including an independent review of the policy and an extended appeal process. However, it is important to note that there have been losers - but also winners - in this tax-assessment debacle. First, the losers. A big part of the problem is that the air surveillance miscalculated the square footage of houses by factoring in the sizes of the roofs, including overhangs, back porches and outhouses. So my poor cousin who couldn’t afford to fix the hole in his roof just draped a giant tarp over it and had his tax bill go up 45%. There are many other examples of losers in the assessment fiasco. I’ve made a little list: 1. Owners of smelt shanties with satellite dishes on the roof; 2. Rural New Brunswickers who improved their Google Street View after years of being teased for not having any front steps; 3. Campground owners who don’t have the word ‘mega’ associated with them, and 4. members of the media (with all their fake news.) And the winners are … homeless people! Yes, the economy might be in a bit of a mess and good jobs hard to come by, but if you don’t have a job or a home, you can take solace in the knowledge that you might not have to pay more this year. There are other noteworthy people coming out ahead because of this tax assessment debacle. I have made another little list: 1. Anybody who liked Premier Gallant’s wedding announcement on Facebook and provided their email address to the Liberal Party of New Brunswick; 2. Blaine Higgs— he’s finally thinking that people are listening and really do like him; 3. Whoever is pining for Service New Brunswick Minister Ed Doherty’s job; 4. Any cash-strapped company with waterfront property that has suddenly seen its value reduced by 67% (as every New Brunswicker knows, LNG stands for Lousy Negotiating Government). So don’t blame our have-not province for trying! We haven’t got the population or resources of Western Canada. If you are into anagrams, you realize ‘ServiceNB’ by another name is simply ‘InverseBC’. As I look forward to the real start of spring I remain optimistic about the future of this great province. I will go on my merry way, shopping for razor blades and ink cartridges and gleefully paying my taxes. Roll on, take the money and run.
  • 2017-08-07 11:54:12
  • Column Two On The Button
  • Okay, we’re having money problems. So what is a have-not province to do? We have a projected deficit of $200-million and an accumulated debt approaching (I’m going to put the zeroes in here for effect) a cool $14,000,000,000.00. Most New Brunswickers would agree we need to do something to reduce the $18,000 every man, woman, child and confused citizen must pony up to settle this account. In case you’re not great with zeroes, that’s 14 billion dollars we owe. It also happens to be a bit more than I have stashed under my mattress. Our provincial budget delivered in February by Cathy Rogers, our first-ever female Minister of Finance (yay!), included neither tax increases nor spending cuts. As a taxpayer and a recipient of fabulous provincial arts funding, I’m thrilled to drape myself in that yellow and red flag with the goofy boat and shake my red, white and blue pom-poms adorned with yellow stars. Come on people, we need to fix this money problem. Just keep your grubby fingers off me, okay? The solution to our financial dilemma seems to come down to two words: tax assessments. Yes, we’re mired in what is sadly becoming known as the Assess-Gate scandal. Oh, and I meant to add that second ’s’ on the end of the word ‘Asses’. But seriously folks, let’s give our government a break! We’re starting to figure out a few things here in the Picture Province. We’re taking the lead from the business world, on how to operate a well-oiled bureaucratic machine. We need only look south of the border to admire how a country can become the envy of the world by putting a prominent businessman in charge of purse strings and nuclear codes. If you’ve ever purchased an inkjet printer or one of those Mach-Five razors, you know how our pockets are picked. Forty bucks for the printer and a hundred and forty for new cartridges; buy a super new razor for only a dollar-forty-nine and hope you win Lotto 6/49 to be able to pay for replacement blades. It’s our golden New Brunswick ticket: don’t raise our taxes, just raise the property assessments. Oh what heights we’ve hit! I’ve heard that our province has a newfangled computerized system involving air surveillance of our humble abodes. Premier Brian Gallant isn’t old enough to be considered a father figure. He’s more like a little brother. So it’s official: Little Brother is watching us! I did mention the rest of Canada considers us a have-not province; we can’t even afford a big brother. This story is evolving as I write, and I’m aware of the many changes afoot, including an independent review of the policy and an extended appeal process. However, it is important to note that there have been losers - but also winners - in this tax-assessment debacle. First, the losers. A big part of the problem is that the air surveillance miscalculated the square footage of houses by factoring in the sizes of the roofs, including overhangs, back porches and outhouses. So my poor cousin who couldn’t afford to fix the hole in his roof just draped a giant tarp over it and had his tax bill go up 45%. There are many other examples of losers in the assessment fiasco: 1. Owners of smelt shanties with satellite dishes on the roof; 2. Rural New Brunswickers who improved their Google Street View after years of being teased for not having any front steps; 3. Campground owners who don’t have the word ‘mega’ associated with them, and 4. Members of the media (with all their fake news.) And the winners are … homeless people! Yes, the economy might be in a bit of a mess and good jobs hard to come by, but if you don’t have a job or a home, you can take solace in the knowledge that you might not have to pay more this year. There are other noteworthy people coming out ahead because of this tax assessment debacle: 1. Anybody who liked Premier Gallant’s wedding announcement on Facebook and provided their email address to the Liberal Party of New Brunswick; 2. Blaine Higgs— he’s finally thinking that people are listening and really do like him; 3. Whoever is pining for Service New Brunswick Minister Ed Doherty’s job; 4. Any cash-strapped company with waterfront property that has suddenly seen its value reduced by 67% (as every New Brunswicker knows, LNG stands for Lousy Negotiating Government). So don’t blame our have-not province for trying! We haven’t got the population or resources of Western Canada. If you are into anagrams, you realize ‘Service NB’ by another name is simply ‘Inverse BC’. As I look forward to the real start of spring I remain optimistic about the future of this great province. I will go on my merry way, shopping for razor blades and ink cartridges and gleefully paying my taxes. Roll on, take the money and run.
