Don Thurston Blog

The Bear Nation

Life returned to normal for the Three Bears following the Goldilocks Affair. During the ensuing decade the family grew to twelve, enabling Mama Bear to declare the founding of Bear Nation.

A pressing reason for organizing was an external threat. Bears from elsewhere and in particular those on the southern borders had territorial envy; looking longingly at superior resources to the north. Clearly organizing under a single banner will engender a sense of security, and optimism including the capacity to prosper. Together twelve bears acting in unison were stronger than facing the future alone.

Mama Bear consistently demonstrated leadership skills. Her actions immediately after the Goldilocks Affair prevented Papa Bear from escalating the incident when he wanted to pursue the intruder with retribution in mind. Mama Bear intervened, believing such action would cause reputational risk for bears everywhere.

Designing and implementing a long term plan for the family’s future was a major objective on her bucket list; a further testimony to Mama’s Bears foresight and leadership skills.

Mama Bear’s vision includes the creation of the Ten District Bear Nation.  Her role will be what all mothers do….. Worrying, mentoring, responding in times of need, providing counsel when counsel is asked for, ensuring good health, good education, mediating disputes and dealing with uninvited external interventions

Implementation remains a work in process. Certain services will be common to all the citizens of Bear Nation. Defense, financial management, health to name three.  Sufficient resources will be collected from each region to finance the universal benefits.

An innovation….Mama Bear intends to level the playing field by the sharing of riches.  Economic cycles will result in changing levels of prosperity. Some districts will enjoy periods of good fortune; coincidentally others will be less well off. Those which exceed an agreed on standard will contribute to a pool and regions which are below the standard will collect from the pool.

Thus in in certain times districts will capitalize on periods of exceptional wealth creation and enterprising skills, sharing with areas whose fortunes are not as robust because of conditions beyond their control.

A common currency is required; pemmican has been selected, supplied by Indigenous peoples from the surrounding regions.

Mindful of current occupants  through out all of Bear Nation, Mama Bear  and her associates are formulating policies that will ensure inclusion and belonging for all.

The Ten Bears fully supported  Mama Bear’s concept, knowing  that their district’s economy will wax and wane. Purposeful sharing will contribute to long term stability.

Nothing has been heard from Papa Bear for sometime.

Mount Pleasant Don Thurston

View from the Street

Two thousand and seventeen marks Canada’s One Hundred and Fiftieth Birthday.

As part of the celebration, FDC University at Mount Pleasant’s Faculty of Political Science and Faculty of  Communications are asking citizens to write about their personal Canadian experiences. A panel of journalists and political scientists will select five of the best entries for publication on the FDC website and in the Mount Pleasant Observer.

Canada will be seen through multiple lenses as citizens spin personal tales of a diverse, complicated, irksome and awesome land.

Following is one such story.

My personal Canadian journey began about sixty years ago.

By nineteen sixty  Montreal was my new home. After completing engineering and business degrees  in Ontario and British Columbia, employment in Quebec provided a perfect spectrum of technical, business, cultural and social challenges. My employer was a diversified, multinational company. Corporate headquarters were in New York.  Canadian operations were distributed from coast to coast. Head office was in Montreal.

So the stage was set….. everything was new, exciting, and intimidating.

Imagine the forces at play including professional challenges, differing economic, political and social circumstances plus a new perspective on Canada. Working and playing in two languages added to an already full agenda. Such a steep learning curve.

Sometime into my journey, signs of worsening business conditions appeared.  Within the conglomerate on both sides of the border, accelerating international competition influenced Canadian and American operations alike. In Quebec antiquated facilities, feudal organizational practices and a branch plant mentality interfered with business success.

Political policies of the day encouraged establishing small Canadian operations.  Good for nationalism but not good in the face of changing international landscapes in which size mattered.

Personally my life in Quebec, particularly Montreal, could not have been more fulfilling.

To be sure the well-known French-English divide influenced every nook and cranny. Anglo domination in commercial enterprises aggravated an already difficult environment.  Long standing norms were not changing at a pace commensurate with the rest of Canada nor around the world. With the full benefit of hindsight these issues festered, only to erupt several years later as nationalistic fervor took a nasty turn.

Expo 67, as a festival, mesmerized Quebec, Canada and the world. In retrospect the celebration was a diversion away from escalating  social, political and economic problems.

