Before we get to today’s topic, which is paying tribute to the blood-sucking mosquito, I want to give a shout out to the provincial government for honouring Manitoba’s most famous, fearsome and furry resident.
As most of you already know, last week Manitoba’s government introduced legislation to designate the polar bear, the world’s largest living land carnivore, as an official provincial emblem.
"Northern Manitoba is known internationally for its polar bears, tourists come from around the globe to see and learn about these majestic animals in their natural habitat in Churchill," our caretaker premier, Kelvin Goertzen, announced in a news release Friday.
"Recognizing the polar bear as an official symbol of Manitoba would help build on our province’s brand as the ‘polar bear capital of the world’ and a must-see, one-of-a-kind tourism attraction for visitors of all ages."
I am literally roaring with excitement over this decision because, despite the fact that we live in Friendly Manitoba, it feels empowering to know that our newest provincial mammal would be able to eat every other province’s provincial mammal for breakfast.
I have absolutely nothing against the North American plains bison (recognized as our first official mammalian emblem in 2014), but the polar bear has a little more sex appeal for potential tourists, and a lot more teeth.
For the record, Manitoba pretty much has an Official Everything in the sense we have an official flower (the Prairie Crocus), an official fish (the walleye/pickerel), an official bird (the Great Grey Owl), an official tree (the white spruce), an official fossil (the mosasaur), an official grass (big bluestem), and even an official dirt (Orthic Black Chernozem or "Newdale soil").
But while most of us are no doubt thrilled to see the humongous polar bear become our ninth official emblem, today I want to argue the time has come to officially recognize one of this province’s smallest and most frequently maligned residents.
What I’m saying is that we need to find the political courage to make the mosquito Manitoba’s official insect, because, like it or not, these infamous summer pests are as integral to our cultural fabric as festivals, perogies and hating the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ask anyone else in Canada to tell you something about Manitoba, especially our capital city, and the first thing out of their nasty little mouth will be: "It’s (bad word) cold in the winter, and they have (very bad word) mosquitoes the size of recreational vehicles in the summer."
Our new provincial motto could be: "Come to see the bears; stay because you’re afraid to go outside and be assaulted by mosquitoes large enough to fly off with your family pet."
If we’re going to be brutally honest, Winnipeggers take a perverse pride in the fact that everyone else in the world stands in awe of our soul-destroying winter temperatures and the fact we are routinely besieged by flying needle-nosed insects intent on draining our vital bodily fluids.
And, please, do not try to tell me that you, a humble Manitoban, have never bragged about the fact that our mosquitoes are the biggest and baddest on the planet. Think about it: How do you react when a friend or family member or business associate from another city starts whining about how cold it is where they live or, worse, how scary their mosquitoes are?
Don’t answer that question, because I already know exactly how you feel. It makes your hometown blood boil, doesn’t it? You feel like saying something along the lines of: "Shut your stupid cake hole! You don’t know anything about cold weather or mosquitoes. I know that because I LIVE IN MANITOBA!!!"
The cold, hard truth is that no one else in this (bad word) country has earned the right to whine incessantly about being forced to live with bone-chilling cold and bugs the equivalent of piranhas with wings.
So call me pro-mosquito if you must. As a rookie reporter, I wrote countless stories promoting an effort by the village of Komarno, which is located about 70 kilometres north of Winnipeg and whose name means "mosquito infested" in Ukrainian, to build the world’s largest mosquito statue.
On a personal level, I think of mosquitoes the same way I think of my out-of-town relatives — they always overstay their welcome when they come to visit, they have a unique ability to destroy an otherwise pleasant summer evening, and they really hate it when you slap them.
What I think I’m saying is that, yes, every year we try to avoid them — and by "avoid" I mean "kill" — but summer just wouldn’t be the same here if we weren’t being bombarded by squadrons of skeeters.
Along with being proud of our polar bears, let’s capitalize on being the official Mosquito Capital of Canada. By the way, the only other province with an official insect is Quebec, which adopted the White Admiral butterfly in 1998.
Honouring the mosquito is the right thing to do, Manitoba, partly because it will get under the skin of everyone else in this country, but mostly because it just might make these winged invaders feel a bit more welcome.
Otherwise, when they come back next summer, they’ll definitely be out for blood.
Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.