1. Forest tragedy
Linda Pannozzo continues her look at the Department of Natural Resources and the development of forest policy in Nova Scotia. Pannozzo documents how over the last eight years the public demand for a sustainable forest policy has been hijacked for short-term returns for the forest industry.
I’m proud to publish Pannozzo’s work — her series (she has at least three more articles in the works) is providing the definitive history of the destruction of Nova Scotia’s forestry, and will be cited decades into the future.
I hope that the Examiner becomes known for these sorts of in-depth analyses. Invariably, however, when the Examiner does publish such material, I get emails saying that it is of such import that it should be made available to a larger audience, so I should take the article from behind the paywall and make it for “free.” I received many such requests with each of Pannozzo’s previous articles. I got two such requests last night, after publishing “Forest Tragedy,” and I’m expecting an avalanche of them today. I’ve gotten dozens of requests to make the Dead Wrong series “free.” People have asked the same for Erica Butler’s transportation columns, and for other freelancer-written work.
But the paywall is the business model for the Examiner. It costs real money to pay Pannozzo and other freelancers. The ancillary costs related to publishing these articles are considerable — hosting this website, the legal protection, paying the bookkeeper and accountant, and my time, which should be worth something.
When I started the Examiner, I made a conscious decision to avoid advertising, for reasons that I explained at length here, Here’s the kernel of it:
[When the internet came on the scene,] suddenly, the near-monopoly of advertising was broken. Every cat blog in the land could install Google ads and earn a bit of cash. Savvy business people learned that instead of papering the entire town with ads, they could target specific demographics via the internet.
And now people no longer had to subscribe to papers; they could read them for “free” on the internet.
Nothing, however, is free. Everything comes with a price. While newspaper readers may not be subscribing directly, the money flows somewhere, somehow. And that affects what’s reported on, and what’s not.
As bad as all the above is, I still haven’t gotten to the heart of my problem with advertorial: it embraces a world view that can not even envision a critique of the powerful, much less articulate it.
The old idea that journalists should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable still resonates and, I argue, is the true purpose of a free media in society. We don’t need newspapers for advertising anymore — like I said, every cat blog has advertising. We don’t need reporters swirling about deals at the local grocery store — there are 4.1 PR professionals for every one journalist in Canada. If every newspaper disappeared tomorrow, rest assured that the public would still get a steady flow of advertising and corporate spin.
What we do need reporters for is to speak truth to power, to call out bullshit, to advocate for the powerless.
The broader point is that once you’ve based your business model on attracting big corporate money, and once you’ve signalled that you’re willing to chuck all the old-school ethical lines separating editorial and advertising, your independence and integrity are toast. You’re simply the PR wing of the corporate state.
And so the Examiner is a subscription-based news site. I have the softest subscription sell you’ll ever see — no pop-up ads or annoying entry pages are found on the Examiner. These webpages also aren’t cluttered with advertising or gimmicks to get you to a sales pitch. And I’d like it stay that way.
Besides my own concerns, I’m worried about the effects of ubiquitous advertising on society. We’re now living in a Minority Report world — everything is a god-damned sell. Everything. Every two-bit arena has the name of a bank slapped on it. Even mental health is branded by the fucking telephone company. Charities think nothing of “partnering” with despicable corporations because that’s where the money is.
Don’t think this doesn’t have an effect on our world view, our values, and when it comes right down to it, our psyches. Advertising doesn’t just corrupt our society, it corrupts us.
So if you want more work like Pannozzo’s excellent series, you’re going to have to pay for it directly. It’s just 10 bucks for a month, less than I’ll spend at the coffee shop this morning. Click here to purchase a subscription.
2. Fast, frequent, and walkable
Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler discusses a new report that shows that the key to a successful transit system is improving the walkability to transit stops.
Again, Butler is doing great work analyzing transportation issues in Halifax and deserves to be paid for her work, so this article is also behind the Examiner’s paywall and available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
3. Term limits
“Several candidates seeking Halifax regional council seats believe elected officials should be stamped with a best-before date when they take office,” reports Francis Campbell for Local Xpress:
“The job of councillor is not for 20 to 25 years and you get a gold watch at the end,” said Lisa Blackburn, joining in a news conference in front of the city hall steps with fellow hopefuls Brenden Sommerhalder and Shawn Cleary.
Cleary, who is challenging four-term councillor Linda Mosher, took particular aim at the discretionary funds controlled by councillors:
“There are the district capital funds that each councillor gets, about $94,000 a year,” he said. “Those funds are to be dispersed by the councillor at their discretion to any individual or community group that comes to them and says ‘hey, we’d like a park bench or we’d like you to contribute to or I’d like to donate to our organization or we’d like you to sponsor this organization.’
