Late at night in the Calgary International Airport, one encounters the gathering of the Atlantic diaspora on their way home to their distinct homelands. These folks gently assemble in small clusters and family groups with that “going back home” look and tribal camaraderie. They are there to catch one of three daily non-stop flights to Halifax and St. John’s – back to their motherland and the comforts of family and home. Astonishingly upon arrival in Halifax one encounters additional non-stop flights arriving from Vancouver and Edmonton.
On any given day, more than 500 people arrive at the Halifax airport from the west. Not all are homeward bound, but most would seem to be – having done their time in the west and heading back to their real homes. After three weeks in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland your humble columnist has a better understanding of why going home is so important to the millions of Maritimers and Newfies who, for many decades, have had to “go away” to seek their fortunes. Both provinces are each home to distinct, almost tribal cultures that make them quite unique, colourful and comforting.
These are friendly people who seem genuinely happy to see visitors from Alberta. This is refreshingly different from B.C. where many of us have been subjected to hostility and contempt just because we are from Alberta. People in Atlantic Canada seem to have the common sense that most of us are just regular folks and not all rich oil barons out to destroy the planet, which many green-deluded B.C. folks seem to believe. But I digress.
What people in NS and NFLD seem to have is that deep sense of family and clan that comes with having almost 400 years of history – much of it under times of shared hardship and isolation. These folks are proud, enduring people and under different circumstances they could have formed their own countries, particularly Newfoundland. If they had had robust and expanding economies over those many years the destinies of these two provinces may well not have been with the rest of Canada.
From the volume of air traffic alone, one could easily presume that tens of millions of dollars are being transferred annually to these two provinces by the thousands of expatriate Maritimers working in the west. Add into that countless millions in federal equalization, transfer, EI and pension payments, and one realizes that much of Atlantic Canada would have been an economic disaster without the billions coming in from the outside. But one does wonder, citing the success of many small European countries, whether Nova Scotia and Newfoundland could have been better off had they become independent countries in the distant past. Canada does provide an economic blanket, but it also can be overbearing and distant.
Some observations on interesting local quirks and cultural twists:
– Every lake, slough, and puddle in NFLD is formally called a pond.
– Instead of food trucks there are food trailers, which all sell fish and chips.
– Moose were brought into NFLD and are now an overpopulated environmental menace. Coyotes came into NFLD with the hope that they will control the moose. There will soon be an overpopulation of coyotes.
– Cemeteries in NFLD are denominational with most being for Anglicans and United. This must be a problem for disposing of the remains of atheists.
– A popular show on CBC radio is about bird watching. A vivid imagination is required to appreciate the observations of the reporters.
– The most memorable experience for tourists in NFLD is of navigating the worst potholed roads in North America. If the potholes get too big, road workers put pylons in them – actually fixing them is not part of their job description. In NS, they will only fix specific potholes if requested.
– NS has long stretches of red pavement. Public roadside rest stops in NS are not permitted. Motorists either need iron bladders or must stop in small towns – that’s NS policy to increase economic activity in rural areas.
– To save tax dollars governments only permit a minimum of small highway direction signs. There are “no parking” signs at some tourist sites – go figure.
– NFLD has wisely banned the development of obnoxious windmills, thereby saving generations of Newfies millions in high electrical costs.
– A Newfie’s bucket list; #1 -Go Back Home, #2-Go Back Home, #3- Go Back Home – that says it all.
The curiosities of Atlantic Canada and, in particular Newfoundland, are boundless and worth the long flight to this most delightful part of our country.