1. Vote for permanent residents
On Mayor Mike Savage’s initiative, the city has asked the province to change the city charter such that permanent residents can vote in municipal elections. That request prompted Mark Furey, the former minister of municipal affairs, to send a letter to the city, reports Metro:
In the letter, Furey tells Halifax mayor Mike Savage he’s happy that he’s “elevated the discussion” on the topic of voting rights for permanent residents, but that the province is “not prepared to move forward” unless permanent residents are given all three rights: to vote, to run for office and to nominate candidates.
The letter was revealed at yesterday’s meeting of city council’s Executive Standing Committee. At the meeting, Savage and several councillors took issue with Furey, saying they hadn’t asked that permanent residents be allowed to run for office. Their hope is that newly appointed minister, Zach Churchill, will be more flexible.
Like salmon returning to the spawning grounds and Pavlov’s dogs drooling at the sound of the dinner bell, business people complain about red tape. That’s just what they do — it doesn’t matter whether the “red tape” was created for good reason or not, from the business person’s perspective, it’s always a bad thing. So, you know, grain of salt.
But I gotta say, Mark Peyton and Liam Hennessey kind of have a point. As the Chronicle Herald reports:
[Hennessey’s] frustration is exacerbated by the fact that directly out his front door on Market Street is the convention centre construction project. He’s remained silent about street closures, noise, dust, heavy machinery, customers’ inability to find his business and delivery trucks not being able to reach him.
That his reward for being a good neighbour would be the denial of his application for a sign is disappointing, said Hennessey.
When all of downtown is one hellish construction site with dirt and fences and noise and port-a-potties everywhere, and when the point of that construction is to build a gigantic, hideous blue glass monument to Joe Ramia’s ego that will cast a portending shadow of doom over Argyle Street patios and mucky muck delusion, it’s rather ridiculous to get hung up about a couple of four-foot signs.
There was once probably a good or at least a defensible reason to regulate signs in the business district. But whatever the reasoning was, it was all thrown out the window when the two-block Nova Centre complex was exempted from* all planning and design rules.
* yes, technically, the Nova Centre is allowed under HRM By Design, but only because the rules were written such as to specifically exempt it from the rules. These are the verbal gymnastics we put ourselves through as part of our lies to ourselves.
3. Morgan Wheeldon
Morgan Wheeldon, the NDP’s candidate in the federal election for the Kings-Hants riding, was forced to resign after a Conservative Party attack website, meetthendp.ca, published some Facebook comments Wheeldon had made about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
One could argue that Israel’s intention was always to ethnically cleanse the region — there are direct quotations proving this to be the case. Guess we just sweep that under the rug. A minority of Palestinians are bombing buses in response to what appears to be a calculated effort to commit a war crime.
Wheeldon says the site took his comments out of context. “The context changes the entirety of this whole thing and it makes exceptionally clear that this is a dirty smear and it’s shameful,” he told TC Media:
Wheeldon said his true personal views are actually in line with the NDP platform.
“My position on Israel has always been that they deserve a safe and secure state, one that works with Canada and I also agree personally with the two-state solution in the NDP platform,” he said.
This episode makes the NDP look weak.
First, the party and Canadians generally should be able to have a nuanced discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the demonstrable fact that there was and is a desire among some Israelis to remove all Palestinians from the region. Should that be the entire discussion? No, but neither should it be off limits.
Second, is the NDP going to cave to every Conservative attack that brings up Israel? Is the party incapable of explaining its position to the public?
Wheeldon has a defensible position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, well within the limits of debate even within Israel itself, and certainly among the Canadian public. But he lost me when he resorted to Nova Scotia’s cyber-bullying legislation:
Wheeldon said what is being circulated doesn’t fall under defamation because he’s a public figure but if he were a private citizen, it would fall under cyberbullying legislation.
“Being accused of being an anti-Semite, that’s pretty much defamation if I was a private citizen.”
The cyberbullying law was written and passed in haste, and will almost certainly be overturned by the courts. But it was a response to the tragic circumstances of Rehtaeh Parson’s suicide, and so could perhaps be excused as a well-intentioned effort in defence of vulnerable children. That it is now being used as an argument against free speech in political debate — and like it or not, the Conservative attack website should be protected free speech — is outrageous. (Incidentally, Wheeldon’s wrong, there is no public figure exemption in Nova Scotia’s Cyber-safety Act.)
People in public life should behave as adults. That means being able to hear complex and contrary opinions and taking criticism. That applies to the NDP, and to Wheeldon. Get a backbone already.
4. Wild kingdom
Groundhogs are overrunning the suburbs, reports the CBC. Hide your children!
The consultant’s report submitted to council last week was an utter failure, says Erica Butler:
I had hoped to read a report considering the extent of the effects of last winter’s impassable sidewalks: People unable to get to work or run basic errands, people breaking bones and otherwise injuring themselves on the ice, those with mobility challenges left effectively stranded and all the lost productivity that these things bring.
I thought I would read a report suggesting ways to up our game and cope with ice in the future, so as not to bring our city to its knees (literally and figuratively) for weeks at a time.
Instead, I read a report on how we can outsource our financial risk, as if our city’s managers actually believe that cost overruns were the big problem with the winter of 2014-15.
“There are legitimate reasons why people oppose many developments in Halifax, such as bad design or wind and shadow impacts, and I am sometimes involved in that opposition,” says Tristan Cleveland. “To oppose the people who may live in those buildings, however, is a tendency which I reject. We must unmask the words, ‘I am against density,’ for what they mean: ‘I am against more people living here.’ For practical and moral reasons, I believe opposition to new neighbours is wrong.”
Sean Gillis likes the parks and trails in the Annapolis Valley.
4. Cranky letter of the day
As an energy policy analyst for 40 years, now retired, I would like to respectfully point out to my fellow Herald readers that all the arguments about gas prices (drop in value of Canadian dollar, crisis in refinery upgrades) do not apply to the Irving refinery in New Brunswick. And therefore Irving gas should cost 20 per cent less.
Phil Thompson, Petpeswick
No public meetings.
I’ve long thought that there’s not enough reporting done on Nova Scotia’s Public Accounts. If there’s ever a J-school class looking for a project, simply going through Public Accounts would be worth an entire semester’s work.
I don’t have an entire semester, or even an hour, but from time to time I’ll pull some information from Public Accounts to demonstrate, well, something.
Today, let’s look at government payments to IBM. Recall that in 2012 the Dexter government outsourced the province’s SAP system to IBM, with this declaration:
The province has a 10-year contract with IBM, starting at $8.4 million per year, for the SAP work. That’s the same as the current cost, Dexter said. The annual price will increase, though, based on a cost-of-living index used in the IT sector, the Finance Department says.
Here are the actual total government payments to IBM through the years:
Not all of the payments are related to SAP work, but it’s clear that at the very least, IBM has been able to leverage its SAP operations to bid on other provincial work that presumably in the past went to local firms. My guess is that the SAP costs have spiralled upwards due to change orders and the like.
In the harbour
NYK Constellation, container ship, arrived at Fairview Cove from New York this morning, will sail to sea at 4pm
Asphalt Star, asphalt/bitumen tanker, Tarragona, Spain to McAsphalt
Helga, general cargo, Bilboa, Spain to Pier 31
Atlantic Compass, ro-ro container, New York to Fairview Cove
Trying to get some stuff done today.