As I have progressed through my BIS-1930 class at UPEI I have worked on displaying some of my past and present work here, in this space.
I am a mature student in the Bachelor of Integrated Studies program at the University of Prince Edward Island. Part of my studies includes the creation of an ePortfolio, that describes my work history and present capabilities as a writer and content creator.
Education and Work
I come from Montreal (Lachine), Québec – born of parents that had settled there as economic emigrants from the Miramichi region of New Brunswick in the 1950s. In the mid-1970s, when I was half way through high school, the family moved to New Brunswick, where I finished public school and then began my BA in Political Science and Economics at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.
In 1980, during my third year of studies, I left UNB to pursue full-time work in broadcasting, which I did for five years in Miramichi and Fredericton. I graduated up through the announcing ranks at the station, rising to take the mid-morning and noon shifts as an announcer and producer. I produced the daily program Fact and Fancy, with iconic host Jack Fenety, as well as the station’s open-line talk show, Reaction with Dave Bennett.
When not live on the air, I worked as assistant production manager under the direction of Fredericton broadcasting fixture Larry Dickinson (CJCJ, CFNB, CBC-AM). I voice-tracked and produced commercials for the station, using reel-to-reel tape equipment and recording to cartridges (carts), the media standard at the time.
In 1985, my wife and I moved to Doaktown, NB, where I worked in the family retail business. Upon the death of my father in February 1988, I became the president of E. Taylor Stores Ltd., operator of the local Stedmans dry goods retail franchise in town. I worked in management at the business until early 1990.
Business led to other things, and I had a brief career in elected provincial politics – serving in the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly for one term, from 1991 to 1995.
While a Member of the Legislative Assembly, I was Chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. I also held the roles of Finance Critic and Chairman of Caucus. I liked elected office, but was quite disillusioned with my inability – given the tools I had – to deliver for people and drive change.
I did not seek re-election in 1995. I returned to the private sector – doing a variety of jobs including electronics sales and service, computer installation and training. I even worked for while deep in the woods of New Brunswick. I returned from the woods, despite using a chainsaw, with all of my body parts in September of 1998.
My technical background eventually led to me teaching computer applications and technology at Atlantic Business College in Fredericton from 1998 to 2007. I taught computer repair, networking, server administration, Microsoft Office applications, business writing – and helped develop the school’s Paralegal/Legal Administrative Assistant program.
Writing / Journalism
Over the same period, from 1995 to 2007, my political experience earned me an invitation from a couple of local newspapers to write a public affairs column. I appeared weekly in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner and Miramichi Leader newspapers. I also had an opinion piece published in the Financial Post (Toronto) and did commentaries for CBC Radio (national and regional) over that period. For several years I was a political panelist on CBC Radio One, broadcast out of Saint John, NB.
In addition to columns published under my byline, I also ghost-wrote many unattributed editorials for the Daily Gleaner, representing the newspaper’s stated position on a variety of subjects.
In 2004 I was appointed by New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord to be a member of the Commission on Legislative Democracy. This one-year appointment teamed me with seven other commissioners to study the electoral system, recommend reforms to increase democratic engagement, work with youth and underrepresented sectors of society to drive greater involvement in politics, and examine the appointment process for agencies, boards, and commissions.
I played a role in writing our commission’s report, which was released after we had concluded our mandate. It is available at this link.
In 2007 I was appointed by the federal Minister of Veterans Affairs, Greg Thompson, to be a member of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board of Canada (VRAB). With my appointment came a move to the Charlottetown area, and we settled in Stratford. The job was to serve as a pensions adjudicator – essentially a judge – to review decisions made by the Veterans Affairs department. I had the power to affirm, vary, or reverse the decisions made by the Department’s staff. We operated in a traveling courtroom setting, with sworn testimony by witnesses, presentations from lawyers/advocates, and large packages of documentary evidence that included military and medical records.
I held review hearings across Canada for 10 years, spending a week in each location as needed. I was based at the Board’s headquarters in Charlottetown, where we did our appeal hearings.
In 2017, my string of VRAB appointments expired, and I managed to secure a position as a public servant within the Department itself. Since then I have been a Team Leader in the Business Systems unit of Veterans Affairs, doing computer/user services and integration.
I am also, at present, acting as Manager of our unit while the regular manager is off on full-time French training.
Needing to continue my growth, in 2019 I began classes at UPEI to complete the education I started at UNB in 1978. I have passed three classes already and am now on my fourth – this class: BIS-1930.
I am also helping, as part of my ham radio hobby, a group of students at the UPEI Faculty of Sustainable Design Engineering as they build, test, and eventually fly a research satellite.
In March, 2020, as part of my Master Class in creative writing, I found myself back in the radio studio – this time at CBC with Professor Richard Lemm and fellow student Shayla Hele.
We were there to promote our upcoming public reading, which was one of the last events before the COVID-19 restrictions began. Our class transitioned to online for its last few weeks.
