COLUMN

A bunker mentality in New Brunswick

Allan Fotheringham July 31 1989
COLUMN

A bunker mentality in New Brunswick

Allan Fotheringham July 31 1989

A bunker mentality in New Brunswick

COLUMN

ALLAN FOTHERINGHAM

It really is good to know that there are some governments with the proper priorities. There is so much waste with the taxpayer’s dollar it is rare to find politicians who keep the common man in mind. There are so many silly and unnecessary projects financed with public money that only occasionally do we encounter an initiative that we can all applaud. I refer, of course, to the decision to build a $9.4-million underground bunker in New Brunswick where government leaders would live in a nuclear war.

Elsewhere, all around us, nearsighted politicians with no vision are concerning themselves with welfare reforms and unemployment benefits and the debate over abortion. Out in Fredericton, they’ve got their eye on the real issue—how to provide a Ping-Pong room for the premier and his pals while nuclear destruction levels the rest of the earth. Good thinking.

Construction of the Regional Emergency Operations Centre will begin in August. Dug into a hill about five kilometres from the New Brunswick legislature, the bunker will have fully equipped living quarters for up to 300 people. There will be 35 bedrooms, including two executive suites, 14 bathrooms, a lounge, an exercise room, a games room and a fully equipped kitchen with a walk-in freezer. There will be a Ping-Pong table, stationary bicycle, treadmill, weights, a large-screen television, a washer and dryer and an ice-cube dispenser. There is no mention of the gin.

The news that there are 300 people in New Brunswick worth saving will come as a surprise to the rest of the country. Think about it. Say you live in Ontario, which has some nine million people ever-ready for nuclear war. Can you think of 300 Ontarians worth saving? Ben Johnson’s trainer perhaps, the premier, Patti Starr’s lawyer, Farley Mowat and Ed Mirvish. After that, the imagination tends to run out. The thought that little New Brunswick actually has 300 precious bodies due to survive the nuclear holocaust is impressive indeed and causes one to think. Perhaps we’ve been underestimating old N.B. all these nuclearfree years.

The revelation that Premier Frank McKenna and his cabinet, when they can tear themselves away from the ice-cube dispenser and the stationary bicycle, plan to gaze at the largescreen TV also demonstrates the forward thinking that has gone into this project. It would be interesting to know what they plan to watch, while the rest of the universe is being devastated. Do they think valiant old Knowlton Nash, with the remainder of civilization trashed, will still be there in Toronto reading the news?

Clearly, Fredericton reasons, when the first missiles start to fly, New Brunswick will be a prime target with Toronto only a secondary thought in Moscow thinking. Perhaps the bunker’s planners will stock the joint with videos— Debbie Does Drumheller and reruns of Steven Langdon’s speeches.

This worthwhile use of public money recalls the time when Ottawa thinkers, while nuclear panic was in full force and greatly fashionable,

planned a similar hideaway—somewhere out by Bells Corners—for the Diefenbaker cabinet, and the major issue was that Dief declared he wouldn’t go underground without Olive.

This is the rub. Does Mrs. McKenna make the list of 300? It seems a number of “highpowered-rifle-resistant doors” are being installed, apparently to prevent unauthorized persons from entering it once it has been sealed. Does Richard Hatfield own an Uzi? How many irate wives of cabinet ministers, shut out, might take drastic action? I wouldn’t want to be one of the Elite 300. Rosedale cocktail party pecking orders are bad enough. Things could get vicious around Fredericton.

Even more droll is the fact that N.B. has conned Ottawa into paying for it all. Only Ottawa could plan for 300 people lining up for 14 bathrooms. It’s federal constipation, as usual.

There’s another matter. All over the globe, glasnost is busting out. Poland is holding free elections. Hungary is cutting down the barbed wire. There are noises in Czechoslovakia. But in New Brunswick, there’s the matter of the select 300 and 35 bedrooms. How do you fit 300 into 35? “The structure is unique in Canada,” says Dave Peters, operations director for Emergency Preparedness Canada in Ottawa. It certainly is, if someone can decide who gets the summer camp bunk beds and who has to stretch out on the PingPong table.

The hole in the hill will be able to seal itself shut and operate for a minimum of two weeks on its own resources. This is very reassuring to hear, since by New Brunswick reckoning, the nuclear war is going to last just two weeks. Most of us think it would last about 20 minutes, but it is nice to know that McKenna and the 299 special ones figure 14 days with a walk-in freezer will be sufficient for mankind to begin to rebuild.

It is quite clear what is going to happen. With New York obliterated, Washington reduced to a smoking plain, Moscow gone and London in tatters, the clever brains in the Fredericton command post will be the only viable government left on earth, its ministers not only alive but fit through rigorous PingPong sessions.

Their rear flank protected by the highpowered-rifle-resistant doors, they will tunnel their way west and by expert calculations hook into the Diefenbunker that sits alone and neglected just outside Carp. From there, it would be relatively simple to seize what remains of Ottawa, and you know what that means. There goes Meech Lake.