1. Transit plan
“Yesterday, regional council approved Halifax Transit’s Moving Forward Together plan, revamping the city’s bus routes in an effort to increase efficiency and ridership,” reports Erica Butler. “No need to brace yourselves for change right away, though. The plan will be implemented over five years, with major route changes happening in the last three.”
Butler provides a detailed analysis of the 23 proposed amendments made to the plan.
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
2. Maureen MacDonald
“Veteran New Democrat MLA Maureen MacDonald announced her retirement Tuesday, bringing to an end a highly respected 18-year political career,” reports Michael Gorman for Local Xpress:
The announcement comes two days before the spring sitting of the legislature begins, but MacDonald said there’s nothing to read into the timing.
“I’m in my 19th year now and, frankly, I think an MLA’s job is 24-7 (and) it’s become harder for me to do that.”
The move also has nothing to do with her party’s change in direction, following Gary Burrill’s leadership victory in February and subsequent caucus staff hirings, she said. The party was aware of her need for time off even before the convention.
Parker Donham criticizes MacDonald for “the spiteful manner of her departure“:
Everything about her announcement Tuesday was a carefully calculated snub to her party’s new leader, perhaps even a shrewdly disguised poison pill.
Gary Burrill received little or no notice of the announcement—even though the Liberals appeared to have been given a heads up. MacDonald insisted on being introduced not by Burrill or a currently sitting NDP MLA but by one of the paid staffers Burrill drummed out of party headquarters following his defeat of Dexter heir-apparent Dave Wilson. (Burrill cleaned house after MacDonald, the supposedly neutral interim leader, allowed party staff to campaign more or less openly for Wilson.)
Her short speech featured a gracious shout out to former Premier John Hamm but pointedly no mention of Burrill and no good wishes for the future of the party. The omissions were glaring and deliberate.
Burrill, however, took a gracious tone in a statement he sent reporters:
Newly elected Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill congratulates Maureen MacDonald on her retirement from the legislature.
“Maureen MacDonald’s intelligence, work ethic, and dedication to progressive ideals will be greatly missed in our Caucus,” says Burrill.
“Maureen was one of the best Health Ministers our province has ever had. As Minister she made generic drugs more affordable, expanded children’s dental care, created a network of Collaborative Emergency Centres throughout the province, and brought in Nova Scotia’s first mental health strategy. Public health care in Nova Scotia is stronger as a result of her work.”
“On behalf of all New Democrats, I want to thank Maureen for her incredible service to our Party, to the people of Halifax Needham, and to our Province.”
3. Chronicle Herald
The fallout from the despicable Chronicle Herald story continues.
Yesterday, the Globe & Mail published an article on the fiasco. Reporter Simon Houpt asked Chronicle Herald owner Sarah Dennis for comment, and got this response:
In an e-mail to The Globe and Mail, Ms. Dennis played down the role of the strike in the retracted story. “Humans make mistakes. There have been errors before the union walked off the job and unfortunately there have been errors during the labour disruption.”
For sure, like all media outlets, the paper has previously made mistakes. But never as big as maligning two prepubescent boys, smearing an entire ethnic group, and fuelling the right-wing hate machine.
We are now in the 12th week of the strike by the unionized reporters, photographers, and editors at the Chronicle Herald. At the beginning of the strike, the paper’s management asked recent grads to work as scab reporters; the director of King’s Journalism School, Kelly Toughill, didn’t advise the grads not to, but warned them to consider the long-term implications of taking the work. This advice struck an appropriately professional and neutral tone.
But the weekend article seems to have pushed the J-school into making a political statement in support of the union. Yesterday, the school issued a press release “Recognizing 23 King’s alumni on strike,” listing their names and stating simply that the alumni “have been on strike since Jan. 23 against The Chronicle Herald in defence of quality local journalism.”
You’ll note that the most recent grads on the list are Michael Gorman, who graduated in 2005, and Frances Willick, who graduated in 2000. I don’t have a running chronology of either King’s students or Chronicle Herald reporters, but I’m sure there are still more recent grads who worked at the paper but have been laid off.
Not on the list are King’s grads who are working as scabs. I don’t know the names of the scabs, with the exception of Heather Desveaux, who graduated from King’s around 2009, has been open about her scab work, and regularly links to it on Twitter. I think there are other King’s grads working as scabs as well; that the J-school is explicitly siding with the striking reporters makes yesterday’s statement an overtly political act. And good on the school.
