1. Younger kicked out of Liberal cabinet, caucus
Last night, Premier Stephen McNeil kicked Andrew Younger out of his cabinet, and out of the Liberal caucus. I gave the background to this story yesterday. Last night’s announcement is explained by Chronicle Herald reporter Michael Gorman:
Earlier in the day, Younger told reporters he didn’t learn until this week from his lawyer about a custom exempting him from testifying in the trial of a woman accused of biting him, but a letter in the case file shows otherwise.
On Monday, Younger’s lawyer, Brian Casey, wrote the Crown to say “when Mr. Younger left our meeting on Thursday, he spoke with the clerk’s office at the legislature. They advised him that pursuant to part IV of the House of Assembly Act, Mr. Younger is not subject to subpoena while the House is in session. One of the parliamentary privileges is immunity from subpoena.”
During a 48-minute news conference Thursday morning, Younger said several times that he didn’t learn of the privilege until Monday and that it was from Casey. He didn’t know how Casey learned of it, he said.
When staff asked Younger about the discrepancy in his story, “the explanation was not one that was satisfactory,” said McNeil.
McNeil also said Younger gave an unsatisfactory explanation to staff about his actions.
“In order for me to have someone in our cabinet and in our caucus, I have to be able to rely on the information provided to us,” McNeil said at a hastily-called news conference Thursday.
“I expect it to be accurate and forthright,” McNeil said. “That’s important to me.”
Younger issued the following statement to the press late last night:
This evening at approximately 8pm I was advised [by] the premier’s office that I was being removed from cabinet and caucus as a result of what they felt were inconsistencies in my statements to the press today. Specifically, as it relates to whether I first learned of parliamentary privilege on Monday or earlier. In fact I learned about this subject on Friday, October 30th, and I was able to confirm this for the premier’s office. That error was mine and unintentional. During the press briefing I answered questions to the best of my recollection. When I was made aware of the possible error, I checked my records and confirmed the date with the Premier’s Office. I was able to provide confirmation for them that I learned of it Friday. This misstatement of the date was unintentional and had no impact on court proceedings. I was fully prepared to correct this with media.
A letter from my lawyer was filed with the court as part of proceedings. The letter dated Monday November 2nd confirms what I have said. The letter states that I became aware of the provisions which may impact my ability to appear in court after a Thursday meeting with the crown. I became aware of this provision Friday. I was not aware of this provision on Thursday. The letter raised the issue of obstacles to my appearing in court and invited the Crown to discuss options.
Today I read a prepared statement to media written by and on the instruction of the premier’s office. I was given this statement shortly before presenting it. This was following instructions by the premier’s office to not speak to media or respond to media calls on November 4th.
Given that I have followed the direction of the premier’s office throughout on this matter, I am disappointed and surprised by the Premier’s decision.
My wife and I will have more to say on this matter, and the timeline leading to today, in the near future.
Younger will now sit in the legislature as an independent. Like Trevor Zinck before him, he’ll have a single desk off to the side, away from the party caucuses.
I’ve known and followed Younger since 2006, when I started covering him as a HRM councillor. I found him to be highly ambitious, smart, and more than a bit full of himself. He’s questioned my reporting, and I’ve questioned his honesty. Still, I expected his ambition to take him far — I once predicted that he’d eventually be premier. I can’t see that happening now. He’ll continue to collect his MLA salary, but without the support of a party it’s unlikely he’ll be reelected; he’ll probably find a communications or PR job and move into relative obscurity.
It’d be tempting to say that Younger got taken down by a tawdry affair, but I don’t think that’s right. Rather, this is a tale of hubris; Younger was felled by his endless ambition, the belief that he doesn’t have to play by the same rules as everyone else, and by being too clever by half.
Yet, I’m still uneasy about this. The Chronicle Herald puts it in context of a simple domestic violence case:
The minister’s failure to appear in court, and to act on his own initiative to waive legislative privilege, clearly undermined an important government policy on domestic violence.
It conflicted with the directive that charges should be laid by police and prosecutors when the evidence warrants, whether the alleged victim agrees or not, and that alleged victims should be compelled to testify — under threat of arrest if they fail to show up.
