1. The Younger Games
Friday, Kevin Murphy, the speaker of the house, issued a warrant ordering Andrew Younger to turn over all recordings of a conversation he had with Premier Stephen McNeil’s chief of staff, Kirby McVicar. Murphy ordered Younger to turn the recordings over by noon Monday.
Two snippets of the Younger-McVicar conversation had previously been released — one by Younger himself, who gave it to the CBC, and one by a person who anonymously dropped it off at Province House. The first snippet showed McVicar discussing how Younger could get back into cabinet if his personal problems (presumably, the assault charges against Tara Gault) were “dealt with.” The second snippet included a suggestion from McVicar that he could find a job for Younger’s wife, Katia Younger, in order to compensate for the family’s loss of income while Andrew Younger wasn’t receiving cabinet pay. (Younger still receives his MLA salary of $89,000 annually, but while on cabinet he received an additional $49,000 annually.)
Murphy issued the warrant for any more recordings because that second snippet suggests that McVicar may have been illegally offering a provincial job to Katia Younger.
Last week, Younger signed an affidavit saying he had no more recordings of his conversation with McVicar, but yesterday he announced he had discovered a longer recording “on the cloud.” Chronicle Herald reporter Michael Gorman did yeoman’s work yesterday getting the recording posted on the paper’s website and giving detailed explanation of the recording and the issues it raises.
Two issues stand out. The first is the job offer. As Gorman explains:
The idea of a personal services contract was something that just entered his mind while the two men were talking, said McVicar. He said he thought a research contract in the caucus office could be an option, although McVicar noted Monday that no formal offer was ever made.
However, a contract with the caucus office seems at odds with the suggestion on the recording, where McVicar tells Younger “I can have a chat with the (deputy minister) and see if there’s something we can do to bridge you guys.”
As with any private company, the Liberals can offer a party job at the
caucus party office to anyone they want, for any reason. But securing a job in government for Katia Younger would be an end-run around public employment policies and very possibly violate the law. [Update, 9:40am: Graham Steele points out below, in comments: Jobs in a caucus office are taxpayer-funded, not party-funded. That is why there’s a strict distinction (in theory) between the caucus office and the party office.]
The second part of the conversation that stands out is McVicar’s attack on CTV reporter Rick Grant. The conversation goes like this:
Younger: I don’t want to be caught flat-footed.
McVicar: Right, because that’s what Rick’s doing: “Premier?” “Well, Andrew?” “Premier?” “Andrew?” He’s just trying to find some divide between the two of you. Because that’s how Rick works on his Enquirer bullshit.
Younger: I know. It’s actually shocking to me. I’m actually flabbergasted.
McVicar: You know why? He’s been there 38 years. That’s the problem. He’s been around too fucking long. He’s not interested in what government does or says anymore. He’s only interested if someone’s been in a car accident or, you know, he’s just ambulance chasing.
Younger: No, I agree.
Grant just retired last week, and I can think of no better retirement gift than knowledge that the premier’s chief of staff hates you. Good job, Rick!
2. Flight 624
After Flight 624 crashed at the Halifax airport, there was a chorus of voices condemning passengers for suing Air Canada — they should be happy to be alive, said the critics, some of whom went so far as to say the passengers should be praising the very pilot who crashed the plane, for not crashing it even harder, I guess.
But CTV puts a face to one of those passengers:
An 82-year-old woman who was on the Air Canada plane that crashed in Halifax last March says she still experiences the physical and mental effects of the incident.
Ruth Macumber was one of 133 passengers on the flight that crashed landed during heavy snow and poor visibility.
Macumber suffered a broken arm, a bruised nose, and was bloodied from the impact. She was carried off the plane by another passenger, and like everyone else, forced into the cold.
“I remember the snow hitting us in the eyes and we were trying to walk and the snow was just blinding us,” she said.
Among the passengers, Ruth was last to be released from hospital – more than two months after the crash.
Blair Rhodes, the CBC’s court reporter, does a decent job explaining this complex allegation of slander against the province. But Rhodes buried the lede:
This case has dragged on for more than two years. Just last month, the province filed an amended defence in this case.
“This party admits liability for the torts of defamation and breach of privacy, which are torts upon which the Statement of Claim is based,” the new defence statement reads.
Given that admission, the week-long hearing is focussed on the damages [Laura] Doucette is entitled to.
In short, the province has admitted that, yes, a provincial employee defamed Doucette, and so her claims appear to be true.
Doucette says that while she was taking police courses at a private college, she applied for a gun licence. Then, she says, a provincial firearms investigator named David Grimes denied her application because he thought Doucette was involved in an armed robbery of a Tim Hortons. In fact, she was a victim of the hold-up.
