Write a regular column about the Atlantic provinces, my bosses said. Write about the issues we all have in common.
Anyone who thinks we’re just one homogenous region doesn’t know us very well — and no one knows that better than I do.
Newfoundland is different, stuck out in the ocean and with an occasional (and understandable) chip on its shoulder. Want to start a fight? Talk about a coast-to-coast Canadian event and describe it as including “from Vancouver to Halifax.”
Nova Scotia? Its licence plates may say “Canada’s Ocean Playground,” but it also has a backbone that feels like the cold calculations of a businessman’s ledger-book.
New Brunswick? I’d argue it’s the hardest Atlantic province to know: I lived there for three years and was only starting to understand a little about the clockwork behind its taciturn face.
And don’t get me started on Prince Edward Island. It is as unique as the decorations on a Christmas tree, except everyone there seems to know each decoration individually and personally. (See? Everybody’s united in being angry at me already.)
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians know me pretty well; I can’t claim to have been born here, but I’ve written columns and editorials in this province for years. They know I mix descriptive language with analysis; that I like a sharp point.
For everyone else, consider this an introduction. I grew up in Halifax, spent those three years in New Brunswick and four in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. I had a couple of years in Toronto and more than 20 in Newfoundland.
I’ve watched the brave and the foolish racing cars on the Kennebecasis River ice in New Brunswick, and I know the simple delight of a spaghetti dinner in a church basement in North River on Cape Breton Island.
North River on Cape Breton Island, where, when you walk down the road, you’re obviously a stranger, and everyone knows exactly which stranger you are.
I can remember exactly how it used to smell the inside that strange little spaceship gift shop that stood on stilts in the Rainbow Valley amusement park, near Cavendish, before the park closed. I know the cold May wet of shovelling crushed stone onto weeping tile in Sussex, N.B., and the damp July heat of packing fibreglass insulation into attics in hopeful new builds in Canning, N.S.
I’ve walked Newfoundland barrens and Fundy tidal flats, the dykelands near Sackville and the limestone beaches of the Great Northern Peninsula — and you’ll find all of that reflected in my work.
My column won’t always describe your precise place in the world. But there are things that affect us all: travelling to find work, the split between urban and rural communities, the particular impression of us as a people that everyone west of Montreal seems to have. (I’ll never forget being told in Alberta, “We’ve never had anyone from Newfoundland here before, but at least we know you can drink.”)
So, agree with me or don’t agree with me. Tell me when I’m wrong. The email address is at the bottom of the column.
All I ask is that you cut me a little slack until you get a feel for exactly what I’m trying to say.
Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic Regional columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; his column appears on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in TC Media’s daily papers.