Chris Daigle Eulogy – July 22, 2017

Posted on July 27, 2017
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Chris Daigle Eulogy
July 22, 2017
(Died July 16, 2017

Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome in the second century, said “It is not death that a man should fear, but never beginning to live”. I don’t know if Chris Daigle ever heard of Marcus Aurelius but she made certain his warning would never apply to her.

Everyone I spoke to about Chris for this commented on her zest for life and how she lived every moment to the full.

Her sister, Maureen “Eanie” as in eanie, meanie, miny, moe, Strong, once told her, “Chris, you are going to be the only woman in history to run over yourself with your own car!”. Chris had a habit of arriving home, jumping out of the car, rushing into the house and starting a batch of preserves while the car was still running. Her great friend Carole Anne Hilchey had the experience of walking by one day and finding Chris’s car running in the driveway. Chris denied she had left it running even while she went out and shut it off.
Neighbour Frank Kane remembers that another neighbour, the late Bill Campbell, used to call her “The Road Runner” because every time he saw her she was just driving off or arriving home.
When her walking partner was getting up to speed for her day at seven a.m., Chris would mention she’d already made a batch of her famous red pepper jelly and a batch of strawberry rhubarb jam.

She started moving fast very young. The eldest of 12 children, she left school at 15 to help provide for the family. She went to work as an order clerk for the then Simpsons Sears in their Bathurst store. She worked her way up to head of the department, then the store and eventually to District Sales Manager for the entire Maritimes while, at the same time, marrying at 17 and, after the marriage failed, raising her daughter, Carol Ann, and two sons, Michael and Peter, on her own. She opened Sears stores in small towns all over the Maritimes and even on the Magdellan Islands.
Sons Michael and Peter remember that she often had to billet them out with friends when she was on the road but also that, when she was in town, she would come home at noon to make them lunch.
The family remembers that, in those days, she wore custom made suits making sure she was especially professional in a man’s world. In her retirement years she was still always very stylish but would be proud of the outfits she put together at Global for a few dollars.

I first met Chris at the farm market when it was downtown in the addition to the old federal building. She was very encouraging to our 9 year old daughter who was making and selling greeting cards there.
She was a founding and driving force for the Chatham Farm Market suitably closed today out of respect for her.
Her dear friend and market cohort, Evelyn Rigley Fletcher, says, “Chris loved the Market and was very instrumental in keeping it going in hard times. She totally loved the social part of it and always made customers and new vendors welcome.
“She brought energy to our market in her youthful and progressive ways. She was 84 going on 34. She and I would have breakfast together every Saturday morning.
‘We both loved CBC Radio so had great talks about Morningside.In later years we would rehash what happened on Coronation Street the past week.She was a great friend. I will miss her. Our market has lost a great spark of life.”
“The market was her second life,” says the family. “After she retired, she needed a new channel for her boundless energy.”
She told me that, when she turned 80, she thought she should quit the farm market with all the work that went into making her wares. She decided against it because she couldn’t give up the social aspect of her market vendor and customer family.
Chris was very feminine and at the same time fiercely independent — the very model of a true feminist. She was very successful in the man’s world she worked in all her life. She loved being a woman and we flirted constantly at the market. She laughed (and swatted me) when I told her she was the first great grandmother I ever hit on.
My wife Michelle says she always thinks of Chris with that big, smile, mischievous twinkle and musical laugh.

Everyone, of course, talks about how she simply did not age. Apparently that gene has been passed along. One time she showed me a picture in the Fredericton Gleaner of a gorgeous, young blonde in, I guessed, her mid to late 20s. The accompanying story was about how this teacher, Chris’s daughter Carol Anne, had invited a class of graduating high school students back to open the time capsule they had created when they were in her grade one class.
The math did not compute for me. “She’s awfully young to have had a class that is graduating high school,” I said.
“She’s 50 years old,” said Chris. Until then, I had thought Chris might be mid to late 50s. To my mind, this information did not compute either.
“When did you have her?” I asked. “What were you, 12?”
Again she swatted me. Again she laughed.

Chris was a fervent member of the Liberal Party. Frank Kane pointed out that she was a member of both the local and provincial Liberal association boards. He and Carole Anne Hilchey both added that her party loyalty never meant she shied away from controversy. If she felt the party was going off course she would express her dissatisfaction in clear and blunt terms. Carol Ann adds that she could unload on the party from inside the family but would not tolerate outsiders doing that.
Chris was not only a big L Liberal, she was a small l, open minded, progressive liberal in thought and deed. She always cared about all the people of Canada. Anyone here who knew Chris knows how she felt about the current President of the United States.
She was always right on top of current events and affairs around the world. Carol Ann Hilchey says she was a news addict, dedicated CBC listener and watcher and newspaper reader.
“She could talk about anything,” she says, “Politics, religion, current affairs, anything. She always knew where she stood on any issue and so did you.