Also, I’ve received a lot of communication about the issue the last few days, some of it urging me to find out “what really happened.” That is, people want me to find “Missy” and the boys and get down to the bottom of the allegations in the original article.
To my mind, however, this misses the point. Once again, I need to stress that whatever happened (or didn’t happen) at the school involved children — not even teenagers, but little kids, elementary school-aged. This isn’t a story about what little kids did or did not do in the schoolyard, or even a story about the motivations or potential misrepresentations of a mother. Rather, this is a story about how a major corporation — a multimillion dollar operation, the “paper of record” in the province, owned and managed by people who think they have the moral authority to lecture the rest of us about how we need better attitudes in order to build a better economy — how that corporation denigrated and abused children and irresponsibly stoked xenophobia. It’s a story of corporate failure at multiple levels — at the reporting, editing, and management levels — reflecting the owners’ decision to abandon any pretence of quality journalism in pursuit of cost-cutting and destroying the union.
Let’s not take our eyes of the ball with some Levant-style search for “what really happened.” We know what happened. And it’s not about the kids.
4. Kristin Johnston
Investigators in the Homicide Unit of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division have laid a charge in connection with the homicide of Kristin Elizabeth Johnston.
At approximately 7:45 a.m. on March 26, Halifax Regional Police responded to an unknown trouble call at a home on Oceanview Drive off Purcells Cove Road. Responding officers located 32-year-old Kristin Johnston deceased inside the residence. One man was arrested at the home, however, he required immediate medical attention and was transported to hospital by EHS. Officers released him from their custody the afternoon of March 26, pending treatment of his injuries which were described as significant but non-life-threatening.
Homicide investigators rearrested 33-year-old Nicholas Jordan Butcher of Halifax without incident at approximately noon yesterday after he was released from the QEII where he had been hospitalized since March 26. He is scheduled to appear in Halifax Provincial Court this morning charged with second degree murder.
Butcher cut off his own hand, reports Steve Bruce in Local Xpress:
Nicholas Jordan Butcher cut his right hand off after allegedly murdering his girlfriend at her Halifax home last month, Local Xpress has learned.
Several sources familiar with the investigation told Local Xpress that Butcher cut his hand off with a mitre saw. They said it was unclear whether he was attempting to commit suicide or wanted to harm himself for what he had allegedly done.
Butcher reportedly graduated from Dalhousie’s law school last year.
5. Internet black widow
Halifax Regional Police has charged a woman with breaching her release conditions following an incident yesterday in Halifax.
At approximately 3:40 p.m. on April 11, a Community Response Officer observed a woman accessing the Internet on a computer at the Halifax Central Library on Spring Garden Road. He recognized the woman as Melissa Ann Shepard, 80, whom he knew to be on conditions to not access the Internet.
He arrested Shepard without incident and transported her to Police Headquarters. She was subsequently found in possession of a device capable of accessing the Internet which is also a violation of her conditions.
Shepard has been charged with three counts of breaching a recognizance and released on conditions to refrain from visiting any library within Halifax Regional Municipality. She is scheduled to appear in Halifax Provincial Court on May 24 to answer to these charges.
Sheppard is the so-called “Internet Black Widow.” As the CBC recounts, she has a long criminal record:
In 1991, she was convicted of manslaughter and served two years of a six-year prison term after killing her husband, Gordon Stewart, on a deserted road near Halifax. Stewart, from P.E.I., was heavily drugged when she ran over him twice with a car.
Shortly after she was released from prison, she travelled to Florida and met Robert Friedrich at a Christian retreat.
They married in Nova Scotia in 2000. A year later, Friedrich’s family noticed his health was faltering. He had mysterious fainting spells and slurred speech and was in and out of hospitals.
Friedrich’s family also alleged his money had started to disappear. Friedrich died in 2002 of cardiac arrest. No one was charged.
In 2005, Shepard was sentenced to five years in prison on a slew of charges stemming from a relationship she had with another Florida man she met online.
She pleaded guilty to seven charges, including three counts of grand theft from a person 65 years or older, two counts of forgery and two counts of using a forged document.
Holy cow. I’ve been hanging out at the library a lot, and I think I must’ve been there just as the arrest was happening. Close call!
