1. Election results
Saturday’s election was the most interesting HRM election I’ve witnessed. A record five new councillors were elected, which promises a newly energized council and very possibly surprising initiatives and the end of business as usual. One can hope, anyway.
Two incumbent councillors were defeated. Out in Sackville, Brad Johns was defeated by former CBC broadcaster Lisa Blackburn. Johns was not very active — he had the highest absentee rate at council meetings — and I can’t recall any issue that he particularly championed, or any initiatives that he, er, initiated. He seemed to be calling it in, and his seat was ripe for the taking. So it was taken.
In Armdale, Linda Mosher was defeated by former Liberal staffer Shawn Cleary. Mosher had a long string of convincing victories in past council elections, but over the years her often-abrasive personality has turned many against her. She was unapologetically supportive of unbridled development, which may have also earned her more than her share of enemies. She has recently been hobbled by her own and a family member’s health issues, which might have taken time and attention away from campaigning, and Cleary rose to the challenge, winning by 105 votes.
But most incumbents easily won reelection.
In the South End, it was more or less a battle of incumbents, as Waye Mason, the current councillor, fended off a challenge by Sue Uteck, the former councillor.
And incumbents Matt Whitman, Steve Adams, David Hendsbee, Tony Mancini, and Russell Walker all kept their seats.
The Fall River – Musquodoboit Valley seat was taken by former councillor Steve Streatch. An old school Conservative (I remember him as a global warming denier). Streatch has just beat cancer, and he looks better than ever. Still dumb, but he looks great. Along with Hendsbee and Walker, he’ll be the cement tire that will attempt to drag all of council under.
And four incumbents — Tim Outhit, Lorelei Nicoll, Steve Craig, and Bill Karsten — weren’t even challenged; they won their seats by acclamation.
But by far the most exciting outcomes Saturday were in the three wide-open races.
In Halifax North, Lindell Smith took half the vote in a field of eight. Much is being made of Smith being the first African Nova Scotian elected to council in 16 years, and that should indeed be celebrated. But what most impresses me about Smith is the organization and enthusiastic support that helped him come to office. I began sensing a few weeks ago that this was a new sort of local politics in Halifax, of a type I’ve not seen before. Smith is smart, and young, just 26. He has enormous potential. Keep an eye on this fellow.
In Dartmouth Centre, Sam Austin also won easily. The size of Austin’s victory surprised me, and speaks to an organizational skill I had overlooked. I’ve talked with Austin a few times — he’s been a guest on Examineradio twice — but I still don’t quite know how to place him politically. He’s all about planning, which, well, yeah, whatever (I’m now beyond cynical about planning, thanks to the Borg love child of HRM By Design and the celebrated city planner-turned-MP Andy Filmore). I also wasn’t much impressed with Austin’s answer to my living wage ordinance question. But he too is young, energetic, and seems open-minded. We’ll see.
In the Clayton Park – Timberlea district, weatherman Richard Zurawski bested a field of five. I don’t know if he won on name recognition or through knocking on doors or both. His environmental credentials are solid.
The new council gets sworn in November 1.
As I wrote yesterday, voter turnout plummeted from the already-low turnout of 2012:
Fewer votes were cast in the mayoral election. Fewer votes were cast in 14 of the 16 council districts; and while two districts saw an increase in the number of voters, they probably saw a decrease in percentage of voters casting ballots.
The numbers show a dramatic decrease in voter turnout.
In the mayoral election, nearly 20,000 fewer voters cast ballots yesterday than in 2012 (110,114 in 2012; 90,418 yesterday).
The mayoral race, however, may not be the best indicator for voter turnout. Mayor Mike Savage is popular and faced a lacklustre challenge by Lil MacPherson, and so many voters may have stayed home. Moreover, there were four acclaimed council races — races in which the incumbent faced no challenger. While voters in those districts could still vote for mayor, they may have sat the entire election out.
But a district-by-district examination of votes cast show that turnout was down nearly across the board.
