1. Harley Lawrence
Ugly details about the murder of Harley Lawrence were revealed in court yesterday. Lawrence was the man with schizophrenia who lived on the streets of Berwick. Blair Rhodes of the CBC reports:
A homeless man who was murdered in Nova Scotia more than a year ago was doused with $10 worth of gas and set on fire with a cigarette lighter while he was still alive.
Now that the two men who killed Harley Lawrence have pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, we can tell you some of the evidence that police and prosecutors amassed and presented during a preliminary inquiry earlier this month.
The most important detail is also the most disturbing: Lawrence was burned alive.
2. Nursing shortage
Turns out, vilifying nurses has its consequences: There’s been a high number (the government won’t say how high) of nurses retiring this year, and so the Capital District Health Authority has had to bring in “10 to 12” “travel nurses” to cover the resulting under-staffing. The cost of travel nurses is far higher than employing local nurses.
Anecdotally, many Nova Scotia nurses are looking for employment elsewhere. A nurse I’m friends with is seeking a job in the States. As with anyone, career options are weighed among many personal factors, including relationships, future job prospects, concerns about family, and so forth. But clearly when the political class is painting you as an evil interloper stealing tax dollars, devotion to working in Nova Scotia becomes a less important factor.
3. Water rates
“Halifax Water and the consumer advocate have inked a settlement that would see the utility’s rates increase 3.9 per cent this spring, followed by a 7.9 per cent hike the following year,” reports Brett Bundale. The increase still has to be approved by the UARB, but with all sides agreeing to it, that’s a foregone conclusion.
4. Wild Kingdom
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is proposing quadrupling the size of a habitat protection area for right whales. The protection area stretches from the Gulf of Maine to Cape Cod, and will preclude oil and gas drilling in the area. By contrast, notes Paul Withers of the CBC:
Canada has designated two critical habitat areas for the right whale at the Roseway Basin off Nova Scotia and the Grand Manan Basin in the lower Bay of Fundy.
[Whale researcher Kim] Davies says those area are about one-quarter to one-eighth the size of the proposed Gulf of Maine designation. She said there is a “really strong difference in the survey effort between the two countries.”
“In Canada, we focus on those two areas (Roseway and Grand Manan), but we know there must be other critical habitat areas we haven’t found around Nova Scotia and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence because there are opportunist sightings and we know there are other areas with right whale food out there, but nobody is out looking.”
Peter Ziobrowski has two posts today.
In the first, Ziobrowski reveals the 1945 General Plan for Dartmouth, “written by architect D.P. Reay and his wife. (The wife is only referred to as Mrs. Reay, and it is noted that she was a graduate architect).”
There are lots of quaint and outdated notions in the plan, including the rejection of the grid pattern for new neighbourhoods, “as it consumes additional space reducing taxable development and increasing costs” (the opposite is true) and building houses “with adequate car storage, and stores within walking distance” (these two goals are contradictory; you can either build a car-oriented city or a walking-oriented city, not both).
Still, the most interesting part of the plan calls for a downtown park:
The plan also calls for extending the Lake Banook/Sullivan’s Pond park down to Queen Street, which would be converted to a pedestrian mall, and be the main portion of a commercial and shopping district; and suggests locating the new town hall, library and other civic buildings in this area.
The centre of Dartmouth would then consist of a long formal park strip, some old buildings on Queen Street being preserved in it no doubt, and leading up from the ferry past the High School to the natural centre of the town just in front of the old dam at the foot of Sullivan’s Pond.
It also recommends the removal of the Starr Manufacturing Building to open that space up for recreation, and provide for a continuous park from Sullivan’s Pond.
Minus the civic buildings, this is essentially the park envisioned by those advocating the daylighting of Sawmill River. Seventy years ago, the Reays saw the unrealized potential for the area. Should we ever realize that potential, the site should include a plaque dedicated to the Reays. Always read the plaque.
2. Macdonald Bridge
In his second post, Ziobrowski recounts the plans and designs for the Macdonald Bridge. Discussion of a cross-harbour bridge began as early as 1928, and the 1945 general plans for Halifax and Dartmouth each envisioned a bridge connecting North Street in Halifax to Thistle Street in Dartmouth. When construction began in 1952, however, Nantucket Avenue was the eastern terminus. Six workers died during construction, and the bridge was opened on April 2, 1955.
