#NBprochoice: An Election Issue Takes Shape

NBprochoiceI think one of the upcoming election issues has now evolved from the recent announcement by the Fredericton Morgentaler clinic that it will close in July. There has been plenty of media coverage, vociferous chatter on Twitter, petitions, and an upcoming rally. The issue may fade slightly between now and the election on September 22, but I’m guessing the ballot box will reflect its impact. It has people thinking about their votes now. Or at least I’m hoping so: it’s high time New Brunswick elect more women MLAs or at least men who believe in equality and choice, and here’s the important thing, ready to do something about it.

If I was a sitting MLA or running for office I would not hesitate to commit to repeal the section of Regulation 84.20 that defines abortion as a non-entitled health service. (Scroll to near the bottom.) The regulation outlines that for a woman to access an abortion, she needs written consent of two doctors. Then, and only then, will the province cover it. (Every other province except PEI covers it.) This is draconian and unnecessary. I firmly believe in a woman’s choice; it seems paternalistic that two doctors should decide. Perhaps if we had more women MLAs this ridiculous restriction would be repealed. Women have never been represented with a majority of MLAs so it seems fair to say that the law that governs their access to abortion has been decided by men.

So to pick up on my previous post on International Women’s Day, how are NB political parties doing with their nomination of women candidates? It’s time to check back in. The number, including results from nominating conventions held this weekend by the Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties, are not much better than last time, more than a month ago. Again, I’ve ranked them by total number, then by percentage.

Progressive Conservative 6/22 27%
Green Party 3/5 60%
Liberal Party 2/21 10%
NDP 1/4 25%
People’s Alliance 1/6 16%

The numbers, obviously, have not improved a great deal, and the Greens, NDP, and People’s Alliance have nominated too few to see if there is any clear trend. The PCs and Liberals, though, are approaching half of their slates, so those numbers likely do represent a concrete trend. And despite all parties talking the talk about running and electing more women candidates, it looks like their efforts to recruit and engage are failing.

It’s difficult to look more deeply into and analyze the numbers because only 2 parties — the Greens and Liberals — have published the names of candidates who are contesting ridings on their party websites. These numbers don’t hold much promise for improvement.

The Liberals have names of contestants for 26 other ridings. Of those, 17 are contested completely by men and only 4 are currently contested solely by women. The Green Party has 7 ridings where there are official contestants listed. None, as far as I can tell, are women. Kudos, at least, to those parties for the information. The bottom line is this: if the legislature continues to be dominated by men, then the likelihood of changes to abortion access will likely not improve. The timing of the news of the clinic’s closure does provide us with an opportunity to renew efforts.

So what should New Brunswickers do?

Speak to your MLAs, Here’s the list with contact information.

Ask candidates what their position is and what their commitment is when then knock on your door.

Sign the petition.

Attend the rally and wear red (the colour chosen by organizers as the protest colour): this coming Thursday, April 17 at 12:30 at the New Brunswick legislature.

Encourage women to get involved in politics by running in the upcoming election!

Vote September 22 with this issue in mind.

Rawi Hage in Fredericton

Rawi Hage, winner of the 2008 Impac Dublin Award — the world’s richest literary prize, gave a fantastic reading tonight on the UNB campus. I was rooting for him to win the recent Canada Reads 2014, but if you followed the debates you know that he didn’t win, though he did come close. We’re lucky to have a great reading series that brings writers of such stature to Fredericton.


International Women’s Day and NB’s Political Parties

iwd_squareUnless you were living under a rock, then you know that today, March 8, is International Women’s Day.

Women are woefully underrepresented in New Brunswick provincial politics. Currently, there are 7 women in the provincial legislature (8 were elected in the last election, but Margaret Ann Blaney resigned). The most ever was 10 back in 1991. All 7 current women MLAs are Progressive Conservatives.

This year is an election year for New Brunswick. I saw on Twitter this morning (via Global reporter Laura Brown) that David Coon, leader of the NB Green Party, wants to have a slate of candidates “50 per cent women and 50 per cent men.” So it got me thinking: how are the parties doing so far? Both the Liberals and NDP released statements today (I visited all party websites and those were the only two statements I found) and both acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do. But neither one offered any concrete suggestions or commitments to improve this glaring discrepancy. And herein lies my only problem with official days like today: they result in more rhetoric (for the day) and little action (for the rest of the year). In other words, reaction instead of action. I have no doubt that both parties are sincere, but as far as I know only the Greens are on record with an objective (I’d be happy if every other party contacted me to prove me wrong). In my opinion, all political parties need to stop reacting and start leading by clearly articulating targets. Because without them, I fear we will not be actively correcting the situation. Without them, how can we measure our success without goals? How can we be accountable?

