Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Only Rats and Horses

I started writing about CBU’s proposed housing development for the former Tartan Downs harness racing track in Ashby but realized I have too much to say for a Fast & Curious item, so I’ll write about it at greater length next week.

For now, I’d just like to include an exchange between District 12 Councilor Lorne Green and Kent MacIntyre, former Richmond County CAO, who presented to council on the development in his role as director of the Urban Neighbourhood Development Association, a non-profit entity established to spearhead it (more about this next week).

Tartan Downs Development Master Plan

If you read the Cape Breton Post account of the exchange, you understood it to have begun like this:

[Councilor Green] asked MacIntyre about rumours that the grassy centre of the track was used to bury euthanized horses. He also wondered if rats living in the remaining buildings on the site would infest neighbouring properties when they are demolished.

But if you watched the meeting, what you actually heard Green ask was this:

Kent if I could, now, there’s some stories about that particular site, I’m not sure if you’re aware of but the center field story for that site, are you aware of anything taking place in that particular, the center field of that track? History has the, you know, there’s some stories out there and I’m not sure if you heard them, but I’m wondering if you’re aware of those stories and what you anticipate doing if that is, in fact, the truth, some of those stories. You know, so, it’s going to be an interesting thing because it was brought to my attention several times when people heard about this development.

To which MacIntyre replied:

Okay, so for the first one, on center field, yes we are aware. We’ve gotten a number of stories from older horsemen and the engineering firm Stantec that we’ve had working on the site for many, many months now, they’re quite well aware and so that issue will be dealt with satisfactorily. They, they’ve been telling us that’s an easy fix. So, we’re not, we’re aware and we’re not very concerned about it because they can deal with that.

Green’s second question (which he actually posed along with first question, allowing MacIntyre to respond to both at once, I’m just breaking them up for discussion purposes) was equally obscure:

Along with the development, of course, is the existing buildings that are there, they’re housing some, some unwelcome guests and those unwelcome guests will have to go somewheres when they start destroying those buildings and I know there’s some concern in the neighborhood, as, are we going to get some new residents in our yard and in our basements. So, I hope all those issues are being addressed because, you know, citizens have concerns with, you know, the demolition and where these particular guests run to. So, I don’t know if you’re aware of the story about the center track and what’s the anticipated move for the, the tenants that are there now when you start destroying those buildings.

To which MacIntyre replied:

The second issue, with our little furry friends up there, we have had two extermination companies in, they’ve given us a strategy of how to deal with that and they’ve suggested to us that we don’t demolish the buildings until we’ve dealt with our little furry friend issue so, yes, we are going to deal with that. I actually have an aunt that lives over on Lorne Street and she’s asking me pretty much on a weekly basis [laughs] are we going to deal with that? And yes, the answer is yes we’re going to deal with it so, we don’t want to demolish the buildings and have all those little friends visit all the neighbors, that’s not gonna happen. [laughs]

It was up to District 10 Councilor Darren Bruckschwaiger to break the silence, beginning his remarks with:

Thanks for the nightmare tonight, Lorne, I really appreciate that my friend. The rats are really great.

CBRM council Zoom, 8 March 2022

CBRM council Zoom meeting, 8 March 2022

I cannot, for the life of me, understand why Green would bring up the issues of rats and horse bones at a public meeting while refusing to actually utter the words “rats” or “horse bones.” The effect, in both cases, was to make everything sound much worse than it actually is. If you didn’t know he was talking about rats you could be forgiven for thinking — given his use of the words “residents,” “guests” and “tenants” — that he was talking about people. And I actually didn’t know what he was talking about in relation to the center field and he gave me the impression it was a crime scene — the site of some great post-race massacre — so cheers to the Post for clearing that up.

It was like Green was experimenting with conducting an in camera meeting in public. (And if so, it was not a success.)

I wanted very badly to conclude this with a harness racing reference but I couldn’t think of one, having only the most tenuous of connections to the harness-racing world, namely, the crossing guard at my elementary school used to give us his old betting tickets and as a high school student, I once worked the ticket booth for a special Action Week harness race.

That’s all I’ve got.


Local angle

I understand the desire to find a local angle on a huge international story like the war in Ukraine, but that front page article in the Cape Breton Post on March 4 about the “local man” who is apparently on his way to Poland to “aid in citizen evacuation efforts in western Ukraine” was a classic example of this desire run completely amuck.

The “local” man in question is Brandon Langton (or Brandon Kroetsch, per his GoFundMe) who apparently left Kitchener, Ontario in February 2021, after the death of his mother, and “walked” to Halifax, raising $2,500 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation with his “A Walk to Wake Up” campaign. (The GoFundMe page says he raised $897 of his $2,500 goal, which was to cover his mother’s funeral expenses and his own travel costs.) He also admits in the story that he didn’t actually walk the entire way because he was out of shape.

