Coronavirus makes start of angling season a risky proposition

By Jim Brown

So far, I haven’t read anything about plans to cancel one of the biggest events of the spring in this country, an event that brings millions of people together in the same week. It’s the opening of trout season, which on PEI starts April 15.

On PEI there are hundreds of places to drop a worm on the opening day of the recreational fishery, but it seems anglers gather at a few favoured hotspots. There is something magical about that first day of the season. Many anglers only fish a few days a year and opening day of trout season is the mother of all festivals. Everyone wants to be out opening day. You only have to drive a few minutes in the Stanley Bridge, Trout River Road and North Granville area to find dozens of anglers clustered together seeking warmth and sharing stories about the big one that got away. It would be like cancelling Christmas Day, but I believe scraping the start of the recreational fishery is essential to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Not worried yet? Angling licenses can be purchased online but there are many fishermen who will still go to grocery and bait and tackle stores to buy them. They’ve always done that and always will. So that means more people lining up at checkout counters as April 15 nears and how many of those will be standing two metres apart?

On April 15, if the season goes ahead, thousands of anglers, from toddlers to doting parents and grandparents, will be gathering at streams, rivers and ponds. And despite pleas from public health authorities they will be drawn to places others are casting a line. Many will be sorely tempted to throw off the shackles of isolation.

It’s just a bad idea to continue this rite of spring in 2020, when a deadly pandemic is stalking the land. Do we want to vastly increase the chances of community spread?

Why did the provincial government close so many non-essential businesses and even threaten to fine Islanders who gathered in numbers that are fewer than what can be found at traditional fishing haunts all across the Island?

There is an urgency to make the announcement as soon as possible, since many grocery stores will likely start stocking worms and tackle. Do we want them spending money they can’t afford to, if a late cancellation to the season means they lose the customers they were counting on?

Fortunately there will be a silver lining or two to cancelling the opening. Perhaps the biggest one is that there will be far fewer cigarette butts, foam coffee cups and beer and liquor bottles near stream beds and far fewer nests of tangled fishing line to ensnare helpless birds and other wildlife. Trout populations could also see a welcome boost in numbers, which could lead to better luck for many anglers next season.

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Searching for Gucci, a German Shepherd that is shy around humans

By Jim Brown

It’s been epic adventure for a two-year-old German Shepherd, who has been on the loose for nine days, as of March 19. Gucci was one of dozens of dogs seized from a puppy mill before finding a loving owner, Tawnya Thompson.

Unfortunately, her forever home didn’t hold Gucci for very long.

“She was spooked by a horse in the pasture next door, pawing at the ground,” said Tawnya, who lives in Suffolk, near the Winter River hiking trail.
Gucci filled a void in her life after the death of another beloved dog.

“I had a rotweiller who had passed away a year ago from cancer,” said Tawnya, who is originally from Ontario and has a background in animal psychology.

Since her great escape Gucci’s been seen many times, only to elude her searchers each time. A more recent sighting was in Hunter River.
Tawnya says she is overwhelmed with the support she’s received from Islanders, including many on the PEI Lost Pet Network Facebook page. Tawnya has also created a FB page dedicated to finding her dog called Come Home Gucci.

Her dog travels fast and far, said Tawnya, adding she’s been seen in Brackley, Covehead, Oyster Bed, Hunter River, Winsloe and elsewhere.
“We may have to trap her,” she said. Live traps provided by the PEI Humane Society and the Canadian Kennel Club have been used to catch other skittish dogs on the Island.

Tawnya advises anyone who spots Gucci not to engage her because she will likely run again. She suggests they get a photo of the dog they think is Gucci on a cell phone and sent it to her, so she can confirm it is her dog.

There have been multiple sightings since Gucci’s escape, but she has always managed to slip away.

Tawnya said a neighbour even offered the use of his drone locating her.

In a recent post on Facebook Tawnya wrote:

“Today is Day 9 in our search for Gucci and we had no new sightings since yesterday, in the Darlington/Johnson Road area. You have shown us just how quick you can move and easy you can hide. Please, we ask to spread the word about Gucci to Hunter River and all surrounding communities. Please watch fields, roads and barns. Please remember, do not approach/follow or call out to her. We need eyes out there to help us track where she is.”