This policy is in place for a profound reason. It helps prevent victims of violence from being coerced into not testifying and enabling their abusers to escape prosecution.
But if it’s going to apply to ordinary citizens — for public safety and the greater good — it should apply to MLAs, too, in spite of legislative privilege.
But Parker Donham has a different view, getting at my unease:
As a matter of policy, police and prosecutors in Nova Scotia exercise zero tolerance in cases of domestic violence. So they laid a charge of common assault against the former staffer, who was by then an articling clerk preparing for exams that would lead to her admission to the bar.
Whenever you hear the words, “zero tolerance,” dear reader, the hairs on the back of your neck should rise to attention. Zero tolerance is the abdication of judgment, a refusal to draw distinctions or exercise common sense.
In this case, there was no weapon. There is no accusation of bodily harm. There were no apparent lasting effects. There is not even a complaint or a complainant. Just an unhappy, private, year-old encounter in which a slight woman briefly got physical with a much larger man, a big guy who was never seriously in harm’s way. But because police and prosecutors have too often turned a blind eye in cases that are superficially similar but actually very different — large men beating the crap out of small women — we have stripped them of the power to make reasonable distinctions.
While a few men’s rights advocates argue that Tara Gault, the woman who allegedly assaulted Younger, should have been zealously prosecuted, I think we’re all better off because she wasn’t. Justice is supposed to mean, well, justice, in the full sense of the word.
In the end, even with Younger’s expulsion from cabinet and caucus and the probable end of his political career, and even with the charges dropped against her, Gault will likely suffer far more than Younger ever will. We all know how this goes: her career will be dogged by whispering, by suggestions that she’s a little batty, that she should be passed up for promotion because you just never know. Our society is sexist, and any excuse to make a social pariah out of a woman is enough.
I don’t know what’s running around Younger’s mind. Gault’s lawyer, Joel Pink, yesterday suggested Younger didn’t testify because he wanted to protect his own reputation. Donham suggests Younger in part refused to testify to protect Gault’s future career. Who knows? It’s probably some mix of both motivations. Regardless, Younger created the circumstances of his own demise, and now he’s lost prestige and position.
This has been the stuff of literature since at least the ancient Greeks; I can’t parse it any further.
2. Gary Basso
“A Halifax undercover detective has been suspended with pay while under investigation for theft and breach of trust,” reports the CBC:
The officer is Const. Gary Basso, who once received a commendation from then-police chief Frank Beazley, CBC has learned.
Halifax police confirmed the officer under investigation is an 11-year veteran of the force.
The Serious Incident Response Team has taken over the investigation of “significant” allegations, director Ron MacDonald said Thursday.
The allegations stem from March 2015 and from within police headquarters in Halifax, MacDonald said.
The alleged theft could include police evidence, MacDonald said, as he declined to confirm what exactly was stolen.
3. Pedestrian struck
From yesterday’s end-of-shift email police send to reporters:
At approximately 3:20 pm Halifax Regional Police members responded to a reported car vs pedestrian collision at Barrington St and Blowers St in Halifax. A 69-year-old male was struck in a marked crosswalk at this location by a car driven by a 51-year-old female. The pedestrian was transported by EHS paramedics to hospital with non-life threatening. No charges are anticipated in this matter.
There’s lots of money to be made, so everyone wants in on that donair action, including rapper Quake Matthews.
I’m told that the morning after eating donairs, 20 per cent of people wake up next to a pile of vomit. Whether that’s from the donair or the alcohol hasn’t been determined.
CBC reporter Rachel Ward reviews city recycling policies and argues that by the recommendation of a 2013 consultant’s report, the city is losing over a million dollars a year in lost sales of material to be recycled.
At issue is what is the best way to get the company contracted to handle recycling, Miller Waste, to get the best price. Since the recycling program was started, the city has been giving Miller a quarter of all revenue from sales as an incentive to find the best prices. “They have to have some skin in the game,” solid waste director Matt Keliher told Ward. “Ultimately they have to have a stake in selling in it to make sure Halifax has a better price per tonne.”
Back in 2013, however, Stantec told the city that it should retain all the sales revenue, and simply pay a flat fee to Miller for services. Keliher disagrees with that advice, as did city council, which rejected Stantec’s proposal.