6. Tourism videos
The Nova Scotia Tourism Agency has released a series of videos produced by DDB Canada, the Toronto firm that won a $6 million contract to manage marketing for the agency.
The good news is that the six “If You Only Knew” vids (collected here) collectively use less than a second of diddly diddly music:
The bad news is the vids will be used in the next Simpson episode:
While I was writing this I left the video playing, and through the miracle of the YouTube collation system, I stumbled upon a video titled “Nova Scotia Tourism Film.” It was produced by a 24-year-old guy named Nathan Thoen, who made it from clips gathered as he and his girlfriend Danica vacationed in Nova Scotia.
“I premiered this short film in the Dream Theatre Fort (a 2 story theatre made entirely out of pillows and blankets) at the Virgin Artshow in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,” explains Thoen. “I’m so happy to have this little piece of our adventure to remember and love shooting Danica and I’s (sic) adventure. Nova Scotia Tourism loved it so much they’re using pieces of it in a digital and television ad campaign.”
I don’t know what Thoen was paid for his work, but undoubtedly it was a hell of a lot less than $6 million. And sure, at times the video seems like more of an opportunity to show off how pretty Danica is and less like something you’d show in the Toronto subway, but along the way there are some nice clips of the scenery of the province, and nice scenes of people having fun, with exactly zero seizure-inducing moments. I say next time around we hire Thoen and skip the middlemen.
1. Films and hatred
“The Chronicle Herald has been rightly humiliated for its skank screed on refugee children,” writes Evelyn C. White:
Set against the backdrop of the “newspaper’s” self-inflicted implosion, it seems useful to highlight several films that ponder the plight of youth around the globe. Indeed, parents and teachers might consider watching an age-appropriate film or two with youths — as an antidote to the hate-mongering that the Chronicle Herald article unleashed.
2. Cat abuse
“Cat lovers are reporting incidents of violence by Rebel Media host, Faith Goldy, since she’s been in Halifax, digging up what she calls “the truth” on the Chronicle Herald bullying story,” writes Matt Brand:
Reports of choking, pushing, slapping and verbally abusing Halifax’s cats are causing cat owners to worry that no one can stop Goldy.
The Government and On Campus sections are compiled by Kathleen Munro.
Audit & Finance Standing Committee (10am, Council Chamber, City Hall) — Several items on the agenda, including a motion requesting an increase to Police Services Replacement Equipment.
Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (5pm, Maxine Tynes Room, Alderney Public Library) — Rick Scott and Eva Mooers will discuss the study objective and outline of the “Paper Mill Lake Watershed Assessment.”
Public Open House- Pre-Application Downtown Halifax (7pm, Brunswick Room, 1583 Brunswick Street) — As reported on Monday, representatives of Argyle Developments are making themselves available for questions concerning the construction of the Nova Centre:
Pre-Application by Argyle Developments for changes to façades, loading areas, and mechanical equipment enclosures for the Nova Centre, a mixed use development located on the lands bounded by Argyle, Market, Prince, and Sackville Streets, Halifax, through an amendment to an existing approval, under the Substantial Site Plan Approval process for Downtown Halifax.
No public meetings.
Engaging Today for a Healthier Tomorrow: Working to Achieve Better Health Outcomes for Nova Scotians (5:30am, O.E. Smith Auditorium, IWK Health Centre) — For all the early risers out there [editor’s note: this event can ‘t possibly actually have been scheduled for 5:30am; my guess is that it’s being held at 5:30pm… someone give that PR person a raise, eh?], this panel discussion will focus on the trials and triumphs of community-based health care in Nova Scotia. Steve Ashton, Vice President of People and Organization Development with the IWK, is the keynote speaker:
In a time of transition, change and fiscal constraint coupled with increasing rates of chronic conditions and an aging population, how can emerging and existing health leaders work together to achieve better health outcomes for Nova Scotians?
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Seminar (4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Paul Gratzer will be presenting “Decellularization Technology: A Natural Approach to Tissue Regeneration.”
Tupper Concert Band Spring Concert (7pm, Saint Matthew’s Church, 1479 Barrington Street) — Organizers are describing the event as “Great tunes- dynamic rhythms.” Ten dollars at the door but proceeds go to the “Music-in-Medicine Scholarship Fund,” so you can feel good about that.
In the harbour
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 4pm.