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To have and to hold on

Editorial by Kyle Shaw


Dear Dalton McGuinty, premier of Ontario,

The one-armed boy’s yelling woke me up this morning. I poked my head outside to see if the pit bulls were at him again, and soon discovered what all the excitement was about. “There’s a boat coming, you,” he said. “Better get the frig down there, wha?” Although I was rather terse in thanking him for sharing the information—“Go wreak havoc on someone else’s hangover, you jeezly blister”—the boat’s imminent arrival gladdened my heart. I waved the boy off and he ran away toward the harbour. Then I pulled aside the sealskin door flap to let some light into the hut so I could get dressed.

By the time I made it down my path to the main street, it was full of townsfolk, all of us walking to the government wharf and whatever vessel awaited. Many people were clearly hoping for a cruise ship: kitted out in their finest kilts and sou’ westers, they would try to turn a dime on the gullibility of unsuspecting tourists. I didn’t care if it was a garbage scow, as long as somebody aboard could speak the Queen’s English. Those of us in the town crier business often say knowledge is our meal ticket, which makes living here an especially difficult gig. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s rare that news from the outside world makes it to a backwater like Halifax.

In the event, it was a Coast Guard survey ship, making a stop for provisions before putting out to sea for a month. I spotted a crewmember dropping off a large bag of mail for our postmaster, so I approached. When she figured out what I was after, she disappeared back aboard the boat then returned carrying a stack of papers tied with brown twine. “This is a couple weeks of our recycling. You can have it if you want,” she said. I don’t know what she meant, but my gratitude was effusive, and soon I was alone to examine the contents of the package.

Normally I would have celebrated by breaking out the bottle. Several consecutive issues of Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper is a veritable treasure trove, enough verbiage to get me through countless days of announcements. But something I read touched me personally, hence this missive to you. It was the front page of the August 24 edition, in large type. “Ontario fears ‘have-not’ status.” The merchants of your rich, bountiful province are worried about losing their riches and bounty by the year 2010. That sucks so hard.

Being a poor province in this confederated Canada is no fun, but it’s even worse when you used to be the wealthy one. Nova Scotia was a business capital-home to the Bank of Nova Scotia and the precursor of the Royal Bank, trading hub with Europe and the American colonies, shipbuilding centre. Circumstance changed to favour railroad and steamship transportation over sailing boats. Government meddling encouraged trade within the confederation, turning the nation’s attention inward to Upper Canada.

Soon enough the vibrant coast was left with nothing. Nothing, except the jeers of others who watched its fall. And a shitload of universities.

Of course Nova Scotians aren’t bitter, so don’t worry about letting your best and brightest young people come east for education. Instead, know that we feel your pain. We watched as our banking industry decamped to follow the money to Ontario, and we’ll be watching for “your” banks to head to oil-rich Alberta. (Heads-up: It’s a terrible blow to the economy.)

We know it hurts to be called lazy and desperate by people who don’t know anything about you, and we’ve been accused of looking for “handouts” by hypocrites who actually take more government money, so we’ll be careful when we use those words. And be assured that when you need a hand, we’ll see what we can do.

Did I tell you I’m feeling sorry for you? I’m not sure I did.

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