Her daughter Carol Anne tells about learning Chris had had a heart attack and dashed home to see her.
“There she was, in the ICU, with her laptop on her chest following all the details of the federal election campaign. She had her flip phone which was constantly ringing for her conversations with her friends.
“She told me she had beans for the market in the oven when her attack happened and gave me detailed instructions on what to do with them. Later she asked if I had remembered to remove the pork.
“They did finally get her phone away from her but not her laptop,” she says.
Her family was her biggest treasure. The family talks about how Christmas was always huge for her. For years they all came to her at Christmas. As time went along and the family grew and scattered, that was no longer possible. One family got her each year. They would each look forward to their turn.
No matter where they were, though, they all got the same care package. It included, of course, her jams, jellies, antipastos, salsas and baked beans we all saw at the market each week. In addition, there were her meat pies and Scotch cakes with icing and maraschino cherries. She froze her meat pies, wrapped them in newspaper and shipped them as far away as a community on Vancouver Island.
Hearing and seeing them talk about it reveals how warmly her love for
them was reciprocated.

Everyone I talked to to gather information about other people’s relationships with Chris had most of the same observations.
Frank Kane feels blessed to have known Chris whose zest for life showed us all how to live. Everyone else said the same thing in one way or another.
Her dynamism also came up in every interview.
Her knowledge of, passion for, public affairs, current events and justice also always came up.
Her wit and style led to some comments about her language which I struggled to find words for suitable in a church.
Her preserves were often sweet and her language often salty was the best I could come up with.
When someone lives a long, full, rich life with Chris’s energy, decency and enthusiasm, people who don’t know them sometimes think that is enough. In fact, when someone lives as Chris did, we just want them to live much longer.
Some folks are old at 84. I feel that Chris died tragically young. None of us were ready for her to leave and we have a very hard time to believe it.

Erma Bombeck said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say, “I used everything you gave me”.

No one who knew and loved Chris as we all did would have any doubt she did that.
I’d like to close with a thing Frank Kane said, “Don’t make it too mushy, David. Chris wouldn’t like that.

You are an inspiration and model to all of us, Chris.

On we go!

David Cadogan

Addendum: I had reached out to Frank McKenna for a comment. He got back to me the day after the funeral. He said, “David, I was out of Province and just returned to hear the sad news of Chris Daigle’s passing. She was one of the sunniest personalities I ever met. A beautiful woman inside and out”.

Stanley Cup repeat challenge

Posted on June 9, 2017
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IF the Pittsburgh Penguins win this year’s Stanley Cup, they will be the first team to win two in a row since the Detroit Red Wings did 19 years ago.
There have been several articles about why it is harder to build and maintain a dynasty in today’s game. Salary cap parity is cited as the main reason. Free agency and trades to stay under the cap are definitely a major factor.
Watching the playoffs from the perspective of a fan who remembers when Bill Barilko disappeared, I think there may be another factor. I remember seeing Allan Stanley and another Leaf at a PR function shortly after their 1963 Stanley Cup win. They looked like they had just been liberated from a concentration camp. Their eyes were dark and sunken. They looked like leather skin stretched over steel cables. They were a mess of scars and bruises. That was after a 70-game season and two rounds of playoffs that ended in April.
One of the all time money players, Mark Messier, said the team that wins the Stanley Cup has pushed itself like a race car red lining its engine for the entire season and then going into two months of even more intense competition.
Players today are supermen from all over the world, chasing contracts that would have bought the league back in the 1960s. Their pace in the second period of overtime is faster than the first period back then.
After 82 games and four rounds of playoffs, players on the team that wins get almost no down time. They’ll rest for a few days and then get back into their fitness routines. Many of them even have $30,000 machines that keep exercising their bodies while they sleep.
It seems to me they must still be tired when they return to camp for the next season.
I read Wayne Gretzky’s “99 Stories Of The Game”. In it he describes a wide range of things that go into producing a cup winning team. He believes, as we so often hear, that mental and emotional toughness throughout the organization are the final decisive factor.
Anyone watching this year’s playoffs has seen how fine the margin is between winning and losing. There were 18 overtime games in the first round alone.
To win two Stanley Cups in a row now is difficult to the point of being hard to truly understand.
I’m a long way from being qualified as an expert on hockey. Of one thing, I remain convinced. There is no other game I have ever seen that combines the speed and skill to create the excitement of Stanley Cup hockey. In olden times, people believed that a thunder and lightning storm was gods bowling. It seems to me lightning strikes more often in hockey than in bowling. DAC

A modest Toronto proposal

Posted on May 14, 2017
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Blog item 170514