“That donation comes from an individual councillor and it’s essentially saying to that group, ‘look at me, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, I just gave you some money and you guys better vote for me in the next election.’ ”
The goodwill that capital funds afford incumbent councillors for ensuing elections is costing the taxpayer plenty, Cleary said.
“That $94,000 is almost 400 grand every four years per councillor. In total, for 16 councillors, that’s over $6 million that the incumbents are distributing over the four years. It’s like their own personal donations to these groups.”
I’ve been ambivalent on term limits. I agree that we need fresh faces on council and that inertia often sets in as councillors become comfortable in their seats and too familiar with the bureaucrats who supposedly serve them. But I’ve also seen long-term councillors whose experience has been precisely what has allowed them to successfully fight back against an over-reaching bureaucracy.
Still, especially since the size of council was reduced, it seems nearly impossible to unseat incumbents, not because the incumbents are especially good representatives of the people, but rather because incumbency has its own rewards — not just the discretionary funds, but also name recognition that takes on outsize importance in low-turnout elections.
I also think the well-paid council — councillors get paid $80,849.80 annually — is a disincentive to move on. Someone who has been sitting in council chambers for 12 or 16 years is someone who hasn’t been developing other work skills; they haven’t had the experience or professional development in whatever field they were in before getting elected, and will not be able to re-enter the private work force at a wage comparable to their council salary. I’m not particularly worked up about council pay — I think all public employees, including councillors, should be properly compensated — but we should understand the role high pay has in our political process.
It’s right and proper that the person running the local rec centre or plowing the streets be well-paid and kept at the position for decades, if they’re doing a good job and that’s what they want. But a councillor? I’m not so sure. It makes sense to me that for councillors the deal should be good pay for a couple of terms, then you move on.
1. Bridge tolls
Richard Starr has a long discussion of PEI Senator Percy Downe standing up for regional interests:
But that’s what Downe appears to be doing, and he’s doing it with an issue that is very simple to understand. He is asking why Islanders have to pay a $46 toll to use the $1-billion federally-financed Confederation bridge while Montrealers will get to use the $4-$5 billion federally-financed Champlain bridge replacement for free?
This is a good question, but it is one that carries some political risk. For one thing, to avoid the appearance of a party split, such regionally sensitive issues are usually debated behind closed caucus room doors. That caucus solidarity custom was challenged when Justin Trudeau booted Liberal Senators out of the federal caucus a couple of years ago. Downe’s performance looks like an unintended consequence of that move.
He recently put the PBO to work calculating, among other things, the cost of tax credits for Islanders using the Confederation Bridge as well as the hit to the federal treasury of waiving tolls on the Champlain Bridge. In his request to the PBO Downe raised a valid question about the tolling of national transportation links. He argues that unlike the Liberals’ political commitment to the Champlain bridge, the federal government has a constitutional obligation, dating back to P.E.I’s entry to Confederation to maintain transportation links to P.E.I.
The appointed Senator has opened a can of worms. The Island’s elected federal Liberals, led by Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAuley, have been quick to try to close it. MacAuley, whose riding includes its Wood Islands connection, argues that that getting rid of tolls on the Bridge would kill the ferry from Pictou, hurting tourism in eastern P.E.I. After all, who would pay $70 to travel with their car by ferry when a couple more hours driving will get you to the Island for nothing? That complication, combined with the somatic conditions prevailing here in Liberal Land, may be enough to make the issue go away. Or the Liberals may go for the tax credit idea, an inexpensive way of creating an appearance of fairness.
But whatever happens, we should keep an eye on Senator Downe. If we’re looking for someone to raise issues from a regional perspective, he may be as good as its going to get until the high Liberal tide we’ve been swamped by recedes some time in the future.
2. Local Xpress
“The success of the Local Xpress sends a message to the Herald’s management all on its own,” writes Robert Devet:
The striking newsroom workers understand that print journalism is facing tremendous challenges these days. In fact, the HTU has offered up major concessions to management. But to lay off newsroom workers and compromise on quality is exactly the wrong thing to do, the strikers believe.
The news industry is evolving, and organizations that remain successful are the ones who offer a quality product. That’s what people will pay for, says Sword.
“I’ve heard secondhand that other news organizations are looking at our model too. Maybe we are paving new ground,” says [union president Pam] Sword. “It certainly has been an adventure.”
3. Peter MacKay
Yesterday, I jokingly wrote that Peter MacKay’s greatest legacy was “taking the ‘no’ out of Nova Scotia,” for which Parker Donham good-naturedly ribs me:
Picking the low point in Peter MacKay’s public career—by “greatest legacy,” Bousquet meant “low point” — is admittedly a challenge, given the rich trove of disgraceful material to choose from:
- To win the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party on the last day of May, 2003, MacKay signed a solemn agreement with rival candidate David Orchard, promising not to merge the party with right-wing Canadian Alliance, headed by Stephen Harper. Four months later, he forged an agreement with Harper to do just that.
