1. Voter turnout
CBC’s Information Morning interviewed Dal prof Jeffrey Roy about the low turnout in the Halifax election, and Roy went on to spread some misinformation:
There are lots of reasons why people didn’t get out and vote this time around, according to Roy. He said the popularity of Mayor Mike Savage and four incumbents running unopposed suppressed voter turnout.
He said when people don’t think a race is competitive they don’t head to the polls.
“There’s always a correlation between the competitiveness of a race and voting turnout. For example you’ve seen in a few districts, my own in Dartmouth, where you have multiple candidates running and a new person elected. There were actually more votes cast then (sic) in the previous election.”
This is not true. As I reported Sunday morning, the vote count went down in Dartmouth Centre, not up:
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.
I’m of two minds about voter turnout. I come from the United States, where people — lots of people — were straight-up murdered for their efforts to gain the right to vote. So not voting out of apathy or disinterest seems like a betrayal of those brave men and women.
And yet, I understand apathy and disinterest, or at least cynicism. As I wrote in 2013 in an essay headlined “The politics of bullshit“:
Is it any wonder voter turnout is dropping like a lead balloon? Contrary to common wisdom, potential voters aren’t stupid or apathetic. Rather, they’re onto the game. People know that elections are just one big marketing gambit, like Coke trying to take some of Pepsi’s market share at the Superstore. Every potential voter is just a demographic data point, to be appealed to, or not, depending on the value of the tiny wedge of society they represent. There’s no broader vision. No concept of the greater good. No community. No shared future, no collective responsibilities. We are just atomized voters, to be manipulated, spun, appealed to or ignored and packed together, this way or that, in whatever arrangement best serves the goal — the only goal — of electoral victory.
I was writing about provincial politics in that essay, but the point applies generally to municipal elections as well.
As an example, I’ll raise just one issue: development. As I wrote in a series of tweets yesterday:
There wasn’t a coherent and explicit anti-development position from candidates.
People disagree about development! That’s fine. But one entire segment of the spectrum of opinion wasn’t be spoken to. It’s simply a fact that development is the most important city issue right now. The city is being transformed before our eyes; the transformation is as big, and as impactful, as when horses were replaced by cars. It’s that big of a change.
There are pluses and minuses with development, but many, many people see unbridled development as lowering their quality of life. Some people want a complete stop to it. Others aren’t that radical, but want strict controls that aren’t now present. Others still simply view the game as rigged, and while not explicitly anti-development, want a fairer regulatory regime.
But by and large, NONE of the candidates were speaking directly to those views. Instead, we heard a lot of mealy mouthed talk of planning and the Centre Plan, the same sort of mealy mouthed talk we’ve been hearing all along.
It’s not unreasonable for voters to think that in terms of the most important issue, we’re just going to get more of the same. So why vote?
I’m not endorsing this view, and I’m not saying it explains the entire drop in turnout, but it’s definitely a large contributing factor.
(As I wrote in yesterday’s Morning File, the Borg descending upon downtown Halifax gives the complete lie to the value of city planning. Anyone who held hope that HRM By Design was going to bring a better downtown is a an utter fool to now believe that the Centre Plan will bring better design to the rest of the peninsula.)
So here’s the most important issue facing residents, development, and nary a council candidate would advocate in strong, unequivocal terms about restraining the beast. Some spoke of half measures: their campaigns declined accepting developer contributions; they really, really want that Centre Plan to do, well, something…. but not one candidate pointed out that this development frenzy is a train wreck. No one suggested a moratorium (Jennifer Watts, who wasn’t running for reelection, unsuccessfully attempted to get a short pause imposed on development in the Maynard Street corridor, but no candidate looking to replace her took up the issue). No candidate suggested that the past council’s decision to override city staff’s rejection of monster buildings overlooking the Common be reversed. No candidate advocated for a cap on development, nor even a points system to approve the best developments while rejecting the crap developments.
Evidently, all the candidates were basically on the same development page, with slight but effectively meaningless differences in emphases.