All five political parties are busy nominating candidates. So what are the numbers? Of candidates officially nominated leading up to International Women’s Day, only 8 of 31 are women. Most parties are doing a poor job, obviously. Here is a run-down of officially nominated candidates so far for each party, ranked first by total number then by percentage:

    Green Party: 5 nominated candidates. 3 women. 60%
    Progressive Conservative: 9 nominated candidates. 2 women. 22%
    NDP: 4 nominated candidates. 1 woman. 25%
    People’s Alliance: 4 nominated candidates. 1 woman. 25%
    Liberals: 9 nominated candidates. 1 woman. 11%

You may say, “but Ian, it’s early yet.” And yes, you are right. But it’s a worrying trend because I want to see equal representation, or at least I want to see it a lot closer. I will definitely be watching, and if any parties get in touch with me (please do! @ianletourneau on Twitter) then I will update appropriately. Most importantly, let’s keep the conversation going beyond today!

A Few Significant Milestones

20130316-123347.jpg2013 marks a few significant milestones for me. Ten years ago on June 4 I received my MA (English) from UNB. I framed the poster that announced my defence, which still hangs above my desk. The name of my thesis was “Brash Postcards from the Wilderness: Don McKay’s Ecopoetry.”

The other significant milestone that 2013 marks is five years since the publication of my book Terminal Moraine. After returning from Nuuk, Greenland in early September, my family and I drove to Saskatoon from Alberta (where we were living at the time) to attend the book launch. Estimates of the crowd that night ranged between 150-200 in attendance. Thistledown Press treated me well, paying for my travel and putting me up in a motel, and I launched with the three other poets from the New Leaf series, Taylor Leedhal, Adrienne Gruber, and Kelly-Anne Reiss. I’ll never forget this night because while I was reading a poem about my son’s syllable-testing as an infant, he said “daddy” loud enough for the room to hear. There was a collective “awwww” and I struggled to finish reading the poem (which to this day I can’t read out loud). Needless to say, this will be a story for me to tell for the rest of my life.

It’s also twenty years since high school graduation. Yikes, but who’s counting?

What will happen in the next five years? Ten? Twenty?

Thinking of Spring

Well, more precisely, the spring book season. I’ve just finished copyediting the second of two Goose Lane spring poetry releases under the Ice House imprint: Carmelita McGrath’s Escape Velocity and Adrienne Barrett’s The House is Still Standing.

CarmelitaMcGrath AdrienneBarrett

As associate poetry editor and member of the acquisitions board, I’ve seen the two manuscripts months and months ago when we accepted them. But they’re better now, thanks to editors Katia Grubisic and James Langer. But these aren’t the only books I’m looking forward to: one of my favourite poets, Sharon McCartney, has a new book Hard Ass coming out with Palimpsest. Can’t wait for this one! I think she’s one of the most underrated poets in the country. I am slightly biased–Sharon’s a friend of mine–but pick up any of her books, and I think you’ll agree with me.

And I’ll be glad once spring is actually here. Not only will I have these books in my hands, and not only will the snow mostly be gone, but I’ll be freed up a little from all the contracts that have come my way lately. Aside from these copyediting contracts, I’ve got a few proofreading jobs, a few grants to write for The Fiddlehead, and a re-write to do for the online English course I’m teaching through UNB. And that will mean I am almost on my way to Ottawa for The Writers’ Union of Canada’s AGM, where I’ll be moderating a panel on book reviewing. And then teaching a workshop at the Maritime Writers Workshop soon afterwards. And then off to the poetry festival in Whitehorse, Yukon. I’m busy, busy, busy, and I mostly like being that way. Hope to finish my own book this year, and things are starting to pick up–another reason I’m waiting for spring: more time, theoretically, to write! Or at least maybe by summer!

Happy New Year

Well, another year is wrapping up, and as I reflect on 2012, I’m pretty amazed at how much I’ve accomplished — was it really only a year? I became gainfully employed, learned new skills, grew professionally and personally, and entered the rough and tumble world of politics as a city council candidate. It was a year of learning and growth, making new friends, and enjoying life. Here’s a recap of my year, an omnibus post.


FH253Since moving back to Fredericton in 2010 (from five years in the western wilds of Alberta) I haven’t been able to say I’m securely employed. I can now! As most know, New Brunswick is not an easy place to find work. But I finally persevered. It’s been a long haul through tons of part-time and freelance work, but I can now say I am the Secretary/Graphic Designer of The Fiddlehead (a dream job working for the old fern!) and starting January 1, 2013 I’ll be taking over the online instruction of English 1145 at UNB through the College of Extended Learning.