3. Busting health workers’ unions
Graham Steele weighs in with some big criticism of health minister Leo Glavine:
Glavine’s frustration over Dorsey is frankly justified, but one of the hard lessons of being a cabinet minister is that you must not speak when you’re off-balance.
Because he did, Glavine blurted a couple of lines that may haunt the McNeil government.
Near the beginning of the news conference, he said that the government wants the nurses to go to the NSNU. You can bet that line will be entered as evidence in the now-inevitable constitutional challenge.
And in response to a reporter’s question, Glavine mused that Dorsey’s bill might not be paid. When cooler heads prevail, he’s going to have to walk that one back. That’s banana-republic stuff.
But in the end Steele says that even with their ham-fisted approach, the Liberals come out winning:
Most observers I talk to believe the McNeil government comes out ahead, perhaps even way ahead, when this cold political calculation is done.
And I think they’re right.
I don’t know. Maybe. Nova Scotia is typically a decade or so behind the rest of the western world, so maybe we’re still in the grips of union-bashing fever.
But sooner or later, as is being realized across North America, the idea that “if only everyone were paid less, we’d all be rich!” will be recognized as simply stupid.
We can afford what we want to afford. We’re all too happy to give billionaires hundreds of millions of dollars, to have open-ended budgeting for various politicized silver bullet projects controlled and managed by the wealthy, but it’s deemed politically opportune to spit on the nurse living next door because she drives a Lexus or whatever. It’s an ugly politics that pits neighbour against neighbour on the false notion that people on the public payroll are taking advantage of us.
Besides, we live in a consumer-driven economy, which means every time we cut the pay of working people, they have less to spend and our economy suffers.
I’m out of time this morning, but Gus Reed has a long post up about his attempts to get the city to enforce building codes. I’ll profile it tomorrow.
5. Cranky letter of the day
…Why is it that every government-run department — education, health and wellness, economic development etc. — feels the need to outsource study after study?
There’s no one who works in any of these departments qualified to do this? Then why don’t we create a department of studies? We’ll hire hundreds of people and they can study things to death.
What’s wrong with this government? Enough with the studies. You were elected to lead, not study. You promised to get rid of gas regulation. It was one of the fundamentals that got you elected.
You also promised you would not break any promises, so if that’s the case, stop putting electronic boxes on gas pumps and cancel regulation, as you promised.
Show some leadership.
Jim Corbett, Bridgewater
City council (1pm, City Hall)—there are other items on the agenda, but all eyes will be on the discussion of snow and ice removal. This comes at the request of councillor Linda Mosher, who is requesting a staff report on the issue.
FWIW, here are the city’s service standard levels expected from contractors:
The city notes, however, that:
While the objective is to maintain streets and sidewalks to a bare condition, many factors play a part in achieving that goal. Rapidly changing weather conditions, like sudden freezes after rain, wet snow packed to ice and freezing rain can produce a heavy ice build-up on sidewalks that is difficult to remove. Sand will be applied to provide a degree of traction on sidewalks, especially when temperatures drop and salt becomes less effective.
“Difficult,” sure, but not impossible. I went out yesterday and cleared the ice off the sidewalk in front of my house. It’s not a perfect job, but I did get to bare concrete. It only took a couple of hours, helped along by the couple of hours I worked on it over the weekend:
I’m relatively healthy, but ya know, kinda old, and I could get to concrete. I appreciate that there are many home owners who don’t have the physical ability or time to do a proper job, but the only reason I can see for not requiring the contractors to get to bare cement is we don’t want to pay the money it would take.
Contracting out these services is part of the mix that has resulted in our crappy sidewalks and streets this winter. I don’t know that it’s possible to award a low-bid contract that stipulates, “oh yea, when we get an ice storm we’ll hire 400 teenagers with ice picks to get down to pavement” — but that’s what it takes.
Seems to me, the best approach would be to move snow and ice removal back to the public works department, which continues to do much of the street clearing, but doing so will mean breaking free from CAO Richard Butts’ ever-tightening budget noose. Last week a city staff report noted that the city “saved” $1.6 million in “vacancy management” in the public works department alone. “Vacancy management” means that when someone quits or retires, you don’t fill the position, for a while, and you count the salary savings of the unfilled position as a budget savings. This is somewhat useful as a budget tool, but as you demand ever greater “savings” from vacancy management, the percentages and dollars increasing year after year, eventually services are going to fail, and fail dramatically when hit by a particularly tough challenge like this winter’s ice cleanup.
