Archive | December 2013

Another sign newspapers are in decline

What could be a more obvious place to sell newspapers than a mall teeming with thousands of hollow-eyed Christmas shoppers, searching for the perfect gift for loved ones or perhaps themselves?

What I found impossible to process during a holiday visit to the Charlottetown Mall with family members was the complete absence of newspaper racks.

I couldn’t find a single newspaper for sale, anywhere. Well, that’s not quite true. There were some English language Chinese papers in the food court.

But no Globe & Mail, no Guardian, no Journal Pioneer.

All that foot traffic and not a single, solitary newspaper rack, unless they were well-hidden, which would completely defeat the purpose of having them in the first place, wouldn’t it?

A newspaper would have been a godsend, especially if you’re going to wait for more than an hour for family members to finish shopping (I usually do mine in less than five minutes).

Looking back, I realize I should have brought one with me. I do nearly other time I travel to Kensington, Summerside or Charlottetown, just for “emergencies” when I’m stuck waiting somewhere for a prolonged period of time.

But an entire mall, the largest mall in PEI, without a single newspaper rack? What  are the odds?

Having lived and breathed newspapers most of my adult life, including spending 30 plus years employed as a journalist, I’m convinced I still have printers ink running through my veins.

I can’t imagine a day without my face buried deep in a newspaper.

But apparently that isn’t the case with most Canadians under the age of 40, judging by the number of print publications that have disappeared over the past decade. Even the mighty Globe and Mail, my favorite national paper, has ended delivery to Newfoundland, which has more than three times the population of PEI.

I’d say it’s a safe bet that before the end of 2014 the Globe will be gone from Island stores, too.

Anyone who believes there’s still a future for newspapers in the this country is invited to visit the Charlottetown Mall and see if their optimism survives the visit.

Mine certainly didn’t.

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In the storm’s midst

In the storm's midst

Visibility was poor along the Rattenbury Road, in Stanley Bridge, during a fierce early December storm.

Snowbound

Winter in Prince Edward Island is never predictable. Just when you think you’ve escaped that suffocating blanket of snow and ice that everyone else across the country has endured, a heavy dump of the stuff, lashed by howling northeast winds, buries roads, driveways, cars and homes.

It is a white death that won’t relax its icy grip until spring.

We had a relatively benign winter last year. But that’s not the case in 2013-2014, when winter in all its fury fell upon an unwary Island days before the season’s official start.

PEI, boasting 75 municipalities, has Canada’s highest population density and may even rival China’s, but just try driving on ice and snow covered roads without studded tires.

Island motorists know how easy it is get lost in the midst of a truly wicked blizzard that turns everything white in an instant.

A 15-minute trip, if the motorist is paying careful heed to road conditions, can take half an hour to 45 minutes and it is possible to be stranded in ditch, hidden from the sight of passing motorists by thick banks and overhanging branches for an hour or longer.

Winter 2013-2014 is turning into a tough slog already and we don’t a charismatic mayor the like of Rob Ford, during Toronto’s late December ice-storm, to provide a timely boost to plummeting morale.

Of course, as much as we all like to complain and shake our fists at the indifferent skies, we’ve had it easy so far. Though heavy snowfalls have turned up the heat on cabin fever, we, most of us anyway, still have our power and running water. For the most part we are able to get to work and other important destinations, such as the mall for a late spurt of Christmas shopping.

It’s still only late December, but I’m beginning to wonder what many recreational property owners will find in the spring and early summer when they visit their cottages for the first time. That’s what sends shivers of fear down my spine right now.

Will our cottage in Fernwood survive to the spring?

There’s much more to come in the rest of the winter – extending into January, February, March and much of April.

But at least snowmobile enthusiasts and snowplow operators will be happy and so, likely, will tow truck owners, at least when they glance at their income statements after the winter is over.

So will cross-country skiers and snowshoe fanatics.

But not me. I’m looking to the skies today and I see millions of silver bullets falling, clinging to everything they touch. Could this be the beginning of an ice storm that could cause trees and power-lines to collapse?

Another Island winter is upon us and I fear we are not yet ready for it.

Why not turn the Conservative Party of Canada into a corporation?

I’m beginning to wonder why we still have a Conservative Party of Canada. I mean what do the governing Tories actually do to justify their existence as a democratically-elected political party? They seem to be doing everything in their power to erode and eradicate the institutions that bind this vast country together, while allowing corporations and the wealthy to prosper.