Anyone with any information that could help reunite Tawnya with Gucci is asked to call 1-902-316-0939 or 1-902-393-0553. Tawnya says the calls should be made after recent sightings, preferably right after she is spotted. Gucci can cover large distances in a short period of time, so if someone saw her a couple of days earlier she may have long left that area.

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Uncertain times for those who travel and play music

By Rachel Beck Colwill

Rachel Beck Colwill is a PEI singer-songwriter, now living in Stratford, who was nominated for many music awards. Her single, Reckless Heart, reached No. 1 in the CBC Top 20 Music chart. The video for another chart-topping tune, Hearts on Fire, was filmed in Stanley Bridge.

These are uncertain times to make your living travelling and playing music at public gatherings. These are uncertain times for many. Let’s do our best to stay calm and support each other however we can.

My newsfeed is filled with artist friends around the globe who are having shows and festivals cancel with little warning. Public health is, of course, the number one priority — but these cancelations mean the income my friends were counting on has disappeared. Moreover, many of them have already spent money on travel arrangements, purchasing merch to sell on tour, marketing, publicity, and a host of other things, all with the expectation of income on the road. They can’t get refunds on those investments.

Please, if you can, choose some of your favourite independent artists and go to their websites. Purchase a CD or vinyl or a shirt or whatever sweet original merch they have. Purchase directly from the artists. Let’s make sure our creators can continue creating.

On another note, if you are based in or around Charlottetown and you are self-quarantined for health reasons, I am happy to help you out if you need grocery or pharmacy runs or anything at all. I have a van, I have flexible work hours, and I’m a pro shopper. Please just reach out.

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It won’t go back to normal after this pandemic fades away

By Jim Brown

On March 14 I drove to Summerside to stock up for the inevitable day when I will have isolate myself from others, and I saw many shoppers flashing bright smiles at the grocery stories I visited. But others couldn’t hide their disappointment and frustration when they couldn’t find toilet paper or hand sanitizer, or other items on their list.

Later I read PEI had recorded its first case.

COVID-19. The coronavirus. The gravest threat we have faced as a country and as a civilization since the great flu pandemic of 1918.

Only in 1918 the world was much bigger. There were no transatlantic flights. No commercial flights at all across vast oceans. Travel between continents took weeks, not hours. Supply chains for everyday products didn’t extend thousands of kilometres.

We have an economy based on our mobility. What if we can’t fly, drive or move around freely? What if we were told we have to isolate ourselves from others so that our elderly and most vulnerable can live?

What happens when our entire world is disrupted, when everything that connects us to each other is suddenly taken away?

Parliament has been shut down for five weeks, schools are closing, professional sports venues have gone dark – and so have universities, colleges, art galleries, libraries, concert halls, churches, public offices – and the list gets longer by the day.

It’s humanity’s vanishing act. We are disappearing from public spaces, leaving a haunting emptiness behind.

Even the poorest Canadians have Internet access and cable television, but there are no sports or live entertainment shows to watch. Only a 24/7 stream of frightening news about a virus that is devouring our way of life.

It looks and feels like the death of hope.

We, humans, are a fiercely optimistic species. We are resilient, we fight back, we expect things will get better, because there have been dark times before, an entire dark age when the black death culled much of humanity.

Yes, humanity has been through worse.

I believe we will come through this, but we won’t go back to the way things were before.

Whether it’s two years or two months, when the virus fades away we will emerge into a transformed landscape.

Many bedrock assumptions will fall away like dry leaves from an autumn tree.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where demand for consumer goods, for services, for other trappings of civilized society in the 21st century will be fully restored. Jobs we took for granted and thought would be around forever will be gone.

Our world will have shrunk dramatically – to the dimensions of a city or a county or even a village. We will have learned to look after our neighbours, families and friends – watch over and care for them without actually being physically close to them.

