What’s wrong with New Brunswick Tourism?

WARNING: The following post contains truth and a great deal of sarcasm.

Friends and blog followers, I am about to embark on a rant. If you don’t like a good rant, stop reading now. Still with me?

The object of my rant is the New Brunswick Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Healthy Living (there goes the lobster dipped in melted butter).

Flag of New Brunswick, Canada

New Brunswick is a beautiful province, the ‘Picture Province’, of Canada. I love New Brunswick. I lived there as a kid and have never managed to get it out of my system.

Grand Manan Island is in the Bay of Fundy and is a part of New Brunswick. I love the Island, too. I’ve been teaching summer plein air painting holidays on the island for almost twenty five years.

Private Collection

Last February, much to my current regret, I had a bright idea. I emailed NB Tourism and asked if there might be room on their website for my little painting holiday on Grand Manan Island. I followed up with a phone call and spoke to a very enthusiastic and reassuring  Mr. Tourism Contact.

I hoped to qualify for inclusion on the site and explained that the painting holidays I’ve taught on the Island have contributed, at least, $500,000 dollars to the local economy (conservative estimate) over two decades. Also, I donated an original watercolour painting to the Grand Manan Art Gallery and hundreds of art postcards which they sell to help raise funds.

Ross Island Light
Collection: Grand Manan Art Gallery

In return, I’ve made a small fortune and live like a Pasha, surrounded by luxury and…oops, wrong story! Anyway, silly me. I actually believe that a successful Grand Manan painting holiday, with lots of artists visiting from away, makes a small but worthwhile contribution to Grand Manan inns, motels, cottages, restaurants, whale-watching, kayaking, and so on. Obviously, Grand Manan can get by without me, but I try.

Mr. Tourism Contact and I lobbed amiable emails back and forth for FOUR MONTHS.

To paraphrase our correspondence:

We’re launching a new website!’ emailed he.

That’s the best news I’ve ever heard!’ I enthused.

We just have to figure out where you’ll fit in the GRAND DESIGN!’ pondered he.

How about under DO > CULTURE AND HERITAGE > MUSIC, ART, DANCE AND THEATRE > THINGS TO DO? Right next to ‘Relax and Create in Potato Country-Andrew and Laura McCain Art Gallery’ and ‘Make a Masterpiece-The Beaverbrook Art Gallery’ I suggested meekly.

I’m on it!’ reassured he.

You don’t think that I’m being kissed off because I’m not a New Brunswick-based business?’ queried arrogant Upper Canadian I, after a very long wait.

Another long wait. Suddenly, I woke up and smelled the lobster chowder. FOUR MONTHS had transpired. It was June. My workshop is in August.

I emailed ‘Would you see fit to sending me the email address of the New Brunswick Minister of Culture, Tourism and Healthy Living? Today?’

I got an IMMEDIATE ANSWER. But, it was the wrong answer. Instead of the requested email address, Mr. Tourism Contact told me to expect a long distance phone call from Ms. Eminent Colleague of Same. She phoned on THE SAME DAY. She was very nice. She told me that I wasn’t entitled to a free listing because I WASN’T A NEW BRUNSWICK-BASED BUSINESS. Well, what do you know?

Four months.

Ms. Eminent Colleague of Same informed me that there was still a way for me to land my humble painting holiday on the NB Tourism website. I could join the Experiences program for $600 a year. That is, I could have joined the Experiences program FOUR MONTHS AGO. Think of the interest on $600 over a four-month period! Actually, don’t think about it.

I mention money because New Brunswick is currently basking in the sunshine of a Progressive Conservative government. I don’t know what conservatives are like in your fair land but, around here, they like to RUN GOVERNMENT LIKE A BUSINESS. Two weeks ago, I emailed the Honourable Trevor Holder, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Healthy Living and Carolyn MacKay, Deputy Minister of Culture, Tourism and Healthy Living. I received ALMOST INSTANTANEOUS responses from their respective offices. ‘Brought to the attention of… Back to you soonest…’ You know the sort of thing.

And guess what else? Just in case you think I’m picking on conservatives I emailed the MLA for Charlotte-The Isles, the riding that includes Grand Manan Island. His name is Rick Doucet and he is a member of the Liberal Party! He hasn’t even acknowledged my email.

That was two weeks ago. I still haven’t heard from the Minister or the Deputy Minister. Soon, it’ll be FIVE MONTHS. I’m starting to wonder if the New Brunswick Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Healthy Living can run a three-car funeral.

So, what do I really think? I do know one thing. If I ran my art classes, workshops and painting holidays in such a manner, I wouldn’t survive. Period.

Join me this summer for some outdoor painting and lobster dipped in melted butter. Grand Manan Island is a very special and beautiful part of the world. If you can’t, visit New Brunswick sometime soon. It’s much more than a website. Thanks for reading my rant.


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9 Responses to “What’s wrong with New Brunswick Tourism?”

  1. Carol King Says:

    I, for one, love a good rant peppered with sarcasm. And, I know it sucks for you, but it’s good to know that NYC isn’t the only place filled with incompetent government bureaucracy!

    I would LOVE to join you this summer. But I can’t get off from my government job.

  2. Don J J Carroll Says:

    Barry, read your letter in the Daily Gleaner today (June 27, 2012) and just had to check out your “rant” on your blog, loved it, but am ashamed of the way you are being treated by our Government.

    PS: The included Grand Manan painting images are awesome, where can I see more of them in New Brunswick, besides the Grand Manan At Gallery, of course.

    • Barry Coombs Says:

      Hi Don,
      Thanks for your thoughts. Since the rant, I’ve had some positive developments. Nothing yet from NB Tourism but very supportive emails from Hon. Rick Doucet, MLA.
      I’m not represented in any NB galleries but have considered submitting to Gallery 78 in Fredericton. Think it’s worth a try?

      • Don J J Carroll Says:

        Hi again Barry, re Gallery 78, I would suggest why not, your art looks great and somewhat unique in style. Also, if you do get an opportunity to have an exhibit of your work at Gallery 78, you can invite some local politicians to the opening!

  3. Shayne McLaughlin Says:

    Love your work, be sure and get your lobster at Fundy House on Grand Manan, sending my girls to university someday.

  4. maggiequinn Says:

    The same sort of thing has been happening here on Bay Chaleur for years. I think we need more artists who are willing to speak up about how they are being overlooked. Sure hope we get artists like you on the Chaleur in May 2015 for our Arts Festival.

    • Barry Coombs Says:

      Thanks for your comment, Maggie. I taught a painting holiday in beautiful Bathurst many years ago and loved Bay Chaleur. I’ll look up the Arts Festival.

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