1. The Younger Games
Late yesterday afternoon, Premier Stephen McNeil announced that his chief of staff, Kirby McVicar, had resigned. Here’s the entire release from the premier’s office:
PREMIER’S OFFICE–Premier Accepts McVicar Resignation
Premier Stephen McNeil has accepted the resignation of his chief of staff, Kirby McVicar, effective today, Nov. 24.
“I now consider this matter dealt with. I have just returned from Ottawa where I was meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the other premiers,” said Premier McNeil. “I plan to get back to dealing with the important issues that truly matter to Nova Scotians.”
The way McNeil grasps at the glow of Justin Trudeau is laughable.
The context, as Michael Gorman reports:
During interviews with reporters Monday, McVicar, discussing the circumstances around a secret recording Younger made last February of a conversation between the two men, revealed that Younger has post-traumatic stress disorder and said the MLA was being examined for a brain tumour.
(Younger has confirmed the PTSD but denied the brain tumour claim.)
McVicar’s disclosure of his health information prompted Younger on Tuesday to make a formal complaint to the province’s privacy commissioner under the Personal Health Information Act and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
“I think all Nova Scotians should be concerned when their government or their employer releases private health information without consent,” Younger told reporters at Province House.
“At the end of the day, it’s bullying. I think many people see it for what it is.”
I had heard rumours of Younger’s health issues as long ago as the summer, but one does not report such things because it really is a private matter. McVicar crossed a line.
But the invasion of privacy aside, there’s still the matter of McVicar’s suggestion that he could provide a job to Younger’s wife. The RCMP is investigating that offer, and it may result in criminal charges.
McNeil is delusional if he thinks he can simply declare the issue “dealt with.”
2. Prosperity forever, amen
“Some downtown Halifax business owners say they’re struggling to keep their heads above water as they deal with the fallout from construction of the Nova Centre,” reports the CBC’s Yvonne Colbert.
Why do you hate prosperity, business owners? You just have to clap harder.
3. Don’t call it racism
With the installation of the Cogswell roundabout, traffic patterns have changed. Explains a city staff report:
The second phase of the North Park Intersection Redesign at the Cogswell intersection is now underway and will involve changes to the traffic flow and alignment of Rainnie Drive. The change will result in Gottingen Street becoming a continuous street from Cogswell Street to Brunswick Street.
(a) Rainnie Drive (southern portion), Halifax
In accordance with Policy A8 of the Policies a continuous street shall have one name throughout its length. Policy A9 states that no street name shall be continued through a right angle turn. Policy 6 (c) also states that when considering renaming a public street or private road, the Civic Addressing Coordinator shall choose a solution that addresses public safety concerns and shall also have regard for the number and type of businesses affected and potential costs to owners/occupiers. Upon the realignment of the intersection; Gottingen Street and the lower portion of Rainnie Drive will become a continuous street. A vehicle turning off Rainnie Drive at the intersection with Gottingen Street will now have to make a right angle turn onto Gottingen Street. As the lower portion of Rainnie Drive only has one structure which is currently under construction the impact is minimal and staff recommends that the lower portion of Rainnie Drive as illustrated on Map 2 [above] be renamed to Gottingen Street.
This seems straight-forward, but Jason Goshn of Grafton Developments objected. Grafton is building an eight-storey, 72-unit condo just behind the police station, at what has been 5443 and 5445 Rainnie Drive, but will now be 1901 and 1903 Gottingen Street. Goshn sent council a letter outlining his complaint:
Fundamentally it is unfair to rename our selected site after we have committed considerable resources to the selection, planning and development of this section of Rainnie Drive.
Ultimately, we selected Rainnie Drive as the site for our development due to the historic significance of its name. In fact, we paid a premium for this location in recognition of the particular heritage of the street name. As you are aware, Rainnie Drive is well-recognized as running along the northern parameter of the Halifax Citadel.
Renaming the street would adversely impact the marketability, and ultimately the profitability, of the development space at this location. Due to the length of Gottingen Street, prospective residential and commercial tenants will not identify 1901 and 1902 Gottingen Street as being situated at a desirable location….
(Read the entire Goshn letter.)
