1. Police restructuring
Police chief Jean-Michel Blais announced a major shakeup of police brass yesterday at the police commission meeting. He followed it up with a press release:
Halifax Regional Police (HRP) is pleased to announce a new structure for its senior management team.
For the past several months, we have been working to restructure the organization of the senior officer portion of our management team so that it that will eventually be comprised of four non-union ranks, including Chief, Deputy Chief, Superintendents and Inspectors – a rank structure that’s similar to other Canadian police agencies.
To achieve this structure, we:
- Made three Superintendent positions more all-encompassing and with broader responsibilities in three work areas – Patrol Division under the command of Superintendent Robin McNeil, Criminal Investigation Division under the responsibility of Superintendent Jim Perrin and the Administration Division under the command of Superintendent Brenda Young.
- Realigned the remaining four Superintendent positions, who will continue to be an integral part of our Executive Management Team:
– Superintendent Don MacLean will become the new Human Resources Officer
– Superintendent Sean Auld will become the new Operational Planning Officer
– Superintendent Cliff Falkenham will become the new Operations Support Officer
– Superintendent Colleen Kelly will become the Executive Officer to the Chief
- Created four new Inspector roles that will fill the newly created Information Management Officer position and three existing divisional commander positions. We are currently conducting a competition from among Staff Sergeants and Sergeants who qualified and applied for the Inspector position.
The above changes will be gradually phased in to allow for a seamless transition during the months of April and May. The restructuring of our management team will allow us to be more strategic in our policing approach in alignment with our newly developed 2015-2025 Strategic Plan which will be rolled out over the next several months.
At the meeting, Blais handed out paperwork showing the restructuring would cost just over $900,000 over the next five years. He said that those costs would be covered by the police operating budget, but that’s just a kind of fiction: all police costs are fungible, and the overall budget, including the costs of restructuring, is approved by city council.
The Chronicle Herald’s Dan Arsenault reports that councillor Stephen Adams is opposed to the restructuring:
The union representing officers has previously said it dislikes the restructuring, and Adams said he isn’t happy that Blais apparently started setting up new positions and talked to individual officers about the moves before they have been approved by the police board.
“I cannot, in good conscience, support the budget at council,” Adams (Spryfield-Sambro Loop-Prospect Road) said in an interview outside the meeting room.
“As opposed to having two extra managers, I still think there should be individuals dedicated to cybercrime. I just don’t agree.”
Council will vote on the budget April 28.
2. Hit and run
A police release to reporters:
On the 13th of April at 6:30 pm, the Halifax Regional Police responded to the area of Division St and Bedford Highway for a motor vehicle hit and run accident involving a bicyclist. The adult female bicyclist was biking on the Bedford Highway near Division St when her bike was struck from behind, causing her to be thrown from her bike. The vehicle involved fled the area and currently no available description of the vehicle or the driver. The female cyclist was transported by EHS to hospital for assessment and later released with no major injuries. Several passerby’s stopped to assist this cyclist however they did not witness the accident.
The matter is still under investigation and the Halifax Regional Police would request if anyone witnessed this accident or has information on the accident to please contact police at 902-490-5020 or Anonymous tips can be sent to Crime Stoppers by calling toll-free 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), submitting a secure web tip at www.crimestoppers.ns.ca or texting a tip – Tip 202 + your message to 274637.
Twenty students occupied Finance Minister Diana Whalen’s constituency office yesterday, protesting increases in tuition.
Some douchebag named Kirill Bichutsky was going to come to Halifax and show up at The Argyle to take pictures of drunken young women and somehow profit off objectifying them on his website. Bichutsky’s appearance sparked outrage on social media, and Argyle owner Chris Tzaneteas barred Bichutsky from the premises:
“Some folks that called said, ‘Just go on his Twitter account and kind of see who he is all about.’ Which I did, and I found some alarming and offensive tweets,” Tzaneteas told CBC News on Monday.
“I said, ‘Whoa, OK, I’ve got a daughter, I’ve got a young son.’ I definitely don’t want their dad ever promoting anybody who has these kinds of values.”
The Liberals are closing seven rural courthouses, reports the CBC’s Alex Carter:
The plan was announced as a way for the province to save money. The affected locations — courts in Barrington, Comeauville, Liverpool, Lunenburg, Port Hood, Guysborough and Baddeck — are only staffed part-time, and are often only used a few times a month.
Many of the locations are housed in rented buildings and community halls and their closing should save the province nearly $500,000.
Local defence lawyer Michael Taylor says the decision will hurt many people in the court system.
“They don’t have a lot of time to travel. They don’t have cars. They’re not on a transit system. And now they may have to travel an hour and a half or two hours to get to a 9:30 [a.m.] court appearance. That’s going to be very difficult for a lot of people,” he said.
