Stirring a wider pot

I finally went out and got a dog over the weekend. After years of hounding by my kids, I finally did it. A friend told us about a person in Nova Scotia who was trying to find a nice home for a five year old Tibetan Terrier.

So we went down to Hubbards and fell in love with this dog and brought it home to Moncton. Now, the lady who had the dog had taken it from a friend and apparently the dog had been neglected. Not physically, the dog was actually owned by a rich lady and had just gone through a $250 teeth cleaning – but they just didn’t take any time to train it, play with it, etc. And when we met the lady she told us the dog didn’t bark. It had been with her 2-3 weeks and it hadn’t barked once.

That didn’t bother us any. In a way, it’s an ideal situation. So we brought Oreo Jones (the dog’s name) home and for a couple of days nothing. No barking. Nothing. Then this morning, I take the dog out for a walk and we come face to face with a cat. The cat stops, recoils, bares its teeth and doesn’t move. Old Mr. Jones comes up to it (I hold the leash) and is about two feet away and is kind of growling. The cat doesn’t move. In fact, the cat actually lets out a little hiss and shakes its leg at Mr. Jones. That, it seems, was the last straw and old Mr. Oreo Jones, the pure bred Tibetan Terrier in all his aristrocracy let out the biggest roll of barking you have ever heard. I mean lights starting going on in houses up and down the street (it was 6 am).

The point is that this dog wasn’t going to bark for just any old thing. To get this dog to bark, you needed something really annoying. Something nasty. Something for which the dog had a Popeye moment and said “I can’t standz no more”.

Well I’d like to see a little more barking in New Brunswick. Not calculated posturing by politicians. Not smart arse newspaper editor intonations. Not smug think tankers. But the average Joe Q. Public, after being properly educated with the facts, becoming enjoined in a conversation about how we can push the ball down the field.

I continue to be amazed at the public apathy about the economic situation in New Brunswick. It’s like we have all given a collective shrug. Just a couple of months ago I talked with an MLA from a rural riding who told me he still gets 10 calls a day about stuff like potholes, unruly neighbours, having to drive to Moncton to see their doctor and none about economic development. No constituents asking him why their community is dying. None asking why we have had 15 straight years of out-migration (more moving out of NB than in). None asking why precious little is being done about it.

So, I take the opinion (naively to be sure) that who or whomever should be educating the public about this stuff is not.

Jeannot Volpe used to send every New Brunswick household an “economic update” paid for by the public purse in which he was obscure just about every ‘economic’ fact that should be of interest to the average New Brunswicker. Nary a mention about out-migration. Or population decline. Or the challenges in the forestry sector. Nothing about the lack of new economy industry development here. Nothing about the fact we are last in Canada for R&D. Nothing but skewed and massaged statistics designed to make everyone feel great about the province’s economy and by extension the government.

So, I have agreed to write a weekly column in the Telegraph Journal. To widen the net a bit. The Biz editor down there seems like a straight up guy. A guy that wants to broaden the discussion. Wants the TJ to be informative on a wide range of issues. So, I’ll serve some grist for the mill in the mainstream and hopefully direct more eyeballs this way to debate and argue in a more unstructured format.

I’m 40 this year (I mention for the 1000th time) and I am convinced more than ever that New Brunswickers are in a light sleep when it comes to the development of their province. Once in a while, we will get stirred out of that sleep and awake like a cranky bear after six months of hibernation.

Maybe we can use this litle vehicle to wake a few folks up.

Politicans – although not perfect – try and reflect the feeling of the electorate (that’s how they get voted in). So when Lord bragged about cutting spending in all areas except health and education, he believed that was what the people wanted. He thought he could tap into the angst over health care and make that the centrepiece of his government.

And now he is stumping for Ontario and Quebec Tories and angling for his own federal aspirations.

I think at a gut level, no one wants their community to go down. Even folks living in Moncton, I think, when they see the provincial data get an uneasy feeling in their stomachs. I think the crap-o-meter starts to creep up in most of our minds when we see the reality not matching the political rhetoric.

So let’s debate.