1. Of Citizens and Taxpayers
“I can’t tell you how many times people have told me they dislike being addressed by governments as ‘taxpayers.’ They’re citizens,” writes Shirley Tillotson:
But “citizen” in that sense — the broad thinker who sees taxes as the seed of all good things social — is a newish kind of citizen.
Tillotson is a historian of taxation and author of Give and Take: the citizen-taxpayer and the rise of Canadian Democracy. She goes on to explain why married women couldn’t vote in Halifax municipal elections until 1963, and why the poll tax wasn’t done away with until 1970.
2. CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke, respect, and secret trips to China
Wow. I won’t pretend to understand what’s going on with Mayor Cecil Clarke and the Cape Breton Municipality — possibly because it’s not understandable by anyone — but Mary Campbell over at the Cape Breton Spectator has been diving deep down into, going so far as to talk to two Professional Registered Parliamentarians for an article exploring how Clarke had put both a “Point of Privilege” and a “Point of Order” on the agenda of an in-camera meeting called to…. er, something…
… and then halfway through Campbell’s 1,700-word article, she writes (don’t try to understand the details here):
Then Councilors MacMullin, Coombes and Paruch came out strongly in support of McDougall. MacMullin seemed especially struck by the mayor’s decision to frame his complaints in terms of a lack of “respect” for council, pointing out that she had not felt respected during last December’s discussions of the extension of our port promoters’ contract (a subject I’ve actually written about elsewhere this week.)
So I got distracted by the “elsewhere this week” link, only to find another article where Campbell explains that:
What is it about CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke and December? Does he hear that John Lennon song — And so this is Christmas/And what have you done? — and panic?
Does he look at his lists of 200 “positive changes” for the municipality and scream?
Because at a time when most businesses and institutions are thinking about slowing down for the holiday season, Clarke steps up the pace.
Campbell then recounts hectic Decembers in 2014, 2016, and now 2017, when December actually started in November:
Just like the Christmas season seems to start earlier and earlier each year, so Mayor Clarke’s December hustle seems to be gathering steam earlier than usual. I would argue it started on November 16 this year, with an in camera session during which Council was presented with an Option and Development Agreement it was to sign with SHIP.
Emboldened by his past successes, no doubt, Mayor Clarke upped the ante this year — taking cell phones away from Councilors before allowing them into the Council Chambers and refusing to allow them to take documents home to read and digest.
He scheduled a second in camera session for November 20…
It was another triumph of the mayor’s tried and true pressure tactics — which, I need hardly add, only work because a majority of councilors seems ready to agree to his every demand — but it turned out to be only an opening sally.
Clarke then secretly went to China.
I know, I know. How crazy has this town become?
A secret trip to China?
Back at the first article, Campbell explains:
McDougall’s criticism of the secrecy surrounding the port project came after the Mayor had returned from a trip to China that he had not announced publicly. A trip for which no itinerary or delegation list is available (I requested both from his spokesperson, Christina Lamey, who did not respond to my email. If she follows her usual pattern, her reply will land in my inbox an hour after I publish this, at which point I will update.) McDougall’s remarks came weeks after council had been presented with yet another port-related contract at the last minute, during an in camera session, and forced to approve it in days.
I admit that I don’t have time to get into the weeds of all this, much less to actually make sense of it all, which is why I’m grateful that Mary Campbell is doing this work.
As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so both of these articles are behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
3. Delilah Saunders
Delilah Saunders, who is the sister of Loretta Saunders, “was admitted to an Ottawa hospital Friday afternoon and was diagnosed with acute liver failure. She is in critical condition,” reports Nic Meloney for the CBC:
She had been taking acetaminophen for jaw pain, friends say, which may have led to liver failure.
“The doctor said she needs a liver transplant,” says her best friend Rebecca Moore, who travelled from Nova Scotia to be with her.
“Then they said she can’t have one.”