This is a legitimate debate over policy, and I can see merit in both views. Still, Ward has done a good job raising the issue, and especially in pointing out the biggest problem with the debate — that’s it’s hidden from the public:
Halifax regional council discussed the Miller Waste contract in-camera and voted unanimously June 23 to renew it without changing the sales structure.
A spokesman from Miller Waste said the contract prevents the company from speaking to the media about its contents.
This secrecy serves no one well — not the city, not the company, and most definitely not the citizenry that deserves full accounting.
1. CTF & CFIB mum on tax dodging
In his latest column for Atlantic Business Magazine, Stephen Kimber reviews how recent investigative news pieces have revealed that the very wealthiest Canadians and corporations have used tax avoidance schemes and offshore tax havens to dodge billions of dollars in taxes every year, shifting the tax burden onto their less wealthy fellow citizens.
Kimber notes that both the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses are completely silent on that matter, despite claiming to represent, respectively, regular taxpayers and small businesses who bear the bulk of the tax burden shrugged by the ultra-wealthy:
Given that there’s $8 billion in tax revenue at stake in these tax havens, and given that the CTF and the CFIB claim to be concerned about tax fairness and lower taxes, you have to ask yourself why are they so silent?
Or perhaps you already know the answer.
2. Cranky letter of the day
The labour movement has been pressing governments for over 40 years about public childcare.
We saw the issue of public childcare become a major issue in the federal election. With a new federal Liberal government, I would hope public childcare will happen.
I would like to see this exist in our Nova Scotia society, at least for my children when they become parents. Public childcare could increase the province’s GDP by two per cent — there is no other single social movement issue that could increase that many jobs overnight in Nova Scotia.
If I viewed the economy the same way as the Conservatives, I would lay off one of the kids and sell the family cat. This social movement would create jobs and help working families in our Province.
Jason Langille, Black Rock
No public meetings.
This date in history
On November 6, 1984, John Buchanan’s Progressive Conservatives won election, leading to the third (of four) successive PC majority governments.
Stephen Kimber once explained Buchanan’s government as follows:
The Tories? Lest we forget… In his tell-almost-all 1993 book, Bagman, former Tory fundraiser Donald Ripley fills page after page with various and sundry shenanigans, including the details of how John Buchanan’s Tories raised cash during their years in office.
He recalled one incident involving prominent Halifax developer Ralph Medjuck. Medjuck, Ripley says, showed up at his office with a cheque for $40,000 to help deal with a “small financial crisis” at party headquarters. The original cheque wasn’t made out to the party, but to Ripley himself, meaning it wouldn’t be recorded on the party’s books.
Medjuck, who was a friend of Regan and a former law partner of Buchanan’s and contributed to both parties, did rather well by the provincial government, no matter which party was “in.” During Buchanan’s last two years in office, for example, Medjuck’s companies earned close to $14-million just for renting out office space to the government.
During the mid-1980s, another company owned by a group of well-connected Tories—including Ian Thompson, the province’s recently appointed “ambassador” to Ottawa — landed a lucrative, risk-free deal to build the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission’s new warehouse and head office in the Bayer’s Lake Industrial Park, even though the company wasn’t the low bidder for the job. The Tory-appointed liquor commission went ahead with the deal despite the objections of its own consultants, who pointed out it would cost $1.3 million less for the government to build the building itself — and the province would own the asset too.
Afterwards, a few of the company’s directors—most of whom were Tory contributors—confessed they’d been “leaned on” to make more contributions to a secret party trust fund set up to supplement Buchanan’s premier’s salary. One even said one of those doing the leaning had “hinted” at a connection between the contract and the donation request.
By the way, it may be of interest to note that we’re still paying the price for that liquor commission deal — more than a million dollars every year on a lease that runs until 2011.
The Buchanan scandals became public knowledge when, in 1990, a former civil servant named Michael Zareski was called before the legislature’s Public Accounts committee to discuss government leases. As Kimber explained in a 1991 Daily News column:
For [Zareski], in fact, the issue had been largely personal, and his motive, at least at the beginning, was revenge.
