Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Halibut the tasteful choice for Manitoba's official fish

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I'd like to take a moment today to sincerely thank our provincial government for finally taking steps to fill a gaping hole in the hearts of all Manitobans.

As readers with any sensitivity at all have already grasped, I'm referring here to the government's just-launched campaign to select Manitoba's official fish.

For far too long, Manitobans have been forced to endure the agony that accompanies the sickening reality we have had no fish to call our own, no "Prairie poisson" to emblazon upon our licence plates and -- prepare to get misty-eyed -- our hearts.

Sure, we take pride in our provincial flower (the Prairie crocus), draw spiritual strength from our provincial bird (the Great Grey Owl), and find comfort in the arms of our provincial tree (the white spruce), but the lack of a provincial fish has been an open wound since we joined Confederation.

It crushes my spirit to think of all the times I have travelled back to British Columbia and been forced to listen while my West Coast relatives and friends drone on and on about the merits of their official fish -- the incredibly overhyped Pacific salmon.

"We have more (bad word) omega-3 fatty acids than we know what to do with!" is what B.C. residents shriek smugly as they stuff their bloated, rain-soaked faces with cedar-planked salmon steaks fresh from the grill.

It is enough to make us simple Prairie folk gag, but, fortunately, that is about to change, because our forward-thinking provincial leaders are heroically calling on all Manitobans to submit nominations for our official fish to The deadline for nominations is Feb. 1, 2014.

My patriotic message to you today is that we, as a province, must select a fish that represents the values we hold most dear.

I warn you it will not be easy to reel in the right choice. Ask yourself: What if we make a mistake? What if we select the wrong fish?

My greatest fear is too many of us will nominate the pickerel, which would be a horrible mistake, partly because both Saskatchewan and Minnesota have already got their greedy little hooks into that species, but mainly because, and I know this from experience, the pickerel is a wussy fish, a quitter that literally flings itself into anglers' boats as opposed to putting up the heroic struggle one expects from a real fighter, a real Manitoban. We don't want to be represented by some lazy, slimy, bug-eyed fish with few redeeming qualities. No, we need a plucky, can-do fish with a businesslike attitude, a fish that will make our chests swell with pride when we order it in seafood restaurants.

So today, on your behalf, I am bravely suggesting we band together and submit write-in nominations for a fish that is close to my heart, by which I mean the noble halibut. I am well aware that, due to the fact it lives in the ocean, the halibut is not, technically, a native Manitoban, but since when do we humble Prairie folk turn our backs on newcomers in a time of need?

This inspiring immigrant fish comes to our wheat-filled shores in vast frozen numbers via trucks and planes. It brings with it the most important quality of all -- the quality of undeniable deliciousness.

What we are talking about here is a fish we can count on when the chips are down. And I mean that literally. If you have ever visited any of the outstanding fish-and-chip restaurants in this province, you will know it is always a smart move to plunk down a bit more cash to get the mouth-watering halibut instead of the more pedestrian cod.

Think about it, Manitoba. What kind of fish do you want to swim into the future with? The fate of our province is in your hands and taste buds. As I believe my old friend Charley the Tuna once said: "We don't want a province with good taste; we want a province that tastes good!"

Do it for your future, Manitoba! Or just for the halibut!


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 13, 2013 A2

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