1. Film support changed again
Yesterday I gave a brief history of provincial supports for the film industry and noted that the Liberal government seemed to be “making things up as it goes along.” A few hours later, apparently reflecting a fit of confusion and disarray, word came that the government made yet another shift in the program.
On Wednesday, the Finance Department announced an arrangement to create a new support stream for the animation industry, connected to the Digital Media Tax Credit. The government explained that animation productions would get the digital credit, which is capped at 25 per cent of Nova Scotia production costs, as well as a 25 per cent bonus applied to animation labour costs.
However, at some point Wednesday night, the department posted a clarification online, noting that the 25 per cent bonus applied to only 50 per cent of animation-related labour costs. No notice of the change was issued, and a fact sheet posted online was amended. The change became public only after the Tories asked Whalen about it during question period Thursday.
2. Order and decorum
Kevin Murphy, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, felt the need to address legislators Wednesday, as follows:
I’m compelled to make a few comments on a few things I’ve observed recently in this Chamber that fall under the heading of “order and decorum”. On a number of occasions recently, before we have had recorded votes, I have directed members to remain silent, and when called on to vote, to rise in their seat and state their vote. I want to remind members that Rule 13(2) states, “When the Speaker is putting a question, no Member shall walk out of or across the House, or make any noise or disturbance.” — and I emphasize the point “any noise”. That is our Rule in this House.
I also want to address the prohibition of walking across the House during any vote. Last evening, during the taking of a recorded vote, a member crossed the House to the Clerk’s Table and interrupted the taking of the vote. This is not acceptable parliamentary behaviour and I made the point at that time. If a matter is deemed important enough to have a recorded vote, then all members should pay strict attention to the decorum required by our Rules of this Assembly.
I have also observed a number of other breaches of decorum and order in the last couple of weeks. Twice yesterday, ministers walked between myself and members who were delivering their members’ statements. I also observed that a member was tossing a bottle across the Chamber towards a wastepaper bin — which missed, by the way, and then rattled around the floor, causing even more disturbance. Throwing things in the Chamber is inappropriate behaviour. Whistling and singing during proceedings are also unacceptable, as is speaking directly to members of the gallery.
Some members have recently taken to sitting in or lounging across the window wells of this Chamber. Please stay out of the window wells. I’ve also observed more and more instances of late of members eating in this Chamber. This is not acceptable. Similarly, members have been bringing all manner of bottles, travel cups, and oversize coffee cups into this Chamber. Please confine yourselves to our standard-issue water glasses and coffee cups used by our building services. I realize that the coffee cups are small, but our Pages are more than willing to refill them as many times as you request.
This is the most talking I’ve done in a long time.
I’ve also noted that members are wearing jeans in this House. The wearing of denim is not accepted in any Assembly in Canada, and is certainly not permitted here. Members are not to wear jeans in the House. I’ve also noted that some other members are donning some extremely casual attire as of late in the warmer temperatures. O’Brien and Bosc addresses the issue of proper attire by noting that members must wear contemporary business attire. This applies to all members, male and female. I realize that the weather is starting to get a bit warm, but we’re all in this together.
Finally and most importantly, I want to point out that if any members have any issues with what takes place in this Chamber, they are to address their concerns to me. Members are not to air their concerns or grievances to the Clerks about things that have taken place, or stand in this Chamber disparaging the Clerks. The Speaker controls the proceedings, and while I do from time to time rely on the Clerks for advice, all decisions are made by the Speaker. It should have been apparent to anybody here last evening — I ruled on the conduct of a member from the Chair without any advice from anybody else. I will not have any members bringing any grievances directly to the Clerk’s Table about anything that takes place in this Chamber.
Moving forward, I expect and appreciate the co-operation of all members on these matters. Thank you for your attention.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers has sent letters to each university president in Nova Scotia, putting the presidents on notice that should the universities invoke the provisions of Bill 100, the universities will be censured:
As you are aware, Bill 100, the Universities Accountability and Sustainability Act, passed 3rd and final reading in the Nova Scotia Legislature on May 5. This was despite widespread opposition to the Bill from faculty, staff, and students in the province and nation-wide.
At the annual Spring Council meeting of the Canadian Association of University Teachers held last weekend, delegates from academic staff associations across the country unanimously passed a motion condemning the legislation as a violation of constitutionally protected rights, university autonomy, and academic freedom. The motion also authorized CAUT to commence censure proceedings against any university that attempts to trigger the provisions of the legislation by submitting a “revitalization plan” with the government.
Consequently, I am writing to you and all university presidents in Nova Scotia to serve notice that in the event you seek to use the powers in the legislation that take away the right to strike and grant government unprecedented powers to direct and determine research and instructional priorities, CAUT will immediately proceed with censure. Censure is a rarely used sanction that is applied only in cases where a university administration acts in a manner that threatens academic freedom and tenure, undermines collegial governance, disregards negotiated agreements, refuses to bargain in good faith, or takes other actions that are contrary to interests of academic staff or compromise the quality and integrity of post-secondary education. Censure means CAUT will publicize the offending actions of an administration nationally and internationally, and call on the academic community not to accept appointments, speaking engagements, or honorary degrees at the censured institution. Censure does great harm to the reputation of an institution, which is why it is used judiciously and only in serious cases where the rights of academic staff are breached.
I hope that censure will not be necessary. To date, however, I have to note that I have been extremely disappointed by the response from our university leaders in Nova Scotia. I am not surprised when governments, donors, or special interests try to intrude upon academic affairs. I am surprised when the leaders of our universities are so quick to acquiesce and accede to these pressures. I would expect more from those charged with defending the core academic principles of institutional autonomy, collegial governance, and academic freedom.