A modest Toronto proposal

I am in Toronto at present on a very sad family matter.
I picked my hotel because there is a distinct possibility the direction I have to go each day may change from the south west of the city to the north east. I’m near Yonge and Dundas.
When I lived here, 55 years ago, I used to ride the Queen Street street car every morning and evening going past the hospital where my brother is now. Checking the Toronto Transit Commission web site, I learned all is as it was. First day, I walk down to Yonge and Queen and watch for the cars. Buses keep going by but no street cars. Eventually, passersby direct me to a nearby bus stop. It turns out street cars have been taken out of service until September.
Saturday, I have arranged to meet the daughter of a cousin for dinner out on The Danforth where she lives. We’ve been Facebook friends for quite some time but had never met. I take the Yonge Street subway up to the Bloor Danforth station only to learn the east west subway has been closed down for the day for service. I’m directed to the street for shuttle buses. When I finally find the bus stop, there is a line of people at least 500 feet long waiting for the bus I need. We have set a time to meet at the restaurant so I can’t wait. Dozens of other people have similar concerns so there are mobs looking for cabs. Finally a woman and I looking for a cab to the same intersection join forces and capture one. I barely make it to meet my second cousin(?) on time.
Sunday, I am to meet my sisters, her husband, my brother’s children and his daughter’s children at a church where her older boy will be performing in TC3, a Toronto youth gospel choir that, incidentally performed in a staged White House on “Designated Survivor,” last week. I hadn’t known some episodes of the show are made in Toronto until then.
The church is directly west and a bit north from my hotel so I amble out almost an hour ahead of time to grab a street car to within a couple of blocks of the church.
Surprise again. Not only are the street cars shut down for construction along the line, there are no buses. I have to go a subway stop north to College to get a street car west. I could take the subway but I’m getting nervous so start walking up Yonge thinking I’ll grab a cab unless I get to Yonge and College first.
Surprise again. Yonge Street is shut down for a marathon. Nothing but police cars on Yonge.
Get to College with my time to meet the family getting tight. There is a crowd at the stop. They tell me there has not been a car along in over 10 minutes. Three cars come along going the opposite direction without one coming west. Once again, I scramble to get a cab. The driver has never heard of Huron Street, where the church is. Fortunately I and his GPS are able to get him there although it involves some interesting navigations around one-way streets.
Again make it just in time.
The service, of course, starts 20 minutes late.
The service is amazing but that’s entirely another long story.
My modest proposal after five days of wrestling with Toronto is to blow it up, clear it, level it and plant a huge acreage of marijuana. The city doesn’t work. The citizens have no hope of ever owning a home with the minimum home price at $1,000,000. They spend most of their lives in fruitless attempts to get around. The Feds and the Province pour millions of dollars into trying to make it work with little noticeable effect.
The nation has never liked Toronto. It doesn’t produce anything. With the legalization of recreational pot, there is a good chance to turn it into a solid national revenue producer. It sits on what was once part of the lake bed of Lake Ontario. Sixty-five percent of the best farm land in Canada is visible from the CN Tower. The corporate and bureaucratic towers blown up and cleared away could be easily scattered across the country to the benefit of the country and all its citizens.
If I were to spend one more week here, I’d be considering undertaking the project free lance.
I can’t think of a flaw in my modest proposal. Can you? DAC

The gentleman Jean Lemieux

Posted on December 29, 2015
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Many of my friends and people I admire have earned and received honours and recognition in their fields, regions and communities.
One of the finest I know is not much publicly known and to only a few of my friends in the newspaper industry.
His name is Jean Lemieux . He lives in Montreal. He started selling equipment to the newspaper industry in, I believe, 1958. He still does.
I bought the four unit Harris V-15 web offset press that brought quality, high-speed, productive newspaper printing to North Shore New Brunswick in 1974 enabling not only our papers but others in Bathurst, Campbellton, Caraquet and the Gaspé to greatly enhance their quality and also lower their costs.
Being first language French, of course, he represented one of the biggest newspaper press manufacturers in the world wherever in the world French was spoken. He was the go-to guy for huge presses for newspaper and flyer printing the large Quebec conglomerates like Quebecor and Transcon. His sales would run into the hundreds of millions.
He always kept in touch with me and, any time I was in Montreal always took me, one of his smallest and least likely to be repeat customers, to the finest restaurant in the city at the time even when that restaurant happened to be in Boucherville over an hour’s drive away.
Travelling the world for the company, he always kept me informed of the best restaurants in the top cities of the world. Every year he sent me a copy of the wine ratings for all the world’s top wine regions rating the vintners and the years.
He was always very attentive to any questions or service needs, always full of joie de vie, wit and wisdom and always a model of gentility. Among other things, he showed me around New Orleans on my first visit to the world’s top newspaper printing show there. He mentored a raw country kid not only into the world of modern printing but also into a more sophisticated world than I had known or would have easily found on my own.
When a super bargain on a fabulous eight-unit Harris Mercury web offset press came to his attention, he called me leading to the local Miramich Web Ltd. expansion into the former CFB Chatham industrial park just in time to print our legacy product the 1999 “Trouble At Sea” commemoration of the 1959 Escuminac disaster.
His first marriage failed, a victim I suspect of his arduous road warrior life across the world. There was some family conflict due to his unrelenting loyalty to Canadian federalism. He met a woman back in the early part of this century and they were having a wonderful time together until complications of a routine surgery led to her completely unexpected sudden death devastating Jean once again.
Now, 58 years after he began in the business, he is still his company’s French speaking liaison with the printing world wherever, whenever they need him. That isn’t much anymore. Such few presses as are being sold are more for flyer than newspaper printing and the pioneers who, with Jean at their side, built the large successful groups are mostly retired or dead.
I suspect the reason he remains on the job is that it has been such a huge part of his social as well as his vocational life for almost six decades. I suspect his employers may feel he needs them as much as they need him. I don’t know. I just suspect.
In some vocations and professions. the public knows who the winners are and cares and hands out awards and honours. I don’t know of any such thing for press salesmen or most other types of salesmen for that matter.
They have the respect and admiration of their colleagues and their clients but not much public recognition.
I just felt the need to pay tribute to a guide, mentor and friend of over 40 years. I love him like family and wanted to make it public. DAC

