1. Bill 148
Hundreds of teachers from around the province rallied outside Province House last night in opposition to Bill 148, as the legislature was in session inside. Other unions joined the teachers, and Screen Nova Scotia helped with logistical support.
As the Liberals forced through the legislation, they wouldn’t let a citizen with disabilities to speak to the Law Amendments committee. Explains Michael Gorman:
In one of the more bizarre examples of a whipped vote, Liberal MLAs prevented a man who is hearing- and vision-impaired from making a presentation to the law amendments committee Wednesday.
Robert Tupper wanted to appear Tuesday night to speak about Bill 148 but was told no interpreter was available. Word got to New Democrat MLA Lenore Zann, who protested, and, on Wednesday, it was arranged for an interpreter to be available.
Tupper arrived at the meeting late and committee chairman Terry Farrell ruled there wasn’t time for him to speak. Debate ensued and Tory MLA Tim Houston amended a motion on the floor so Tupper would be allowed to speak… the motion was declared defeated and the bill was eventually sent back to the House without Tupper getting to speak. Through an interpreter, Tupper said he was upset about the outcome.
“There was no respect paid to me, in regards to disability, from the Liberal caucus,” he said.
“I feel I’m not part of the process now, that I’ve had no voice in this process.”
As Jean Laroche reports via his Twitter feed, the legislature has been in session all night and into the morning. The opposition NDP is forcing the house to debate every clause of Bill 148.
As for Tupper, the Law Amendments committee debated for 20 minutes as to whether to allow him to speak, even though Tupper would only be allowed to speak for 10 minutes. Finally it was decided he’d be able to address the committee today — that is, after the committee sent the bill to the house.
Meanwhile, deprived of sleep, Laroche is going a bit stir-crazy:
When even the reporters can’t hold up through these all-night meetings, I have to wonder what possible good the all-nighters do in terms of democratic debate and law-making.
2. Solitary confinement
Yesterday, the Supreme Court published Justice Gerald Moir’s December 7 ruling on solitary confinement at the Burnside jail.
Moir had heard the habeas corpus applications of two prisoners, Dylan Gogan and Dylan Roach, who represented themselves. Both were placed in the federal system, but are being held in the provincial jail at Burnside as they have scheduled court appearances in Halifax.
An internal jail email from December 18, 2014 was entered into evidence; the email established a new jail policy that effectively put all federal prisoners in solitary confinement while at the jail. Moir detailed what that meant for Gogan and Roach:
They are confined to their cells in Burnside twenty-three hours a day. This is not because they are being disciplined. This is not because they need protection. This is not because they need to be investigated for classification.
Mr. Gogan and Mr. Roach are confined twenty-three hours a day for reasons that have nothing to do with them as individuals.
Mr. Roach was brought here on October 27, 2015. He was bound over to this court, and we remanded him to Burnside pending his trial on January 21, 2016. He is serving a life sentence without parole for thirteen years.
Mr. Gogan described the cell in which he is locked alone for twenty-three hours a day. It is about seven by nine feet. There is a set of bunks but only one mattress. He has a stool and a toilet. That is it.
Mr. Roach’s conditions are similar except his is a single bed, there is no bench, and the room is equipped for a person with mobility problems. Mr. Roach is not such a person.
To lock a man alone in a cell for twenty-three hours a day is not merely to deprive him of the common room. It is to deprive him of social interaction, of the simplest personal amusements such as cards or television, of the most rudimentary activities that keep us sane. “[S]olitary confinement (or segregation) for a prolonged period of time can have damaging psychological effects on an inmate …” [citing an Ontario court ruling]
Let me return for a moment to the facts of Mr. Gogan’s and Mr. Roach’s confinement. They spend twenty-three hours a day in a nine by seven feet cell with a bed, a mattress, a window, maybe a stool or a bench, and no other amenities. The one hour exception is for showers, any visitors, and a little time in the common room with little or no social interaction. Mr. Gogan put it mildly when he said “it’s certainly hard on your mind”.