Members of the Buchanan government had been quietly spreading stories about him among his friends, former colleagues and members of the media: about his mental state, about his religious beliefs, about the circumstances of his divorce, and about how and why he had left his job as the deputy minister of government services.
When he was called to testify before the legislature’s public accounts committee, Zareski says now, he decided his response to the rumors and innuendo would be to simply answer any question anyone asked “fully and factually.” As the top civil servant in a department that bought $50 million worth of supplies and services each year, Zareski knew where to find the skeletons in the government’s patronage closet.
“I was expecting questions on the leases (of government office space) and I decided I would tell everything I knew about that, and if they asked me anything else, I’d tell them that too.
Two months after Zareski told the public accounts committee about what he described as a patronage network centred in then-premier John Buchanan’s office, Buchanan resigned and accepted a Senate appointment.
The scandal so tainted Buchanan — who had not only just won his fourth straight provincial election but who was also widely regarded as the epitome of honesty and integrity — that he could not even return home to open a shopping centre in his own riding without risking verbal abuse and public humiliation from his former constituents.
Since Zareski first dropped his bombshell on the public accounts committee, there has been a seemingly endless torrent of other minor and major scandals, revelations and allegations that have only served to confirm the general truth of Zareski’s allegation that Nova Scotia politics is a patronage cesspool.
Among the many allegations:
• that government workers painted the premier’s cottage, possibly working on government time and using government-supplied materials;
• that a friend of the premier was paid $50,000 to be a “paper” president of a government-owned masonry company and then demanded $30,000 more to relinquish control of the firm;
• that other friends of the premier sold 200 motorized toilet seats to the government that have never been used;
• that Buchanan himself received at least $588,000 from a secret Conservative party fund to supplement his salary;
• that friends of the premier set up another secret trust fund worth between $300,000 and $400,000 to help pay off his debts;
• that at least one local businessman involved in a controversial but highly lucrative deal to build a liquor commission warehouse for the provincial government — Fred Green — was “leaned on” to contribute to the trust fund.
An RCMP investigation into the secret fund found that it contained $431,290, but issued a statement that “There is no evidence established to support any criminal wrongdoing by Senator Buchanan,” because this is Nova Scotia, and no one is ever held responsible for anything.
Wait a minute… what about those toilet seats?
Randy Richmond and Tom Villemaire wrote about the toilet seats in their book Colossal Canadian Failures:
Moving in the highest of circles, Buchanan has heard of a new kind of toilet seat, one that would rid the world of germs. So he had a top civil servant, Michael Zareski, the deputy minister of government services, investigate.
There are such things, Zareski reported back. But, he added, they are not practical. Oh, grey thinking civil servant! Oh, dull pusher of paper! Surely those who sit all day could appreciate clean toilet seats.
Buchanan knew better. Buchanan was a man of the people. He had not served as Conservative premier since 1978 for nothing.
Get the seats! Buchanan demanded.
Why don’t we try a few experimental seats, the ordinary-thinking Zareski suggested.
Get them all, his leader said.
Shouldn’t we at least read some studies about the seats, Zareski asked.
Get the seats! The people need the toilet seats! Buchanan insisted.
So Zareski signed the purchase order and the 250 seats arrived.
And what seats they were. Each one boasted a storage compartment containing plastic seat covers and a motor. At the push of a button, the motor removed one plastic seat cover and spewed out a new one. Each person, at each sitting, got his or her hygienic toilet seat cover.
The government was pleased and ordered the seats be placed throughout its buildings and in Halifax hospitals. Once the citizens knew they were forever relieved of germs, they would demand more of the electronic seats.
Alas, more bureaucrats stepped in. The provincial health department told the government to sit on the plan. Distributing the electronic germ-stoppers could heighten fears that AIDS could be transmitted through toilet seats — a common misconception at the time. So the devices were tucked away.
Reporters continued to track the journey of the toilet seats. “Those motorized toilet seats just keep going and going and going,” wrote David Rosenhiser in the Daily News on July 29, 1992:
They cost the Nova Scotia taxpayers $50,000 — that’s $250 each — when the province bought them in 1988 from Bobby and Murdock Cranston, friends of then-premier John Buchanan.