Councillors Linda Mosher and Gloria McCluskey supported Goshn, but the full council rejected their move to delay the renaming.
Nope, Gottingen Street isn’t “desirable” because…. hmmmm [thinking]… I don’t know, maybe we should ask the residents of Novalea Drive, who petitioned to have their portion of the former Gottingen Street renamed Novalea. The first attempt to rename the street failed. The city Archives has the minutes from the meeting, from May 14, 1981:
I can’t find the report this morning, but next time I’m at the Archives I’ll look for it.
The next month, at midnight on the meeting of June 25, 1981, council added the Gottingen renaming to the agenda:
It should be noted that Alderman Graham Downey was the only black member of council and represented the historic black business district on Gottingen Street.
1. If only everyone were paid less, we’d all be rich
I don’t understand Graham Steele’s argument. Last week, Steele said the McNeil government utterly defeated the public employee unions:
Stephen McNeil has triumphed in public-sector labour negotiations.
He has succeeded where his four predecessors failed, leaving the unions cowed and powerless.
But this week Steele says the teachers union isn’t so “cowed and powerless” after all:
The politics of union negotiations are pretty simple: don’t mess with teachers.
As Steele tells it, the union agreed to slashing real pay (after inflation) in return for putting off “reforms” called for in the Freeman Report that was issued in October.
Education reform has been traded away, and — assuming as I do that the teachers ratify the agreement on Dec. 1 — is now off the table for at least another four years.
I don’t pretend to know why the union agreed to the contract, but I’ll say this: attacking unions has unintended consequences. One unintended consequence is that Nova Scotia is in danger of earning a reputation as a place to avoid for employment. Consider the state of Kansas, which after a decade of vilifying teachers and their union, slashing pay and benefits, and cutting education budgets, is seeing a teacher shortage — “teachers can’t hotfoot it out of Kansas fast enough,” says the Washington Post, and the state is slowly coming to the realization that it has to actually pay people a living wage to do important work.
The situation for public employees in Nova Scotia isn’t as dire as it is for teachers in Kansas, but we’re on that train. I’ve had nursing students tell me that they have no desire to work in Nova Scotia — why should they work in a place that doesn’t value their work? — and so after getting a provincially subsidized nursing degree, they’re looking for jobs in Ontario and the States. Who can blame them?
Union bashers should be careful about what they ask for.
It’s not just that with reduced pay and an antagonistic working atmosphere, public professionals might flee to other jurisdictions. It’s also that paying public employees a decent wage keeps some of our collective wealth in province.
The attitude seems to be “if only everyone were paid less, we’d all be rich,” but just the opposite is true: when we cut pay, less money circulates and so everyone suffers. Austerity has been discredited time and again, and yet the McNeil government is doubling down on it, using the public employee unions as whipping boy for the resulting laggard economy.
2. Cranky letter of the day
The attitude of the majority of drivers on the Sambro Loop is generally aggressive and most have no patience for motorists keeping to the speed limit, yet I do understand their frustration with cyclists.
The road is narrow and made up of sharp curves and blind crests and there are few places to safely pass other vehicles and cyclists. It seems to be a popular route for recreational cyclists, yet it just isn’t suitable for this type of activity. Until bike lanes are put in place, I’d welcome a ban on bicycles on this road for safety reasons.
There are many trails in HRM perfectly suitable for recreational cyclists — they are the only kind of cyclist who travel the Old Sambro Road — so for everyone’s safety, the cyclists should stick to those. Until this city gets its act together and improves the infrastructure, road users are going to have to adapt. But as seen recently with the assault on the cyclist in Sambro, patience is running out.
Christina Parker, Williamswood
Special Events Advisory Committee (9am, City Hall) — just housekeeping.
Community Design Advisory Committee (11:30am, City Hall) — the committee will be looking at density bonusing.
Heritage Advisory Committee (2pm, City Hall) — the committee will look at a heritage application for St. Patrick’s Church on Brunswick Street.
The city has issued a tender for “Mobile Beverage & Snack Services” at The Oval.
Public Accounts (9am, Province House) — Auditor General Michael Pickup will continue to discuss his latest report.