Moir ordered the arbitrary practice of putting federal prisoners in solitary confinement ended.
3. Armoury math error
Brett Ruskin discovered a “serious mathematical error” in a report on the Halifax Armoury:
Military officials declared much of the Halifax Armoury off limits in early November after an October report found lead dust concentrations were 20,000 times greater than health guidelines.
But the internal report, obtained by CBC News, contained a serious mathematical error.
CBC News notified military public affairs officials of the mistake. Instead of 20,000-times greater than health guidelines, the actual testing data found lead levels were likely 20-times greater, said Carol Lee Giffin, the Department of National Defence’s safety and environment officer for the Maritime region.
“It is significant,” Giffin said. “In the conversion between foot-squared and centimetre-squared, it caused them to be off by a factor of 1,000.”
The actual lead contamination was deemed “acceptable” in 2012, but the incorrect figure caused the military to evacuate the Armoury.
Think about that. From 2012 to 2014 there was a 1,000-fold increased in measured lead levels and no one thought to check the math. This is like Grade 5 math: you get a difference of three orders of magnitude, it’s probably a math error.
Ruskin gets a gold star.
Faulty conversion between imperial and metric units of measurements is the source of many problems, including the loss of the Mars orbiter in 1999.
1. Allison Sparling
Yesterday, Allison Sparling published a long blog post about her decision to move to Toronto.
Sparling is immensely talented, has the energy of three people, and has been a consistent and strong progressive voice in the community. Readers may best know her as the force behind the anti-anti-abortion bus ads and her PR-inspred “pro-love” rallies, but I think her greatest contribution has simply been her consistent level-headed voice.
These good-byes to Nova Scotia are always difficult to read. That a talented young person needs to leave her hometown to achieve her full potential shouldn’t surprise us, but many people, including Sparling, seem to translate that into a generalized failure of Halifax and Nova Scotia.
To be sure, we can do much more to help young people establish a professional life in Halifax, and Sparling has specific complaints, including channeling a major complaint of my own:
The insistence that entrepreneurship is the answer to everything. Lots of entrepreneurs are strong, smart people with lots of grit that can drastically improve the economy, but being repeatedly told that this is the answer for youth with sky rocketing debt is a slap in the face. You can’t pay student loans with hustle alone. This is often a solution tossed out in a talk with very little tangible support, just a little suggestion to imply that we’re just not working hard enough. I admire the amazing entrepreneurs in this province. You have worked so hard to make Nova Scotia amazing, sometimes against very difficult circumstances. Entrepreneurship is wonderful.
But if an upper middle class white person with a pension never says the word hustle again it will be too soon.
I entirely agree. The push for “entrepreneurship” is a sick joke: most entrepreneurs fail, and many are left with ruined credit, bankruptcy, broken families, and severe depression. That stark reality is not taught in the “start-up” classes. Moreover, the rhetoric serves to devalue a good-paying, union-protected job, which is really the ultimate goal of entrepreneurship enthusiasts.
But where I disagree with Sparling is that this isn’t unique to Nova Scotia. The “entrepreneurship” solution is common to the entire western world. She’s going to hear the same nonsense in Toronto, or for that matter in New York or London or Berlin. It’s part of the neoliberal agenda to atomize us, to break any notion of a shared economy with social obligations to each other. And it’s taken over the world.
I do think that Nova Scotia, hanging out on the edge of the continent, a long way from anywhere, despite having God’s Own Timezone, has developed a provincial attitude that is probably more, er, provincial than most places. Not unique, just further along the curve. Sparling gets to it with her criticism of the Liberal government:
Speaking of political, I hesitate to pin all of the problems of an economically depressed region on one particular government, so I won’t, because I would be wrong, but I will say this: damn this provincial government is terrible. It’s not scrapping the graduate retention rebate and not reinvesting a comparable figure in youth, it’s not the tuition reset that make education even less affordable, it’s not the arbitrary axing of credits that drive my friends out of province… it’s all of those things and more. I don’t think the government actively hates youth, I just think they don’t care about us very much, but both net the same results.