The seats were never installed in government offices and ended up collecting dust in a warehouse until they were auctioned off in Milton, Ont., on July 16.
The government reportedly paid $398 to ship the seats to Headline Industries, an auction house just outside of Toronto. The company then auctioned them off for a $60 fee.
To add insult to injury, the seats, which have embarrassed the Tories for years, sold for only $300 — less than it cost the government to have them shipped and auctioned.
Frank Morse, owner of Stetson Equipment, bought the seats for just $1.50 each. He’s already agreed to resell them for more than $10 each.
In a turn of events rivalling the trade dispute over hockey player Eric Lindros, metro entrepreneur Bill Mont said he had made a deal with Morse to buy the seats for $2,000, but Morse sold them to another man for more money.
“I’m very frustrated,” Mont said yesterday.
Bobby Cranston, the purveyor of the toilet seats, was in 1999 busted for shoplifting a pair of reading glasses at a Shoppers Drug Mart, and fined 1,000 bucks.
As for Zareski, in 1991 Kimber wrote:
“A lady stopped me on the street recently,” [said Zareski.] “She said I just wanted to meet you and let you know you are speaking for the silent majority in this province.” Adds Zareski: “I sense a real change in the public mind about what they want from their politicians.”
But that changed public mind hasn’t improved Zareski’s personal fortunes. He remains unemployed. “I did look for work until recently but it’s pointless. The Buchanan government dragged my name through the mud, and the Tory influence is still there when I look for a job.”
In fact, the man who has done more to change the course of Nova Scotia politics during the past year concedes he’s broke. “The only reason I was able to talk to you today,” he explains from his Cape Breton home as our interview ends, “is because you called me. I haven’t been able to pay the phone bill for a while, and now the service is cut off for anything but incoming calls.”
Twenty-four years later, Zareski’s LinkedIn page still expresses his anger about how he was treated:
My career began in 1972 as an engineer with the Nova Scotia Department of Public Works. Over the years the Department amalgamated with a number of other functional areas and became the Department of Government Services to which I was appointed the first Executive Director of Design and Construction and then Deputy Minister responsible for the management and administration of the activities of the department through the provision of common services to all provincial government departments in the areas of design and construction, property and operations, systems and computers, and printing and publishing. I was an idealist believing that as a public servant my job was to serve the public, however my political masters felt that my job was to serve them first and that they would determine what was best for the public. These two positions were irreconcilable and my time in government came to an end.
I have Ripley’s book and sometimes page through it to remind myself just how badly governments can behave.
Reproductive Labour (noon, 2017 Marion McCain Building) — Catherine Bryan will speak on “Thinking Through Service Work as Reproductive Labour.”
Sexual and gender identity (12:10pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Historian of Medicine and Science and Sex Researcher Alice Dreger will speak on “When social justice and science clash over questions of sexual and gender identity, who wins, who loses?”
Africa (12:30pm, Lord Dalhousie Room) — Tim Shaw will speak on:
Africa & Global Goals 2015 have proven more of a turning point than imagined; Africa is ‘rising’ but less fast than anticipated given declines in global commodity, currency & stock prices. And the BRICS & other EMs are no longer powering the global economy. Meanwhile ‘development’ as ideology/policy/practice is under pressure initially from ‘globalization’ & now from ‘global’ studies. This presentation will suggest that ‘global governance’ may yet supersede such fields with implications for development post-2015, informed by animating a new PhD in ‘Global Governance & Human Security’ at UMass Boston.
Kate Inglis points us to a video of Willie Stratton playing at York Redoubt a few years ago. I like everything about this video; it’s so perfectly Nova Scotian:
In the harbour
Reykjafoss, general cargo, arrived at Pier 41 this morning, sails to sea this afternoon
Dinkeldiep, general cargo, arrived at Pier 42 from St. John’s this morning; sails back for St. John’s later today
Barkald, bulker, arrived at Nation Gypsum this morning
Altair, general cargo, Muriel, Cuba to Pier 31, then sails to sea
Paganino, car carrier, Sagunto, Spain to Autoport
Oceanex Sanderling sails for St. John’s