The agency that co-ordinates organ and tissue donations in Ontario, Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN), requires a six-month alcohol abstinence period for chronic alcoholic liver disease patients seeking treatment.
Moore was unable to speculate how long Saunders has been sober, but says that she’d reached “huge” personal milestones over the past year. Others close to Saunders confirmed that she’d been seeing therapists and has scheduled appointments for addiction prevention treatments this month.
The policy is common to most transplant programs in North America.
Moore and the Saunders family found out that the TGLN criteria for treatment has already been challenged in Ontario. As a result a three-year pilot program allowing transplants and aimed at determining whether the criteria should change, is scheduled to begin in just eight months.
The Saunders family is considering asking the court to intervene.
4. Bus passes
The province yesterday announced that it is beginning a “pilot program” with HRM to provide free bus passes to those on “employment supports and income assistance”:
Recipients, along with their spouses and children on a Halifax Transit bus route, will now receive a free bus pass to meet their transportation needs….
The new pilot removes administrative requirements such as getting a doctor’s note to prove the number of medical appointments required each month.
5. Patient’s website criticizes East Coast Forensic Hospital
After Adom Patchett burned down his mother’s house in Windsor, he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and placed in the East Coast Forensic Hospital. He says he’s successfully taking medication but still struggles with his condition, reports Chris Lambie for the Chronicle Herald:
“When I go psychotic, I start getting into religious stuff, which you’ll see on the website. I start telling people I’m an angel and things like that. And then when I come out of it, I go, ‘Oh no.’ I go in and out of the illness.”
The website is reportforensic.com, which Patchett set up while on a day leave from the hospital:
Patchett said his leave privileges have been revoked since he walked to a Tim Hortons near the forensic hospital over the weekend and used the free wi-fi to create his website with his laptop computer.
On the site, Patchett explains who the residents of the hospital are:
Yes, we are mentally ill and yes we committed crimes then were found Not Criminally Responsible. Do we deserve to have our honour, our dignity, our self esteem trampled on by clinicians? We need help and protection, compassion and vigilance.
The internal environment of the hospital is dangerous, it is chaotic so there being a measure of security around us is not what we have problems with.
Its having smoke blown in our faces. Its having nurses and doctors lie to us. Its having staff just walk all over our hearts and minds.
Under a section called “Next Steps,” Patchett writes:
No violence, no hatred, just protest. We are in a state of cold war with the nurses and doctors. We will protest in the ways that are part of a civil society. Just remember, we want you to have danger pay, many of you we love but some of you, Donna, I’m sorry to say you’re an absolute devastating force towards the mentally ill. You need to leave.
6. Fundy Tidal
The Nova Scotia Securities Commission yesterday issued a cease trade order against Fundy Tidal Inc.
Fundy Tidal was established through the province’s Community Economic Development Investment Fund (CEDIF) program, which gives tax incentives for Nova Scotian residents to invest in local enterprises. A press release from 2013 explained:
Fundy Tidal Inc. (Fundy Tidal) seeks to issue a maximum of $3 million dollars in shares through the Province’s Community Economic Development Investment Fund (CEDIF) program. The investment is RRSP eligible and is only available to Nova Scotia residents who are 19 years of age or older.
Fundy Tidal is seeking investment funds to continue research and project development activities that are required to support tidal energy projects approved under the Nova Scotia (NS) Department of Energy’s small-scale tidal Community Feed-In Tariff (COMFIT) program. Fundy Tidal received approvals for several projects in Digby County (1.95 MW in Digby Gut and 500 kW in each of Grand Passage and Petit Passage) and Cape Breton (100 kW in Barra Strait and 500 kW in Great Bras d’Or Channel).
The NS Utilities and Review Board has set a rate of 65.2 cents per kilowatt hour for locally-based small-scale tidal energy projects. These projects are to be connected to the distribution electrical system and the power sold to Nova Scotia Power Inc. through a power purchase agreement created specifically for COMFIT projects. The term “small-scale” refers to projects that use tidal turbines that generate up to 500 kW of power. Depending on the maximum speed of the tidal current (considering a range of 5 to 10 knots) and turbine efficiency, the diameter of a 500 kW turbine ranges from approximately 5 to 15 meters.
