Island Chocolates Factory Coffee

If I was writing my list of best things on Prince Edward Island, somewhere near the top would have to be the Factory Coffee from Island Chocolates in Victoria.

It’s a chocolate-lined glass filled with coffee and topped with whipped cream. And it’s pure heaven: I literally have dreams about it.

I’ve cut way, way back on sugar over the past 2 years, to the point where the amount of chocolate I consume in a year would fit in the palm of one hand. The Factory Coffee is one of the few things I make an exception for.

Do yourself a favour: some day this summer head out to Victoria, order yourself one, find a seat on the front porch, and drink it slowly.

Island Chocolates Factory Coffee

The Last Bear in Marshfield

So not only was R.P. Haythorne Prince Edward Island’s Premier-that-time-forgot, but he was also involved in the hunt for the last bear in Marshfield, as he reported in The Examiner on July 27, 1863 (a letter that appears in the excellent Marshfield and area: A Grand Legacy:

To the Editor of the Examiner.

Rumors of a Bear being amongst us have been current for some time past, which received tangible confirmation by the slaughter of certain sheep and lambs on the farms of Mr. Alexander Stewart and others. Being disturbed in that direction, Bruin shifted his quarters to the farm of R. P. Haythorne, Esqr., where on Thursday night last, he destroyed five sheep and a lamb. Measures were immediately adopted for a general hunt; and on the same afternoon between thirty and forty persons, resident in the neighborhood, met at St. Cuthbert’s Mills for that purpose.

The hunt was joined by His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor and Mr. Atkinson, and by several gentlemen from Charlottetown. After a long and tedious search, the bear was at length started [sic] on the western side of Gough’s Creek, and fired at without success. He re-crossed the creek and in an incredibly short space of time had crossed the St. Peter’s Road, in the vicinity of the Marshfield School House, where he was headed by Mr. Alexander Robertson and his sons and some others. The fatal shot was fired near the schoolhouse by Mr. James Wyatt. The animal proved to be a full grown male, of enormous dimensions, and was estimated by experienced judges to weigh not less than 300 lbs. The skin, it was unanimously voted by the assembled hunters, should be presented to His Excellency.

Your obedient servant,
R. P. HAYTHORNE. 1863.

I am happy to report that since my missive lamenting the lack of recognition for Premier Haythorne in this year of Confederation memorializing that word has come in from Marshfield that there is, in fact, an event planned:

A display board will be established to preset the details of the life of Premier Robert Poore Haythorne on the site of his Haythorne family home. Premier Haythorne’s provincial government negotiated the terms under which PEI would enter Canadian confederation with the Canadian government of Sir John A. MacDonald. A community celebration will occur at the unveiling.

I can think of no better kickoff for the drive to rename a significant Island building after Haythorne, and invite all Haythornites to make an effect to attend this event.

Robert Poore Haythorne

Who’s ever heard of Robert Poore Haythorne? Certainly not me. Perhaps it’s because I lack a Prince Edward Island public school education, but I’ve never heard mention of the man who, says his official biography, “could be regarded as being the true Father of Confederation.”

Many of the figures of Confederation are honoured here in Charlottetown: Coles has a building named after him, Gray had a ferry. Even Palmer, an anti-confederate, has Palmer’s Lane.

But there’s no Haythorne Building or Haythorne Boulevard or Haythorne Centre for the Arts.

Sure, Haythorne “in extending the railway, and placing the Island in an extreme financial situation, brought the Island to a point where union with Canada was necessary,” but Palmer and Coles “fought a bloodless duel with pistols” and we venerate them nonetheless.

Haythorne, by all reports, was a wise and sensible man; the Dictionary of Canadian Biography writes:

The writers of his obituaries described Haythorne as an “estimable neighbour” and an example of a “reasonable man” who assisted the “struggle for freedom from proprietory bondage.” He would have welcomed these summations of a life.

Perhaps, in this year of ceaseless celebration of Confederation, we should consider celebrating the man who brought us to the point where it was inevitable and negotiated its terms, despite his own misgivings about the very idea.

The Guardian, May 6, 1891, Page 3

"...and not the making of profit..."

Out of the corner of my eye I caught, just over a year ago, some mentions in the media that the NDP had “softened its socialist language.” I paid it no need at the time, but this week, confronted with a near-toxic dose of wholesale-unquestioning-belief-in-the-redemptive-power-of-capitalism, I went in search of the NDP’s constitution for solace.

The version I found first, dated November 2011, had this delightful preamble:

The New Democratic Party believes that the social, economic and political progress of Canada can be assured only by the application of democratic socialist principles to government and the administration of public affairs.

The principles of democratic socialism can be defined briefly as:

That the production and distribution of goods and services shall be directed to meeting the social and individual needs of people within a sustainable environment and economy and not to the making of profit;

To modify and control the operations of the monopolistic productive and distributive organizations through economic and social planning. Towards these ends and where necessary the extension of the principle of social ownership;

The New Democratic Party hold firm to the belief that the dignity and freedom of the individual is a basic right that must be maintained and extended and

The New Democratic Party is proud to be associated with the democratic socialist parties of the world and to share the struggle for peace, international co-operation and the abolition of poverty.

That’s the kind of talk I can get behind, and was the tonic I was looking for.

Imagine my disappointment, then, when I went looking for an up to date copy of the NDP constitution only to find that all of this language was “softened” right out of the party’s constitution, replaced with a 400 word preamble that makes no mention at all of profit or capital, and denudes the mention of democratic socialism down to this:

New Democrats seek a future that brings together the best of the insights and objectives of Canadians who, within the social democratic and democratic socialist traditions, have worked through farmer, labour, co-operative, feminist, human rights and environmental movements, and with First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, to build a more just, equal, and sustainable Canada within a global community dedicated to the same goals.

That’s more like an homage to socialism than a commitment to it.

This repositioning – leader Thomas Mulcair was quoted as explaining it away as “a better way for us to reach out beyond our traditional base, talk to Canadians who might share our vision, who might share our goals, but who weren’t too sure” – may make the NDP more palatable, but it also excises the very heart of what made the party a compelling alternative to the Conservatives, Liberals and Greens, all of which embrace capitalism with ferocity and disagree simply on the degree to which it should be allowed to be unfettered.

It’s possible to argue that this softening was simply an exercise in catching New Democratic language up to New Democratic reality: when, after all, was the last time you heard an NDP candidate singing the virtues of emancipation from capitalism on the doorstep. But it’s a significant shift, nonetheless, and one we should all mourn.

Mourn not necessarily because we are socialists at heart – and I’m not sure that I am – but rather because in decapitating its principles, the NDP makes the political landscape even more homogeneous than it was before, and turns most political arguments about the economy into non-productive arguments about how to tweak capitalism this way or that rather than discussion about serious alternatives.