New Brunswick

'Traitorous' Theodore Tugboat ignites online turf war over Saint John visit

Theodore Tugboat is coming to Saint John and it seems the little boat that's so good at resolving conflict has ignited a turf war between the port cities, at least online

The TV star, who has angered Haligonians with his looming departure, is expected in harbour by June 3

The beloved children's show character has seemingly rocked the boat a little too much by announcing he wanted to come to Saint John to meet friends this summer. (YouTube)

Theodore Tugboat is coming to Saint John from Halifax and it seems the little boat — famed for his conflict resolution abilities — has ignited an online turf war between the two port cities.

The beloved children's television show character is venturing beyond his home waters in Halifax to "meet new friends and 'work' in [Saint John's] busy harbour," Ambassatours Gray Line CEO Dennis Campbell wrote in a press release.

Theodore is expected in the Saint John harbour by June 3, depending on the weather. But making friends might be trickier.

The little guy is getting serious grief from Haligonians who don't want to see their Welcome Ambassador go – perhaps not understanding what the fundamental role of an ambassador is.

The two communities have been hurling quips and insults back and forth on Reddit, a social news and discussion website, ever since the news broke about the TV star. It seems the crowd has even turned on the boat itself.

Here's a taste:

Others remarked Theodore's smile seemed to be somehow taunting them, as if the inanimate object knew of his betrayal and relished in it. Still some insisted the replica would return, once it travelled west, made some money and had a child.

The good people of Saint John appear to be only stoking the fires, egging on the commenters, seemingly fuelled by the Haligonians' tears.

'Theodore is not a traitor'

The allegations of treachery have, predictably, provoked staunch denials from Theodore Tugboat's apologists in the tourism industry

"It doesn't come as a surprise, because, as I say, Theodore has been a real mainstay in the Halifax Harbour," said Andrew Dixon, Port Saint John's senior vice-president of trade and business development about the comments.

Victoria Clarke of Discover Saint John said her organization isn't trying to focus on the negativity.

Theodore Tugboat's television program was a CBC hit for much of the 90s. (Colleen Jones/CBC)

"[He] is absolutely not a traitor," she said. "What I think is Theodore is a working vessel and like any working vessel he's welcome to check out possible greener pastures."  

"No, Theodore is not a traitor," said Terri McCulloch, communications manager for Ambassatours Gray Line.

McCulloch points out Theodore's role in the show was to explore the great big Halifax harbour, something he seems to be living up to even in his post-television life.

"It could be worse. He could be going to Vancouver or something," she said. "Nope, he's staying in the region."

Regardless of Halifax's complicated feelings about Theodore's decision to decamp, the little boat will be stationed at the bottom of Princess Street in Saint John until October, whether Halifax continues to cry or not.

About the Author

Joseph Tunney is a casual reporter for CBC News in Ottawa. He can be reached at joe.tunney@cbc.ca

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