I am the kind of person who believes in the importance of government and respect the people who put themselves forward to be part of it, but I have so many angry qyestions. Why are you picking a fight with my healthcare worker mother? My best friend who is a teacher? My drinking buddies who all work in the film industry? That random person out there who just wants to cross the street? And they’re not logical fights, they’re not fights that seem all that well thought out, and the recent budget forecasts suggests they’re not effective either. I can’t settle down in a place where the direction of the government feels like a drunk person waving a knife around, but with my new salary I can donate some money to people I think will make competent politicians so that I might one day be able to return.
Then again, Sparling is moving to Toronto, which elected Rob Ford as mayor.
Sparling is smart, and we’d be well-advised to take her insights seriously. My own feeling is that she’s such a large character that this town could never contain her. I have no doubt she’ll do well and achieve great things in Toronto or wherever else she ends up.
2. Cranky letter of the day
Back in 1949, when I first got my driver’s license, I was hired by a gentlemen by the name of Mel Connors to drive his delivery truck, along with other jobs, during my summer school break.
Mel Connors was an American in the U.S. Merchant Navy and he sailed on one of the Liberty 10K-tonne cargo ships and would visit Dingwall on a regular basis to pick up loads of gypsum.
He met my aunt, Anne MacDougall from Aspy Bay, and they eventually got married.
Mel then retired from the merchant navy figuring there was an opportunity to start a new business in Northern Cape Breton. The area, at that time, was booming — mining, fishing, and all kinds of construction going on. He set up a group of small stores located in Dingwall, White Point, Neil’s Harbour and Ingonish where he sold ice cream, and set up pool tables and juke boxes. He had a refrigerated delivery truck from which he sold ice cream, soft drinks and other goods.
Mel gave me a part-time job selling these items from the truck; and based out of Dingwall, my route encompassed areas from Bay St. Lawrence to Neil’s Harbour. The most profitable part of the route was on the Cabot Trail in the area near Big Johnny’s Turn where work was being done on widening the road in preparation for paving. It was hot and dusty that summer; and the workers really looked forward to seeing me show up with cold ice cream and soft drinks. Business-wise, I was doing just great in that location.
But, one day the park’s supervisor showed up and asked me for my license to sell ice cream in the park. It was terribly embarrassing at the time that I had no ice-cream-selling license to show him. As a result, I was told, in no uncertain terms, not to come back. So I high-tailed it out of there in a cloud of dust, never to return.
Fast forward to now. I wonder if the ‘Never Forgotten Memorial Foundation’ has applied for their ice-cream-selling license yet. If they haven’t got a license, maybe they’ll have to do like I did, and high-tail it outta there.
But then, maybe they don’t need one and the park will allow them to operate anyway? After all, it seems just about anything goes in the park these days.
We’ve certainly come a long way to 2015 when the federal government decides they first have to review and assess whether a colossal monument, gift shop and interpretation centre/complex will be permitted to set up shop in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park when all they have to do is enforce the mandate.
Joseph L. MacDougall
(Originally from Dingwall)
Community Planning & Economic Development (9:30am, City Hall) — the committee will discuss an update on the Cogswell Interchange redevelopment.
The Oval — Updates here.
Legislature sits (all day, Province House)
This date in history
On December 17, 1902, engineer and future fascist Guglielmo Marconi transmitted the first transatlantic radio message 3,200 km across the Atlantic Ocean from Glace Bay to Poldhu in Cornwall, England.
And on December 17, 1796, Thomas Chandler Haliburton was born in Windsor. Haliburton was a descendant of self-important people openly mocked by Fred Cogswell in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography:
The first North American Haliburton had been an obscure wig-maker, but Thomas Chandler’s grandfather, William Haliburton, who had migrated to Nova Scotia in 1761, and his father were both successful lawyers who in later life became judges. Their achievement within an essentially tory system reinforced the political faith of three generations of Haliburtons. This faith was further strengthened by a consciousness of lineage. Haliburton’s grandfather believed that he was descended from the Haliburtons of Newmains and Mertoun on the Scottish border—maternal ancestors of Sir Walter Scott–and although he could not prove it legally, the Nova Scotian Haliburtons nevertheless considered themselves to be gentry because they were of that stock.
