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A modest proposal: no politician left behind
To the Editor:
One day last Fall, I hiked a stretch of the AT and ascended Mount Katahdin with my well-worn copy of "The Maine Woods" by Thoreau and had an epiphany, of sorts…
What if we sold, tax-free for private property owners, the "Dromedary Hump" – Maine lands north of a line from the Northeast corner of New Hampshire to Campobello Island in New Brunswick?
Whom could we sell it to and would they have interest at a prime price? The Canadians are possibilities, or more specifically, the Québecois and New Brunswickers, Robert Irving by himself, perhaps?
The idea intrigued me, as lots of privatization has taken place around the world in the last 50 years, as modern societies have adopted modern economic principles in order to address fiscal constraints and crises (what we now experience in Maine). What does the Federal and State government, and private sources, own in the region identified and what price would the land and improvements bring? One could sell out, or become a Canadian citizen, with permission. Canada's healthy banks and excellent debt rating would allow it to finance "The Land Deal" efficiently and effectively. Could they manage the forests and watercourses better than we have and, more importantly, could we use the proceeds to help fix Maine education and other severe social problems (in the making) as the BRIC countries continue to rise?
If Gov. LePage, on the occasion of his upcoming inauguration on Wednesday, and Senators Collins and Snowe, for your New Year's resolutions, would take a leaf out of the book of economic hard reality, perhaps we could make some progress on fronts that sorely require it. Standards have fallen in Maine schools, many (hundreds) are failing, and must be reformed and fixed, or we will face more severe social problems in the near future. So, let's get on with it and take revolutionary action. Bite the bullet; when times get tough, the tough get going.
We could sell "The Hump" and lease it back with an option to re-acquire, or maybe forever have Baxter and Katahdin within the fold of Canadian National Parks, with the RCMP and the like. Waterton Lakes, Banff and Victoria and other provincial parks in Canada are not bad at all. And, we get to keep the southern lands, the seashore, lobsters, most of the good stuff – where the action is.
Win-Win Economic Stimulus
All the folks above the line would qualify for Canadian national health insurance and, to boot, an east-west Superhighway could be built - half on the Maine side, half in Canada - linking Bangor with Calais/St. Stephen with Sherbrooke/Montréal, the Maritimes and Québec City, connecting from Highway 201. Such public works infrastructure would create new jobs and new sources of long term "multiplier-effect" commerce. Forget building bombs to drop on places like Iraq and Afghanistan (no multiplier effect). Canada, after all, is our largest trading partner and "The Land Deal" would only further solidify our good relations with our good neighbor. After all, when the border was originally cast, The Great Lakes (4/5) were the dividing line and we have shared those waters harmoniously for years. The Western States and Provinces enjoy a straightforward border along the 49th parallel north, to about Thunder Bay, Ontario, but northern Maine? It could easily be part of Québec or New Brunswick, or split evenly between the two powers. As a result of "The Land Deal", Québec Hydro and the new Labrador Hydro project would have better access to Maine's customers and Maine could better address its energy crisis, which threatens to further ruin our economy as we pay more adn more each year for fossil fuels. Canadian hydropower is cheap, green and abundant!.Maine's mills, canneries and logging operations that once thrived due to the Maine woods Thoreau spoke of are gone, or shadows of their former selves, and we desperately need cheap electric power to grow new industries. We also need a bold step forward that would reinforce NAFTA and set a new tone.
Jonathan Swift Revisited
Let's strike out on a new path, albeit a radical, Swiftian one, a smorgasbord for all politicians and voters who vote. By the way, my next destination is the Moosehead Lakes region and the Allagash River in the Spring or late Winter, as the case may be, although global warming seems to be pushing the limits of what was once expected in terms of ice fishing, snow skiing and dormancy of our northern forests. I wonder how long it will take for us to embrace the ideas of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," and do something here in Maine?
Maine could take the lead nationally, make energy policy history, through a sweet deal with Canada - a financing transaction, really. It would all come home to roost, in the end, and we would be (economically) better for it. Remember, in the long run, we are all dead.
After education and other pressing social problems are fixed with the sale proceeds, Cuba could provide another potential economic boon. Mainers could purchase that sunny island, or maybe just a portion of it, like Guantanamo Bay, thereby providing a nice winter destination for the folk who have endured many a cold winter from Kittery to Caribou, for so long. And, there's no telling what could result from making a deal with Raul and Fidel Castro, who just might enjoy a place in the summer sun along the Maine coast, perhaps Kennebunkport?
I, for one, would welcome the opportunity to explore Cuba freely and partake in an effort to bring Cuba into the economic fold, as seems to be happening in so many communist, or formerly communist, countries. China and Russia are growing, while we watch. Brazil and India do it as democracies, while we watch. Just watch those BRIC countries, at our own peril.
If China does not get there first and prevail in Cuba, perhaps Maine could; and, some of the sailing ships that once traveled from Saco to Havana could be revived (as cruise ships this time, Portland to Havana anyone?) and a new civil union proposed. Heck, Cuba as our 51st state would not be a bad idea...started in Maine.
So, all current and erstwhile politicians unite, march on Augusta and demand some action - not talk about "feeling our pain" – our pain is killing us and we know that the effects of the 2007-2009 recession will not be fully felt in our schools and workplaces for several more years (the iceberg effect). Let's not cover it up Sen. Collins and Sen. Snowe, Gov. LePage. Let's salvage what we can now, an experiment a bit like Thoreau's on Walden Pond, and in the Maine Woods. Let's sell what we can to save the ship and no longer deny our way into oblivion as one of the worst states in the union for business, according to Forbes magazine, recently.
Northern Maine, sold to Canada, would open up lots of possibilities by fixing our schools and the parts of society that depend on our schools – which is everybody.
If Canada is not interested, maybe the Kremlin would stake a foothold in Northern Maine?