1. The film tax credit and the S-word
Screen Nova Scotia has announced a “massive rally” for tomorrow outside Province House, from noon to 7pm:
The many facets of our industry will be on display during the rally, and we will be featuring a cast of many well-know characters and speakers with important messages. The event will — of course — be filmed!
This rally will no doubt be the best looking group of demonstrators ever to appear at Province House, and the craft table will be to die for.
The rally is of course in protest of the announced cuts to the film tax credit.
So far, premier Stephen McNeil is holding firm. “I understand why people affected by the change are not happy,” he told the Canadian Press Friday. “We don’t have the capacity to write a blank cheque [for the film industry]”
Typically, in the top-down decision-making structure that has come to define the political parties, when the premier, as leader of the party, takes a public stand on an issue, that’s the end of it. But over the last couple of days Liberal Party backbenchers have openly opposed their own government’s cut to the FTC, reports the Chronicle Herald’s Michael Gorman:
There is behind-the-scenes lobbying from within the Liberal party and government to hit pause on changes to the film tax credit, according to multiple sources.
“It’s a lot of worry as to what’s going to happen to the industry,” Fairview-Clayton Park Liberal MLA Patricia Arab said of the comments she’s hearing.
Halifax Chebucto Liberal MLA Joachim Stroink said he’s had “a large number” of responses on the change and he’s compiling them to forward to [Finance Minister Diana] Whalen.
Halifax Atlantic Liberal MLA Brendan Maguire was doing door-to-door canvasing on Sunday. His riding includes many people who work in film and Maguire said he heard many concerns.
“This is probably the No. 1 thing that I’m hearing about,” he said. “There were some good things in that budget so this has definitely overshadowed the entire budget.”
Even Halifax mayor and former Liberal MLA Mike Savage has ever-so-gently criticized the changes to the FTC:
I am reticent to challenge the decisions of other governments as they grapple with tough action…But I think this plan needs to be adjusted.
Some Liberal Party supporters have argued that the provincial party and the national party are distinct, and so potential Liberal candidates in the upcoming federal election shouldn’t have to answer to the changes the provincial party made to the FTC. This is disingenuous — the provincial party web page proudly commingles the national and provincial party executives. But regardless of whatever tiny distinctions party supporters want to make, the public isn’t buying it. Here’s how my neighbour Charlene put it:
LOL! Federal Liberals are canvassing in Downtown Dartmouth [Sunday]… I opened the door and saw the little L buttons and I was like… “You guys have your work cut out for you today… After the budget that was just dropped… There is no way I want to talk to you.” They quickly tried to reassure me by telling me they were from the Federal Liberals… which are different than the provincial… and I said, “It’s all Lies Lies Lies! I will be voting Green in the next Federal Election thank you.”
I don’t live far from Charlene, but for some reason the Liberal canvassers didn’t knock on my door.
I’m hearing similar reactions to the Liberal canvassers all across town. And after film industry reps said they’d use Justin Trudeau’s planned visit to the Masstown Market in Truro to protest cuts to the FTC, Trudeau found an excuse to cancel the event.
In short, the Liberals are wearing the cuts to the FTC, and it may have cost them the chance to displace the NDP MPs in Nova Scotia.
When finance minister Diana Whalen first hinted at changes to the FTC a couple of weeks ago, I was somewhat ambivalent:
Any discussion of the tax code demands honesty and consistency. We shouldn’t have one set of rules for certain people just because we like those people, and a different set of rules for others. I’ve long been critical of the payroll rebates — typically for about seven percent of payroll costs — dished out by Nova Scotia Business, Inc. In defence of those rebates, NSBI trots out an argument that sounds an awful lot like what were now hearing from the film industry: the company will pay lots more in taxes than the rebate, the company will generate lots of economic activity, etc.
When the budget was dropped and we learned of the radical changes to the FTC, I found the cuts too steep, too quick, and faulted the Liberals for the lack of consultation with the industry.
Had the Liberals taken a softer course — say, by announcing they needed to reverse the previous NDP government’s increase (from 35 percent to 50 percent) because it was too generous, and they’d work with the industry on a five-year plan to tighten the credit — there would still had been complaints from the industry, but nothing like the political disaster the Liberals have brought upon themselves.
But all that said, the issue has been troubling me because I still want honesty and consistency, yet I hadn’t, before this morning, been able to find it in my own thoughts.
I don’t want to go all Frank Magazine on you, but there is something unseemly about the millionaire Trailer Park Boys complaining about not getting enough of a tax subsidy. On the other hand, I think Lezlie Lowe and her husband Kevin Lewis are sincere when they say that if the cuts aren’t reversed they’ll have to leave the province for Lewis to find work (presumably they’d take their kids, too). Undoubtedly there are lots of far-less successful people in the industry who will be even more profoundly affected.