Football should build moral character

Posted on November 16, 2015
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November 16, 2015

I was at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Dallas Cowboys NFL game in Tampa yesterday, November 15. Every time Cowboys player, Greg Hardy’s, name was mentioned in the play by play reports, a huge percentage of the over 64,000 people in the crowd screamed a chant of “Hardy sucks! Hardy sucks! Hardy sucks!”.
Hardy was convicted of very badly beating his then girlfriend and had been suspended for a year. He appealed the conviction and settled a civil suit with the woman. She didn’t turn up at his appeal of the conviction so it was quashed.
He signed a $13 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys. After the NFL reduced his suspension after a hearing with no push back from the people hearing his defence, he was free to play.
After that, police photographs of the beaten victim surfaced. Tampa Bay Times sports columnist, Tom Jones, dedicated a large sports section front page commentary condemning Hardy, the Dallas Cowboys organization, especially owner Jerry Jones, other teams including Tampa Bay who tried to sign Hardy and the entire NFL and Cowboys fans for supporting Hardy’s presence. Hardy, by the way, is six feet four inches tall and weighs 278 lbs.
Football is a violent sport where very big violent men, many from troubled, violent histories are paid huge sums to be violent. For many of them, violence has been their history and the asset that brings them tens of millions of dollars. Many of them wind up crippled, concussed and suicidal from the game. Many of them were, are or will be criminals.
I’m starting to feel guilty for enjoying it so much. It is part chess, part tremendous athleticism, part special forces type discipline and training, part fitness, endurance and tolerance of pain.
When I was a teen, my school and town had teams in another very violent game. The game is rugby and, at that time, it was sometimes called a game for ruffians played by gentlemen. Good sportsmanship and fair play were part of the training. We had to applaud great plays by the other team. We shared the same dressing rooms. We were expected to help opponents to their feet. We were even supposed to say, “Good tackle” when we were brought down. When tempers did flare, the game stopped until the participants shook hands.
I think that element of rugby may have declined since I was a boy.
I think it should not have and that it should be made part of American football from the time children take up the game. Sports was long supposed to be about character building. If it were applied to football, it could be the salvation of the game and the souls of the player not to mention the physical safety of myriad women.
In one of former Green Bay Packer Jerry Kramer’s books he told of a rant iconic coach Vince Lombardi, for whom the Super Bowl trophy is named, used to level at players in practice. He’d go to a player who was slacking and scream, “Don’t cheat! If you cheat in practice, you’ll cheat in the game. If you cheat in the game, you’ll cheat in life!”.
That should become a guiding mantra of football. DAC