Fundy Tidal was established on Brier Island in 2006 as a result of local interest to generate marine renewable energy from the tidal currents of the Outer Bay of Fundy, including Digby Gut, Grand Passage and Petit Passage. Fundy Tidal’s focus is small-scale tidal energy projects that involve community ownership and local benefits. The current Board of Directors and 57 shareholders include individuals and businesses from key communities in the Digby County area and around the province including Westport, Tiverton, Digby, Bear River, Weymouth, Meteghan, Wolfville, Halifax, Saulnierville and Yarmouth. The Northumberland Wind Field Inc., a CEDIF developing the 1.74MW Avondale Project in Pictou County under the wind power COMFIT, is also a founding shareholder of the company.
“This is a key milestone for our company to not only raise additional capital for our projects but to meet the COMFIT requirement to have a successful CEDIF offering with at least 25 investors.” says Vince Stuart, Fundy Tidal president.
Fundy Tidal was in no way associated with the much larger tidal project now on hold in the Minas Basin.
I’m skeptical that tidal power will bring meaningful returns either economically or in power generation any time soon. I’m happy to be wrong about that.
But I’m even more skeptical of the CEDIF program. I’m not aware of even a single CEDIF project that has succeeded, while off the top of my head I can rattle off three that have failed: Seaport Farmers Market, Unique Solutions CEDIF, and now Fundy Tidal. Surely there must be some successes, but I’d like to see a success rate for the program over all.
“Nova Scotia has become the first province to ban medically unnecessary cat declawing, part of a worldwide movement against the practice,” reports the Canadian Press:
The Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association decided Tuesday to amend its code of ethics to make the practice of elective and non-therapeutic declawing ethically unacceptable.
It will come into effect on March 15, 2018, following a three-month education period.
“The head of the organization charged with delivering health care to Nova Scotians called the shortage of family doctors in the province a ‘major problem,’” reports Marieke Walsh for Global:
Health authority CEO and President Janet Knox made the statement to journalists after updating a legislative committee about physician recruitment, on Wednesday.
“We do have a problem,” she said. “We have a major problem that we are saying is job one for the health system of Nova Scotia.”
According to Doctors Nova Scotia, 55 per cent of physicians in the province are over the age of 50. The numbers show a retirement boom is coming according to the group.
The organization’s CEO Nancy MacCready-Williams called it a “looming situation.”
In Dartmouth, for example, the health authority confirmed that 40 per cent of the community’s family doctors are retiring within five years. According to the NDP that works out to 28 doctors planning to retire out of a total of 71 practicing family physicians.
“There were a couple of items of interest in the latest quarterly Corporate Research Associates (CRA) poll on political preferences in Nova Scotia,” writes Richard Starr:
First off was the piece making the headlines – the finding from polling carried out last month that support for the McNeil Liberals has reached the lowest level since they were elected in October 2013. Given all of the kerfuffle about the mismanaged health system, it’s no surprise that Liberal support has dropped.
A bit more interesting is the rise of the NDP from a distant third to a virtual tie with the Official opposition. And perhaps most significant is the drop in the government’s approval ratings and Stephen McNeil’s best premier ratings. Those numbers are getting dangerously (for the Liberals) close to where Darrell Dexter and the NDP were in CRA polls prior to their rude dismissal in the 2013 election.
CRA had the Dexter government with an approval rating of 42% in August of 2013. The Liberals were at 46% last month. There’s more of a gap on best premier — Dexter sat at an inglorious 19% in August 2013 while McNeil was at 28% in November. But McNeil’s was the lowest rating during his tenure as Premier, and down by 25% from a year ago.
