Friday, April 22

Remembering Allan Blakeney

I was trying to find a photo of former Saskatchewan Premier Allan Blakeney in my private collection that I could publish here, but couldn't find a suitable shot to illustrate my "particular" fondness for our ex-Premier -- "particular" being pronounced with the distinctively Blakeney touch that our late-Premier was famous for.

I remember attending a Blakeney speech in 1979 or 1980 at Saskatoon's Forestry Farm, when my grasp of "Blakeney-speak" was only slightly less seasoned than my grasp of the English language. Still, Allan Blakeney made a positive impression on me that day. Perhaps this impression was partly shaped by the fact that his speech had been delivered from a flatbed truck trailer in the shadow of a shelterbelt in Sutherland, or that some of my later colleagues at CBC had learned to parody Blakeney-speak to a level of excellence worthy of an Oscar. But clearly, Blakeney had impressed me that day. He would not be the only Saskatchewan politician to do so.

As a University of Saskatchewan student during post-1980 years, I learned to also appreciate John G. Diefenbaker's wit, as I catalogued the voluminous resources he has bestowed to the U of S' Diefenbaker Centre. Learning how Dief approached  -- how he learned --  about electoral campaigning in French in Quebec during federal elections by annotating his speeches, using phonetic symbols meant to guide him through particularly challenging passages in French, was a revelation to me, to be honest.

And there were no campaign planes then -- only campaign trains!

Dief didn't speak French - something an aspiring Prime Minister could never get away with today. But he was incredibly funny, in my view. Humour is a universal language. Here was a man who saved every political cartoon, caricaturists from sea to sea, to sea produced at his expense, for the benefit and postumous enjoyment of all Canadian citizens who would dare make their way to Saskatoon one day.

The P.A.-based Member of Parliement was a most impressive Western Canadian charismatic national politician -- until Trudeaumania -- one could ever find. "Dief the Chief" kept somewhat artistically-inspired black velvet portraits of himself made and given to him by admiring fans over the years. These are part of the magnificent Diefenbaker Centre collection.  Check it out... really!  I never met our former Prime Minister, but I frequently and respectfully swept the snow off his grave during my years as a U of S Anthropology Major, as a Diefenbaker Centre student interpreter.

As someone who was born in Quebec and came to Saskatchewan in 1979 -- someone who studied closely a number of significant private correspondance pieces that John G. Diefenbaker left behind for posterity -- I get of sense of the "Chief" being a good-hearted man who came into office more closely aligned with Eisenhower's views than those of Kennedy, but who also kept Canada's interests at heart. Maybe the time has come for political scientists and historians to look at Dief's contribution to Canada through a fresh lens.

Similarly, I believe that Allan Blakeney's legacy is not that dissimilar to Dief's in this way: Blakeney helped make Canada a better place by being himself, a humble public servant who never lost sight of his public service duties. This is something that has influenced every Saskatchewan Premier and political  leader since Blakeney, in my view. I would venture to say that Grant Devine, Roy Romanow, Elwin Hermanson, Lorne Calvert and our current Premier, Brad Wall, have been inspired to some extent by the same principles as Diefenbaker and Blakeney in how their public duties ended up being carried out.

Blakeney's legagy is one where:
  • the politics of honesty, transparency and authentic electoral engagement prevailed.  
  • where insignificant attempts to create a society where the beliefs of a few can overshadow fundamental democratic right of the majority are doomed.
  • reasoned approches where building better communities that protect individual freedoms -- and nurture rather than destroy the things that make a diffence in our collective lives -- are always the first option.
I miss "Dief" -- although I may not have agreed with him on a regular basis had I been around during his times, had I met him while he was alive. I respect his efforts, most notably in helping the Bill of Rights come into being. That historical document celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Even Pierre Elliot Trudeau had this to say about Dief, according to the Toronto Star:

"I was struck,” Pierre Trudeau said, “by his vigorous defence of human rights and individual liberties. The Bill of Rights remains a monument to him.”

Soon political scientists will start taking another look at Blakeney's own legacy. I will miss Allan Blakeney because seeing him at work at a time when Quebec sovereignty efforts tended to be a simpler story than is today helped me realize that perhaps I did not quite have the grasp of Canada I should have until I had met Blakeney.