The young Thomas was educated at King’s College, then in Windsor:
There an indoctrination into the correct principles upon which the tory Anglican establishment was based was confirmed by his association with the sons of leading professional men in the Atlantic colonies who were being prepared to take their fathers’ places. To this ethos was added the study of Greek and Roman literature; while imparting useful lessons in the form and beauty of language that were later to stand Haliburton in good stead, it provided examples of a society which believed that history was essentially the sum of wars and politics directed by great men drawn mainly from aristocratic families.
Cogswell goes on to explain the economic context of Haliburton’s future life, and perhaps even of Nova Scotia to this day:
The period in which Haliburton grew up was also an important influence. Great Britain’s struggle with France and with the republican United States gave the added stimulus of patriotism to tory attitudes and the stigma of traitor to democratic ones. The advent of peace in 1815, however, left Nova Scotia with an inflated economy and brought an end to the protective colonial policy of the British government which had occasioned upwards of two decades of prosperity.
Haliburton’s response to the economic collapse of Nova Scotia was two-fold. He tried for decades to secure the various political and judicial appointments — “The security — and the spoils — of office then became something precious to be fought for,” notes Cogswell — and eventually landed a judgeship. But Haliburton’s lasting contribution will be the satirical essays he contributed in 1835 to Joseph Howe’s newspaper, The Novascotian, which were then were collected into a book, The Clockmaker or, The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick, of Slickville, first published in 1836.
Sam Slick was an American clockmaker and salesman on “the circuit” in Nova Scotia. Says Encyclopedia Britannica:
The dialogues between Sam Slick and the squire are satirical attacks on the shiftlessness of the Nova Scotians, mobocracy, the levelling tendencies of the age, and Yankee brashness. They are enriched by the tremendous vitality of Sam’s colloquial speech and by his fund of anecdotes and tall tales. Many of Sam Slick’s sayings, such as “This country is going to the dogs” and “barking up the wrong tree,” have become commonplace in English idiom.
The book became a best seller in the US and Britain, and Haliburton was the first internationally successful Canadian novelist. Before Dickens, Haliburton was the most widely read English language humourist.
I’ve read most of The Clockmaker. I could immediately see how Haliburton was, for perhaps the first time, tapping into the then-emerging cultural distinctiveness of America. In some ways, Haliburton strikes me as a proto-Twain, using American idiom and turns of phrase to illustrate the broad, sometimes outrageous, sometimes hilarious, American character.
I wanted very much to like The Clockmaker, and Haliburton got a good start early on in Sketch III, The Silent Girls, with this passage:
I reckon, said the Clockmaker, as he sat himself down on a bundle of shingles, I reckon they are bad off for inns in this country. When a feller is too lazy to work here, he paints his name over his door, and calls it a tavern, and as like as not he makes the whole neighbourhood as lazy as himself—it is about as easy to find a good inn in Halifax, as it is to find wool on a goat’s back. An inn, to be a good concarn, must be built a purpose, you can no more make a good tavern out of a common dwelling house, I expect, than a good coat out of an old pair of trowsers. They are etarnal lazy, you may depend—now there might be a grand spec made there, in building a good Inn and a good Church. What a sacrilegious and unnatural union, said I, with most unaffected surprise. Not at all, said Mr. Slick, we build both on speculation in the States, and make a good deal of profit out of ’em too, I tell you. We look out a good sightly place, in a town like Halifax, that is pretty considerably well peopled, with folks that are good marks; and if there is no real right down good preacher among them, we build a handsome Church, touched off like a New-York liner, a real taking looking thing—and then we look out for a preacher, a crack man, a regular ten horse power chap —well, we hire him, and we have to give pretty high wages too, say twelve hundred or sixteen hundred dollars a year. We take him at first on trial for a Sabbath or two, to try his paces, and if he takes with the folks, if he goes down well, we clinch the bargain, and let and sell the pews; and, I tell you it pays well and makes a real good investment. There were few better specs among us than Inns and Churches, until the Railroads came on the carpet—as soon as the novelty of the new preacher wears off, we hire another, and that keeps up the steam. I trust it will be long, very long, my friend, said I, ere the rage for speculation introduces “the money changers into the temple,” with us. Mr. Slick looked at me with a most ineffable expression of pity and surprise. Depend on it, Sir, said he, with a most philosophical air, this Province is much behind the intelligence of the age. But if it is behind us in that respect, it is a long chalk ahead on us in others.
