Prince Edward Island

Fox Creeps into Province House

Here’s my new Prince Edward Island license plate. I paid the $10 premium to support conservation (hence the red fox) and get the special 3-letter variety (the standard is 5); the LHO was what got pulled out of the plate bucket at random, but I like it.

I’ve written in the space about PEI license plates before and their “someone sketched something on the back of a napkin and suddenly it was the design” quality and this new design is no exception; there are no less than 9 graphic elements on the plate:

  1. Raining red maple leaves in the top-left.
  2. Province House.
  3. Canadian flag in the bottom-left.
  4. Prince Edward Island flag in the bottom-right.
  5. The red fox (granted, that was my choice).
  6. The words “Prince Edward Island.”
  7. The word “Conservation.”
  8. The words “Birthplace of Confederation.”
  9. The small map of PEI.

It’s most decidedly from the “cram in as much as we can” school of graphic design.

Most confounding, to my eye, the “Prince Edward Island” and the “Conservation” are set in two distinct typefaces, something you can see clearly by comparing the lower case i, a, s and n in a magnified image:

Without taking away from my commitment to conservation and the letters L, H, and O, my real reason for opting to pay an extra $10 for the conservation plate was to avoid the misuse of the armorial bearings of the province a glorified hyphen:

That was not only one-graphic-element-too-many, but the bearings are rendered much too small to be legible and, more importantly, much too small given their importance as a provincial symbol.

All of this is more graphically tragic given the heights to which PEI license plates have risen in the past. Take 1973, for example:

Was there ever a greater license plate design?  Simple: a single graphic element, plus typography.

And the standard green-on-white that followed and was in place up until the unfortunate Anne situation, was similarly solid and uncomplicated (and, with its simplfiied crest, very much of the design of the times):

Meanwhile, I’m left to deal with a fox creeping up on Province House.

Personally, I blame Wendy MacDonald…

Back when Oliver was in elementary school I resolved that if any member of our household was to become involved in the Home and School association it would be me; Catherine is an inveterate, dedicated volunteer and I was certain that, if she were to be the one, we would wake up shortly thereafter and she’d be running the whole show (believe me, it’s happened before).

I resolved that I would “take one for the team,” so to speak, and this is how I ended up sitting around a table in the staff room at Prince Street School with a bunch of strangers talking about how to raise money to buy window blinds for classrooms that didn’t have them.

One thing led to another and, irony of ironies, eventually I agreed to act as treasurer for the Prince Street Home and School and then, a series of horse trades later, as President.

Somewhere in there, Wendy MacDonald, then serving as Past-President of the provincial PEI Home and School Federation, and a dedicated former Prince Street home and schooler herself, casually asked me if I’d be willing to put my name forward as a candidate for regional directory for the provincial body.

Wendy is one of the smartest minds on PEI, and not someone whose requests you take lightly; she’s not pushy, she’s simply straightforward.

And so I said yes.

And one thing led to another and, irony of ironies, eventually I agreed to act as secretary for the PEIHSF and then, a series of horse trades later, as Vice-President.

Nobody is more surprised than I that I not only participate in home and school but that I actually enjoy it and have become a passionate believer in the power of home and school as an actor in the education system.

Which is how, I suppose, I ended up with my name put forward for the position of President yesterday. There being no contrary-minded, by the end of the day I joined a group of dedicated new and returning directors as part of a new board for the PEIHSF.

I’ve written in this space before why I find home and school so attractive; yesterday’s experience at our annual meeting was no different: we considered eight resolutions, each of which was developed and put forward by a local home and school, on topics ranging from lice to technology. There was vigorous discussion on each, and democracy was coursing through the air.

Later in the day there was a similarly-vigorous discussion with the Hon. Alan McIsaac, Minister of Education and his Deputy Minister Sandy MacDonald and with English Language School Board Chair Fred Osborne and the board’s Director of Curriculum, Doug MacDougall. While not everyone’s questions were answered, the transparency was, I think, appreciated by all (and something, I know from discussion with those from other jurisdictions, we are privileged to enjoy).

And so, for the next two year, when Kerry Campbell intros “for reaction from Island parents, I spoke to…” the name will be mine. I’m daunted by the prospect, but also excited: stickhandling a broad-based Island-side democratic organization with a long history is a great challenge and a great honour. I’ll try not to screw it up.