4. Road mayhem continues
Halifax Regional Police Staff Sergeant Greg Mason sent a middle-of-shift email to reporters last night detailing still more incidents of pedestrians getting struck in crosswalks during last night’s rain:
At approximately 5:30 pm, members of the Halifax Regional Police responded to a truck vs. pedestrian collision at the intersection of Hollis st and Duke St in Halifax. A 49-year-old female was crossing Hollis St. in a marked crosswalk when she was struck by a truck, driven by a 48-year-old male, that was turning from Duke St. onto Hollis St. The pedestrian was transported to hospital by EHS paramedics for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the truck was issued a Summary Offence ticket for Failing to Yield to a Pedestrian in a Marked Crosswalk.
At approximately 6:20 pm, members of the Halifax Regional Police responded to a vehicle vs. pedestrian collision at the intersection of Pleasant St. and Atlantic St in Dartmouth. A 38-year-old female was crossing Pleasant St. in a marked crosswalk when she was struck by a car that had been travelling on Pleasant St. The pedestrian was transported to hospital by EHS paramedics for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the car was issued a Summary Offence ticket for Failing to Yield to a Pedestrian in a Marked Crosswalk.
At approximately 7:45 pm, members of the Halifax Regional Police responded to a vehicle vs. pedestrian collision in the 300 block of Lacewood Dr. in Halifax. A 30-year-old female was crossing Lacewood Dr. in a marked crosswalk when she was struck by a van that had been travelling on Lacewood Dr. The pedestrian was transported to hospital by EHS paramedics for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. The 48-year-old male driver of the van was issued a Summary Offence ticket for Failing to Yield to a Pedestrian in a Marked Crosswalk.
5. Halifax police lie to kids
Back on November 10, the Halifax police department announced it had acquired a new police horse, named Garran, who was raised on a farm in Wilmore, Kentucky. For some reason, tho, “Garran” was deemed an inappropriate name — maybe because “Garran” is two syllables — and so the police started a contest to re-name the horse. The rules:
All students in grades primary through six, currently living in Halifax Regional Municipality, are invited to submit their suggestions for Garran’s new name by sending an email to [email protected] with the following information:
- Your suggestion for Garran’s new name (no longer than six letters and one syllable)
- Your reason for choosing that name
- Your name and age
- Telephone number or email address
The contest closes on November 16. The winning name will be selected by a panel of Halifax Regional Police employees. The winner will receive a prize pack and be invited to participate in the swearing-in ceremony.
Yesterday, the cops announced the winner of the contest:
Halifax Regional Police (HRP) is pleased to announce that Valour (Val for short) has been chosen as the name for our newest four-legged recruit.
On November 10, HRP launched a contest for elementary school-aged children to find a new name for police horse cadet Garran. The contest, which closed on November 16, garnered over 200 creative and well-thought-out submissions. A panel of six HRP employees, including both officers assigned to the Mounted Unit, were given the difficult task of reviewing all of the entries and selecting their top three choices. Valour, which means bravery and great courage in the face of danger, was the runaway winner.
Congratulations to Kylie Wellwood, age 5, for submitting the winning name. Kylie will receive a prize pack and participate in Valour’s swearing-in ceremony which will be held at a later date. HRP thanks all of the school children who put so much thought into their suggestions for the perfect police horse name.
Wait a minute… Valour? As in [val-er]? As in TWO SYLLABLES???????
What about all those kids who, you know, FOLLOWED THE RULES?
This is how it goes, kids: the cops lie to you. They say, “these are the rules,” but the rules don’t apply to their friends or the rich people or the people who don’t look like you. Expect the lies the rest of your lives: “I stopped you because you ran that stop sign,” “we can’t make the police blotter public because it’s an invasion of privacy,” and “the evidence in police custody that was used to wrongfully convict someone isn’t public information.” Lies!
As for the horse, if — against the originally posted rules — we get to use six letters and two syllables, I’m calling it “ponair,” in honour of my newly patented horse meat donair, the ponair, the Official Food of Neigh-sayers. Short form is “Po,” so the police horse is “Po-Po.”
I don’t know how to summarize this post from Stephen Archibald, so go read the whole thing.
Slowly but surely, Halifax is making progress in providing cycling infrastructure, says Erica Butler.
3. Cranky letter of the day
On several occasions during rainfalls, an odour pervades Halifax Harbour in the area of Black Rock Beach in Point Pleasant Park. The probable cause is that HRM’s treatment plant is unable to cope.
