Celebrating our jewel in the crown

Gary MacDougall
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My first memory of a live performance at Confederation Centre of the Arts was an ear-splitting but enjoyable one.

It was back in the 1970s and the Canadian rock band Lighthouse was on stage — a big band with over 10 members and a big sound.

The good news that night was that I and a couple of pals were inside the theatre, the bad news was we were seated in front of the largest and loudest speakers I had ever seen. Our heads vibrated for days, but it was a memorable night.

Through the years I have been privileged to attend many musical and theatrical performances at the centre (ranging from Leonard Cohen to my granddaughter’s dance recital). I have gazed upon wonderful art exhibitions and literary displays (I never tire of seeing Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables manuscript when it is on display). I have also listened in on inspiring lectures of matters of public importance and attended many pleasurable social gatherings.

Confederation Centre of the Arts is Charlottetown’s — rather, P.E.I.’s jewel in the crown — and an oasis of culture, art and intellectual thought.

I got to thinking about the centre after learning that a committee of friends, alumni and former employees of the centre are planning a series of noontime luncheons in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the arts centre. The first one is Jan. 14. (For more details see the story on page A4.)

The centre is not without its critics, has often been filled with people not unaware of their importance and has its share of warts, but I cannot imagine what this city would be like without it.

Smaller is the word that comes to mind when I contemplate it, smaller in so many ways — in our imaginations, thinking, dreams and sense of the world beyond our shores.


Speaking of culture, our shinny culture and the remake of the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League was in the news this week.

The team has suffered through many years of mediocrity but the new owners and management vow to put those days behind them. As part of the new vision they were involved in no fewer then a dozen trades over a 17-day period. With the trading period over, most observers think the team is now on the right path to future success, even if this season proves a bit painful.

General manager Grant Sonier made so many trades that I almost called into work to make sure I wasn’t gone as part of “future considerations” in one of the trades. One thing is certain, with all the new players in the lineup program sales are up at home games.


Today is Sir John A. Macdonald Day, the birthday of Canada’s first prime minister, but next year will be Macdonald’s bicentennial year, an even bigger deal. He won’t be around, other than in statute form and hopefully in spirit, but the non-profit, non-partisan Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial Commission (www.sirjohna2015.ca) is working hard to use his 200th birthday as a springboard to celebrate Canada’s history and past leaders.

Macdonald was an immigrant child from the Old Sod who rose to dominate Canadian politics and help form a nation. He was one of, if not, the key figure at the 1864 Charlottetown Conference, which we Islanders are celebrating all this year.

I hope the Macdonald commission is successful in its goal of sparking interest in history as we Canadians neglect too much of our colourful and proud past.

After all, if we can’t get excited about old Sir John A., I don’t know who will fire us up. Macdonald had a reputation as a hard-drinking, hard-bargaining politician surrounded, at times, by a whiff of scandal. The people loved him and they hated him, but his vision, hopes and dreams for our nation cannot be questioned and we all owe him a debt of gratitude.

A dram of Scotch in his honour would not be out of place today.

Gary MacDougall is managing editor of The Guardian. He can be reached by telephone at (902) 629-6039; by email at gmacdougall@theguardian.pe.ca; or Twitter.com/GaryGuardian.

Organizations: Confederation Centre, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Macdonald commission The Guardian

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Green Gables, Canada

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