Where’s Sheila?

I liked Sheila Copps in an Elizabethian Weir kind of way.  The kind where you disagree with them on most ideas and policies but like them as persons and as political figures.   Some people are just likeable – both Copps and Weir were scrappy too – maybe that’s another reason I liked them in their public roles.  Liz Weir would stand up in the Leg and thunder at Frank McKenna – it was fun.

Anyway I was thinking about Sheila yesterday after reading another diatribe in a western Canadian paper about the lazy and unmotivated Atlantic Canadians and how Albertan money is a crutch holding us back from our true potential.

When VIA Rail ran into some financial trouble a few years ago, the federal government was going to bail them out and Sheila proposed that instead of a bailout, we give all Canadians a return ticket on VIA Rail as long as they promise to visit a part of Canada they had never been to before.  Do you remember this?

She was, of course, laughed at and dismissed but I liked the idea. 

I have been grappling with the issues of national identity and patriotism for some time and I still haven’t resolved anything in my mind but I do think that being part of a country means something – and maybe having a basic understanding of that country is a starting point.  There are millions of new immigrants to Canada that have never been to Atlantic Canada – and wouldn’t be able to name a single city here.

I don’t know if you can force feed culture or national identity or patriotism.  I tend to think those things sort of bubble up over time. But I do think that we should at least make some limited attempts to understand our country and its regions.

I think Sheila was on to something.

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7 Responses to Where’s Sheila?

  1. Chris Baker says:

    David –

    You are not the only one who misses Sheila Copps’ passionate and inclusive advocacy of the Canadian identity. She currently writes a column for The Hill Times but its not the same kind of “bully pulpit” as the House of Commons.

    Yours,

    Chris

  2. > there are millions of new immigrants to Canada that have never been to Atlantic Canada – and wouldn’t be able to name a single city here.

    Not just immigrants (and I wonder why you would focus on them) – most Canadians haven’t visited here either.

    But I think a worse statistic would be in the other direction – ho many Atlantic Canadians have never been ‘away’ to see how things are done in other jurisdictions.

    The Maritimes has its ‘own way of doing things’ in so many areas it is evident that people here simply do not learn from experience outside the region.

    I would suggest sponsoring trips for economic development officials and the like, but the last time I saw some NB officials on such a mission, while at a conference in California a number of years ago, they simply sat in their hotel room and drank beer. It was I who made the rounds, greeted people from elsewhere, and learned from them.

    Of course, I’m not from around here, so I do it differently…

  3. One thing about certain cyber-stalkers is they are persistent. I had changed the settings a while back (almost three weeks) and hadn’t received a single comment from my stalker. Now, I get four since yesterday. Persistence pays off, I guess.

  4. The train goes both ways. I think more NBers should get out there as well.

  5. Rob says:

    @David Campbell

    New Zealand actively encourages its young people to travel and work around the world, and to bring that valuable experience back to NZ.

    Perhaps rather than trying to convince young NBers to stay home, we should try to convince them to come back after 5 years or so.

  6. Samonymous says:

    But I think a worse statistic would be in the other direction – ho many Atlantic Canadians have never been ‘away’ to see how things are done in other jurisdictions.

    Interesting point. I’ve had the privilege, in the last 8 years or so, to have met hundreds of NBers in small towns and villages. What I found was that many had been no further than Edmunston/Fredericton/Moncton (some to PEI). What was even more surprising was the fact that many of these same folk held important municipal positions in their perspective towns. And considering that 48 per cent of the NBers live in a rural setting/area compared with just 20 per cent for Canada as a whole, this lack of perspective in small town NB has a vast impact on rural public policy (and policy in general).

    For the record, there was one town council (who I will not name) that sent the entire council to a junket in Newfoundland because many had not been outside the province. Not only was it wasteful, it could have been prevented since the Federation for Canadian Municipalities has a website with all the speeches and reports.

  7. richard says:

    ” What I found was that many had been no further than Edmunston/Fredericton/Moncton (some to PEI). ”

    But they all surely have family members that live in ON, AB, or other provinces. Most NBers I know have visited family in other regions, so I am not sure that is the problem. You would have to live and work in other regions, plus have an interest in public policy to get the experience needed.

    Inward-looking attitudes are certainly a problem here, but travel alone won’t fix it. Many NBers live in areas where local government barely exist, or have no real authority. If you suggest that some of the recommendations in the Finn report, for example, might give local communities more control of what happens in their area, the reaction in rural communities is that this will raise taxes. In reality, it means that rural residents would start paying for more of what they receive; in return they get more say in what happens. The prospect of higher taxes kills support for Finn and makes it politically toxic.

    Travelling outside of NB won’t fix that problem.

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