Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Observations From An Odyssey

I returned from a trip across Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia with the following impressions:

1. In Quebec, Jean Charest and his Liberals are in deep trouble. Nonetheless, the results on September 4th will be close. If Pauline Marois wins the election, it will be by a narrow margin. She will, perhaps, lead a minority government. For Quebercers, it's a case of which leader they dislike the least. But one thing is certain: the leader they dislike the most is Stephen Harper.

2. No matter how many times you've been there, the view of the St. Lawrence from atop the ramparts of Quebec City is always magnificent.

3. In New Brunswick, the pulp and paper industry is no longer a powerhouse. In Florenceville, however, the potato is still king. Regardless, both the Irvings and the McCains appear to be doing quite well.

4. Those who believe that Quebec's separation would be of little consequence completely ignore the huge number of French Canadians who live in New Brunswick -- still Canada's only officially bilingual province.

5. In Lunenburg, work on the Bluenose II is almost complete.

6. A significant number of Nova Scotians -- whether they serve tourists or fill lobster traps off the Eastern Shore -- work seasonally. They are simply acknowledging the wisdom of Ecclesiastes. Denying them employment insurance benefits will not alter that fact.

Whenever I travel across Canada, I am struck by the nation's vastness, beauty and generosity. This trip again confirmed that impression. What was different this time around was the uneasy feeling I had that the gulf between the country and its pinched, grasping and mean-spirited prime minister is profound.


karen said...

Did you get a sense of hope at all, Owen? I get that same sense of unease, but here in BC where it is all-Enbridge-all-the-time, with protests and gatherings and such, I am feeling kind of hopeful. Seems like the disatisfaction is cutting across a lot of philosophical lines here.

I had the very great fortune in 2009 of driving from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. I wish everyone could make that trip. It was so eye-opening.

Owen Gray said...

Back when I taught high school, Karen, I used to say that -- were I king -- I would make a road trip mandatory for every graduate. You have to see the country from the ground, not from the air.

In Quebec, the dissatisfaction with Harper is everywhere. But I suspect he loses no sleep over it.

However, N.B. and N.S. are a little harder to gauge. My relatives tell me that Peter Mackay is still immensely popular in Nova Scotia. But people in the fishing villages along the Eastern Shore can't be happy.

And, in New Brunswick -- where I was greeted in French when I walked up to the counter -- I suspect that Harper's contempt for official bilingualism rubs people the wrong way.

From what I read, you folks in B.C. will soon be engaged in civil disobedience.

karen said...

I remember you saying that before in the comments and I wholeheartedly agree.

I believe it will come to civil obedience. But I really do feel kind of hopeful about it. I think a lot of people are seeing a big picture, and it will be about more than just one pipeline.

Owen Gray said...

There is an old axiom about human relations, Karen: If you treat people with contempt, they will return the favour.

Stephen Harper still doesn't understand that axiom.

But the growing disrespect citizens feel for this government offers hope that things will change.