It is a given that one should not put too much faith in a single poll, particularly one like this latest, with a high number of undecided. However, CRA has been conducting it’s quarterly surveys for decades and the results going back to 2005 can be viewed on its website. There’s a remarkable correlation between the survey results and political outcomes.
McNeil may already be preparing to take his leave anyway, but a couple more polls like the one released last week may put others in a McNeil-exit planning mode.
Starr goes on to quote a bunch of stuff from CRA prez Don Mills, but I trust absolutely no observation from Mills — he’s too involved politically and has too much self-interested economic bias to be credible, in my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt.
Community Planning & Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — nothing urgent on the agenda.
Community Design Advisory Committee (Thursday, 11:30am, City Hall) — supposedly, the committee is reviewing plans to engage “stakeholders” and “the public” on the Centre Plan. Perhaps! But of course people with money and connections will do whatever they want to do, stakeholders and public be damned.
Special Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — Gordon Richards doesn’t just have peeling paint on his house at 21 Conrod Road in Grand Desert. He doesn’t just have junk in the yard, or isn’t cutting his grass. But, according to a staff report, the walls and roof are collapsing and, due to “the proximity of the building to the community centre and park makes it a high risk for curious citizens.” So much so that a special meeting of the Appeals Committee was called to deal with it.
Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, HEMDCC Large Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — the committee is looking at plans for the National Film Building on Barrington Street.
FCM 2018 Conference Advisory Committee (Friday, 1pm, City Hall) — we’re all going to be rich, rich, rich with that sponsorship money.
No public meetings.
Newfangled Breast Imaging: A.I. for Precise Health – Separating Rhetoric from Reality (Thursday, 8am, Weather Watch Room, 5th Fl. Dixon Building, VG Hospital) — Mohamed Abdolell, CEO of Denistas and Diagnostic Radiology Professor at Dalhousie, will speak.
Estimating Convolutional Neural Networks Parameters to Solve Practical Problems (Tuesday, 11:30am, CS Auditorium, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Martha Dais Ferreira, PhD candidate at the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Sciences, University of São Paulo (USP), Brazil, will speak. Her abstract:
Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) has been widely employed on Literature due to its capability of extracting relevant information fromlarge-scale input data. However, CNN architectures are empirically designed, in which different CNN settings are assessed until finding the most appropriate one to tackle a target problem. This approach entails several architecture evaluations, high consuming computational resources and requires a suitable predefined set of configurations. Based on this limitation, a novel methodology was developed to estimate CNN parameters, including the size of convolutional masks (convolutional kernels) and the number of convolutional units (CNN neurons) per layer. This methodology is based on the False Nearest Neighbors (a tool from the area of Dynamical Systems), and the primary goal is to estimate less complex and efficient CNN architectures.
Exceptionally Simple PDE (Thursday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Dennis The, from the University of Tromso, Norway, will speak. His abstract:
Arguably one of the most beautiful results of 19th century mathematics was the classification of complex simple Lie algebras due to Cartan and Killing. Beyond the four classical families of matrix Lie algebras, five mysterious “exceptional simple” Lie algebras made their first appearance in this story. In 1893, the smallest of these, $G_2$, was first realized by Cartan and Engel as the infinitesimal symmetries of various geometric objects. In this talk, I will review this story and discuss how it was recently generalized in a remarkably uniform manner to obtain analogous explicit geometric realisations for (almost) any complex simple Lie algebra.
Christmas Concert (Friday, 7pm, St. Andrew’s Church, corner of Robie and Coburg) — Bernard Bradley conducts the Dalhousie University Medical School Tupper Concert Band in its 38th annual Christmas Concert with their guests The Health Professions Chorale. Admission by donation at the door.
In the harbour
3:30am: ZIM Monaco, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
9am: USCGC Campbell, sails from NC 4 for sea
3pm: YM Modesty, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
11:30pm: Primrose Ace, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
“And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China.”
Leonard Cohen recorded “Suzanne” in 1967, when getting stuff from China was exotic and strange. Fifty years later, it’s hard to find anything that doesn’t come from China.