On the, I don’t know, third hand or a foot or something, there’s that intellectual dualism in opposing subsidies to banks and convention centres but supporting them for the film industry. I get that the film industry subsidy animal — which was democratically decided in the legislature and is open to all who qualify — is different than the banking industry subsidy animal — which is given to favoured corporations by unelected bureaucrats in backroom deals — but while they may be different species, they’re in the same genus.
I guess I was mulling over all these contradictions in my sleep, because I woke up realizing I’ve been thinking about this all wrong: The disconnect is intentional.
The changes to the film tax credit are just part of the whole Liberal budget, and much of the budget reflects the radical changes called for in Laurel Broten’s review of the province’s tax structure. That document calls for shifting the tax burden off the ultra wealthy and onto the working class. Here’s how Broten explained why the wealthy should get a tax break:
As the Ivany Commission emphasized, innovation and risk taking hold vital keys
to a prosperous economic future in Nova Scotia. The OECD points out that high
top marginal tax rates reduce the payoff for risk taking, so reducing them should boost entrepreneurship and innovative activity in the economy. A boost to entrepreneurship—rewarding risk-takers, dreamers, doers, and builders—is exactly what Nova Scotia needs, and another emphasis of the Ivany report. Nova Scotia needs more people who will stay here or come here to create jobs, strengthen the economy, and build a prosperous future. An important way to do that is to rebalance the risk-reward imperative. This recommendation will provide $36 million in annual tax relief to Nova Scotians.
Broten also wanted to “bring Nova Scotia’s maximum credit rate in line with Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec. Except for documentaries, out-of-province filming should not qualify for the tax credit.”
Right at this moment, there are a slew of readers saying “Wait a minute! Those two things are contradictory! Filmmakers are risk-takers, dreamers, doers, and builders!” And of course the millionaire Trailer Park Boys are, well, among the ultra wealthy that the “tax relief” is aimed at.
So what’s going on? The only way to make sense of this is to understand that Broten’s report and the Liberal budget are austerity politics in action. There’s no delicate way to say this: the point of the budget is to fundamentally skew the political and economic order in favour of the wealthy, and in particular in favour of the finance industry. And that will be accomplished by looting the place. The future is no concern here. We’ll dismantle government programs, privatize what’s left (the Liberals are seriously considering privatizing the DMV), sell off all assets to the highest bidder, cut taxes on the rich, slash the social safety net, bust the unions, and corporatize the universities. This is the agenda. It’s been playing out ever since Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and the financial collapse has been used as the excuse to ramp up the disaster capitalism. The finance industry has won, and most governments in the western world are doing its bidding. Austerity wears a lot of costumes, but the naked truth is it’s the powerful grabbing the few crumbs that were left for the rest.
In the scheme of an austerity budget the film tax credit is a cost, money that’s not going to the powerful. It doesn’t matter that it might help the economy. Austerity politics isn’t about helping the economy. It doesn’t even matter that the film tax credit might help millionaires like the Trailer Park Boys. The Trailer Park Boys might be rich, but they’re not the right kind of rich. Get back to us, boys, when you can short a billion dollar derivative trade.
Which brings me to the S-word: Solidarity.
“We will need your support to stage this production! ” reads the Screen Nova Scotia press release about tomorrow’s demonstration outside Province House. “Please bring your family, friends, and supporters – this production needs as many extras as possible!”
OK, it’s great that film industry people are so popular, that no doubt thousands of “extras” will show up, and it’s great that my Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of people coming in support of the industry.
But I can’t help wondering: where was the film industry when the Liberals came after the nurses?
I want the film industry to be successful in its present fight, but can we add a touch of hate at Rome? Film industry supporters should see the bigger picture. They’ve been targeted by the same politics of austerity that has targeted university students and union members. The film industry is now in its moment of need, and is calling on the public to come out in solidarity. Sure. Yes. But solidarity is a two-way street. Let’s put the cuts to the film tax credit in their broader political context.
One aim of the neoliberal agenda is to atomize us, to break the shared community apart into individuals or at best “interest groups” pitted against each other. When students or union members or film people talk only about their own interests, they’re playing right into the hands of the austerity monsters. Yes, it’s important to detail how we personally are affected by the austerity budget, and yes it’s important to ask others to come to our aid, but we need also to come to listen to how austerity affects others and come to their aid.
We’re all in this together.
City council (1pm)—lots of issues on the table today, but more discussion of the Khyber is probably the biggest. I’ll be live-blogging via the Examiner’s twitter account, @hfxExaminer.
Legislature sits (1pm–10pm, Province House)
Rare-Earth Arsenides (Tuesday, 11am, Chemistry Room 226)—Arthur Mar, from the University of Alberta, will talk about “Homologous series in solid state chemistry: stacking slabs in rare-earth arsenides.” Yea, I don’t either.
Oceanography seminar (Tuesday, 11:30am, LSC, Psychology Wing, Room 5263)—Richard Karsten, from Acadia University, will talk about, I dunno, something about the oceans probably.
In the harbour