“About 175 people showed up at Alderney Landing to voice their concerns about a proposal that would see the King Street fire station staffed by career firefighters on weekdays and by volunteer firefighters on evenings, weekends and holidays,” reports the Chronicle Herald.
There were harsh words for Halifax’s fire chief who wasn’t invited to a public meeting Wednesday night to discuss proposed staffing changes to the fire station in downtown Dartmouth.
The fire chief wants to bring in volunteers instead of career firefighters to cover three local stations on weeknights and weekends. He has said it will not hurt fire service, but those at the meeting strongly disagreed.
Agree with fire chief Doug Trussler or not, but the anger directed at him is unfair. He has merely done as directed by Halifax council.
To its credit, in 2011 and 2012, council swept the old boys who had mismanaged the city for decades out of office and hired in a trio of outsiders — CAO Richard Butts, police chief Jean-Michel Blais, and fire chief Doug Trussler — to bring some much needed professionalism to City Hall.
In his first couple of years at the helm, Butts put the city’s budgetary basket case in order. His problem, though, was that he had just one tool — budget cutting — and didn’t have respect for anything else, including a happy workforce or the delivery of services. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Trussler had rationalized fire resources in North Vancouver and Toronto without controversy, but Halifax presented a different problem: “The [Halifax] force appears to have been run in a more traditional way than is his style,” reported the Chronicle Herald soon after Trussler was hired.
That’s something of an understatement. The Halifax fire department was the epitome of a poorly managed department. People were hired and promoted based on who they knew, not how they performed. No-bid contracts were awarded nepotistically. Racism was rampant and tolerated.
The first thing Trussler did when he came to Halifax was make peace with the Black Firefighters Association. The second thing he did was turn his attention to the distribution of fire department assets and firefighters, an issue that hadn’t been properly dealt with since the creation of HRM in 1996, despite a direct order from council to the former chief to do so in 2004.
Understand that fire departments should regularly place their assets in the best locations to serve the most people quickly. That means continuously closing and opening fire stations and shifting around firetrucks and firefighters. There’s nothing wrong with this. There are seven or eight closed fire stations on the peninsula alone, evidence of previous fire departments making rational choices to better serve the population.
If Trussler’s proposals seem radical, it’s only because the issue had been utterly ignored for 20 years. There’s a lot of catching up to do.
But again, if you think this is a problem, don’t blame Trussler. Blame a city council that didn’t stay on top of the issue either, and that is caught in the conflict between its self-imposed desire for fiscal restraint and the citizens’ desire for increased services.
Let’s put it plainly: if you want duplication of services or fire services that exceed the standards established by council (not by Trussler), then you’ve got to pay for them. That means increased taxes. I don’t have a problem with increasing taxes to pay for enhanced fire services, but I suspect many do.
“The provincial government has contracted a firm to investigate potential solutions to the high-speed Internet woes of people in some parts of rural Nova Scotia,” reports Michael Gorman of he Chronicle Herald:
Business Minister Mark Furey told The Chronicle Herald on Wednesday that Ernst & Young (now known as EY), in partnership with Halifax IT firm Concertia Technologies Inc., was contracted by the province last month to look into the matter. The work is budgeted to cost up to $100,000.
The move comes following continued complaints, particularly from residents on the province’s South Shore and in the Annapolis Valley, who said they are paying for high-speed Internet service but not getting anything near that from service providers.
Eastlink, which took on a contract in 2008 as part of the Rural Broadband Program to bring high-speed Internet to the southern half of the province, has said customers have a level of service in keeping with what was intend-ed at the time the contract was signed. Last summer, the company announced it would be placing a data cap on customers of the program and would charge overage fees for people who exceed the cap.
I haven’t followed the issue closely enough to speak intelligently about the causes of poor internet service in rural areas or what Eastlink’s role in this is, but I do think the single best thing Nova Scotia could do in terms of rural economic development is provide inexpensive and reliable high-speed internet with no data caps.
Forget about business parks, payroll rebates, subsidies to corporations, and all the other mostly failed economic development strategies: invest that wasted money instead in high-speed internet. Home-based businesses will thrive, internet-based start-ups will pop up all over the province, people will have access to the information they need to be better consumers and producers.