But his fitness level wasn’t the only obstacle —  COVID restrictions in place at that time meant he could only enter New Brunswick if he was prepared to self-isolate for 14 days, which he apparently wasn’t willing to do, because the Instagram Account documenting his walk includes videos of him trying to sneak into New Brunswick via a service road through the woods. When this goes awry, he camps by the side of the road near the Quebec/New Brunswick border and posts a video in which he drinks beer and discusses his plight. The caption is:

End of a Brutal Day. This was the evening after my trek up the hills trying to get into New Brunswick. Had to figure out a new plan and was amazingly disappointed this wasn’t my first option lol.

camping out near a truck stop, on the QC/NB border, praying that the police don’t catch me violating curfew, or alerts the RCMP to my attempt to cross illegally.

And beer. lol

He explains that he’s talked to truckers and discovered there’s a snowmobile trail that he plans to take all the way to Edmundston, by-passing the border checkpoint, although he’s afraid he might encounter an RCMP “snowmobile patrol.” Worst case scenario, he says he’ll go to the Edmundston airport and try to book a flight back to Ontario. (I don’t think you can actually do this from the Edmundston airport.)


Source: Cape Breton Post

But he apparently succeeds in sneaking into New Brunswick because on March 25 he posts a picture of a motel in Edmundston. It looks like he takes a bus to Saint John then the ferry to Digby. By this point, Nova Scotia had lifted travel restrictions to travelers from New Brunswick, so he’s home free.

According to the Post story, he stayed in Halifax for a few months then moved to North Sydney (his mother was from Glace Bay) where he had been for a month, as of the publication of the story.

Now, if all has gone according to plan, he’s in Poland with a variety of gear that may or may not include a bow and arrows helping rescue Ukrainian civilians. His sister is caring for his cats and if he “doesn’t return,” she will take them in.

I don’t want to come down too heavily on Langton/Kroetsch, who admits to struggling with mental illness, but how did this story make it past an editor?

I seriously don’t know which bar is now lower — that to being considered a “local” (one month’s residence?) or that to making the front page of the Post.


Editor’s Note: This last item is by Spectator contributor Don Clarke.


Rich history

As the mandates are lifted and everyone is looking for a way to get out more, I’d like to suggest something local, safe and very interesting: the Membertou Heritage Park, a “five-acre site that offers a living history of the people of Membertou.” I spent an afternoon there and learned more in the first five minutes than I have ever known about Mi’kmaq culture. Not that I ever knew much. But I was curious.

First of all, though, do NOT trust Google Maps to take you there. It will lead you up St. Anthony Drive to Celtic Court, a cul-de-sac, where I guess you could park and then walk to the Heritage Park, but it’s better to go up Towerview Place to Su’n Awti, then take a left to the Heritage Park.

Membertou Heritage Park

Source: Membertou Heritage Park

What an extraordinary place to visit. The old – the rich history – mixes with the new in very interesting ways. Since it was off season, my group had more time with the staff, who really made us feel welcome. We got to hear from someone who has a great understanding of the intricacies and misunderstandings that characterize the history of Membertou: Jeff Ward, the general manager of the park. His calm passion for relating the history of his people was astounding. He was an excellent host.

(With a sense of humor, too: apparently there’s a word in Mi’kmaq that sounds a lot like our “welcome” but that actually means “fits well.” Rumor has it that’s what Great Chief Membertou actually said to the settlers who gave him a hat!)

We began by watching a short video about an artist reconnecting with her Mi’kmaq roots. She walked the path her people would have taken when they left their Reserve on Sydney River (on what is now King’s Road) the day they were forced to walk to Membertou. She contacted an Elder to learn some of the history and went to the water to paint the view they would have lost. The film taught a beautiful, though painful lesson, namely, that we cannot afford to forget the mistakes of the past if humans of different cultures are to get along, to live together.

Kings Road Reserve

Kings Road Reserve (undated), Beaton Institute.

Ward told us the story of the Dreamcatcher as we learned to make our own. I won’t spoil it for you by telling it badly, but I will say that it has to do with a spider’s web and the idea of living in harmony with nature. There is a lot more to it, of course – the story is part history, part medicine and even a little bit of faith, what some might call religion, although I think the term is too defining in this context. Certainly there is something spiritual about the way the Mi’kmaq view things.

My visit to the Heritage Park was quite educational, but more than that, I felt a real connection to the culture and the people of Membertou.


Donald Clarke

A “military brat,” Don Clarke finally put down roots in Dominion, Cape Breton. A graduate of CBU (Communication) and NSCC (Business Administration), he has been active in the local theatrical community for years, having performed and directed at the Boardmore Playhouse and Two Hoots Productions. He has worked in film and television, directed a Canadian Short Film and published poetry in Caper’s Aweigh, and The Caper Times, where he also served as editor.