As It Happens

Unofficial P.E.I. newsmakers of 2017 list includes man who found string in can of tomatoes

Dave Atkinson loves Prince Edward Island, and that's why he made a list of the most noteworthy — albeit silly — P.E.I. stories of the year.
A man who found a string in a can of crushed tomatoes is among P.E.I.'s unofficial newsmakers of 2017. (

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P.E.I.'s newsmakers of the year have been named — but don't expect any grisly crime or political intrigue. 

The totally unofficial list is compiled annually on Twitter by former CBC journalist Dave Atkinson and a few friends who combed through a year's worth of headlines from the province and selected the eight silliest, most P.E.I. stories they could find. 

Atkinson spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about the year in news in Canada's smallest province. Here's part of that conversation.

I'm looking at your long list, and what an embarrassment of riches.

It's been a wonderful year for the P.E.I. newsmakers.

On the short list, top of the list is "Kids flip bottles." What's that about?

If you've ever been in an arena in the last two years, or some public place, there's probably like a 12-year-old kid with a water bottle who is trying to throw it in the air and make it land on its bottom. That was the story. It was on the CBC.

Atkinson created a list of the most noteworthy stories to come out of Prince Edward Island in 2017. ( Neal Gillis)

Something a bit more dramatic, I think, is "String in can of tomatoes."

Can you imagine? Here's a guy opening his can of tomatoes — it is crushed tomatoes, I don't know if he's going to make a sauce or whatever — but he finds a string in it

Now come on, you haven't given it its full due here. The can exploded when he put the electric can opener to it.

OK, I see you've caught me.

Mick Scanlan, who says he saw the face of Jesus when he turned the shelf over to put a plant on it, is on Atkinson's list. (Pat Martel/CBC)

I dipped into these stories, Dave. I did my work on this. I mean, when you're dealing with the P.E.I. newsmaking stories of the year, you don't want to miss anything.

And this is actually really tough, Carol, because the whole thing of this is it reads a lot like I'm making fun.

But it's really a love letter. This is my love letter to the place that I live. We live in a place where it's an entire province with just 150,000 people. We have two daily newspapers. We have an entire CBC to cover. That's a lot of journalists per capita.

"Man falls in hole." Stop the presses!

I put this list together with a couple of coworkers, Ty Stapleton and Neal Gillis, and we often synthesize the headline to sort of get to the nub of what happened.

But this is, in fact, almost the exact headline from the Journal Pioneer, that a man fell in a manhole. They later updated it that he was intoxicated, unfortunately, and he fell in and needed some help getting out.

This Guardian story about the alleged theft of shorts also made the list.

OK, now there's one that a lot of parents can identify with: "Teen undercooks chicken strips."

That's one where there's maybe a little bit of editorializing on our part. The story was a mom was upset with a local shop because her son got sick and they had decided that it was because the chicken strips that they bought at the store made him sick.  And it couldn't have been that he undercooked them because he's always done such a good job with them.

You can almost see the son thinking, "Oh God, I can't tell her the truth that I maybe nuked them for a few minutes too few."

But this story did have a good ending. It didn't end tragically?

Everybody's OK. No worries.

Including "Flat tire car fire"?

Everyone was safe in that one, but that's actually a personal favourite of my buddy, Ty. 

A couple of buddies had an appointment at the hospital and when they were driving in ... they hit a bump and got a flat tire. And rather than pulling over, they decided, "Oh heck, let's just drive it on the rim."

It created a bit of friction, which, of course, started a fire and they got out just in time — and the entire car was gone. 

Good heavens.

There's still actually a mark on the highway.

OK, just one last one for fun: "Pizza heist."

So that's one that you almost actually have to go to the Guardian ... to see the original story.

A couple of guys held up a pizza delivery guy and they took his pizza. But the photo that accompanies it is really wonderful because they obviously didn't have a photo of the actual heist so they found a photo of a large pizza with a black gloved hand removing one of the pieces of pizza.

The Guardian's story about a pizza theft made the cut largely because of this photo illustration.

Well you know the saying, the curse: May you live in interesting times. You clearly are not cursed in P.E.I.

No, and it really is the greatest place on Earth and I want to say again that I have the utmost respect for the people who write these stories and for the people who live here. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.