If the $30 or $40 million that has been sunk into the Yarmouth ferry had instead been spent on providing universal broadband in Yarmouth, the returns would have been much higher. That’s not to say it’s an either-or proposition, just that we seem stuck in a 20th century, tourism-based model of economic thinking, as the rest of the world is going on to do this whole thing with the internet that seems mostly to have escaped our attention.
“An international online urban art collective has named Halifax’s Freak Lunchbox mural as one of its top 20 best murals of 2015,” reports Metro:
The colourful piece covering the George Street side of the candy store’s building came in at No. 14 in the All City Canvas top 20 picks from around the world.
It was also the only Canadian mural to make the list, joining urban pieces from cities in Spain, Brazil, Norway, Austria, Lithuania, Mexico and the US.
The “Tall Ships 2000” mural that had graced the same wall for 15 years was painted over to accommodate the new piece and not everyone was happy about it.
“The whole backlash, or if there was this resistance to having it being done in the first place, I should have expected it but it was bigger than I thought,” [Freak Lunchbox co-owner Erin Smith] said.
Evan Xie, a Grade 10 student in Windsor, can remember a lot of stuff, reports Metro:
Xie went beyond the minimum as he memorized 1,180 digits in one hour and a single deck of poker cards in 32.275 seconds, which is not far from the world record, a release said.
At some point, maybe as he enters his 30s, Xie will have to learn how to forget — that’s the ticket to successfully navigating life. Good luck, kid.
I guess the story is over. I don’t know if this is about Brindi or about Francesca Rogier, the dog’s one-time companion. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around Rogier’s passion and her single-minded pursuit for what she thought was rightfully hers, but there’s a poignancy to her story all the same. Reports CTV:
Francesca Rogier was Brindi’s former owner and spent thousands of dollars fighting to get Brindi back.
The entire experience has left her bitter.
“They’ve destroyed my career,” said Rogier. “They’ve destroyed my health. They’ve destroyed my whole life for nothing. I have no friends. I have no prospects. I have no money to finish my house.”
1. Citadel views
Stephen Archibald breaks out his photos from Citadel Hill, showing the progression of the blocked view of the harbour.
2. Austerity economics
Back in December, I pointed out there were two sets of economic projections at play in Nova Scotia:
The Chronicle Herald today editorializes in support of the Liberal wage law, noting:
The province as a whole is dealing with a tough economy and slow income growth… Real growth in the provincial economy is now forecast to be one per cent for 2015 and 0.8 per cent for 2016, compared with forecast growth rates of 1.7 per cent and 1.5 per cent at the time of the budget last spring.
And yet just last week the business section of the Chronicle Herald reported that:
Federal shipbuilding contracts and offshore oil exploration will boost Nova Scotia’s economy by 2.3 per cent next year, the Conference Board of Canada says.
The increase in the province’s gross domestic product will follow estimated growth of 1.8 per cent in 2015.
Natalia Ward, economist with the board’s provincial group, said Monday the board is also predicting a 1.7 per cent hike in economic activity in 2017.
“Overall, Nova Scotia is looking at a very sunny outlook, much better than the province has seen just recently,” she said in an interview from Ottawa.
“Even though we do have the declines in natural gas production, everything else looks much better.”
I guess there are two sets of economic forecasts we can break out. When we want to slash workers’ pay, we break out the economic forecasts that say the economy’s in the toilet, and when we want to bolster our rah-rah boosterism credentials we break out the economic forecasts that say everything’s “rosy,” as the headline puts it.
Last month, in advance of the Liberals’ latest attack on the wages and collective bargaining rights of public sector workers, [Finance Minister Randy] Delorey was back, on cue, with more of the same. The December forecast update (an annual pre-Christmas event) was milked for as much bad news as could be found. The Chronicle-Herald, which is often to the McNeil Liberals what Pravda was to Joe Stalin, came through with the headline the government wanted – “Nova Scotia faces $118.6m deficit hike.” The paper’s editorial page hammered in the message. Revenues are “tanking” and the update represented “a grave and rapid deterioration in provincial finances.”
