by Alec Bruce
In that dark, dirty corner of the universe known as Saint John, New Brunswick, the minions of the Apocalypse are gathering this week to sink their platinum-plated incisors into the quivering flesh of the body politic.
They come as famished predators to feed at the foot of the blood-soaked altar to their god Atlantica, or less specifically to attend the conference “Reaching Atlantica: Business Without Boundaries”.
According to the Legion of Light, also known as Maude Barlow’s Council of Canadians now urging right-thinking citizens to stay away from the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre between June 8 and 10, these fiends are rich beyond accounting, powerful beyond measure and rapacious beyond reckoning. They are the elite of the destroyer class – commercial vampires, industrial cannibals, political ghouls – and they are here to render your future as black and hopeless as their own hearts.
Actually, I caught up with one of them the other morning at the delightful Café Cognito in downtown Moncton. “Hey Lucifer,” I ventured, “How’s planning for the End of Times coming along? Got your hotel room yet?”
“You are so not going to believe this,” he grinned, flashing his fangs between sips of Sumatra dark roast, “but I scored a major upgrade. They misplaced my reservation, so I got one of the presidential suites.”
“You lucky devil.”
“Yeah, tell me about it. So am I going to see you there? I’m thinking about laying on an orgy of fried Polar Bear. It wouldn’t be the same without you.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“Hah. . .Isn’t that the point?”
Meanwhile, the Legion of Light, fearing that the faithful will be co-opted by such heretical Atlantican debaucheries as discussions about “Energy in North America”, “Major Energy Projects”, “Attracting Regional Energy Investments”, “The Foundation of Tourism Growth”, and “Competitiveness for the Region”, wants you to attend its own town meeting, “Resisting Atlantica – Reclaiming Democracy”.
There, apparently, you will hear why it makes sense to oppose something about which you know nothing. There you will be instructed that your ignorance is, in this case, virtuous since the facts you are likely to absorb from the Atlanticans are geared to impoverish you. There you will be told the following, according to vivelecanada.ca:
“Reaching Atlantica is not an inclusive conference. Reaching Atlantica is driven by corporate interests. Reaching Atlantica threatens the ability of governments to effectively represent their citizens. Reaching Atlantica promotes economic integration into (sic) the United States. Reaching Atlantica promotes political integration into (sic) the United States. Reaching Atlantica threatens the rights of workers.”
Now that’s what I call a reach.
Nothing about Atlantic Canada is now inclusive. We treat our immigrants as second-class citizens, forcing even the highly educated among them to seek greener pastures within scant years, even months, of their arrival here. We tell our kids, with nauseating regularity, that they should leave their homes and friends because we’re either too stupid or lazy to provide the economic opportunities they need to survive and thrive here.
At the same time, no part of this region of the country is devoid of big corporate and government interests. For good or ill, the theatrical dance between the two have kept thousands of people employed in jobs that simply would not have existed without public-private sector collaboration. If there is a better path, it surely lies in the direction of expanded foreign investment, which builds capacity for commercial innovation and export performance.
Beyond this, if Atlantica promotes economic integration with the United States, at least I want to know how. If it advocates political integration, I want to know why. And I won’t understand any of this by ducking the devil; I will only understand by parking my prejudices at the door in order to explore. I will explore later this week when I attend both the Atlantica and ‘anti-Atlantica’ conferences.
In the belly of the beast, I will keep an open mind. I will fear no evil.
Alec Bruce is a Moncton-based journalist and author. His column appears in the Times & Transcript every Tuesday and Friday. Direct comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.