Voter turnout dropped in districts where incumbents faced no serious challenge. Take the Eastern Shore, for example, where David Hendsbee yesterday won with nearly half the votes in a field of four. In 2012, 7,749 people cast ballots; yesterday, just 6,574 did.
But voter turnout also decreased in tight races where an incumbent was defeated. For example, yesterday Shawn Cleary bested Linda Mosher by just 105 votes in District 9, but voter turnout in the district dropped from 8,759 in 2012 to 7,578 yesterday.
Voter turnout also dropped in races with no incumbent and lots of candidates. In 2012, 7,517 people cast ballots in Halifax North; yesterday, 6,627 did so. In Dartmouth Centre, 8,973 ballots were cast in 2012; yesterday, 7,752 were cast.
In case you missed it, El Jones over the weekend wrote the definitive smackdown of Premier Stephen McNeil’s unhinged attack on Global reporter Marieke Walsh. I particularly liked this part:
For example, in the following sentence:
“We’re trying to make sure that we articulate their views and it needs to be done in a thoughtful way. I don’t think anyone should believe that a government with any negotiating partner should be sitting here doing it in public, with you.”
It’s the “with you” clause there at the end that is both unnecessary, and pointedly hostile. There is no reason not to end the sentence with “in public.” I had a Shakespeare professor who explained once that the power of iambic pentameter is we usually talk with four beats in a sentence, so the fifth beat creates the extra emotional emphasis to the point — something like “Please don’t mansplain politics to me, you asshole.” See how that extra clause, “you asshole,” is the extra beat and how adding it makes the whole thing more pointed? McNeil is doing the same thing with that “with you,” and that’s what makes disdain drip from the sentence. The issue becomes not revealing plans in public before they are ready, but the reporter. With YOU. The nerve.
“The highest court in Nova Scotia has ruled the provincial Office of the Ombudsman must turn over information from an investigation to the RCMP, a move which the ombudsman previously argued would have a ‘chilling effect’ on whistleblowers,” reports Shaina Luck for the CBC:
The ombudsman’s investigation began after more than three-quarters of a million dollars of public money handled by the Cumberland Regional Development Authority (CRDA) went missing between 2008 and 2012. CRDA’s former executive director, Rhonda Kelly, was implicated after the organization submitted roughly $790,000 worth of false invoices to the province.
RCMP also began a criminal investigation into the missing money and asked the ombudsman’s office to turn over all of its files so that police could review them for evidence.
However, the Office of the Ombudsman went to court in Oct. 2015 to block the RCMP from gaining access to the files.
I scanned Justice Margaret J. Stewart’s ruling Friday, and the issue of protecting whistleblowers really wasn’t the issue in this particular case. The ruling won’t, or at least shouldn’t, inhibit anyone from going to the ombudsman with inside information about financial wrongdoing. But if you’re worried about being outed as the source, bring that inside information to the Halifax Examiner, which will guarantee your anonymity.
Is it weird that in 2016 we still have an ombudsman? There’s quite a debate about this.
The International Ombudsman Association insists that the term is “gender neutral in origin” because it comes from the “Scandinavian.”
Last year, the Northern Ireland Assembly commissioned a fellow named Tim Moore to write a briefing paper on the etymology of the word ombudsman. Moore identified the Scandinavian language as Old Swedish:
Responding to a question regarding the gender neutrality of the word ombudsman and similar words with the suffix ‘-man’, the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman has, in the past, written that the ‘Government’s linguistic experts had stated that ombudsman and other similar words with the suffix –man. i.a. [sic] talman, talesman, fortroendeman, are gender neutral in the Swedish Language’.
Indeed, the suffix can be found in Diskrimineringsombudsmannen (The Equality Ombudsman) which is the name of the Swedish government agency that seeks to combat discrimination on grounds of sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age.
Anyway, Moore went on to explain that the claims of gender neutrality are highly contested, and then quoted a delightful email from the then-Ombudsperson at Concordia University in the US, Suzanne Belson:
Moore then said that, gender issues aside, nobody much knew what an ombudsman was in any event, and a simpler, more meaningful term might better serve the office. One person suggested “Financial Consumer Complaints.” Another suggested “Captain Cash.”