But in the end, Haliburton left me cold. The joke — and there’s only one: industrious Americans contrasted to lazy Nova Scotians — gets stale. Where Twain is magnanimous, Haliburton is mean. Where Twain finds individuality within stereotype, Haliburton finds only stereotype. Consider this passage from Sketch XII, The American Eagle:
Now the Blue Noses are like that are gall; they have grown up, and grown up in ignorance of many things they had’nt ought not to know; and its as hard to teach grown up folks as it is to break a six year old horse; and they do ryle one’s temper so—they act so ugly that it tempts one sometimes to break their confounded necks—its near about as much trouble as its worth. What remedy is there for all this supineness, said I; how can these people be awakened out of their ignorant slothfulness, into active exertion? The remedy, said Mr, Slick, is at hand—it is already workin its own cure. They must recede before our free and enlightened citizens like the Indians; our folks will buy them out, and they must give place to a more intelligent and ac-TIVE people. They must go to the lands of Labrador, or be located back of Canada; they can hold on there a few years, until the wave of civilization reaches them, and then they must move again, as the savages do. It is decreed; I hear the bugle of destiny a soundin of their retreat, as plain as any thing. Congress will give them a concession of land, if they petition, away to Alleghany backside territory, and grant them relief for a few years; for we are out of debt, and don’t know what to do with our surplus revenue. The only way to shame them, that I know, would be to sarve them as Uncle Enoch sarved a neighbor of his in Varginey.
Update a few of the words and replace the American interloper with “risk-takers, dreamers, doers, and builders” and this could come right out of Laurel Broten’s tax proposal or the Ivany Report.
Haliburton had big influence, especially, strangely enough, with regard to American literature. His biographer, Cogswell, tells us that:
It is ironic that Haliburton, the arch-tory, should have become the “father of American humour” in the most democratic sense. The success and popularity of Sam Slick established at the same time the vogue of the folk hero, the man whose ability and humanity do not depend upon education, position, and ancestry but upon his own intrinsic ability to cope with circumstance. Sam Slick, in his vices and virtues, is the epitome of Jacksonian democracy.
During his own lifetime, Haliburton was not valued in Nova Scotia. His books received there the most unfavourable reviews and were not apparently popular or appreciated. This does not mean that Nova Scotians were more sensitive to satire than were Americans and British. They knew him for his social exclusiveness and overbearing ways and for his desire for the privileges of office. Satire, however well intentioned and executed, is not appreciated from objectionable sources. With the appearance, however, of a new generation of Nova Scotians and with the development after confederation of a growing cultural nationalism, something approaching a Haliburton cult began to appear in Nova Scotia. A Haliburton Club was established in Windsor in 1884 to promote the knowledge of Canadian literature in general and of the works of Haliburton in particular.
In the end, Haliburton’s mean-spirit mischaracterization of Nova Scotians may have been too fully embraced by many Nova Scotians. Like Haliburton angling for a crown appointment to office, our present-day stuffed suits are all too happy to ridicule the backwards and lazy populace in order to advance their own self-entitled interests.
In the harbour
We’ll be recording the next edition of Examineradio today.