The One Where the New Bathtub Pays for Itself

It’s coming up to the end of East Coast Music Week here in Charlottetown, a yearly celebration, showcase, and conference for the music industry in eastern Canada and, for those of us lucky enough to live in the heart of the downtown of the host city, a fantastic opportunity to see a lot of very good music packed into four days of performances at venues 5-minutes-walk-or-less away.

I was determined that, unlike the last time ECMW was in Charlottetown, I was not going to miss out, so, against all my procrastinatory impulses, I purchased an $80 wristband well in advance, entitling me to access to most everything.

And thus it was, armed with the (excellent) ECMW app on my mobile, I headed out into the night on Thursday to go clubbing. One of the great things about having a wristband is that you can be promiscuous in your habits, jumping genres by just picking up and heading down the street. Over the course of the evening, then, I was able to see Amy & Rachel Beck, Brianna Gosse, Eartbound Trio, Colour Code, Breagh Mackinnon and Dennis Ellsworth in as many venues.

On Friday night, thanks to my generous brother Johnny, who stayed home with Oliver and Ethan, Catherine was able to join me and we headed down to the Delta for the “roots” showcase and saw Ryan LeBlanc, Amelia Curran, Samantha Robichaud, Catherine MacLellan, Chrissy Crowley, Dave Gunning, Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac, and Tim Chaisson. All this accompanied by the culinary stylings of Leo’s Thai Food (chicken basil rice) and the Big Orange Lunchbox (lobster tacos), who saved me, not having had time to grab dinner before, from a grumpy hungry night.

On Saturday night I was back out on my own, with my eyes set on the Music Nova Scotia showcase at the Pourhouse, the craggy little venue atop The Old Triangle. Having been turned away at the same event on Thursday because it was over-capacity, I arrived 90 minutes early only to find the room packed already, with not a seat to be found and most everyone there jealously guarding their turf knowing that they were lucky to have secured a seat. No eye contact, in other words; no “you could squeeze in here.”

I was close to giving up and heading home, but decided to stick it out, find a windowsill, pull out my copy of The New Yorker (brought along for just this purpose) and wait, finding a place to stand once the music started to roll.

I was well into the Talk of the Town, minding my own business when someone approached and called me by name.

Peter!”, he said.

I looked up. Vague recollection spread over my face, which he recognized. Oh, right, yes.

It was the chap who, when we moved into our house at 100 Prince Street fourteen years ago, we contracted to gut our second floor bathroom and build it back up to modern standards (i.e. no carpet on the floor, no shower head coming out of the side of the bathtub). It was a dusty, complicated job, and, as these things often go, we got to know the crew pretty well.  Which is why my interrogator, working as a volunteer in the venue, recognized me and why, eventually, I recognized him.

We chatted for a moment, and, just as he was heading off to his volunteer duties I said “Hey, if you happen to find an extra chair somewhere, I’d really appreciate it.”

Five minutes later he poked his head out with a contraband chair, purloined from the green room (meaning, I assume, that Old Man Luedecke’s sideman was sitting on the floor; which is why I won’t mention my benefactor’s name, lest Old Man Luedecke seek retribution).

With heartfelt thanks, I held onto the chair for dear life and headed back into the fray looking for a place to park it. With luck now on my side, I reasoned that this was no time to be timid, so rather than finding a dark poorly-sightlined corner at the back, I maneuvered myself and my chair right up to the front, set it down in a tiny, convenient patch of floor beside a large enough group that it would look like I was just fitting in, and proceeded to act as if I was supposed to be there, shirking off the imagined barbs of those who’d been camping out for hours just to get a table in the same region.

And I didn’t move for the next 3 hours.

I had a completely unobstucted view of the stage; here, for example, is Gabrielle Papillon and her large retinue of players:

Gabrielle Papillon

It was a fantastic night of music: Ron Bourgeois (a talented singer-songwriter from Cheticamp), Old Man Luedecke (not, to my surprise, old at all; crackerjack banjo-based duo with a set of irony-tinged songs), the aforementioned Gabrielle Papillon (an unexpected joy) with Jimmy Rankin (a pure pleasure: such an entertainer).

