Two hundred years ago in New Brunswick, there was pretty much just one way to make some cash s....cut down timber.
There was a huge market for timbers in the British market, timber to be masts and hulls for the biggest navy and the biggest merchant marine in the world. A major reason Napoleon lost his wars of the time is that he could not duplicate the masts of the Royal Navy in either quality or quantity. (There was also a healthy trade in salt fish for the West Indian colonies, a trade that accounts for the enduring popularity of rum in Atlantic Canada. At one time it was so cheap that shopkeepers offered a free mug of rum along with the free crackers in a barrel for customers.) But timber was the real, cash crop.
The catch was you could cut the stuff only if you owned huge expanses of it and/or had the right to cut it. The huge expanses were necessary because only the best timber was acceptable, so the wastage was stunningly high. And that meant there was a catch. Only a small number of people had the necessary land or the right to harvest it. If you needed a job to make some money, you had to be acceptable to them.
Being acceptable meant being willing to accept low pay, terrible living and working conditions - and not in any way annoy your local timber baron.
When elections for a legislative assembly were introduced, the local timber baron (or one of his flunkies) would be a candidate. And he would win. In those days, there was no secret ballot. A voter stepped up to the polls, and named his choice in a clear voice that everyone could hear. Anyone who voted the wrong way would never get a job in that area again.
What was established from early days was a fear, a conformity, a submissiveness, an attitude of "I don't know; and I don't want to know." that, all of them, still run deep throughout the province. An unbroken pattern runs from the timber barons to the Irvings and all their corporate friends.. And, today, it runs down from the Irvings to the premier, embraces both the Liberals and Conservatives, absolutely controls most of the news media through the most sycophantic journalists I have ever seen, and, as I have also seen, right down to even parent-teacher associations.
What passes for an election here is dismaying. Public meetings are few, and public discussion almost non-existent. In the last election, neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives had anything that could be called a platform. The Conservatives won on lies (transparency), meaningless promises (listening to people) and buzzwords (globalization). When the Conservative candidate called on me to gush about globalization, I asked her what it meant. It was obvious that she didn't know.
And it looks as though it's going to happen all over again. A population, almost entirely in dark about what's going on - and too fearful to ask or openly discuss what's going on - will play musical chairs with the Liberals and Conservatives as they have and their ancestors have for two centuries - despite the fact there there is no difference between them.
In the end, the people of this province are the only ones who can break this cycle of farce. And it has to be done very, very soon. The time factor is important because a huge change is crashing down on the whole world.
Major corporations have behaved in such irresponsible, incompetent, and even criminal ways that the whole world economy is in crisis. Worse, in their arrogance and their utter contempt for you, they have decided that you will pay the whole price for what they have done. Already, the people of Greece, Spain, Ireland, have been thrown to the wolves.The UK is very likely to follow. Poverty levels in the US are rising spectacularly- and don't believe the latest figures on a rise in employment down there. Those jobs are mostly part-time, dead-end, and low-paid.
In New Brunswick, your elected government does not run the province. Major corporate leaders do. Their focus, their whole purpose, is to make money for themselves. That's it. They don't answer to you. They don't care about you. They have utter contempt for you.
If they want shale gas, then you can bet that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives will stop them. Will shale gas, in the long term, be destructive? They don't care. The don't have to live here. They suck whatever blood they can get here, then go do it again somewhere else. As long as there's money in it.
When K.C.Irving objected to paying taxes like other people, he simply abandoned his own country. (He now has his very own chapel; and we are invited to go there to reflect. I wonder what the Irvings reflect on when they kneel? I wonder who their God is?)
New Brunswickers, when and if they ever look up from their daily newspaper diet of what Miss Manners thinks or which celebrity is having a birthday, have a decision to make. There are really only two choices.
1. Educate your children to get them out of this province before it's too late.
2. Start learning about what is going on. Stop being afraid. Get off your butts, and create a democracy in this province. It's your future; and it's your children's futures. And nobody is going to do it for you.