And so, while candidates aren’t addressing the issues that matter most to voters, we get gimmicky about increasing voter turnout. Remember when E-voting was going to solve everything? In just two elections we’ve gone from “e-voting will increase voter turnout!” to “we can’t get rid of e-voting now because turnout would be even worse!” (Never mind that neither statement can be supported by anything other than whimsy.)
And now we’re hearing about other gimmicks: move the election date, or require voting by force of law.
Here’s an idea: how ’bout taking strong stands on issues that matter to voters? There’s nothing wrong with being voted down for an opinion that’s real. It’s better than being elected as a representative milquetoast middle 25 per cent.
2. The election glitch and a recount
Late Saturday night, as election results were coming in, there were three very close council races: Brad Johns vs Lisa Blackburn in Sackville, Shawn Cleary vs Linda Mosher in Armdale, and Andrew Curran vs Russell Walker in Fairview.
As the ballots were being counted there was one point in the evening, with five tables still to be counted, when Cleary and Mosher were separated by just two votes. It was precisely then that the Elections Office stopped updating its webpage with results.
Here’s how city spokesperson Brendan Elliott (two Ts, CBC) explained it to me in an email yesterday:
As far as what happened Saturday night, there were 60 ‘exceptions’ flagged by our quality control checkers who are responsible for validating the results before they are included in the overall totals for each polling table. The returning officers in each polling station type in the ballot results into a form on an iPad, using in-house software created for our elections. The returning officer than captures a photo of the hand-written results page, and our checkers cross reference the attached photo with the data that has been transmitted electronically. If the numbers on both platforms (the form and the numbers in the photo) match up then the numbers are fired up on the website. If there is a discrepancy, then that table’s results are put in an exceptions queue for further examination.
In the case of Saturday night, of the 2,000 or so files sent to our quality control checkers, 60 stood out for further examination because either the photo wasn’t attached to the file, or the photo was too blurry to make out the numbers. When our supervisors at HQ started sifting through the exceptions to resolve them, they tried calling out to the polling stations but the returning officers had already packed everything up and were making their way back to Election HQ with the ballot boxes. So, we waited for the physical evidence to arrive, checked out the results, and when satisfied they were accurate, the results were then added to the totals.
Nothing nefarious. In fact, it proves we were taking a cautious approach to ensuring the results were accurate and could hold up to any scrutiny. It shows the integrity of the results had several layers of testing/checks and balances, in order to confirm accuracy.
In any event, in the end Cleary bested Mosher by 107 votes, Blackburn edged out Johns by 47 votes, and Walker just nudged by Curran by a mere 15 votes. Now, as is his right under the Elections Act, Curran is asking for a recount. As he should. “Sometimes the numbers change and sometimes they change quite a bit,” Curran told CTV. “It makes the spread bigger or perhaps it will make it in my favour.”
3. Good Robot
The Centre for Islamic Development and the Ihsan Academy have filed a complaint with Utility and Review Board concerning their next door neighbour, Good Robot Brewing. The gist of the complaint is:
We observe all five daily prayers, which have their specific timetables, and we are open to those members of our community who wish to come by and spend some quiet time of religious observance, be it prayers, contemplation or Quran reading (our religious book) and classes of religion for adults at different times, as well as having a full scale library, social counselling, multi faith dialogue. All of them require a noise-controlled and peaceful environment, currently being denied by our neighbour’s business practices and clientele. Our children attend daily classes and represent the most promising and busiest of our ongoing efforts.
Generally speaking, we have had no disruptions or distractions worth mentioning, until The Good Robot Brewing Company came to the neighbourhood.
Being a drinking establishment, they make use of music for all to hear. The conversations include language which is not appropriate for a temple nor a school and, being a party atmosphere, they became loud and careless in nature.
It shall not be surprising to the reader that an alcohol drinking establishment attracts all sorts of customers, the quiet and caring ones, as well as the uncaring.