As the night played on I became ever-more-thankful for my luck, as the venue filled up and filled up and people were hanging from the rafters and perched precariously on the floor. By 11:30, with the night, relatively speaking, still young, I headed out, willing my chair to the couple who had been patiently standing beside me for 2 hours; I would have stayed longer, but I needed to ensure I didn’t completely lose my hearing.

I great night at the end of a great week.

And proof that, if you live on the Island long enough, it will reveal its fringe benefits to you at unexpected moments.

Thank you, bathtub.

My $879 gallbladder attack. Or how it took me 3 years to find out how much I cost the healthcare system.

Three years ago I set out to answer what I thought was a simple question: how much do I cost the health care system? I sent a Freedom of Information request to Health PEI, the public service body that manages the health system in Prince Edward Island, and what ensued was an almost-three-year back and forth – detailed in part here – between Health PEI, the Information and Privacy Commissioner and me that, as time wore on, achieved a level of absurdity that surprised me given the simple question I was asking.

My most recent communication from the Information and Privacy Commissioner on the adjuication of my appeal of Health PEI’s decision not to release cost information to me was a letter I received on January 16, 2014 informing me that the expected decision date on my case was being pushed forward to September 19, 2014 (from the originally-extended-to February 13, 2014).

Until today.

When I received an unexpected communication from Health PEI’s Privacy and Information Access Coordinator telling me that they had reconsidered and asking me to confirm my email address.  A few minutes later I received an Excel file with the details of almost every medical procedure I had from 1996 (when their data starts) to June 2011, along with the name of the doctor, the location of the procedure and how much was paid to the doctor.  It’s almost every medical procedure because, as Health PEI had informed me earlier, if “the service was provided by a non fee-for-service physician or was provided through a hospital (e.g. emergency department or day surgery) there are no individual payments.”

There are 58 procedures in total, ranging from “ALLERGIC RHINITIS” to “X-RAY ABNORMAL,” performed by 22 individual doctors.  In total $1901.88 was paid out to doctors. While the amounts paid to physicians don’t reflect the total cost of my health care, it’s useful information nonetheless. Here, for example, are 10 items related to a the diagnosis and eventual removal of my gallbladder – an epic journey I related here – in the winter and spring of 2003:

Doctor Location Date Procedure Paid

The total paid to the six physicians for my gallbladder issue was $879.37, and that table is a good blow-by-blow of how it was diagnosed: two visits to Dr. Champion, my family doctor at the time, a referral for an X-ray at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital followed by an office visit with Dr. Fleming, the surgeon who would eventually remove my gallbladder and then the operation itself on April 8, 2003 (“Cholelithiasis” is “the presence of gallstones”).

There are a host of other costs involved with taking out my gallbladder – nurses, machinery, heat, light, etc. It would be interesting to know what slice of the QEH budget my gallbladder removal was responsible for, but that figure seems impossible to determine, so the $879.37 will have to stand in.

Using pivot tables in OpenOffice allows me to do all sorts of analysis on my medical history: which doctors have I seen the most, what medical complaints do I seek assistance with the most, how often do I see a doctor. It’s an insight into my health care that I really value.

It really is absurd that it took almost 3 years to provide me with this information; indeed, perhaps my next request should be an accounting of the time and cost for Health PEI and the Information and Privacy Commissioner to take so long to say no before they said yes.

I’m a big believer in public health care; I consider it one of the distinguishing benefits of being Canadian. But I don’t think that not having to pay out of pocket for our health care necessarily means we all shouldn’t know how much our health care is costing the health system, if only because understanding more about the nitty-gritty costs of health care makes us more responsibile citizens when it comes to electing our politicians to make large-scale decisions about health spending.

If you would like to request the same breakdown for your health care, fill out a Request to Access Information application form (you can see how I filled mine out here) and send it to:

Privacy and Information Access Co-ordinator
P.O. Box 2000, 16 Garfield Street
Charlottetown PE  C1A 7N8
Tel: (902) 368-4942

I presume that if you asked what I asked for you should receive your information quickly and without having to wait 3 years.


From The Guardian, January 15, 1914, one hundred years ago today. No mention of a “Celebration Zone” at all.

Story from The Guardian, January 15, 1914