Pictured as a technocrat by many former media colleagues and political analysts, his legacy is likely, in coming years, to be measured through in-depth investigation of dedicated public policy contributions, personal acts of kindness and honest willingness to play the best cards dealt to him on Saskatchewan's behalf, and ultimately, for all Canadian citizens. That is how I will remember Allan Blakeney: a truly worthy Canadian citizen.

Wednesday, April 20

The Mighty Wascana shows its true nature once again



There has been no shortage of intriguing spring thaws on the Assiniboine river system in recent years, especially on Wascana Creek. On three occasions, a group of friends and I took advantage of its surge in flow to try to paddle downstream to Lumsden by canoe, unsuccesfully. Each attempt ended in a number of our participants discovering first-hand how treaturously unpredictable our favourite creek's current can become with its meandering passages that are frankly typical of such prairie streams. On one occasion, we even lost a canoe for three weeks, until someone spotted it buried in a bank downstream. Great stories to tell.

I figure we earned our "stripes" as seasoned navigators of the "Mighty Wascana".  It's best now to leave it to others to immerse themselves in the whitewater universe Regina's navigable waters produce during the short April window when this stream reminds us that it should never be taken for granted.

Tuesday, April 12

Moose in Wascana Park, Regina



Zlatan has a knack for finding the wilderness in Regina, as his latest YouTube video demonstrates! Wascana Centre and the Creek are taking a particularly wild air this spring as the creek is set to reach levels we haven't seen in Regina since the 1970s.

Tuesday, April 5

Japan Earthquake Aftermath: A comment about Atomic Tourism

As Japan recovers from the aftermath of the latest world event impacting tourism trade, entrepreneurial tour operators are starting to think aloud about the ways to keep the travel trade alive between Japan and the rest of the world. Some have already whispered that "atomic tourism", a niche sector involving visits to significant sites of the nuclear age might hold some potential revenue. This field is set in a wider "dark tourism" realm, encompassing various visitor discoveries of catastrophic events, tragedies and sites where genocides might have occurred through the ages. People's fascination for morbidity often knows no boundaries. Let's hope that whatever new atomic tourism product emerges will be produced ethically, without appropriating fundamental elements that are rightly owned by the grieving population of Japan. There will surely be many lessons to be learned by us all from the journey of recovery this remarkable society is undertaking since March 11, 2011.

Sailors' Storytelling in Gwaii Haanas

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At the end of every sailing day starts a new phase on our Gwaii Haanas nature cruises. It is time to take in our surroundings in a secluded bay, to discuss the day's discoveries with our sailboat companions. It is time to relax, eat and get into the sailing lifestyle at a deeper level, helping out preparing great meals or cleaning up with the crew. Eventually, we gather and settle in to learn about new Haida Gwaii legends and stories in that most meaningful of ways... by simply listening.

Regina Welcomes World's Curling Enthusiasts

While most Regina residents wait for a long awaiting spring thaw, world curling enthusiasts have converged on the City this week for the Ford World's Men Curling Championship. Once again, hotels are full with visitors from countries where the sport is sometimes big, in in some cases much less popular than it is in Saskatchewan. The local tourism industry has quite some time ago realized that business flows from hosting events where attendance to events by regional fans can create the kind atmosphere - and ultimately revenue - that attracts sponsors. Curling certainly does that for Regina.

The same factor played a large part in ensuring that Regina was a successful hosting venue for the fascinating Royal Red Arabian Nationals, until the organizers opted to look for another host. For many years, Royal Red participants - many of which originated from the USA - were delighted to show off their know-how in front of such a welcoming crowd made-up mostly of Saskatchewan residents.

We will be sad to see the Royal Red move on, as others discover the genuine hospitality Regina's population extends to visitors from away. I hope that as the City's tourism stakeholders will carry on bidding for world-stage events, while emphasizing that Regina's tourism appeal as a destination extends beyond the quality of its sports venues, hotel capacity and hunger among local residents for more leisure and special events that take place in the city itself.

A great significant element in Saskatchewan's and Regina's charm lies, after all, in the special sense of place that is found in this city, and in the surrounding grasslands environments that are easily accessible from Regina.

Monday, April 4

Learn to Sail in British Columbia



Our nature cruises are definitely immersive. Partcipants can get as involved in the sailing activities as they wish on our 68-foot ketch. Putting out the main sail is always exciting for guests on one of our Haida Gwaii trips last summer.