Often, when I’m chatting to my friends and neighbours these days, I’ll find myself asking “did you read Allan Rankin’s column in The Graphic this week?” by way of introducing something that I’ve been pondering; because Allan’s given me an intellectual kick.
I’ve known Allan for more than 20 years, and over those years he’s become a friend. He is a passionate, talented Islander, and a passionate, talented writer. He also happens to know, by virtue of his many years of public service, where many of the bodies are buried, and some of his more entertaining and illustrative columns are those where he runs up to–and sometimes crosses a titch–the line to telling tales out of school.
Of course he also knows that skillful rabble-rousing sells newspapers, and he fulfills his duties in this regard admirably and provocatively.
I don’t agree with Allan’s take on every issue: it was difficult to be a Rankin-confederate this spring when he was tearing strips out of PEI Home and School Federation regularly for the way we chose to confront the prospect of school change. But Allan doesn’t lie, and even when I don’t agree with his take, I recognize that his take represents an important chord of opinion that needs to be aired.
Last week Allan wrote of rural vs. urban Prince Edward Island, in part:
And speaking of driving, have you ever noticed that Charlottetown people find it difficult to leave their metropolis. The distance to any rural location seems intimidating and formidable, almost like a cross Canada expedition. “Drop the sweater off when you’re in town,” is the city dwellers expectation, not “I’ll drive out and pick up the sweater.” The highways connecting rural Prince Edward Island to the capital city seem to go in only one direction, and our government has encouraged that one-way traffic with policies that make it increasingly difficult to live in rural communities east and west.
As someone whose day to day spine of existence runs the short distance from Prince & Richmond to Queen & Richmond, I know the truth of what Allan expresses there, and when I’ve run this paragraph by those that live outside the Charlottetown orbit they breath a sigh of knowing realization. If you want to get someone from West Prince started, try explaining to them how Charlottetown is the “halfway point” for a provincial meeting of any sort; it is demonstrably not the case, and, for those from Greater Miminegash, life in provincial affairs is a constant battle to explain that fact.
This week Allan turns his sights on the Confederation Centre of the Arts, writing, in part:
But given the vapid thinking and huckster approach of the current Confederation Centre of the Arts board and management, I doubt very much if either Anne or Belinda would make the Festival cut today. Both scripts would be looked upon as risky commercial propositions, possessing too much local cultural content, and unlikely to draw an audience.
I am compelled to say this in light of the Centre’s decision this year, marking the 150th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation, to produce Million Dollar Quartet, a jukebox musical featuring the songs of three dead and one almost dead American musician.
Propriety and proximity dictates I withhold expressing my own take on the Centre as strongly as Allan has opted to, but, again, the truth is easily mined from his rhetoric, and that truth is something that we owe ourselves to pick up and examine carefully: somebody has to point these things out, and good on Allan for being that person.
Allan’s column is served up several ways: you can read it on The Island Heartbeat, his own blog, you can read it online in The Eastern Graphic, which is a more annoying and advertisey and “you’ve read X of Y articles this monthy,” but also pays the bills. Or you can subscribe to the real live physical Graphic, which is probably the very best way of all because it both pays the bills and helps to keep print alive.