Miramichi’s choice October 19

Posted on October 18, 2015
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Generally speaking, unlike some folks, I tend to like politicians. As a lifelong newspaperman, I saw so many of them work their way up via community service and various kinds of activism. I believe most of them have what they believe to be the best interests of Canada at heart. I also understand that they are elected to be members of a team. They can work hard to promote their ideas and what they see as the interests of their constituents in caucus but, once the caucus, team, leadership, has decided the party policy, they have to support it.
Although I am a social liberal and almost always a party Liberal, I have liked and admired Tilly Gordon, our current Conservative Member of Parliament for some 30 years or so. She truly paid her dues from the time she used to write letters to the Miramichi Leader informing readers about the local paving schedules for the construction season. They were signed by her then husband and Miramichi Bay constituency president, Jim Gordon, but were written in Tilly’s unmistakable teacher language. We knew all Leader readers, including me, were eager to know what roads would be paved. The impact they had is obvious in the fact I still remember that one of them included the surprise news that Beverly Court, my street, would be paved.
She is the first woman Member of Parliament for Miramichi and the first Conservative to win more than one term. As a member, and because of the value of her rare wins, she and we were rewarded with such great federal enterprises as the payroll centre for the entire Canadian government.
Pat (Patrice) Finnigan has also been an excellent citizen with a successful business and serious service as chairman of the Miramichi Regional Hospital board and many other local and regional boards.
I don’t know Mr. Colford of the NDP as well but he came second to Tilly in the last election so obviously many Miramichiers do.
However, I have to put Canada and, more specifically Canadians, first. Conservative party leader and incumbent Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has done terrible damage to the Canadian fabric. He has been terrible for the environment, for science, for public information as conveyed by the CBC, for evidence-based policy, as in the cancellation of the long form census, for international affairs as in his one-sided support for Israel’s dangerously expansionist government and Canada’s peace keeping reputation. Canada’s Lester B. Pearson INVENTED UN peace keeping and got the Nobel Peace Prize for it.
Harper damned the Chretien government for not joining the US in the invasion of Iraq.
Economically, Harper brags about his management of the economy, especially Canada’s recovery from the 2008 financial collapse. In fact, in opposition, he damned Paul Marttin for refusing to allow Canadian banks to join the US banks in the investment shenanigans that led to the crash of the world economy.
Currently his economic policies have favoured the super rich and even the reasonably well off middle class. His doubling of the TFSA allowances have been great for me, for example, but not for working or most middle class Canadians. Government should not be helping me, it should be helping young people who aren’t getting jobs with benefits and pension plans until they are in their early to mid 30s while trying to cope with education debt. He should be helping middle class workers who have not seen any real wage gains during his regime.
In the most practical local terms, as good as Tilly O’Neill Gordon has been for the Miramichi, it seems fairly obvious she would not be able to do more for us. It appears very unlikely she would be on the government side in the next Parliament.
For Canada, Canadians and Miramichiers, therefore, I think it is obvious that our best choice tomorrow is to vote for Liberal Pat Finnigan.

P3 Miramichi nursing home

Posted on September 21, 2015
Filed Under Commentary, History & Culture, Miramichi | Leave a Comment

