Accepting the absurd

Brian Jones
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Thank goodness the tourist from Maine survived being attacked by a polar bear in northern Labrador in July.

If you missed the news because you were on summer holiday in Florida, the Dominican or Gander, a group was in Torngat Mountains National Park. Late one night, a polar bear dragged a sleeping man out of a tent. A fellow camper fired a flare, and the bear dropped the man and ran off.

His injuries were serious. According to an Associated Press story Thursday, he is still recovering.

The headline was, “Park officials say they don’t know if fence failed in Labrador polar bear attack.”

Apparently, the group’s campsite was encircled by an electric fence designed to repel bears.

This was a serious incident, so I’ll resist the urge to be flippant. Instead, let’s address an obvious fact. Park officials can find their answer about whether the fence failed in the word “attack.”

Success of the fence would have required that the bear be repelled.

Even so, park officials — perhaps because they are Canadian, and the Associated Press story originated in Maine — are allegedly baffled. According to the AP, the bear “destroyed the fence, so officials can’t determine if it was working properly.”

OK, this justifies being flippant. Hey, Einstein: not only did the fence fail — it failed miserably.

You buy a boat. It sinks. You go to the seller and ask for your money back. He demands proof the boat was defective.

“It’s at the bottom of a pond,” you say.

“Then how can you prove it failed?” he says.


Who’s on trial?

Absurdities abound. I work in a newsroom, so I know that journalists are not responsible for injecting absurdity into current events. Many news stories are already infused with the spirit of Franz Kafka, or Abbott and Costello.

Examples are as plentiful as caplin on a beach in a good year.

“It’s so unfair,” wails an embattled senator, lamenting the attention paid to her expense claims. Unfair, yes, but not in the sense she means.

Then there’s Muskrat Falls. … Wait, let’s give that one a rest this week.


Fish tale

Gray Aqua Group Ltd. has filed for bankruptcy protection. According to Telegram stories published Thursday, the aquaculture outfit owes creditors a total of $39 million.

Naturally, Canadian taxpayers are on the list of people to whom money is owed. How could it be otherwise? After all, we’re talking here about the absurd.

Gray Aqua received almost $3 million from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. It received $3.8 million from the provincial government.

Purists might suggest the public trough should have an electric fence put around it to repel supposed free enterprisers who seek government money.

Gray Aqua got more than 6 million of taxpayers’ dollars, but do you think company president, Tim Gray, would talk to journalists, to explain the situation to the public? Nah.

One of the few things afloat at Gray Aqua is dead fish. In about the past year, infectious salmon anemia (ISA) has struck more than a million of its fish, which had to be destroyed.

You can’t take your car on the road without insurance. However, if you go into the aquaculture business, there’s no need for insurance, apparently. Why would you need it? If calamity strikes — a federal government agency orders you to destroy a million ISA- infected fish, say — you can simply ask for government compensation, up to $37.5 million in Gray Aqua’s case.

But enough of absurdities and blown millions. In some aspects, governments do a stellar job. I got a call this week from the Canada Revenue Agency. The tax collector on the line was aggressive and threatening. I owe $32.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at

Organizations: Associated Press, Aqua Group, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Canada Revenue Agency The Telegram

Geographic location: Maine, Northern Labrador, Florida Torngat Mountains National Park Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Cynic
    August 30, 2013 - 08:46

    That group of people refused an Inuk guide and went unarmed into the wilderness of Northern Labrador. What happened is awful, but what did they expect? Because they were from the Sierra Club and therefor so much more "highly evolved" and "sensitive" than us mere mortals that no wild animal would actually think they might be food, not appreciate the presence of these ever so "progressive" beings? Sorry, but there was an arrogance in their actions that I think means they have to take some of the responsibility for this. Parks Canada, fence or no fence, does not exist to maintain the delusions of effete urbanites who can't really separate the natural world from Disneyland and who think they are somehow entitled to wander the wilderness with no protection, unlikie any other humans in the history of the human race.