We all know what happened next.   Altering circumstances  accelerated with the emergence of the Parti Quebecois, the FLQ events, the separation referendums, the migration of financial institutions, wealth transfers and citizens with long term roots leaving Quebec. What a dismal era for all.  I left as well.

Canadians had little appreciation for the difficulties facing Quebec, and soon to threaten  the country’s very existence. Charles de Gaulle ignited decades  of turbulence on July 24, 1967 by shouting for all to hear “Vive le  Quebec Libre”.  This single proclamation was the catalyst for what was to follow Changes  were no longer optional. All that remained was their extent and what they were going to be.

Well many happened and continue to do so.

 Have a look in this one hundred and fiftieth year since Confederation. Now new buildings, refurbished old ones, street side eateries, parks, new and old, looking fresh and user friendly. Construction cranes dominate the skylines  More subtle are the attitudes. Highways and byways over flow as individuals and crowds exude senses of belonging and inclusion. Quoting a friend who accompanied me on this journey “The road has been long. I am heartened that with reconciliation we now have a day when we can say wow I never sthought this was possible”.

 My tale is not based on learned research. Sometimes one has to go with observations and feelings, eschewing essays concerning the state of the nation and speculation about the future, good or bad.   All the evidence is anecdotal, pointing to a city and province now content in their own skins.

More than anything this has been – and remains a personal journey,  moving from concern to alarm to shock to despair to optimism and now to gratification that much has changed for everyone’s benefit.

 The Canadian Confederation remains a work in progress—so far so good

Don Thurston Blog

Canada After Dark: a very short historical novel

Dateline Quebec City, October 27, 1864

Outside the rain and wind continued unabated. Inside the thirty-three delegates to the Quebec Conference were comfortable, enjoying excellent French cuisine and feeling good about their work over the past several weeks. Their backgrounds were uncannily similar, including politics, law and business. All but three were born outside of North America and all were white males.

Their task was to forge an agreement, uniting five jurisdictions including New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Canada West and Canada East into a single country. Early on, a successful outcome seemed unlikely. However, quite unexpectedly, a draft document resulted, containing seventy-two sections that captured the essence of the proposed new Dominion of Canada. William Henry commented, “never was there an opportunity as now for the birth of a nation”.

Informality allowed for a wide range of topics. Alexander Galt spoke for equally-minded representatives, pointing to the lack of representation from the native population. While it was widely acknowledged that the impact of nation-building on their ways of life would be profound, no reference appeared in the draft document. Hector-Louis Langevin mumbled something to the effect that assimilation is a worthy practice to follow.

Oliver Mowat posed questions. With a governance structure in place, what will the flesh on this skeleton of confederation look like decades ahead? What will describe the substance of this new community called Canada? What will define the nature of this joining of two diverse cultures? What words will characterize Canada’s soul?

George Brown reflected on the coming transportation revolution. Train travel was already well-past infancy. Lines were under construction and many planned. They will be a binding force, uniting the country from coast to coast. Edward Whelan offered the same analysis for water transport. Steam-powered vessels of all shapes and sizes are moving passengers and cargo everywhere.

Equally impactful is  the revolution in communications. John-Charles Chapais observed telegraphing is expanding at a rate such that all parts of North America will be in instant contact. He went on to say that using Alexander Bell’s recent invention of the telephone is leading the communications revolution.

George-Etienne Cartier stated emphatically that the core of nation-building will be generated by commerce, business and industry. He reminded the attendees that these are the pillars that had been and will  remain the principle amalgamating forces.

Over to Charles Tupper. Stating the obvious, Tupper said governments will exert a huge influence on the nation. The formative structure contemplated two levels: one federal and one provincial. Their jobs will be different but complementary. Revenue-generation and sharing is important in the draft document. As a start, the federal government is to be the collector of most revenue, which is to be allocated to the provinces based on population. There is little evidence, but perhaps some delegates may have had an equalization scheme in mind.

That last words belong to John A. Macdonald. He wondered what outcomes will result, well beyond the hard facts of business, industry, commerce, transportation. communications and government. He mused that a strong community  will come with experiences to test the mettle of all Canadians … that the bonding of people through community will be a force of unlimited strength. He spoke with great passion about a country that will embrace plurality, a country that will give all citizens a sense of belonging, a country that will value inclusion and in which Canadians are connected with one another. John A. also spoke about reconciling differences that will certainly occur because nation-building is no easy job and mistakes would be made.

All agreed that a deal is imminent, hopefully by mid 1867. They retired to their quarters to prepare for the huge job ahead.