My wife and I attended the Thursday, September 17, meeting regarding the proposed public private partnership nursing home for Miramichi. I wanted to hear the case for both sides of the proposed shift from two public ownership homes to a privately owned, managed and operated home.
I think it is fair to say that most of the people there were already firmly opposed to the P3 approach. Perhaps 30 percent of the audience wore red shirts indicating they were home employees or members of the same union or other unions. They naturally don’t like the idea of losing their CUPE contract, their seniority rights and wage levels.
Of the rest, I surmise that some were Liberal party supporters like myself and others were supporters of the union position or, also like myself, wanted to know what the arguments are for both sides.
 My mother died in The Mount and I have been a Meals On Wheels driver for 32 or 33 years. Both of those experiences have left me with a strong feeling of respect, admiration and affection for the staff in both those homes although I should clarify that my observations of the Miramichi Senior Citizens Home is limited to the kitchen.
I thought it was courageous and proper of Lisa Harris and the Honourable Bill Fraser to call, organize and entice several cabinet ministers to the meeting knowing they would be subjected to considerable heat.
The audience, including the union members were vociferous and sometimes loud but, for the most part, willing to listen to the politicians and make their case politely. A few union leaders were more aggressive but that is to be expected. They are the guard dogs of worker rights and employed or elected to fight for them.
I thought Lisa Harris did a fine job of chairing the meeting and maintaining a balanced tone of respect for her constituents and keeping the meeting civil.
One thing that puzzles me is why politicians will sit and absorb abuse for not taking a public position on what they will decide without explaining why that is. Several union folk wanted them to hold up their hands to indicate whether they would support the union position or not.
The way government cabinets and, I think, union boards have their individual opinions but do not express them publicly. They thrash out their differences in their meetings and then present a united front to the public regardless of their personal feelings. You may not like that but it is a time-proven system for any kind of team, public or private, political, union, religious or sports.
I don’t know why ministers don’t just explain that simple fact even if it wouldn’t satisfy protesters. When they don’t, I think many people assume they are against those wanting their support and afraid to say so.
I thought that Honourable Cathy Rogers, Social Development minister, did explain that she has a thorough knowledge of and empathy for the poor and disadvantaged. When she said she had been a single mom raising kids for 17 years, I didn’t like it that some people booed. She was unfailingly patient and polite and I believe she has the credentials to look out for the public interest.
I truly don’t know whether she would side with the union in cabinet or not but I know she would be out of cabinet if she publicly declared that she opposed its collective decisions and policies.
The home workers’ opinions certainly dominated the meeting as expected but I think they should realize that they represented a quite small part of the total electorate.
As a result, their repeated insistence on having their jobs and contract guaranteed may seem a little presumptuous to the public at large. Most citizens and small business people have never had a guaranteed job. One union official said to the cabinet members, “If you don’t guarantee our jobs, we won’t guarantee yours”. As if anyone can or does guarantee an elected member’s or a cabinet member’s job. Sooner or later, almost all of them are rejected by the electorate whether they deserve it or not.
Even within the nursing home field, many or most workers don’t have the wages, benefits and job security the government run home workers have. That is not at all to say either group should not but just to point out that fact.
As I said above, I have a very good impression of the care givers and boards of the local homes. I remember when the late Donna McLean used to organize happy hours complete with entertainment and small cups of beer for Mount residents. The night my mother died, the staff were still coming in to moisten her lips and move her to prevent bed sores as if she were going to live another 10 years. Visiting there most days, I observed the kindness and patience and skill with which the staff dealt with some very difficult issues. Two different women who worked there have told me they sometimes crawled onto the beds and cuddled lonely old people when time or breaks permitted in the middle of the night. That’s probably against a rule but hearing it was very comforting. I hope I don’t get anyone into trouble. I remember being told years ago how the kitchen manager at the Miramichi home managed to work fresh lobster into the meal plan in the season.
Over the years, I’ve heard many more stories about how kind and helpful the workers have been to people’s parents.
Given some of the horror stories we hear about other homes in larger centres, I concluded that the Miramichi, and probably most of the Maritimes, has a special culture of care giving.
Of the audience comments I heard, the ones that really made an impression on me were the ones by Kim Savoie and Pat Diotte.
Ms Savoie’s heart was very much on her sleeve when she spoke to the need to move the nursing home residents’ “family,” meaning home staff, with them as they moved to completely new surroundings.
Mr. Diotte’s address reminded me that that culture also exists at the board level and has worked very well for local patients. I worry that a private corporation might not support lobster treats for patients.
The only beef I ever had with the Mount, when I had the newspapers, was when the Mount board resisted my plan for an article about how the patients there were given beer at the occasional Friday happy hour. The local beer reps were taking turns providing a case or two. I thought it was wonderful. The board was, I was told, afraid of an uproar if some people learned that the patients were being treated as grown up citizens and not children or prisoners.
I also understand the government’s position that private management can effect certain efficiencies. In our modern world, centralized management, purchasing, information management, marketing and systems are taking over in every field of endeavour. When we hear demands to maintain local jobs and local business contracts, we never hear anyone suggesting we pay more taxes. We want government to provide more services for less money. Like it or not, centralization offers economies of scale.
New Brunswick is as much a charity case in Canada as Greece has been in Europe. We have maintained a generally higher per capita number of public service jobs than the rest of Canada without paying the cost. To some extent that is natural. We have roughly the population of the City of Hamilton, Ontario, but we are spread out over a far larger area.
We have been Greece to Europe’s Germany. In our case, Germany has been Ontario and then the western provinces. Alberta is losing its ability and inclination to continue that.
I also like Honourable Cathy Rogers point that the P3 approach will offer local workers opportunities they have never had before. Miramichiers have, over the years, found their personal advancement by leaving. Employees of a national or international senior care home here would provide stepping stones to advancement. From what I know of the local workers, I fully expect they would be in very high demand. Not all of them are saints. Some of them should not have guaranteed job security. The ones who do deserve advancement opportunities which often are not available in a shrinking local economy.
Minister Rogers also pointed out a fact that got little recognition at the meeting. The aging baby boom demographic is temporary. In 25 years, provincial needs may be very different. The government could walk away from an obsolete facility. The Morrissy Bridge is a prime example of how difficult it is for government to dispose of obsolete or surplus assets.
Many locals probably do not realize that the Rodd Miramchi does not own the building it occupies. The hotel, which includes government offices, and adjacent seniors’ residence is owned by another private firm. The Rodd corporation manages it.
I am very sympathetic to the challenges facing any New Brunswick government. With a shrinking, aging population and fewer babies per capita being born, providing modern services and facilities on shrinking income looks like an impossible task to me. I almost question the sanity of anyone who wants to try. It reminds me of the variation on an old saying to, “If you can keep your head, when all around you are losing theirs, the odds are you don’t really understand the situation”.
Finally, it could be possible for a local co-operative of some sort to submit a proposal to own, manage and operate the seniors project. It wouldn’t be easy to compete with international conglomerates but having a contract could be a significant part of a business plan that would qualify for a bank loan. Having committed tenants is the most important criterion for the development of every mall that is built. Perhaps there is even a development corporation out there somewhere that would like to work with local management. Home Hardware and some other national chains work like that.
When all is said and done, I sincerely hope that the local management and the local staff who seem to have performed very well here over the years can be preserved. My personal experience with them has been remarkably positive.