From what I understand, city workers are working required overtime day after day, and at least for a while were working 12-hour shifts. No doubt, whatever “vacancy management” savings were achieved have long ago been eclipsed by overtime payments, so not only don’t we get the service we demand, we don’t get the dollar savings either. On top of that, last week council declined to increase the snow and ice removal budget, as staff has been requesting for seven or eight years to more accurately match the actual expenditures — it’s far better politically to pass a bogusly balanced budget based on unrealistic predictions for a mild winter and then shift around numbers later than to properly plan for reality.
We should stop kidding ourselves. Winter clean-up costs real money. We can’t do it on the cheap, and contracting out the service necessarily fails as there’s no way to get top performance for unexpected ice events with a low-dollar tender award system. The job needs to be put back to city employees, city council should fully fund the public works department, management should stop playing vacancy management budget games, and taxpayers should stop bitching about spending the money it takes to do the job properly.
Medicine for Melancholy (Tuesday, 5pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—the 2008 director Barry Jenkins. “Twenty-four hours in the tentative relationship of two young San Franciscans also dealing with the conundrum of being a minority in a rapidly gentrifying city.”
Racial profiling in Canada (Tuesday, 6pm, Room 303, Student Union Building)—”The Association of Black Social Workers in conjunction with the School of Social Work, the Black Student Advising Centre and the James Robinson Johnston (JRJ) chair presents lecture series on ‘Racism is Killing Us Softly.’ The guest speaker at this lecture is Anne Divine. Facilitator is Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard.”
Biomedical Visions (Tuesday, 7pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—the first of four lectures over coming days:
Anyone who is interested in the intertwined histories of art and science, medical representation, the philosophy of science, the concept of nature and the body, the theory of art, the role of illustration in art history and the history of the book, the application of crafting techniques within contemporary art, the place of vision in biomedical research, the epistemology of drawing, theories of the imagination, anatomical dissection and anatomy labs, semiotics, aesthetics, and the optics of science (among many other related topics) will need to come to this copiously illustrated, and fascinating set of talks at the Dalhousie Art Gallery. Taken together, these talks point toward an understanding of the history and practices within biomedicine and anatomy, to which both the contemporary art and historical materials featured in Anatomica belong.
Cindy Stelmackowich, guest curator, is giving Tuesday’s introductory lecture and tour of Anatomica.
Canada’s political mood (Wednesday, 1pm, Kenneth Rowe Room 1020)—Bruce Anderson of CBC’s At Issue Panel will talk.
Gram-positive Bacteria (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building Link)—Song Lee will talk on “Do Gram-positive Bacteria Have a Disulfide Bond Formation Pathway?”
Religious Freedom & Equality Rights (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 105, Weldon Law Building)—Diana Ginn will talk about “what principles should be applied to find a just balance between equality and religious freedom. Discussion will include a focus on the recent Supreme Court of Nova Scotia decision, Trinity Western University v Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society.”
The Lady from Shanghai (Wednesday, 8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—the 1947 Orson Welles film:
Fascinated by gorgeous Mrs. Bannister, seaman Michael O’Hara joins a bizarre yachting cruise, and ends up mired in a complex murder plot.
Continental Drift (Wednesday, 1pm, 408, Science Building)—Jean H. Bédard, from the Geological Survey of Canada, Québec, will discuss “Continental Drift on Subductionless Stagnant Lid Planets, the Archaean Earth and Venus.”
Brian Bartlett (Wednesday, 3pm, Room LI135, Patrick Power Library)— Bartlett, of the English Department, will read from his book, “Ringing Here and There: A Nature Calendar.”
Baudelaire’s Poems (Wednesday, 7pm, KTS Lecture Hall, 2nd Floor, King’s New Academic Building)—the ever-engaging Laura Penny is speaking!
Aliens develop unimaginable technologies, solve the social, moral and economic problems inherent in advancing past achieving nuclear power, transverse untold thousands of light years to visit a planet on the edge of the galaxy, and go to… Manitoba?
In the harbour
I gotta shovel some more…