1. Taking transit to parks
Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler profiles two operations that bus people from the city to parks.
The first is Parkbus, which was established in Ontario to bring Torontonians to Algonquin Park but has since expanded around the world, including taking tentative steps to a Halifax-to-Keji service.
The second is Trips By Transit, which as Butler puts it, “makes lemonade out of our existing transit routes. Using nothing more than some bus tickets and a really, really good attitude, Trips by Transit prove that it’s not impossible, with a little planning and the willingness (and ability) to walk, to get to lakes, beaches and trails in Halifax without a car.”
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Last week, I commented on a CBC article about underwater gliders being used to track whales on the Scotian Shelf: “The article doesn’t say how tracking whales on the Scotian Shelf helps the right whales who are dying in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but I’m assuming this is just the first roll-out of the technology and it’ll soon be expanded,” I wrote.
I could have done some actual reporting to answer my own question, but I didn’t. But Tom Ayers did for the Chronicle Herald:
While the whales are relatively easier to find in the Gulf and Bay of Fundy, a large portion of the North Atlantic right whale population is still unaccounted for, and that’s why researchers are now using underwater gliders to roam the ocean listening for whales.
“Let’s say there’s 100 in the Gulf and 100 in Fundy and Roseway (Basin), as a wild estimate,” [Dalhousie researcher Chris Taggart] said. “Where are the other 300?
“We don’t know, and that’s why we’re putting gliders in other places where we think they’re likely to be.”
Stop it. Stop naming shit after people who are still alive.
The city used to have a perfectly good naming policy: someone had to be six feet under for a couple of years before you could name a rec centre or police substation or cul-de-sac after them, and even then you had to first dig them up and put a wooden stake through their dead heart just to make sure (that was Section 8, subsection iv(b) of the policy). But then base sentimentally edged in — somebody wanted to name a park bench after grandma with dementia, somebody else wanted to give an old veteran a thrill by naming a ball field after him before he went off to fight that last battle in the sky, and so the perfectly good policy was amended to take all the perfectly good parts out of it (thanks, Jennifer Watts), and now we’re naming shit all over the place after people who one day we might learn were child molesters or Confederate generals or whatever.
There used to be a silent understanding about this. In a sign of respect, someone would suggest naming a library after an inspiring teacher, and the proposed namee would modestly demur — “oh no, don’t name anything after me” — with the wide understanding that after the teacher died, we’d go ahead and name the library after her anyway. It unfolded respectfully: the inspiring teacher was honoured while she was living with the proposal that the library be named after her, and the inspiring teacher respected the process that people are supposed to be dead before we name shit after them.
Here’s what ruined all this: Money. Rich dudes all over the place wanted to use charitable donations not just as tax write-offs but also as ego boosters, because that’s how rich dudes are: they think that because they inherited daddy’s potato business they’re super-smart business people who can lecture the rest of us about the sacred free market or because they used insider connections to land government financial assistance to build their corporation it proves they’re genius innovators. And it’s not enough for them to think this privately. Oh no: the rest of us have to acknowledge their status as better citizens than ourselves. Actually bowing down and kissing their rings is a bit much for most people, but we get around that awkwardness by naming, for instance, university buildings after them. And of course the neoliberal agenda plays right into this: rather than have a progressive tax policy that recognizes that rich people are rich because they live in a society that provides the opportunity for riches for some and has public works and regulatory systems that allow for the successful operation of business they profit off and police forces and jails to scare off the highwaymen and pitchfork-wielding peasants who would burn and loot their Young Avenue manses, and so those high taxes pay for the shit like university buildings that make us a civilized and prosperous country, we instead perversely have low taxes on the rich dudes and give them further tax breaks if they toss a few pennies into a university program, invariably in such a way that they profit from it, and then we name the damn building after them.
For sure, this has been going on since at least the Medicis, but it started going into overdrive in the coked-up 1980s, and now is on warp drive, such that we can’t have any public facility at all without naming it after a rich dude or a connected dude or a corporation.
The Metro Centre operated under that moniker for three decades, “Metro” being a reasonable acknowledgement that this is a public facility, operated by and for the public. Somehow that arrangement could last for 30 years without any noticeable problem (well, except for the secret Metro Centre bank account that was used by Peter Kelly and Scott Ferguson to funnel secret loans of public money to Harold MacKay so the public wouldn’t know how much public money was being squandered on the Common concerts), but suddenly the facility that has been more or less adequately operated with public money in the public’s name had to get money from a god damn bank in order to pay for a normal maintenance and upgrading, and so the entire building was rebranded with the name of the god damn bank, all of which is seen as advertising on the bank’s ledger, and so a source of profit, not some selfless charitable gift, and yet there were big ceremonies involving big cheques and big egos and big handshakes and big press releases telling us how great the god damn bank is for inserting itself privately and profitably into a process that had always before been done publicly and with public money.
Now it’s just normal operating procedure: the Sportsplex is going to be rebranded with a corporate name, likewise the new four-pad arena in Dartmouth, and on and on and on.
Make no mistake: naming public facilities after corporations reflects something broken about our tax policies, about our governments, about our collective and even private sensibilities. If we don’t question this, we are part of the broken system. We’ve been assimilated into the Borg.
