Stuff Still Happens, week 18: Apocalypse Now

On Tuesday  when I turned on the evening news, I saw pictures of thousands of cars fleeing an apocalyptic hellscape. I first assumed it was just thousands of Americans fleeing to Canada to escape the Donald Trump presidency, but it turned out to be much, much worse.

There isn’t much more that can be said about the Fort McMurray catastrophe. By the time the flames have finally been doused — and, literally, God only knows when that might happen — and the damage has been tallied, the Fort McMurray fire may be the costliest disaster in Canadian history. BMO estimates the damages could come to $9 billion, while others are predicting something in the $2-3 billion range. The cost of the Alberta and Canadian economies is something that can’t be calculated at this time.

How big is the fire? Depends on where you live. A CBC report described the burn area as larger than Toronto, an American TV report called the area larger than New York City. The size of the evacuation — nearly 90,000 people — is huge, but far from a record. Compared to other mass evacuations, however, everyone fleeing had to leave on one main road. A friend of mine told me that her husband left Fort McMurray at 1 a.m., and didn’t arrive in Edmonton until 1 p.m.

What can be done about a fire of this size? Sadly, not a damn thing. A story in the New York Times quotes a senior disaster response manager from Colorado as saying that stopping a wildfire is like “trying to stop a hurricane from hitting the Eastern Seaboard”. When a fire takes on a life of its own, as the Fort McMurray fire has, only Mother Nature can kill it, or it peters out when it runs out of fuel. There is no threat of a shortage of fuel for the Fort McMurray fire.

As terrible as this event is, it gladdens the heart to see how Albertans, and all Canadians, are reacting. From the millions pouring into the Red Cross, to Edmonton Northlands turning their space into shelters in the middle of the night, to the restaurants offering free food, to average Joe’s loading up their trucks with supplies and just giving stuff away, this disaster is a true Canadian moment. Kindness, co-operation, sympathy … all of the best traits of Canada are on display.

Also on vivid display — the Canadian deference to authority. The authorities have told reporters to stay out, and the reporters have meekly obeyed. The American networks are here — ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN — and one local reporter said on TV that the thing that amazed American reporters was how the Canadian reporters never tried to get past the barricades. One NBC reporter showed the locals how it’s done and somehow got past the police and captured dramatic footage of the ruins of Fort McMurray homes. He even did a stand up of himself in the wreckage with flames behind him. Check out this slide show from a New York Times photographer — a Pulitzer Prize winner, no less — who joined a convoy going into the area and captured the best pictures yet from the fire zone.

It might be weeks or even months before people can return to Fort Mac, and certainly there will be some — perhaps many — who will just take the insurance money and go live somewhere else. But that’s for the future. Right now, Canadians are doing what we do so well in times of crisis — opening wallets, homes and hearts to help out.

Apocalypse Coming

 ” Let’s make this clear, folks: Donald Trump will never, ever, EVER win the nomination.” – In This Corner, July 25, 2015

Yep, that was your humble correspondent, predicting that the deranged billionaire would not be the Republican nominee. In my defense, a lot of people smarter than me (and that is a lot of people) said the same thing. The Trump victory is truly historic. Never in American history has a major political party offered up a candidate with fewer political credentials than Donald Trump. The last time a U.S. party’s candidate was someone who never held office was when the Republicans nominated Dwight Eisenhower, whose only political experience was being the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II. Donald Trump’s biggest challenge was in firing Dennis Rodman on The Apprentice.

So, can Trump (who has virtually zero support from the Republican establishment, including the last two Republican presidents) beat Hillary Clinton, who will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee? Let’s make this clear, folks: Donald Trump will never, ever, EVER win the presidency. Unless, of course, he does.

Where’s the beef? Back in Alberta.

Restaurant chain Earls, which announced last week that it was going to buy all of its beef from a ‘certified humane’ operation in Kansas at the expense of Alberta beef, changed its tune this week. Earls took a public relations pounding from its decision to abandon Alberta beef, and announced this week that home-grown meat was back on the table. I don’t understand how any company, particularly something as high profile as a restaurant chain, would have thought that shunning home-grown product was a good idea.


Bill McDermott, 79, a longtime CFL assistant coach, notably with the Eskimos from 1999-2006.


By Maurice Tougas

Maurice Tougas is a lifelong Albertan, award-winning writer and reporter, and a former MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

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