Led By Its Smokiest Province, Canada Goes After Big Tobacco

After all the debates over the efficacy of Canadian health care, the Canadian government is pursuing  a unique track in cutting the costs and easing some of the burden placed on its universal health care system. Despite some obvious drawbacks, most notably a potential hit to the tourist industry, Canadian government at the federal and provincial levels are taking an aggressive stance against the tobacco industry and the constraints they’ve place on nationalized health care.

It started with a smoking ban in places like Quebec, where locals used to smoke just about everywhere. The province known for its smoking culture has since considered banning smoking in cars with children present. But in perhaps its boldest move yet, Quebec is apparently considering suing the tobacco industry. And the lawsuit wouldn’t be filed on moral grounds, but with an entirely financial pretext.


With Quebec spending $1 billion a year treating people with smoking-related illnesses, the $30 billion suit looks to recoup the health-care costs related to the tobacco industry. And Quebec isn’t alone.

In an even larger lawsuit, Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, is apparently seeking $50 billion in smoking-related damages, which it could now be entitled to thanks to the recently-passed Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act. The act has also been passed in British Columbia, which could be readying a lawsuit of its own.

Canada’s battle against tobacco has already proven costly. Quebec’s ban on tobacco advertising has already endangered a number of high-profile tourist attractions, including the Canadian Grand Prix. One of Canada’s largest annual events, the Montreal race was cancelled last year after years of receiving a prominent sponsorship boost from the tobacco industry. But if a province with a rich smoking history like Quebec is willing to take such calculated risks, there’s no telling how the rest of the Western world might take on such a powerful industry.  

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Originally Poe envisioned a parrot, not a raven

Quoth the parrot — "Nevermore."

The Green Parrot by Vincent van Gogh, 1886
Culture & Religion

By his mid-30s, Edgar Allan Poe was not only weary by the hardships of poverty, but also regularly intoxicated — by more than just macabre visions. Despite this, the Gothic writer lucidly insisted that there was still a method to his madness when it came to devising poems.

In an essay titled "The Philosophy of Composition," published in 1846 in Graham's Magazine, Poe divulged how his creative process worked, particularly in regard to his most famous poem: "No one point in [The Raven's] composition is rerferrible either to accident or intuition… the work proceeded step by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem."

That said, contrary to the popular idea that Edgar Allan Poe penned his poems in single bursts of inspiration, The Raven did not pour out from his quivering quill in one fell swoop. Rather it came about through a calculative process — one that included making some pretty notable changes, even to its avian subject.

As an example of how his mind worked, Poe describes in his essay that originally the bird that flew across the dreary scene immortalized in the poem was actually… a parrot.

Poe had pondered ways he could have his one word refrain, "nevermore," continuously repeated throughout the poem. With that aim, he instantly thought of a parrot because it was a creature capable of uttering words. However, as quickly as Poe had found his feathered literary device, he became concerned with the bird's form on top of its important function.

And as it turns out, the parrot, a pretty resplendent bird, did not perch so well in Poe's mind because it didn't fit the mood he was going for—melancholy, "the most legitimate of all the poetical tones." In solving this dilemma in terms of imagery, he made adjustments to its plumage, altogether transforming the parrot — bestowing it with a black raiment.

"Very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance, suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a Raven, as equally capable of speech, and infinitely more in keeping with the intended tone," Poe explained in his piece in Graham's. "I had now gone so far as the conception of a Raven — the bird of ill omen — monotonously repeating the one word, 'Nevermore,' at the conclusion of each stanza, in a poem of melancholy tone…"

It was with these aesthetic calculations that Poe ousted the colorful bird that first flew into his mind, and welcomed the darker one that fluttered in:

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore…

The details of the poem — including the bird's appearance — needed to all blend together, like a recipe, to bring out the somber concept he was trying to convey: the descent into madness of a bereaved lover, a man lamenting the loss of a beautiful woman named Lenore. With that in mind, quoth the parrot — "nevermore" just doesn't have the same grave effect.

* * *

If you'd like to read more about Edgar Allan Poe, click here to review how his contemporaries tried to defame him in an attempt to thwart his success.

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