We’ve named so much shit after corporations that we now don’t even question how or why we name shit, so why not name shit after living people? The corporations don’t die, after all, and they get shit named after them.
Much of the shit we name after people is just more of the same rich dudes getting tax breaks and egotistically pumping out their chests crap that’s been going on for decades, but every now and then we name stuff for people for reasons I can’t understand. I’m talking of course about yesterday’s announcement that the NSCC Waterfront campus has been renamed the… Ray Ivany campus.
“Waterfront Campus” was perfectly descriptive: it is a campus on the waterfront. I’ve been trying to take pictures of it, but have never quite got the right angle. I took this one with my fancy camera and zoom lens using a tripod on the boardwalk in Halifax:
But it’s not a great photo. The building is too squared off, and I should’ve been at an angle, maybe from a boat.
One day I was running on the Dartmouth Waterfront Trail and a train happened to be going by; I took this photo with my iphone:
I like the idea of a train-passing-the-college photo, but this one doesn’t work either; it’s crooked and the guard rail dominates the foreground.
Still, the point is, a photo of the Waterfront Campus has to include the water, no? You wouldn’t take a photo of the Waterfront Campus from the parking lot or street. It’s the best thing about the campus: it’s on the water.
Anyway, now it’s named for Ray Ivany. I asked the question last night on Facebook:
Seriously, can someone explain to me why all three political parties and all the elite and all the managerial class bow down to Ray Ivany and secretly bail out the institutions he can’t manage and name him to the board of Nova Scotia Power and appoint him to head commissions that come up with mealymouthed recommendations that don’t mean anything at all and hire his spouse to gigantically salaried positions in the premier’s office and now name Waterfront campuses after him? I don’t know Ivany, never worked for him, never drank with him… I have no reason to doubt he’s a nice guy. But I know lots of nice guys. I have no reason to doubt he’s a capable bureaucrat (well, except for that $10 million deficit at Acadia), but I know lots of capable bureaucrats… Please, and this is an honest question.. What the fuck is Ray Ivany’s mojo?
No one besides my sister answered, so maybe it’s a rude question. People tell me privately that Ivany is a nice guy, and that he helped change the public image of the community college system. While Ivany was NSCC, the Hamm government dumped a bunch of money into NSCC, so I suppose Ivany had some success with repositioning the college. Still: isn’t this what bureaucrats are supposed to do? Isn’t it, like, their job to promote the public agencies they steward?
I guess we’re not naming the campus after Ivany because he’s a super-rich dude, so there’s that, but with a $300,000 Acadia salary and with $100,000 annually for sitting on the Nova Scotia Power board of directors and with a spouse pulling down 160K in the premier’s office, he ain’t hurting.
More to the point, the name “Waterfront Campus” nicely side-stepped the fact that the school sits on a former Mi’kmaq village site. As a nod to that history, the road running into the school is named Mawio’mi Place; “Mawio’mi” is the Mi’kmaq word for “gathering place.” There wasn’t much more involved in that recognition — there’s no indigenous studies program at the college or what have you — but it was something. Now, the whole place is being named for a white dude with no connection to the site.
And you know, he’s still alive. It’s unseemly.
4. Cute picture of a dog
“At least three dogs were left in hot cars Tuesday in the Halifax area, prompting an RCMP warning about how fast the heat can become life-threatening,” reports the Canadian Press.
I only posted this item because the RCMP included a cute picture of a dog in a car with their warning, and a news photographer I used to work with told me it’s been scientifically shown that if there’s a photo of a dog on the front page newspaper sales increase by 20 per cent. “Forty per cent if it’s above the fold,” he said.
This was back in the early internet days, but even by then cat and dog photos were dominating the world wide web, so I’m guessing it works for websites too. Whenever I have the excuse to run a dog photo, there it is. But I’m leaving cats to El Jones.
“About 100 people rallied Monday in support of a Lunenburg businessman who blames town hall for his decision to stop investing in the Nova Scotia community,” reports Jon Tattrie for the CBC.
I’ve been watching this from too far afar to have any meaningful insights or opinions about it, but I worry that this is another case of “rich dude will save our town”ism.
6. Rich MacLellan
“Richard MacLellan has resigned as chief administrative officer (CAO) for the Region of Queens Municipality to become the top staffer for the Town of Bridgewater,” reports Michael Lee for Lighthouse Now.
MacLellan used to be a staffer at Halifax City Hall, and started the Solar City program. I always got the sense he was chased off by, or ran away from, then-CAO Richard Butts, who had no love for such environmental stewardship.
Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
No public meetings.
No public meetings until September.
Thesis Defence, Psychology and Neuroscience (Wednesday, 1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Marie-Eve Couture will defend her thesis, “A Multi-Method Investigation of the Effects of Alcohol on Depression in Undergraduate Students Who Drink to Cope with Depression.”
No public events.
Thesis Defence, Applied Science (Wednesday, 10am, Science 345) Leah Springate will defend her thesis “Gamete Compatibility and Reproductive Success in the North Atlantic Right Whale.”
In the harbour
6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 36 from St. John’s
6am: ZIM Alabama, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Valencia, Spain
8am: Macao Strait, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal
4pm: Atlantic Power, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Mariel, Cuba
4pm: Macao Strait, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Mariel, Cuba
4:30pm: ZIM Alabama, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.