  • 2017-08-07 11:53:25
  • First humour column On The Button
  • Well recuse me. As the winter of 2017 is about transform to Winter Reduxet, or what we New Brunswickers otherwise refer to as the first month of spring, I am sure I share with many of you a certain curiosity about the word recuse. When local hero Honourable Victor Boudreau, Minister of Health (and various other non-Celtic Relations portfolios) recently announced that he was recusing himself from proceedings involving the testing of Parlee Beach water for fecal matter, and when enlightened US Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from decision-making about the last US Election being affected by a surreal game of Russian Roulette, many of us went searching our online dictionaries for the meaning of the word. Turns out it means excusing oneself from making a decision because of potential conflict of interest, or something like that. I got thinking that this is a political ploy that has been going on since Pontious was a Pilate, so to speak—when the going gets tough, wash your hands instead of making a decision. To make excuses is ridiculous but to recuse is sublime. The more I think about this grand political tradition, the more I become a fan: “Yes, honey I know it’s snowing but I recuse myself of having to shovel, just like last night when I recused having to figure out which of the three bags to put the garbage in and of course to carry it out to the curb.” You have used up all your vacation and sick days, but not feeling up to go to work, recuse yourself from going in tomorrow morning. Tired of paying taxes? Recuse baby! This is starting to make sense to me. Now to be fair to the aforementioned Mr. Boudreau, there is a perfectly good reason for his recusal. He is a minority shareholder in a controversial mega campground proposal for the Pte. du Chêne Parlee Beach area. So as someone who might have control over how much poop should be allowed in the water, he might stand to benefit from muddying those warm salt waters any more than they already are. Before it got to this boiling point, Mr Boudreau did state how he wished to get to the bottom of this matter and do everything to make sure the water is clean and clear. This was a statement coming from the same provincial government that constantly boasts via its department of tourism about Parlee Beach having the warmest salt waters north the Carolinas. Well you can’t have it both ways Vic! How do you suppose it got to be so warm in the first place? That water didn’t get to be so cozy without a little help from our Ocean Surf friends. And while we are on the subject, wouldn’t the warmest salt water north of the Carolinas be exactly one centimetre north of the North Carolina border? And don’t we all really know the motivation behind this? That Minister Boudreau is secretly playing out the fantasy of every East Coast mobile home magnate—to have an episode of The Trailer Park Boys shot at his very own establishment. Can’t you just see the episode now as the boys wonder why the pot always grows greener so close to water’s edge? Just think of all the opportunities for background roles to all the Pte. du Chêne Wharf denizens. And it is no secret that Victor himself is holding out for a cameo role as Randy’s haberdasher, a venerable Cecil D of P.D.C. I can see the positive social media coverage already! Now that I think carefully on the matter I think it is a shame that the power to recuse has not been applied as often as it ought to. I’m thinking of the Alberta judge who recently resigned his judgeship due to the fallout of his suggesting to a female sexual assault victim that it would have all been so much better had she just kept her legs together. Umm maybe it would have been so much better had you recused yourself from that case because you are a narrow-minded misogynist creep. Or if only the United States’ electorate had recused themselves before voting in you-know-who and thereby handing over the car keys to an immature adolescent with orange hair. And while we are on the topic of orange hair, it occurs to me that if a New Brunswicker had hair like that he would not have to wear a hat during hunting season. And I sincerely regret that when I was a four-year-old boy on the North Shore I didn’t recuse myself from sticking my tongue on the metal fence in January. I suspect that one of the best things about my topic for this week’s column is that we realize there is a certain power in be able to step aside, to procrastinate, to pass the buck, or pass muster instead of passing judgement. How many times have you thought about how things would be better if only I had the chance to do a replay, a do-over, if only I had though to recuse myself before I said or did that ridiculous thing? Intellect is power, and sober second thought belongs in the Senate. Recuse me while I kiss the sky.
  • 2014-10-01 20:58:35
  • Moncton
  • Here are the links for all the Lucien NB Election Commentaries: http://www.cbc.ca/informationmorningmoncton/2014/08/29/lucien-the-election/ http://www.cbc.ca/informationmorningmoncton/2014/09/05/luciens-take/ http://www.cbc.ca/informationmorningmoncton/2014/09/12/post-debate-lucien/ http://www.cbc.ca/informationmorningmoncton/2014/09/19/luciens-final-take/ http://www.cbc.ca/informationmorningmoncton/2014/09/24/luciens-final-take-1/

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