Sunday, 26 April 2015



Notes from Home


Just got off the telephone with my sister Anne who lives in Charlottetown, PEI. Today’s forecast for the Island is snow. The week’s forecast for the Island is snow. Yesterday she walked out to buy some books to read while she sits trapped inside her place and sipping her tea (which cannot be tepid). She purchased four novels and discovered too late she’d already read two of them. Today she slogged to the drugstore to buy a plastic shower cap (and not the makings for a tinfoil hat, thank God) just to get outside. I’m worried for her sanity. Canada’s maritime provinces have gutted out a long, hard winter.


Meanwhile, much farther west, spring has sprung here in the cool, blue north. Since our return from Barbados, Ann and I have filled 16 or 18 lawn bags with last fall’s garden waste. Every bag I humped into the alley was stolen; somebody in the neighbourhood is making compost. The beds are ready for planting; tulip and poppy sprouts are up and out in the sunshine. The hairy and downy woodpeckers are back tap-tap-tapping on deadwood and feeding on the suet cake we’ve hung from a limb of the Ohio buckeye in the backyard. Blue jays, squirrels and magpies are gorging on the peanuts the eccentric bachelor who lives next door to us puts out every morning. Great migratory, honking vees of Canada geese veer overhead. Bushes are budding; the grass is turning green.


Something else has sprouted on the front lawn. The provincial election here is May 5th. I went online and ordered a yard sign for the New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in our riding. The soft socialist NDP is anathema to me and our calculated display of partisanship warranted discussion around our kitchen counter. Since the cessation of the Second World War and the black gold gusher at Leduc Number 1, Alberta has vacillated between God’s country and a ghost town, everything has hinged on a singular economic driver: the price of oil.


Our ‘blue-eyed sheiks,’ the Progressive Conservative party, have held power for 44 years. Our current premier has blamed all Albertans for the current economic downturn. That broad brush stroke is more inclusive than remarks by an earlier PC premier who in the 90s blamed Alberta’s bust misfortunes on eastern bums and welfare cheats. So it goes. Unsurprisingly, a near half-century of prolonged fiscal mismanagement of overly modest energy royalties is not a topic for discussion with this historically ingrained and petrified government.


And so, after requesting a lawn sign, I sent Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley an e-mail instructing her to get the rights to the Parachute Club’s 80s hit ‘Rise Up’ and ordered her to instruct all of her NDP candidates to play it loud on the stump. I received a very polite reply thanking me for my very valued input and how much money would I care to donate to our collective cause? And would I like to volunteer on behalf of the NDP? No, thanks: I’m sweating my sister’s mental state (which reminds me to call my mother in Montreal) and, anyway, it’s spring and the Canadiens have advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

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