Sobey brothers retirement milestone

Posted on July 24, 2015
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David and Donald Sobey, the brothers who have led the Sobey’s supermarket chain and Empire, the investment and holding company to national prominence, have both announced their retirements as they reach 80 years of age.
I moved to Pictou County, Nova Scotia, from Montreal in 1966. By chance I wound up living a few doors down the street from the Sobeys grocery chain head office in Stellarton. Sobeys was also the biggest customer for the little printing plant I was running.
Bill Sobey, the eldest of founder Frank Sobey’s sons was president of the company and mayor of the Town of Stellarton.
Donald Sobey, with one assistant, ran Empire Company from a cubby hole in the Sobey’s head office. I leased a car from the Chrysler Dodge dealership that was part of Empire.
Frank Sobey was no longer actively involved in the operations of the growing grocery chain. He had been recruited by then Nova Scotia premier, Robert Stanfield, to head up Industrial Estates, the province’s industrial development and recruitment Crown Corporation.
Some of Industrial Estates’s prizes located in Pictou County. Scott Maritimes Pulp Ltd., the cool Clairtone stereo systems with their trademark globe speakers, Michelin Tire and various other smaller corporations came to the county in the next few years.
The firm was already displaying steady growth and impressive modern marketing techniques. Having worked with Southam Business Publications Ltd. in Toronto and Montreal, I still had contacts with the company. I wrote to the editor of “Executive,” the company’s flagship business magazine suggesting that he might be interested in articles on Sobey’s and two other Maritime firms that were also growing and establishing market dominance. One was Irving Oil. The other was McCain’s.
The editor rejected the idea saying that the companies might have some regional significance but didn’t have any national import.
From that time to this, of course, all three companies have been stars on the regional and national scene. Irving and McCain’s both have large international presence.
In Pictou County, in the mid 1960s, the Sobeys were all very active and visible locally.
One of the first stories I heard about Frank Sobey was that he did his own banking and stood in line with other customers. That said quite a lot about the kind of man he was.
Bill was the family star at the time. He led the company while also serving as mayor of Stellarton. He was also active in the Prince William Yacht Club in Pictou Landing. For one thing, Sobey’s had donated two Flying Junior sail boats. They were used for teaching juniors to sail but were available to any other member when not be used for classes. Another young man and myself took advantage of that by becoming associate members of the club. That, in turn, meant we were included in the club social events. Imagine my surprise when I stepped up to the bar at happy hour and sound Bill Sobey cheerfully taking his turn as bar tender. Not only that but he gave me a suggestion for which I am grateful to this day. Like many young Maritimers then and now, my drink was dark rum and cola. He suggested that I try using half cola and half soda water for mix. Over the years that gradually led to abandoning sweetened mixes altogether.
To local grief and dismay, Bill died of a heart attack at 62 with the company’s most spectacular growth still ahead.
David and Donald and next generation family presided over putting in place the management that has made the chain the second largest in Canada.
The family has also been generous corporate citizens with Donald especially being a huge supporter of the arts and education at the regional and national level.
David was a regular visitor to the Miramichi as much or more, I think, for Salmon fishing as for business.
The retirement of David and Donald marks a significant milestone for the company. The family influence on the business is now quite diffused among succeeding generations and into the hands of the non-family executive management.
It has been a pleasure to observe the family’s success over the past 50 years and to have had the opportunity for a few years to see them close up to get an idea of what they are like as people as well as corporate leaders. DAC

National anthem tradition vs progress

Posted on October 2, 2014
Filed Under Commentary, Economic & Political Philosophy | Leave a Comment

CBC Radio’s Maritime Noon topics for today included whether we should amend our national anthem’s “in all thy sons command,” to “in all of us command”. Several of those speaking against the proposal cited tradition as their reason.
I think we certainly should. I think this is one of those discussions that is going to seem silly looked back on 20 years from now.
With regard to tradition, some are worth keeping. A tradition of trying to be fair and tolerant and inclusive is worth preserving. A tradition of treating women like property (which we used to do) or as second class citizens with no equity in marital assets (which we recently used to do) or imprisoning homosexuals (which we used to do) are not.
If tradition always trumps progress why do we need Parliament? Every new law or program violates tradition. Canada is, or was, a progressive nation. I remember the fuss when Lester B. Pearson’s Liberal government decided on our new flag. I doubt you could find much support for going back to the old one now.
And, yes, we should also make it inclusive for New Canadians and especially for First Nations people.
The good old days and tradition often harken back to a time when all the power and privilege was held by powerful, rich, old, white men.