When the great tribulation eases the world we rejoin will be a poorer one in many ways, and perhaps a better one in a few others.

I can’t imagine living in America and not watching the scaffolding of a universal health care system take shape. So many Americans will have died in a patchwork system that buckled and broke despite the heroic efforts of besieged health care workers, many of them sacrificing their lives so that others may live.

The long con has run its course, bringing civilization to its knees.

Even the most tribal of partisans in America will have been forced to confront an ugly truth – they were lied to and made complicit in one of the largest heists in history – the looting of their country.

They will have seen grandparents, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons, struggle to breathe and then die.

I think the world’s industrialized nations will turn their backs on a predatory ideology that maims and kills so many for the sake of a very few. They will demand a much more compassionate system of government that blends the best of capitalism and socialism – a form of communalism that ensures everyone’s basic needs are met.

Consumerism will become a dirty word since we will know, after the pandemic, there are more important things in life than material goods.

No, we won’t go back.

We won’t let one tenth of one per cent of the population control nearly all of the world’s dwindling resources, and our lives.

Corporations won’t be allowed to continue poisoning the commons we all own – oceans, lakes, rivers, meadows, rainforests, the blue skies above.

Industrial activity will have declined sharply during the coronavirus pandemic. Pollution and greenhouse gases will have been slashed.

I believe corporate culture will have changed forever.

We will no longer live and die by the value of our gross domestic product.

It’s a mug’s game predicting the future, but I feel this in my bones.

Will it happen? I honestly don’t see how it doesn’t.

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New oyster, lobster storage building nearly finished in North Rustico

By Jim Brown

Lobsters and oysters harvested in the New London area will soon have a new home – a storage building capable of holding 150,000 to 200,000 pounds of lobster and more than a million oysters.

Workers were busy in early March working on the roof of the Raspberry Point Oyster Company building.

Manager James Power said the building should be finished no later than May.

It would hold oysters from Dec 1 to May 1 and lobsters from May 1 to Sept. 1.

Mr Power said the building would serve an important purpose in providing convenient storage for oysters during a time of the year, in the depths of winter, when ice conditions are often not suitable for harvesting the highly prized molluscs.

In the past the company relied on oysters harvested under ice and that has proved tricky at times since conditions, including slushy or deep ice, make it hard to reach the oysters.

One of the worst winters on record, in 2015, saw Raspberry Point unable to sell any product for weeks because workers could not easily get through the ice.

That shouldn’t be as much of a problem now, said Mr Power.

Passerby will notice the building isn’t a typical industrial structure. It was constructed to look like it’s part of a fishing village, to blend in with other marine-themed businesses in the area. It’s nestled in the same general location as the Lighthouse Cafe, Blue Mussel Cafe, Outside Expeditions and Seagull’s Nest Gift Shop.

“It’s not just a flat steel building,” said Mr Power.

He went on to say the owner, Scott Linkletter, wanted the image, the “aesthetics”, to be just right – right down to the white cedar shingles with red trim.

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Despite bleak worldwide tourism predictions, PEI could see an increase in summer visits

By Sandi Lowther
Owner, Fairways Cottages, Cavendish

Sandi Lowther, right, with her daughter Chelsea. Chelsea is a Human Neurogeneticist Medical Researcher, completing her Post-Doctorate Fellowship at The Broad Institute, Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital.


When you think of the COVID-19 virus two immediate thoughts come to mind. The first is for those individuals and families who have been inflicted with the virus. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families who are suffering and those who have lost their lives. The second is the economic impact it has and will continue to cause people around the globe.

The industry most affected from the virus is world tourism. We are witnessing this impact with reduced international flights, cancelled meetings and conferences, and restricted and/or cancelled large festivals and events.

While Canada, comparably speaking, is most fortunate with few individuals reported with the virus, the economic impact will still be felt.

Despite the negative world-wide tourism predictions, Prince Edward Island tourism operators may actually experience an increase in summer leisure traffic. Why? Eight-five percent of travel to the Island is rubber tire traffic. Many travel parties from our key markets have already cancelled their late winter cruise and international travel plans. Given the safe and protected nature of our Island, coupled with the fact there are no known virus cases, people may flock to their cars and vacation on our Island.