- As Foreign Minister during the 2006 Lebanese War with Israel, MacKay led the Government of Canada in opposing a UN-sanctioned ceasefire.
- As Defence Minister, in July 2010, MacKay used a Defence Dept. helicopter to transport him from a private fishing lodge in Labrador to Gander Airport, at a cost to taxpayers of $16,000. In his first two years as Defence Minister, he spent $3 million using the federal government’s Challenger jets to ferry him to various functions, including one flight costing more than $200,000.
My money, however, is on MacKay’s character assassination of Richard Colvin, the diplomat who risked his career to speak up against the Canadian Forces’ illegal practice of turning prisoners of war and innocent Afghan civilians over to the Afghan Army to be tortured.
Channeling Joseph McCarthy, and speaking in the protected confines of the House of Commons where he could not be sued for slander, MacKay falsely savaged Colvin as a patsy for the Taliban.
4. Cranky letter of the day
It is with sad feelings I write this letter in regards to some people trying to have our Old Mira Ferry, now called Albert Bridge, designated as a residential area, not a rural area.
Years ago most every home here had horses, cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and ducks, etc., which were their only means of surviving. They also fished and grew their own vegetables to help them through the long, cold winter. They took pride in their livestock, kept their barns clean and made it confortable for them. This was a daily chore they were dedicated to.
If you are against your home being in a rural area, you knew that before you bought or built it. My opinion is to leave us “rural” with everything that goes with it — barns, clotheslines, etc.
Most of us who live here don’t live in posh homes. We are a group of humble people who don’t need to be classified residential, along with higher taxes, house insurance, etc. So if you don’t like our way of living a comfortable life, sell your home and move to amore suitable location.
Ending on a humorous note, there are “pampers” available for anyone who wants to try to “potty train the seagulls.”
Helen Horne, Albert Bridge
I have no idea if the St. Petersburg Polytechnic University Journal is a reputable academic journal, or if Vyacheslav A. Ryabov is a crank or what, and the Sunday Telegram isn’t exactly the go-to place for serious science, but I sure hope Ryabov’s latest paper holds up. In it, Ryabov claims that he’s listened in as two dolphins, named Yasha and Yana, went to the edge of a pool at the Karadag Nature Reserve, in Feodosia, Russia, and had a conversation. Ryabov even illustrated the conversation:
Two dolphins have been recorded having a conversation for the first time after scientists developed an underwater microphone which could distinguish the animals’ different “voices”.
Lead researcher Dr Vyacheslav Ryabov, said: “Essentially, this exchange resembles a conversation between two people.
“Each pulse that is produced by dolphins is different from another by its appearance in the time domain and by the set of spectral components in the frequency domain.
“In this regard, we can assume that each pulse represents a phoneme or a word of the dolphin’s spoken language.
“The analysis of numerous pulses registered in our experiments showed that the dolphins took turns in producing [sentences] and did not interrupt each other, which gives reason to believe that each of the dolphins listened to the other’s pulses before producing its own.
“This language exhibits all the design features present in the human spoken language, this indicates a high level of intelligence and consciousness in dolphins, and their language can be ostensibly considered a highly developed spoken language, akin to the human language.”
If true, this proves that dolphins are not only intelligent but also more highly evolved than humans, as no two humans can have a conversation without interrupting each other.
Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (5pm, Alderney Library) — the board will be discussing Paper Mill Lake.
Public Accounts (9am, Province House) — Julie Towers, CEO of the Office of Settlement, will be asked about funding for the agency.
Thesis defence, Biomedical Engineering (Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Ubong Peters will defend his thesis, Assessment of Respiratory System Mechanics in Adults: Effect of Weight Loss, Posture, Bronchodilation and Artefacts on Respiratory Impedance and its Repeatability.”
In the harbour
1am: Ningbo Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
5am: NYK Rumina, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
6am: ZIM Alabama, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Valencia, Spain
6am: ZIM Piraeus, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
10am: Arctic Sunrise, Greenpeace’s Arctic survey ship, sails from Pier 33 for sea
Noon: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 36
4:30pm: ZIM Piraeus, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Kingston, Jamaica
8pm: Heritage Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Malmo, Sweden
7am: Anthem of the Seas, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John with up to 4,180 passengers
7:15: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
8am: Veendam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney with up to 1,350 passengers
11am: Carnival Sunshine, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Saint John with up to 3,000 passengers
4pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Bar Harbor
5pm: Anthem of the Seas, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for New York
7pm: Carnival Sunshine, cruise ship, sails from Pier 31 for New York
Busy day today. We’ll be publishing an article by Jennifer Henderson this morning, then I’m on the Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7 at 12:30pm (note time change), then tonight I’m speaking with a group of lawyers about the Dead Wrong series. Hold my calls.
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