Election ideas we won’t hear

Posted on August 28, 2014
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With a provincial election pending on September 22, there is a great deal of discussion regarding New Brunswick’s frightening economic condition.
I don’t think there is any silver bullet to reverse the international trend from country to city. However, I do see have some thoughts on how the Maritime economy might be improved.
1) isn’t it ridiculous to have four Atlantic Provinces for fewer that 2,000,000 people? The economy could be more competitive with one. I love New Brunswick but no one even knows we are here.
2) Imagine if health care were a national, instead of a provincial, program. Maritimers have, I think a special culture of care giving. If health care were national, the Maritimes could market itself as a retirement haven. As it is, old people are a huge liability to New Brunswick.
3) The St. John River valley has been generally more prosperous than the Northern and Eastern areas. One reason is that the major industry on the West side is McCains. They process potatoes and grow some but contract with private, independent farmers for most of the crop. What if the Province of New Brunswick sold all the Crown Land to private, independent owners with the proviso that forest products processors like sawmills and pulp mills could not own forest land they don’t already? I think it might work better if processors had to negotiate for supply with woodlot owners and the market would decide who got the wood instead of bureaucrats and politicians. Sounds radical but private ownership works in many other parts of the continent and the world. As it is, I don’t think the Province realizes much profit from owning Crown Lands. Selling it and taxing it and regulating it would probably be better financially for the government.
4) Currently the province spends money on all kinds of economic development which again involves politicians, bureaucrats and local committees making decisions about handing out money. I think programs that encouraged all businesses, rather than the chosen ones, would make better economic sense.
One example is the shameful double property taxation of commercial properties. All businesses pay more for less service than residential owners do. They pay provincial as well as municipal property taxes and don’t even get garbage removal included. Thus every small business that owns or rents pays roughly double property taxes. Residential apartment tenants do that too which is shameful. Doing away with that would benefit all business and make them more competitive locally and for export.
The plethora of economic development programs includes local ones that are supposed to stimulate local business development with grants. The problem there is that a great many of these grants go to businesses that compete with existing, often struggling, businesses already in the market. It is harmful and discouraging to local businesses to have their own tax money used against them.
Business Improvement Area taxes were originally conceived to provide money for independent merchants to provide attractions and promotions like mall tenants could with their communal funds. What actually happened is that many of the merchant groups used the tax money to set up offices and hire staff leaving little or nothing for actual promotion and marketing. One even had its members selling cookbooks to provide money to sustain the office that wasn’t doing anything that made the members’ cash registers jingle.
Doing away with the BIAs would save every business money.
5) Why does a a province with 750,000 and shrinking people have so many police forces? Why not have one with detachments across the province. It could be more efficient and sophisticated and would give individual officers the opportunity to work their way up without having to change employers.
6) Why does the province own retail liquor stores? If they got out of the business, it could help many of the convenience stores and gas stations survive which they are finding very difficult. Letting Walmart and Costco and the supermarkets carry liquor would mean we could get the benefit of their buying power and the variety of products they could provide as they do now with the products they sell. An added benefit is that it would reduce the potential for corruption. As it is now, a committee decides what brands of liquor and wine are available. That kind of structure is a magnet for corruption.
7) Why is Atlantic Lotto immune from transparency? Surely any publicly owned body with control over so much cash ought to be most transparent. Again, a cash cow that big is a magnet for skulduggery. Each of the four Atlantic Provinces finance ministers cops out saying they would be all for it but the other three don’t agree. Time to call that for the nonsense it is and make every Atlantic Lotto transaction and contract and hire wide open to the public.
8) One of the things that holds New Brunswick back is the myth that we are Canada’s bilingual province. We are not. We are dualingual, duacultural and dual governed. What this means in practical terms is that for many Anglo and Franco people employment opportunities are severely limited. That is one of the factors that drives so many young people away. Even if one partner in a couple is bilingual, if the other is not, they may have to leave for a place where both can find work. It is in the national constitution that New Brunswick has go provide services to its citizens in the language of their choice. Time to get serious about making all of our citizens able to do that. Segregationists currently call the shots and protect their little enclaves. It is time to get past the idea that French and English cannot become bilingual in the same school system and find a way that they can. We simply cannot afford the historical prejudices that made that true and continue to make Francophones accept it as gospel. It is a mountain that has to be climbed.
9) I believe New Brunswickers can do anything. Just browsing social media reveals all kinds of talents that are world class but under utilized and unable to earn a living wage in our tiny markets. More proof of this is the great success of the people who have to leave the province they love but have huge success all over the world. One thing we ought to be doing is asking these people to mentor us. I know they are willing to do it and it is shameful we don’t ask. I personally know of several provincial expatriates who know the routes that lead to success.
To sum up, I think government’s role ought to be to provide as efficient an infrastructure as it can for citizens and business so they can compete with each other and in the wider market place most efficiently.
On we go! DAC

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