I get that impression from a number of recent actions, including massive cuts to Employment Insurance. These cuts were especially harsh on low-income families, not to mention PEI’s economy, which is heavily reliant on seasonal workers for farming, fishing and tourism-related jobs.

Whatever influence Canada’s smallest province had on the national stage is rapidly dwindling. Shortly PEI will have just two senators and two vacancies. One senator, Mike Duffy, was suspended for two years for alleged expense improprieties, and the other, Catherine Callbeck, is reaching her mandatory retirement age in the summer.

It’s a safe bet our PM will appoint a party loyalist to Callbeck’s post. In other words a partisan, talking point spouting hack. But I doubt Mr Harper will be in any hurry to name that person while the fires of the Red Chamber scandal continue to burn.

So we are actually getting less of a federal presence on our fair island.

Add to that a massive loss of hundreds of federal jobs throughout PEI, including those in Veterans Affairs with the closure of a regional office, and you see where this government is heading.

Not sure yet? How about the impending loss of thousands of Canada Post jobs across the country in just a couple of years and the end of most door to door delivery. And the Tories have gone all googly-eyed over big business by cutting corporate taxes, giving tax breaks to the well-to-do and larding on subsidies for oil and gas and mining companies.

Add in cuts to scientific research and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and to pollution monitoring and the scrapping of the mandatory long form census and a host of other cuts to federal institutions across the country and a reasonable, sentient human being would begin to question what Ottawa stands for these days.

Why not just privatize Canada Post tomorrow, instead of putting the Crown corporation and its loyal employees on what amounts to a death watch. Just do it and be done with it. That’s what their base wants and that’s the tail that wags the CPC’s dog.

No, might as well turn the party of John A. MacDonald into what so many of its inheritors wish it was, a corporation. Give its employees, its Members of Parliament and senators, cushy corner offices and turn the country into a branch plant.

Might as well, now that the Tories have slashed the regulatory environment that, till now, has prevented Big Business from exploiting workers and ordinary Canadians.

Conservatives frequently refer to Canada’s “brand” so Canadians might as well accept the obvious. In the Harper government’s eyes we aren’t a nation any more.

They can go public on major stock exchanges and sell shares to their supporters and everyone, at least those with gilded tickets on the money-train, will get even richer.

Or Canadian voters could get up off their couches and get over their apathy and disgust at politicians in general and vote them out in 2015.

Unfortunately, even then, it might be too late.

Christmas is nearing

Christmas is nearing

Sterling Women’s Institute Hall, Stanley Bridge, December 18.

A disgusting meal that only canines love

ImageYuck. And double yuck.

The first time I saw our three-year-old golden retriever-German shepherd mix lunge at a lump of feces, I almost tossed my cookies. And the gag reflex is still there, years later.

It seems Charly just loves dumpster diving in the wild, sticking her snout into the brush-line and emerging with a truly disgusting prize. And then swallowing it.

I’m out of ideas, really, to break this horrible habit. I can’t make the leash any shorter without choking her. Our dog weighs just shy of 90 pounds so when she decides to dash into a hedgerow for a tasty treat, my leash arm is nearly always yanked right out of its socket.

Coprophagia is the clinical term for it, which certainly sounds much better than “eating s…t.” One thing for sure, I’ll never hear the words “s…t eating-grin” without flinching.

I wish there was an answer. I’m certainly willing to try anything at this point – maybe locking the damn dog indoors for the rest of her natural life. Then the only place she could eat her fill of yummy excrement is our two felines’ kitty litter box. Which, fortunately for all concerned, is located downstairs in the basement. And our dog doesn’t do stairs.

In rural PEI, and especially in the Stanley Bridge area, where we live, wildlife is as close as the front door and there isn’t a year when a family of raccoons isn’t trying to squat on our front yard, leaving of course some very pungent calling cards behind.

And, of course, we are surrounded by neighbors with dogs, as well as feral cats, coyotes, foxes, skunks and other vermin which excrete into the Great Outdoors.

A quick search of the Internet revealed coprophagia is far more common than I realized.

That’s somewhat reassuring. Unfortunately, it’s not just a disgusting habit that can leave the most jaded dog-walker with a twitchy stomach. Animal excrement can harbor many parasites that can harm canines and humans.

We can only pray Charly grows out of her distressing habit, sooner, rather than later. But prayer may not be enough.

In the meantime, I don’t think we’ll be going to a dog park any time soon.

 

 

 

A strange place for benches

A strange place for benches

Somebody placed two park benches side by side in a riffle on the Dunk River, at Breadalbane. This photo was taken in early December, during a hiking trip along the Breadalbane Trail.