Legislature sits (1-5:30pm, Province House) — yesterday’s ridiculousness will be double-downed on today.
It’s hard to say — the tender document hasn’t been released — but it looks like the Waterfront Development Corporation is putting the Stillwell Beer Garden spot out to tender.
This date in history
November 25, 1783 was Evacuation Day, the day the last British soldier left New York City. There’s a fascinating history of the celebration of Evacuation Day in New York, as explained by Grant Stoddard, who was mourning its replacement with American Thanksgiving:
The more dignified, less-Disneyfied holiday we forgot
But around noon on November 25, 1783—fourscore years before both the Gettysburg Address and the signing of legislation enshrining and standardizing Thanksgiving throughout what then remained of the United States—a less fanciful and infinitely more badass American tradition, replete with its own rites and rituals, was organically born: Evacuation Day.
Evacuation Day was the long-awaited moment when British regulars, who had occupied New York City since the late summer of 1776, finally boarded their ships and evacuated New York Harbor in accordance with the Treaty of Paris, signed some 12 weeks earlier.
While the seven-year occupation of Manhattan had been frightening for the few remaining New Yorkers aligned with the patriot cause, it had been abject misery for tens of thousands of terrorized loyalists seeking refuge in its crammed and locked-down streets, and downright deadly for the 10,000 patriots who died of deliberate neglect on rotting prison ships moored in Brooklyn’s Wallabout Bay.
Washington’s triumphal entry into the city was delayed as the last Union flags that still flew were torn down. British soldiers went to the pains of flying a Union flag in Battery Park and greasing the flagpole. (The spiteful lubrication was intended to make removing the flag exceptionally difficult and all but ensured that it would still be in view as their ships departed.) But as soon as British vessels raised sail, patriots did their all to remove it and replace it with the Stars and Stripes. Wooden cleats were quickly cut and nailed into the pole.
Continental Army veteran John Van Arsdale was the man who ripped down the banner, managing to do so while the departing Redcoats could still see the defiant act. In response to Van Arsdale’s agile feat, a British gunner fired a cannon towards the jeering crowds lining the shores of Staten Island, but the so-called “last shot of the American War of Independence” fell far short and plopped impotently into the briny.
My role in all of this
As I understand it, my great-grandfather’s great-grandfather, John Stoddart (the spelling changed later), could well have been at Battery Park that day. Just prior to the American Revolution, he emigrated to New York from England, just as I did at about the same age over 220 years later. In the War’s aftermath, John, who was a goldsmith by trade, got a gig as a boatswain, ferrying United Empire Loyalists (and freed slaves who, in defiance of the Treaty of Paris, the British flatly refused to return to their former American masters) to Nova Scotia. At some point in the 1780s, Nova Scotia is where John himself settled and raised a family.
I imagine my ancestor’s feelings as he watched John Van Arsdale doggedly clamber up the greased pole while his countrymen made for the horizon in defeat.
I often think about John as I run through Battery Park each morning. I imagine the things he must have seen during the tumult of the British occupation; his feelings as he watched John Van Arsdale doggedly clamber up the greased pole while his own countrymen in arms made for the horizon in ignominious defeat; the thought process that led him to abandon the alluring city he’d left home for, find a girl and start over in the sticks. (Interestingly, I too quit New York City to take up with a woman in the Great White North.)
But my connections to Evacuation Day aren’t just geographical, genealogical and Cloud Atlas-y; I happen to think that it’s a totally joyous, raucous way to celebrate America’s most just and meaningful military victory. For a long while, many Americans did, too.
For a hundred years after the revolution, November 25th was celebrated in New York (and elsewhere) as Evacuation Day: a secular celebration that encompassed drinking and feasting while young men and boys competed to tear down a Union Flag from a greased pole in Battery Park.
As Stoddard tells it, Evacuation Day began to be replaced with Thanksgiving. Other sources say Evacuation Day celebrations were abandoned completely in World War 1, when the British were American allies.
(The Dal server is down this morning, so no events today, sorry.)
In the harbour
I’m speaking with a class this morning, so won’t be having those normal twitter conversations. Carry on without me.