Lots on our plates

This column first appeared in the September All Month Edition of the Salmon Arm Friday Am

This summer, I visited five provinces: PEI, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. In addition to taking in some great scenery and wonderful hospitality, I also took a curious interest in what the messages on provincial and territorial license plates really say about each place.

 Some inviting, others promising, some a bit perplexing, they are equally iconic messages sent between visitors and residents of cities and towns, highways and byways all across this country, every day of every year. Seen more often than passports or postcards, website or advertisements, they are a very effective promotional “vehicle” if you’ll pardon the pun.

In British Columbia – Beautiful British Columbia – seems a bit vain compared to the others, but it’s nothing short of the truth.

To understand Alberta’s plate – Wild Rose Country – I had to ask an Albertan who told me it’s that Alberta is both wild and beautiful (as well as very protective of what it  has to offer). It might even think it’s its own country but I wouldn’t go that far.

Saskatchewan is Land of Living Skies and anyone who’s driven through on a stormy summer’s eve would have to agree.

Manitoba – probably my favourite – is Friendly Manitoba. It’s a statement but also a service promise of sorts. I’ve never met someone from Manitoba I didn’t like.

Ontario has changed its tune over the years. It used to be bossy (Keep it Beautiful) but now it’s more inviting – Yours to Discover – and Ontario really does have a great deal to offer outside the big blob that has become Toronto.

Quebec is probably the most complex of messages – Je me souviens – which, translated means “I remember” but it can also be interpreted as “I will never forget” which are two entirely different things. Still, being mindful of who you are, how you got there and what you went through to arrive is always worth keeping in mind.

New Brunswick perplexes me a bit. Its plates, which are bilingual read – Be…in this place and “Etre…ici on le peut” – implying that you can be whatever you want in NB, just fill in the … – except you could fill in the blanks with some pretty unflattering things if you were so inclined. Still, New Brunswick is chalk full of opportunity and extremely scenic.

Nova Scotia is the most poetic in my view – Canada’s Ocean Playground – which speaks to its maritime heritage and its landscape.

PEI’s is Canada’s Green Province – both in colour and in attitude – going as far as offering compost bins in hotel room and fast food joints. It’s largely unspoiled by big boxy developments. The farms seem to out number the buildings by my count.

I’m always intrigued by the rare sightings of license plates from the three territories. Northwest Territories “Explore Canada’s Arctic”, Yukon “The Klondike” and Nunavut or “ᓇᕗᑦ ” in Inuktitut.

Newfoundland and Labrador has no saying, per say, on its plates but it does feature its tourism logo prominently featured in its storied tourism television ads.

Every province and territory has its charm and Canada really is such a stunning and diverse country. I wish it were cheaper to travel cross country so every Canadian could see what’s outside their own province. As it is, life sometimes leaves us with too much on our own plates to be able to make those trips. And while I’m very grateful for my time away, I’m ever so happy to be home in Beautiful British Columbia.

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