Source: Brent Taylor photo, 2020
Launch of Brent The Writer, Episode 1 – Brent the Writer
Other Fun Things
Of course it’s not all work, and to keep my brain active I have taken up many hobbies and pastimes, which all contribute to my overall person.
After having hundreds of thousands of words published in newspapers spanning a decade, and then after writing over a thousand legal decisions for VRAB, one might think that I would have had enough of keyboards. But the opposite was true. Even after moving to a job where writing was far less important, I felt the need to continue with my writing. I presently have several projects on the go – in varying stages of completion:
The Pirate, the Prostitute, and the President is a lighthearted look at my own family tree through the genealogical research I have done, and will be a primer to readers on how to have fun with genealogy research of their own. The book is in its early stages.
Tugging at the Edge of the Flag is a memoir that is primarily focused on my journey through the very rough waters of New Brunswick, Canadian, and constitutional politics in the 1990s. The first draft is complete and has been shared with beta readers – including journalists. More work is needed before it’s ready for prime time.
The Things He Has Seen is a work that has sprung from my creative writing classes at UPEI over the fall and winter of 2019-2020. Not yet a book, the chapters completed so far paint a historical fiction picture of my 5th great-grandfather, Alexander MacDonald. He had a long and fascinating career as a soldier in the 1700s in Scotland, Europe, the Caribbean, and eventually in the American Revolution.
Administrative Law for Dummies is a very early stab at breaking down the legalese associated with the type of law that most citizens of Canada have the greatest degree of contact with, yet know very little about. It is designed to be an introductory text, and I intend to write it from the standpoint of someone who worked as an admin law judge with VRAB for 10 years. A judge in New Brunswick has encouraged me to work on this project, and to consider crafting it as a possible textbook for pre-law and paralegal students.
Flare is deep in development now, and is a near-future fiction book about the very real implications of a massive solar flare affecting the Earth’s communications and power infrastructure in the near future. The book tells the story of scientists, journalists, politicians, military figures and ordinary people as they rise (or fail to rise) to meet the threat head-on.
Amateur (ham) Radio
From before I entered broadcasting myself in 1980 I was fascinated with radio, and its ability to carry signals around the world and into space. As a high school student, I belonged to the school’s radio club.
Amateur radio has allowed me to talk to astronauts in space (that’s me above with NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock in 2018). I talked to Doug a couple of times in 2010 when he was on the International Space Station as the Commander of Expedition 25.
I have also spoken with astronauts on board space shuttles Atlantis and Discovery, as well as the Russian MIR space station in the 1990s.
I have also connected with other stations by bouncing signals off the Aurora Borealis, and talking around the world using satellites, voice, data, Morse code and even meteor trails.
I have always been fascinated with flight. I started pilot training in 1993, paused for several years when the money got tight, resumed in 2009 and got my Private Pilot’s license in 2012. For several years I owned a share in a Piper Cherokee four-seater and used it to fly friends and family around the Island and beyond.
Until the spring of 2019 I also taught the ground school course at Sea Eagle Aviation, based at the Charlottetown Airport. My flying interests have taken me to conventions, fly-in meetings, fellowship and more learning. My most fun flight had to be in a World War II trainer, a T6 “Texan” (above) during a vacation to Florida several years ago.
My grandfather dragged me through graveyards from the time I was waist-high, and that grew into me becoming an amateur genealogist and family historian.
We all come from interesting origins, which just need to be found and recorded. Some of my ancestors were among the original Dutch settlers (1630-1660) of what is now New York City. I have visited the City several times and have developed great affection for its present and past.
Most of my ancestors living in New York in the 1770s and 1780s ended up on the “wrong” side of the American Revolution, and were evicted as Loyalists – landing in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to restart their lives.
I have researched documents at the provincial archives of PEI, NS, and NB, cruised cemeteries in all three provinces, and continue to do research online and write about what I have found. As a descendant of one of the original families in New York, I am related to the Vanderbilts (Anderson Cooper is my 9th cousin), Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and at least one American president, Warren Harding.
When one digs deep enough, one can find even more interesting facts: my 9th great grandmother is believed to have been New Amsterdam’s first prostitute. She and her husband, my 10th great grandfather, became the first owners of what is now Coney Island and the surrounding shoreline.
My interest and space, aviation and radio waves naturally fits well with stargazing and weather observation. I maintain a precipitation observing post at my home in Stratford, and report my data daily to the CoCoRaHS network.
I have taught meteorology for pilots for almost 20 years, starting with an ultralight class in New Brunswick and most recently for several years at the local flying school.
I am also a Severe Storm Spotter for Environment and Climate Change Canada’s regional centre in Dartmouth. And, yes, I have some collected hailstones in the freezer – just because.
Conclusion of this ePortfolio…for now
As this class has progressed, the portfolio has changed to reflect the growth in my learning and experience. With the class now coming to a close, I appreciate what I have learned about the many ways one can tell a life story. I will be maintaining and continuing to improve upon this work in the years to come.