The Saint Croix Courier

St. Stephen, NB

2006 August 22

Life on the Edge:
It's a nasty game, but I've rarely met a politician I didn't like

by Gerald MacEachern

Great military teachers such as Sun Tzu instruct us to never fight a war unless we are morally certain that we are right.

So it strikes me as odd that the Islamic suicide bombers pray to Allah with visions of heaven before committing their acts of "terror"as the American troops play killer heavy metal rock inside their tanks while undertaking their "democratization" and peacekeeping mission in the same country. Seen from the front lines, it would seem that, of the two, the terrorists are behaving as if they are morally right.

Interestingly, oil and gas play a big part in that particular war. And here, living in an outpost of New Brunswick, we now face the prospect of U. S. LNG terminals on our bay. In a global economy, everything is directly connected — including Passamaquoddy Bay and Iraq.

Over the past year I have had the pleasure to meet with our elected representatives to talk about regional development, tourism and LNG policies on the bay. I always came to them with some kind of agenda, and I assumed that they had theirs. My agenda would usually include lobbying for a special project, and I would do my best to manoeuver them into seeing things from my position.

But my visits with St. Andrews Mayor Craig, Tony Huntjens, Greg Thompson, Andy Scott and others proved one thing, that although I may have had an agenda, they did not — other than listening carefully and trying their best to help.

Along the way I have attended a lot of meetings in which these same politicians are pretty harshly criticized for a variety of reasons. Mostly the reasons revolve around not knowing what the politician in question is actually doing.

That said, politics from a politician's point of view is largely the game of controlling information, not widely distributing it. Much of the information a politician deals with is sensitive. Some of it deals with disputes and private property, so it can not become public. In politics the dignified control of information is a part of the foundation of trust with the public.

That trust is under attack. Corporate interests seek to accelerate developments and increase profits by putting pressure on politicians to shape policy in their favour. Ordinary citizens, often justifiably upset by this practice, form non-government organizations (NGOs) to fight the corporate influence. It's no surprise who gets caught in the middle — our elected representatives — and inevitably the rest of us. And the media is all too eager to oblige in reporting the fight. There's nothing like good entertainment.

So instead of an honest dialogue with our politicians, we get a mediawarped, message-shaped standoff between the politicians and the public. And then, every election it hits the fan. We, the voters like you and me, get a whole 30 days to figure it out.

Perhaps it's time to try a new approach. Instead of assuming that our politicians are dishonest and immoral we might try exercising a little morality, honesty and self-discipline ourselves. Instead of trying to badger, corner, manoeuver a politician into a course of action, we may want to begin working with all levels of government to do something simple like working to make this a better region for everyone — and not just for ourselves.

I keep coming back to this same thing when I think about LNG on this bay. Why are these companies here? First,there's an energy shortage that won't be going away. Second, a few companies can make a big profit — a very big profit — so there's opportunity. Third, there are a lot of poor people here; this has been an economically depressed region for five decades or more.

Frankly, most people won't care if a few manicured waterfront properties lose some value. Or whether a few lucky or wealthy people keep their pristine view of the bay. What we do care about, and after talking to our regional politicians I believe they care about, is the total disruption that LNG would bring to this bay. It would disrupt our local ecology, our economy, our ability to finance our infrastructure, our personal safety and above all our sense of sovereignty over our own Canadian waters. And,as I've said before, that's a whole lot of disruption — with absolutely no benefit to us whatsoever. So ultimately, we should all care very strongly that we need to work together to create more innovative economic opportunities for ordinary people in our region.

Our present representatives, Mr. Huntjens and Mr. Thompson, understand this implicitly. So they don't need to be told or scolded about it. With your support, they will do everything in their power to stop LNG as expeditiously as possible.

However, stopping corporate interests can be a long process. Often it takes longer than four years, so while governments come and governments go, companies keep pressing along, working their corporate agendas. As voters,we get to have an agenda, too. Our agenda may include keeping good representatives elected for several terms to see that important work gets done.

I am not advocating that we keep any one candidate. Nor am I advocating any single political party. (I have worked for three of the major political parties and have met many good people in each one.) But I am advocating common sense. I've worked with our current representatives and I've been amazed at how quickly they have taken action on important issues that have come to their attention,often within hours.

Other candidates, the challengers, will no doubt show us their approaches to handling important issues such as LNG. Perhaps they'll have better approaches. That will be up to the voters to decide.

In any case, there is no place in this discussion for the apathetic, disinterested voter (or non-voter). As it's often said, "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance." If you don't get yourself informed,or take the time to get the facts and understand them, there will be little that any politician can do to save us from ourselves.

Because,in the end, it's preferable to have an informed, passionate and engaged society that sometimes upsets its elected officials than a society of apathetic, uninvolved couch potatoes who quietly watch their politicians do their dance with the corporate world.

How can we best support our politicians? First, keep them in the loop without harassing them. Second, if the issue is of national importance, take swift and dramatic action to make sure that the national media covers it — to ensure that all Canadians understand the importance of the issue to their country.

And on the issue of keeping LNG off our bay, losing Canadian sovereignty over our territorial waters should be a real concern to every Canadian voter. Because protecting the sovereignty of its boundaries is the moral foundation of a nation.

Gerald McEachern is a writer,marketer and business consultant living in St. Andrews. He can be reached at:


© 2006 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.

The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB