By Laurent d'Entremont
Our premier Darrell Dexter has called an election for Oct. 8 and he is hoping his party will be re-elected with a majority for another term.
The pollsters who conduct opinion polls on who will win are saying otherwise.
The other political parties, of course, are doing their best to prevent the party in power, no matter who it is, from winning. This is how it was in my grandparents’ days and nothing has changed. In those days the issues were pretty simple and straightforward. On Election Day a small bottle of the good stuff, nylon stockings or chocolate bars could help decide who you were voting for. If a farmer played his cards well, he could end up with a little bottle of “persuader” from both major parties. The CCF party (before NDP) was too poor to afford such a luxury and in the hungry thirties could only get one vote in our village.
These days we have the undecided voter, usually people who, for whatever reason, have very little faith in any political party. Opinion pollsters will make up their mind for them. These opinion polls are conducted by telephone and the questions are worded in such a way…or so it seems…that the one that pays the poll taker will usually get the answers they want. Thus the undecided, instead of studying the issues and going by their good judgment, will go with the flow and vote with the winning poll.
Our first Acadian M.L.A., Simon d’Entremont, who was born in 1788 and died 98 years later, was not one who needed opinion polls. Simon could make up his own mind when he was elected to represent the riding of Argyle in 1836. Simon “Square” (Squire), as he was known, was not a coward. The son of one of our early heroes of privateers days, Benoni d’Entremont, he was married twice and fathered 19 children according to some of his descendants. His contribution to the voters may never be known. However, what he became famous for, according to history, was refusing to sign an oath of allegiance to the King of England known as “The Test Oath,” the very same document the early Acadians had refused to sign before the expulsion of 1755, because they wanted to practice their religion and language along with other beliefs.
When it came time to sign the oath of allegiance, Simon d’Entremont said he would sooner swallow a dogfish, tail first, than be under the King of England. Acadians have been talking and writing about the “Dogfish Oath” ever since.
In his book “Whispers of The Past”, the late Edward S. d’Entremont, a great-grandson of Simon d’Entremont, had this to say about his great-grandfather and “The Test Oath”:
“Implementation of this act seems to have been somewhat difficult, as shown by the incident at the swearing-in ceremony of the first Acadian member elected in the Maritimes, Simon d’Entremont of Pubnico, elected from the riding of Argyle in 1836. Fredrick Robichaud, another Acadian from Annapolis County, got elected at the same time but could not take his seat at the opening of the session because of illness. When d’Entremont presented himself to the House, he was ordered to sign the old form of the Test Oath the ‘Big Oath’ as proof of his allegiance to the King. D’Entremont who had practically no formal education was self-educated and could speak and write French, English, Latin and Mi’Kmaq. Informed that he had to take this oath, which seemed so odious to him, he replied: ‘I would rather swallow a dogfish tail first than to swear to that.’ In the face of this spectacular refusal, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, Sir Colin Campbell, administered the ordinary government oath, thus permitting d’Entremont to take his seat.”
What Simon d’Entremont did not know was that actually he did not have to take the “Test Oath” at all; this outdated document that discriminated against the French and Roman Catholics had been repealed some time before that and was no longer in force.
As to how serious Simon d’Entremont was about swallowing the dogfish, tail first, is anybody’s guess. However if one were to judge by his facial expression on a 150-year-old photograph now on display at the Acadian Museum in West Pubnico, one would be inclined to believe that perhaps he had, just before the picture was taken.
(Author’s note: Information on Test Oath was quoted from a document at Centre d’Etudes Acadiennes, Moncton, N.B.)