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The PLEA: Revisiting Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town

The PLEA: Revisiting Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town

Just Some Goings on in Mariposa

​Marine Disaster!

When the Mariposa Belle sinks in less than six feet of water, a botched rescue effort ends with the rescuers needing to be rescued too. Once the passengers are safely off the ship, the Mariposa Belle floats free from the lake bottom and carries on to the dock.

Sunshine Sketches’ marine disaster is an anagram of several steamboat sinkings on Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching in Leacock’s time. However, the 1898 sinking of the Longford may be closest to the Mariposa Belle. The Longford got stuck on a Lake Couchiching sandbar. A lifeboat was sent, and once the passengers disembarked the boat floated free.

The rescue boat that was provided decades earlier to Mariposa by the Macdonald government sinks when trying to save the Mariposa Belle. This reveals that public safety plans can also have shortcomings. What should the role of the state be in ensuring public safety?

The Great Election!

When a federal election is called, the campaign in Mariposa sees facts being pushed aside in favour of meaningless statistics, candidates embracing shady electioneering tactics, and voters throwing the public interest aside and casting their ballots purely out of self-interest.

Historian Jack Granatstein called the election campaign in Sunshine Sketches “the definitive analysis” of Canada’s 1911 federal election. This election pitted Sir Wilfred Laurier’s Liberal government against Robert Borden’s Conservatives. That election’s debate largely focussed on trade with the United States and government patronage.

The voters of Mariposa view their own personal gain as more important than the broader interests of society. What is the risk to society as a whole if citizens fail to consider the common good when casting ballots?

Church Fire!

The nearly-bankrupt Church of England Church in Mariposa burns to the ground under suspicious circumstances. Fortunately for the congregation, the church is insured for twice its replacement value. The insurance company goes to court to halt the payout, but Judge Pepperleigh throws out the case and saves the church from insolvency.

Just like in Sunshine Sketches, St. James’ Anglican Church in Orillia suffered a fire in 1906. However, unlike Mariposa’s church fire, St. James did not burn to the ground. And unlike Leacock’s story, the fire at St. James was not insurance fraud. In fact, St. James was forced to make financing plans to fund the church’s restoration.

The insurance company tries to get out of paying the congregation’s claim. Do insurance companies want to maximize their client’s benefits? Do they want to minimize their own payouts? Or is the truth somewhere in between?

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