Publishing/Writing Success

2012 wasn’t entirely a banner year for publications, but it did come with some exciting news: I was officially invited to take part in the 2013 Whitehorse Poetry Festival. More details to come about that to be sure!

I also had the opportunity to teach a daylong workshop at the esteemed Maritime Writers’ Workshop here in Fredericton. I hope to do so again in the future.

But I did manage to get a few publications in a few magazines (The Malahat Review and Germination) and an anthology (Poet to Poet from Guernica Editions). And just yesterday (in time to count for 2012!) I received official word that I’ll have a poem in another anthology, I Found it at the Movies, scheduled for a fall 2014 release.
I also continue in my roles as Secretary of the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick, poetry co-editor of The Fiddlehead, and Associate Poetry Editor at Goose Lane Editions. I was quite proud that I could be part of the successful launch of the first two collections of poetry in Goose Lane’s Icehouse imprint.



I’ve always been interested in politics, but in 2012 I dropped my own writ by declaring as a candidate in the municipal election, running unsuccessfully as a city councilor in Fredericton’s ward 6. But all was not lost. I garnered 15% of the vote, but before the campaign I did not even know 15% of the people in the community. And I didn’t know how to run a campaign. I learned that fast, and learned a lot about the history of the region, made some good friends, and got actively involved in Fredericton’s future. I was successfully in one endeavor: I volunteered with a group of citizens who campaigned to rezone a strawberry U-pick and surrounding forest to protect it from development. My own city councilor was opposed, but public pressure from our group, and my own efforts to get community members to contact her, caused her to finally support it. I was proud of my efforts running for city council, but I was tremendously proud of our group’s efforts. Most recently, I’ve been the lead person investigating the possibility of a car-free street downtown, and the idea took off with media interviews and meetings with various stakeholders. Early in the new year, Downtown Fredericton Inc. will be hiring a consultant to envision the future of downtown, and this provides our group with a great opportunity to participate in that vision.

photoI couldn’t ask for much else (except an iPad!): my family is healthy and happy. My wife continues to work on her novel. My son is in grade 1 now! And he is reading and writing at a very high level. I’ve made tons of new friends. And I have a new nephew!

I’m looking forward to 2013 and all the challenges it will inevitably bring. But I am thankful for the opportunities I have, and for my family and friends.

What are my goals and resolutions for 2013? I would like to meet more of my Twitter friends. I would like to finally finish my second book and send it out to prospective publishers. And I would like to continue working hard to make Fredericton and New Brunswick a better place for us all. Oh, and eat less junk food!

All the best from me for a happy and prosperous 2013 for all.

Coming Soon from Icehouse Poetry Books

Did you hear about the new poetry imprint from Goose Lane Editions? The editors of this series are Ross Leckie, Katia Grubisic, David Seymour, James Langer, and me. The first two books are due out this fall, which means very numberswiki.com

soon! I’m very excited to get my hands on copies of Patrick Warner’s Perfection and Stewart Cole’s Questions in Bed. (Follow the links to read more info about both books!)

Happy New Brunswick Day 2012!

I feel very fortunate to live in a beautiful province. From our mighty rivers teeming with salmon to our ocean vistas, from our old growth forests to our smart, sustainable cities, New Brunswick is a special place with kind and creative people, and loads of potential.

But as much as I love New Brunswick, as much as I am a proud New Brunswicker, there is one sour note about this day, and it lurks in the background of any discussion about New Brunswick: our political climate, which stifles our potential. Our economy, as every one knows, is in shambles. And it doesn’t seem to be getting better. The Margaret Ann Blaney appointment has all but disappeared from public scrutiny, the anti-shale gas resistance has seemingly petered out. And the government keeps doing things the same old way, without innovation, without long-term vision. We have some very bright and innovative people and ideas here. People and ideas that should guarantee bright prospects. These true innovators need a government that is seriously interested more info

in progress.

So here’s my passionate plea as a New Brunswicker, one who has had to move away to work but fought tirelessly for the first opportunity to return: hold your politicians to account. Demand more from them. Do not fall for easy slogans like #nbfirst (no apologies to Mike Murphy), slogans that are basically meaningless. Judge them on their track record, not on what they promise. As a poet and someone who spends a lot of time studying language, I can tell you that language is easily manipulated. (I recommend reading George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language.”) So forget about who your father or grandfather voted for. Here’s my suggestion: Stop listening to what politicians say. Judge them on what they do. Hold their feet over the fire. Maybe the tables will turn and they will listen to you. Which is what they were voted into office for in the first place.

If that sounds radical, then paint me radical. But it seems pretty simplistic to me. Forget about transitions: the time for change is now!