Our company, Fairways Cottages, has experienced an unprecedented increase in reservation requests during the past two weeks. Our reservations on the books over this same time in 2019 are up 5.4 per cent. While we can not definitively tie this entire increase to the situation, we are hearing directly from our new clients that they cancelled their late winter – early spring international flights, all-inclusive vacation packages and cruise travel plans and have decided to take their families to our beautiful and safe Island.

While it is far too early to actually predict a long-term outcome, we have faith in our medical scientific community to soon find a COVID-19 vaccine.

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Complacency is our enemy in the fight against a deadly contagion

By Jim Brown

Think one of the world’s longest bridges will protect Canada’s smallest province against the coronavirus? Think again.

The coronavirus will wash over our shores, and probably sooner than many of us expect.

We can’t wish it away, like anti-vaxxers wish measles away by not vaccinating their children against this serious, preventable childhood disease. Unvaccinated kids risk blindness, hearing loss, encephalitis, immune system suppression and even death from their parents’ wilful ignorance.

Will the coronavirus be the “Big One” that many experts predict is long overdue? We can only hope not. In the meantime everyone should practise washing their hands thoroughly every day – as many times as they can.

One possible bright side could be lower rents for modest and low income Islanders.

Housing and rental prices will likely fall everywhere, including Prince Edward Island. That’s potentially good news for Charlottetown renters, facing one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country. And, with travel slumping, Airbnbs may convert back to regular, long term rentals.
That is, of course, if the worst fears of infectious disease authorities come true.

The coronavirus has a two to three per cent death rate, which may not seem like a lot but it more than dwarfs that of the latest strain of influenza, which kills .05 to .5 per cent of all those infected. And yet thousands of Canadians, largely frail seniors, die every year.

If only we had a plan to deal with a pandemic. But wait, we do! The Prince Edward island Pandemic Influenza Contingency Plan for the Health Sector was released in 2006 and we hope it’s been updated at least a few times since.

The plan anticipates 140 to 200 deaths, 600 hospitalizations, 26,000 people with symptoms severe enough to require a visit to an emergency department and about 40,000 people with symptoms severe enough to keep them home from work for a minimum of half a day.

Imagine what the toll would be on our Island economy. Remember, we have a population of less than 157,000 and our hospitals are already working at full or close to full capacity.

The coronavirus, which got its start in an illegal wildlife meat market in China, has now been found in dozens of countries around the world and is spreading at an alarming rate despite the World Health Organization’s best efforts to contain it.

In Japan, Korea, Italy and other hard-hit countries schools and churches are closing and sporting events are being cancelled or moved to empty stadiums. Large gatherings have been discouraged by authorities, but all it’s done so far is delay the inevitable.

It is truly disturbing to contemplate what we, as Islanders face, if the worst happens and the Pandemic Influenza Contingency Plan for the Health Sector lays it all out in clinical detail.

“In a pandemic, the number of deaths in a six to eight week wave is estimated to be similar to that which typically occurs over six months in a non-pandemic period. As in the health care system, demands on funeral industry services will increase at the same time as their workforce is reduced due to illness or caregiving responsibilities. A mass fatality plan for a pandemic will be established to deal with the predicted increase in deaths.”

Where do we put the bodies when morgues fill up? Are our rinks big enough and can they be kept cold long enough?

Are we prepared to wall ourselves in our homes – to self-quarantine – should things get really bad? Do we have enough food to live apart from others who may be infected, or to protect others if we are infected?

Do we have two weeks or more of food and other essential supplies?

Do we have enough grief counsellors?

Can we replace essential workers in hospitals, schools, utilities, police and fire services and public works departments? What about our fishing and farming sectors?

Already in cities throughout North America gowns and face masks are disappearing from store shelves and hand cleanser, if it can be found, often costs five or six times the regular price.

What happens when our ‘just in time’ delivery services are shut down because workers are sick and trains and trucks aren’t operating?

Are we ready for that?

God, I hope so…

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