David Robinson Executive Director
The Liberals were elected, so they have every right to pursue their policy goals and enact legislation, whether I like those policies or legislation or not. But ideology and politics aside, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to disagree with Jamie Baillie’s assessment that the Liberals “are just incompetent.”
4. Fire, pt. 1
Fire Chief Doug Trussler did what none of his predecessors could manage: conduct an assessment of fire resources and propose a rational redeployment of personnel in order to give the highest level of fire protection for all residents.
The aim of Trussler’s recommendations, including the closure of a couple of urban fire stations and shifting around firefighters, was to get all fire trucks staffed by four firefighters and to get the two ladder trucks fully staffed. Currently, some fire trucks are staffed by just two firefighters, too small a team to enter a burning building. As for the ladder trucks, the one in Halifax is understaffed and can’t be used much of the time, while the one in Dartmouth is “in storage” and can’t be used at all — I picture it sitting on cinder blocks with a tarp thrown over it in the backyard of the Highfield Park fire station.
But when Trussler presented his recommendations to Halifax council, he was shat upon, accused of lying, incompetence, and wanting old people in Dartmouth to die fiery deaths. It’s a wonder he hasn’t left for some place that values professionalism.
Instead of listening to Trussler, council adopted a series of motions that will end up costing an extra $6 million a year but which, lo and behold, won’t put four firefighters in each truck and won’t staff the ladder trucks. For this, councillor Waye Mason is bringing back an amended motion to council next week. Reports the Chronicle Herald’s Brett Bundale:
“The most important takeaways weren’t closing fire stations,” Mason said in an interview. “It was that there should be four firefighters on a truck and a staffed aerial on the Dartmouth side and the Halifax side of the harbour.
“We ended up passing a long complex motion that doesn’t talk about any of that. The most important part of the fire review … got lost in the shuffle.”
Four firefighters are required to be on scene in order to enter burning buildings, but some fire engines are only staffed with two firefighters.
“There is no point in having a five-minute response time if the first truck that arrives can’t go into a building,” Mason said in an interview. “If two people show up in a truck, they can’t go into a building until another truck shows up with more people in it.”
The second truck could be nearly 10 minutes away, a response time that Mason called unacceptable when someone must be rescued from a burning building.
“The big elephant in the room that nobody really wants to address is that fire underwriters survey,” said Jim Gates, president of the Halifax Professional Firefighters Association, Local 268. “It says there is an aerial required in Dartmouth and the south end of Halifax with four people on it simply because of the size and density of the buildings.
“Because that fire underwriters survey is out there, if anything happens and the chief is unable to deliver the quantity of water that is required, somebody is going to be liable for the building loss,” Gates said. “The trucks have to be staffed. We don’t have enough crewed trucks out there to handle the responses that we’re doing.”
Oh well, at least that downtown Dartmouth fire station stayed open so the old people feel safe, even if they aren’t.
5. Fire, pt. 2
About 12 hectares were burned in East Lawrencetown yesterday. A hundred homes were evacuated but no structures were lost.
“Since Saturday, police responded to 15 calls about animals being left in parked vehicles in the hot sun,” police say in a statement.
1. Open City
Stephen Archibald plugs this weekend’s Open City shopping event, but along the way discovers the above vintage sign revealed in the north end.
2. Mother’s Day
Susanne Marshall, Candida Hadley, and Andrea Smith will be hosting “How and Why the State Uses Motherhood to Oppress and Exploit, and How We Can Resist” this Sunday at the Central Library, and Lezlie Lowe is a fan.
3. Cranky letter of the day
Heather Laskey is dead on in her well-thought-out and articulate criticism of the so-called “Mother Canada” project (“Profit, not war dead, dubious focus of ‘Mother Canada’ project,” April 30 opinion piece).
This project to recreate a mini Vimy Ridge monument in a national park is clearly a cynical attempt to make a quick and dirty buck out of tragic and painful event in our nation’s history.
The fact that Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay support such a project, largely because it fits in with their not-so-subtle ongoing stratagem of glorifying war to win votes, should be a red flag to the majority of Canadians who really do sincerely care about our history and the sacrifices of our veterans and those who gave their lives. The proposed project would be little more than a Disney-esque monument to greed, opportunism and cynical capitalism. It certainly has no place in a national park.
Jon Percy, Granville Ferry
No public meetings.
Legislature sits (9am–midnight, Province House)
In the harbour
Fusion, ro-ro cargo, Saint-Pierre to Pier 36, then sails back to Saint-Pierre
Oceanex Sanderling, cargo ship, St. John’s to Pier 41
CSAV Rio Aysen sails to sea
Maasdam, cruise ship, Newport, Rhode Island to Pier 22, to sea
Just last week, 60 passengers and 11 crew members on the Holland American Lines’ Maasdam got sick, apparently from the norovirus, at the tail end of a 14-day Caribbean cruise. The ship pulled into Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where it was cleaned, delaying the current 15-day cruise of the North Atlantic by a few hours.
“This is the seventh GI [gastrointestinal] outbreak this year which falls within the U.S. CDC parameters,” says lawyer Jim Walker. “Only ships with more than 3% of the passengers ill and calling on a U.S. port are listed. There were 9 outbreaks in all of 2014 versus 7 in just 4 months this year. The HAL cruise ship fleet is one of the more likely locations to contract norovirus if you are a cruiser.”
I need a vacation.