“Rapid deterioration”? It depends on who you listen to. To justify the gloomy revenue outlook for this year and next, Delorey’s outlook chose to disregard more optimistic private sector forecasts, like the ones from the Conference Board of Canada and RBC.
In its eagerness to beat the drum for austerity, the Chronicle-Herald even ignored a story about the Conference Board forecast that appeared on its own business pages a few days before Delorey’s tale of woe. In an interview about the positive growth numbers, a board economist told a Herald reporter that as a result of the shipbuilding contract and offshore oil exploration “Nova Scotia is looking at a very sunny outlook, much better than the province has seen just recently.”
Only time will tell whether the Eeyores at Finance or the private sector Pollyannas have it right. In the meantime, it suits the government’s agenda to claim penury, and the media go along with it. (It should also be noted that it’s a potential win-win for the Liberals. If the finance department predictions come true, they have justification for their restraint policies; if the professional forecasters are right revenue increases nicely a year before an election).
Starr goes on to analyze poll numbers that supposedly show strong support for the Liberals’ austerity agenda. Those poll results, says Starr, are more nuanced than is being reported.
3. Cranky letter of the day
I seem to recall there was something called the Ivany report which was supposed to correct all our problems in Nova Scotia. Since things haven’t changed to that great a degree, perhaps it should have been called the If-Any report. At least then we’d know If-Any changes are on the horizon in the near future.
Drew Preston, Wolfville
Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (4:30pm, Office and Maintenance Building, Point Pleasant Park) — the committee is going to discuss a letter to the Chronicle Herald about dogs running wild in the park.
No public meetings.
Changing the wheels on the bus (Thursday, 11:30am, Slonim Conference Room, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Elaine Lau, a senior user experience and user interface designer at Oracle, will speak on:
Working in commercial software is like changing the wheels of the train while the train is going down the track. Better wheels make a faster and smoother train ride but the change will always be disruptive to passengers and train workers. So even as we think of how to improve and upgrade our product, we also consider the impact to our users, customers, and internal teams that depend on it. Being part of a product team that has a real impact on people is exhilarating and fraught with complexity at the same time.
Forum on fossil fuel divestment (Thursday, 4–6pm, McInnis Room, Student Union Building) — the Ad hoc Committee of Senate on Fossil Fuel Divestment has released its preliminary report. Divest Dal, the student group advocating for divestment, has issued the following press release:
2016 will be the Year of Divestment
In 2014, the Dalhousie Student Union and the Dalhousie Faculty Association both supported our call for Dalhousie University to divest, and the DSU began divesting its own holdings.
In 2015 the Dalhousie Senate released an interim report showing that the consensus from Dal’s academic units was to divest.
On January 7th, 2016, you have the chance to support this Senate report, and demand that 2016 be the year Dalhousie finally divests. Join us at the SUB (McInnes Room) at 6136 University Avenue between 4 and 6 PM. Your presence is seriously needed – we need to pack this 300 person room!
Contact [email protected] or message us on Facebook (Divest Dalhousie).
This Changes Everything (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — A screening of Avi Lewis’s documentary, which is inspired by Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate.
The ethics of human milk exchange and sale (noon, Mona Campbell, room 2107) — Robyn Lee, from Brock University, will speak and lead a discussion.
This date in history
Sandford Fleming was born on January 7, 1827. Fleming was a dynamo of a man, the inspiration for and much of the talent behind the transcontinental railroad and transoceanic telegraph lines, and the inventor of the hipster beard. Along the way, he advocated for a universal time which eventually became the system of 24 timezones we have now; since he linked his “Cosmic Time” to Greenwich, England, he should be credited for Nova Scotia having God’s Own Timezone.
Fleming retired to his home in Halifax, where he died in 1915. He willed his estate on the Northwest Arm to the city of Halifax, and the land is now Dingle Park.
In the harbour
Eternal Sunshine, oil tanker, Port Arthur, Texas to Imperial Oil
Atlantic Star sails to sea
We’ll be recording the next Examineradio podcast today.