Considering the popularity of the park and its value as a tourist attraction, it is time for HRM to consider updating the existing treatment plant. But HRM appears to be putting the proverbial cart before the horse in approving development before adequate municipal services are in place.
In HRM, combined sewer and storm water lines are frequently overloaded. With climate change, this situation will not improve. If, as suggested by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, there will be increased funding for infrastructure, HRM would be well advised to consider such expenditures that can rectify this situation.
Phillip M. Wood, Halifax
City council (10am, City Hall) — it’s another long meeting, with two contentious issues.
The first is the proposed downscaling of the King Street fire station in Dartmouth, from a station staffed 24 hours a day by full-time firefighters to one that’s only staffed by full-timers during the day and becomes a volunteer station at night. The staff report spells it out like this:
Option 2: Four Person Engine Crews and Four Person Aerial Crews
• Convert Station 4 (Lady Hammond) to an E Platoon station
• Convert Station 13 (King Street) to an E Platoon station;
• Convert Station 11 (Patton Rd) to a Volunteer station;
• Consolidate equipment, career personnel and volunteer personnel in urban, suburban and rural fire stations as outlined in Table 2.
This meets the letter of council’s dictate to Fire Chief Doug Trussler to keep the King Street station open, but I’d agree that it flies in the face of council’s intention that the station be fully staffed 24 hours.
And Trussler is right.
There’s been an exodus of city managers in recent months, mostly because they object to the strong-arm tactics of CAO Richard Butts. I have it on good authority that Trussler has one foot out the door, but it’s not because of Butts. Rather, council is chasing Trussler away. He was hired specifically to turn around the fire department. It had previously been managed by a bunch of incompetent old boys, indifferent to racial issues in the department and incapable of implementing council’s desire to bring the department into the 20th century, never mind the 21st. Trussler recognized that the distribution of fire resources hadn’t been rationalized for decades, and so he proposed a, well, bold plan, to maximize the efficiency of the department’s budget and to increase the numbers of firefighters who would respond to calls. That necessarily meant closing a few stations, opening some others, and redistributing trucks to where they best serve the greatest number of people, all while meeting response times. For that, council shat on him.
Back in the day, before the creation of HRM, the old city of Halifax closed fire stations and opened new fire stations elsewhere to best serve the population. The peninsula is littered with old fire stations. But now it’s politically impossible to close fire stations, not for any rational reason, but for just the opposite: it’s the one issue where a politician can claim to be looking out for the public interest: “I’m standing up to protect your fire station!” But that’s incredibly short-sighted and counter-productive. Mark my words; council’s insistence on keeping fire stations open will one day result in a disaster, because fire resources are not deployed rationally.
The second issue has to do with snow plows, oh boy.
Oh, and there’s something interesting that popped up on today’s agenda that’s never been there before:
6. CALL FOR DECLARATION OF CONFLICT OF INTERESTS
As usual, I’ll be live-blogging the meeting via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer. I’ll be late, though, because 10am meetings are damn near impossible for me.
Human Resources (9am, One Government Place) — today, the committee is discussing “Appointments to Agencies, Boards and Commissions,” which is basically just an excuse to meet and collect the 50-buck committee per diem.
Legislature sits (1-6pm, Province House) — all sorts of ridiculous today. The drinking word is: “transparency.”
This date in history
On November 24, 1890, the Cape Breton Railway opened.
Particle settling (11:45am, Room 3655, Life Sciences Centre) — Tim Milligan will speak on “The effect of concentration on particle settling”:
Many researchers seem to confuse particle settling velocity with the rate at which the water column clears especially in areas dominated by fine-grained cohesive sediment. Multiple studies have shown that flocculated sediment has a settling velocity on the order of 1 mm s-1 yet the removal of sediment from suspension through settling is often an order of magnitude higher. This leads to the assumption that particles settle at higher velocities at higher concentrations. A laboratory study of the still water settling of mud suggests that the concentration dependence of clearance rate is the result of how long it takes the particles in suspension to flocculate not their actual settling velocity. Using data from a number of areas with varying sediment concentration we will explore the relationship between particle concentration and the rate at which the water column clears.
Defence Procurement (noon, Mona Campbell 3207) — Kim Richard Nossal, from Queen’s University, will speak on “Charlie Foxtrot: Why Canada gets defence procurement so wrong so often.”
Board of Governors (3pm, University Hall, MacDonald Building) — here’s the agenda.
In the harbour
Onego Pioneer, general cargo, arrived at Pier 27 this morning from Szczecin, Poland, and I had to triple-check the spelling of Szczecin.
Genco Ardennes, Quebec to Pier 28
OOCL Southhapton, container ship, Cagliari, Italy to Halterm
High Strength sails to sea.