The brewery has brought us people who sit to smoke tobacco and marijuana (its smell permeates through the building leaving a stench for a long time after the drug users have left) and drink on our front door step, who park cars, trucks — one of them being the property of one of the brewery’s partners — and motorbikes on the sidewalk right in front of our building, not the brewery’s, at all hours. We have filed many parking complaints.
In one instance, a brewery employee was smoking while leaning against our wall, close to the entrance, and was asked to stop doing it; his reaction was to throw the cigarette butt to the floor and walk away.
We know these activities are not permitted but there is no effort on the part of the brewery to contain these actions by their customers, and very limited presence by the municipal authorities to enforce the different Bylaws being broken: Loitering, Littering, Parking, Sidewalks, etc.
Good Robot has not yet responded.
Good Robot is actually two businesses — the microbrewery, which is regulated by the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission, and the beverage room, which is regulated (ultimately) by the UARB. According to a letter the Department of Alcohol and Gaming sent the UARB:
A person may request in writing that the Executive Director cancel a permanent license or place conditions on a permanent license on the basis that the operation of the licensed premises is interfering with the quiet enjoyment of neighbouring properties.
On receiving a request under subsection (1 ). the Executive Director may make inquiries of, or request documentation from, the licensee or any other person for the purpose of determining the matter.
If the Executive Director is satisfied that the operation of a licensed premises is interfering with the quiet enjoyment of neighbouring properties, the Executive Director may do any of the following:
• impose conditions on the licensee’s license or rescind or amend existing conditions on the license;
• cancel all or any part of the licensee’s license.
• The Executive Director may refer a matter under this Section to the Review Board in accordance with subsection 47(3) of the Act.
The Executive Director of the UARB is Paul Allen. A hearing date has not been set.
4. (Allegedly) creepy clown
“A Cape Breton man who has entertained children for more than 20 years is facing four sex-related charges involving a person under the age of 16,” reports CTV:
Dale Rancourt, also known as Klutzy the Clown, is facing two counts of sexual interference, one count of sexual exploitation and one count of sexual assault.
“The last charge is as a person in authority, did touch the same person for a sexual purpose. These are very serious charges,” said Crown lawyer Sheldon Nathanson.
The charges have not been tested in court.
Fourteen days until the first bogus Halloween candy tampering report.
Also, Halloween decorations are cancelled this year.
1. Cranky letter of the day
I am writing in response to Gary MacDougall’s column about automobiles in Saturday’s Guardian. My purpose is to explain to him why he has so little affection for cars. It’s because of the Fords. Too many Fords in your young life. Or, as a local, long-time car collector explained in a message to me today, “In childhood Gary was apparently deprived of some of the important things in life, such as the Chrysler automobile. He should seek counselling before it’s too late.” So there you have it Gary, it’s apparently not too late to join the ranks of those who cherish their cars.
P.S., this letter is not sponsored.
David Weale, Charlottetown
Legislature sits (1-6pm, Province House)
No public meetings.
Garbage Part 2 (12pm, Sexton Campus Alumni Lounge) — More about trash.
Cartesian Double Categories (2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Evangelia Aleiferi will speak. Her abstract:
A double category is said to be Cartesian if the diagonal double functor and the unique double functor to the terminal double category have right adjoints. We will give examples of such and we will compare with Cartesianness in the bicategorical sense. We will especially talk about fibrant Cartesian double categories and some of their properties.
Board of Governors (3pm, University Hall, MacDonald Building) — here’s the agenda. I’ll pop by to say hello. Hope they have snacks.
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.
In the harbour
6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
10am: Agios Minas, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
11am: Tortugas, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 27
2pm: Saldanha Bay, bulker, arrives at anchorage for bunkers from Rocky Point, Jamaica
4pm: Tortugas, car carrier, sails from Pier 27 for sea
5:30pm: Saldanha Bay, bulker, sails from anchorage for sea
10pm: Hollandia, general cargo, sails from Pier 31 for Rotterdam
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