Frustratingly, Moore made no recommendation about what to call the office.
When the issue was debated in the Northern Ireland Assembly in December, the International Ombudsman Association wrote to complain about the use of “ombudsperson,” reports the Northern Ireland News Letter:
But although Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey accepted that the word is gender-neutral, he said “we believe that there has been an ongoing cultural change in the last number of years whereby people tend to move away from using the word ‘man’, which most people here obviously accept has a gender definition. “On that basis, we would prefer that the name remained ‘ombudsperson’…it is part of an ongoing, changing cultural public narrative around the use of gender definitions when people are addressed in the civic world.”
And if that’s the nastiest debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly, that’s a good thing.
[This entire post was just clickbait for mansplainers.]
1. Blogging to death
Maintaining a blog and posting regular updates is hard work. People get into it with big intentions and lots of enthusiasm, but even the most energetic start to burn out after a while, and the blogs fall by the wayside. Maybe we should maintain a morgue of dead or dying blogs? We could open the metal door, pull out the trays, and examine the corpses of The Old North End, The Dartmouth History Blog, Mediaspin, The Downtown Scoop, and oh so many others. If you have any dead blogs you’d like preserved, let me know and I’ll see if I can build a respectful blog mausoleum.
2. Cranky letter of the day
Kathy Cloutier, Communication Director for Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corporation stated in a letter to the editor in the Truro Daily News on Sept. 03/16, “The closest Northern Pulp has come to Mattatall Lake with a herbicide spray program was 15 years ago and at that time it was over 1.5 km away from the lake.”
Recollections differ on spray program
In fact, I was on the lake during that spray of the clear-cut area that had belonged to Harley Redmond. Most, if not all of the area subject to spray was within 1.0 km of the lake with the nearest area within 200 metres.
This could very well have been the beginning of the end of the clear, drinkable water that we had enjoyed for more than 10 years prior to the spray. The change to what we have today was slow and nearly imperceivable but the observable presence of more weeds and algae is undeniable.
It’s interesting to observe the two sides of Point Road. One side was sprayed, the other not. Today (15 years later) there is very little, if any, difference in the growth of one side compared with the other.
Bob MacLean, Resident of Mattatall Lake
Police Commission (12:30pm, City Hall) — nothing much on the agenda.
No meetings scheduled.
Garbage (1pm, Ocean Sciences Building) – they hate it when you call it “garbage” (or even worse, “trash”), so be sure to use the preferred euphemism, “waste.” Anyway, whatever you call it, Dal’s Facilities Management and Office of Sustainability will give interested folks a tour of the warehouse to show how they handle it.
Lebesgue spaces (3:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Kabe Moen, from the University of Alabama, will speak on “When does a function belong to the union of Lebesgue spaces?”
Optoelectronics (7pm, Ondaatje Hall, McCain Building) — Eli Yablonovitch, from UC Berkeley, will speak on “Optoelectronics: Is there anything it cannot do; Can Opto-Electronics Provide the Motive Power for Future Vehicles?” Yeah sure, I’m still waiting for my flying car, smart dude.
Elizabeth Hay (Tuesday, 7pm, Library) — Elizabeth Hay, author of Late Nights on Air, A Student of Weather, Garbo Laughs, and His Whole Life, will speak.
Hippo Attacked (12:30pm, KTS Room, 2nd Floor, NAB Building) — Sarah Cook, a Dal/King’s grad who is now at the University of Dundee, will speak on “contemporary art’s intersection with science and technology.” I have no idea why the talk is titled “Hippo Attacked.”
In the harbour
1am: Valle Azzurra, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for TK
5:30am: Tortugas, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Liverpool, England
6am: Vera D, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Lisbon, Portugal
7:15am: Caribbean Princess, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John with up to 3,756 passengers
2pm: Doric Pioneer, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Port Arthur, Texas
4:30pm: Vera D, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Mariel, Cuba
5:45pm: Caribbean Princess, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Sydney
I don’t have a copyeditor this morning. Please be kind.
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