Weather is happening.
2. Examineradio, episode #43
This week I talk with Buzzfeed Canada’s Paul McLeod about the changing Canadian media landscape, then learn that I should probably buy a comb.
3. Musquodoboit Valley Co-op
“After 78 years in business, the Musquodoboit Valley Co-op closed its doors for good Sunday afternoon,” reports Francis Campbell of the Chronicle Herald:
While the population of the Valley may have stayed relatively steady, [Co-op board president John] Tilley said many of the newcomers to the area work in Halifax, own a small two- or three-hectare farm and raise a few animals. He said the Musquodoboit Valley store and its 1,200 members and Co-op stores all across the province were struggling because, based on sheer sales volume, they had difficulty competing with Walmart, Superstore or Sobeys.
“Long ago, we gave up on the idea of loyalty of our members,” [board member Lyle] Bates said about residents commuting to Halifax to work and doing their shopping there. “That’s a trend, and it didn’t start yesterday.”
Stephen Kimber makes an important observation about proposed changes in the distribution of fire resources:
More generally, but as significantly, we have developed understandable distrust of public officials and corporate spokespeople who tell us we can do better with less when the opposite is usually true.
This is something I’ve worried about personally for a long time. I’ve been more than willing to call bullshit when I see it, and I hope that in some degree I’ve helped people understand exactly how bullshit in official circles plays out. But sometimes I fear I’m helping to poison the well. I generally believe in at least the promise of government, and fear that the real powers that be — the ultra rich who sit in corporate boardrooms — want nothing more than to breed distrust of government so that they’ll have free rein to do as they please. Complete distrust of government, no matter what the particulars, leads to less regulation of corporations, lower taxes on the wealthy, the decimation of the social safety net, and worse.
The reality is that many politicians have seen where the power lays, and jump on the bandwagon. Our current provincial Liberal government is a perfect example — it has embraced an austerity regime that enriches the wealthy and impoverishes everyone else. For this, they will be personally rewarded. Is there any doubt that after he’s done premiering, Stephen McNeil will land in a neoliberal think tank or some other highly paid corporate welfare gig?
And yet there are plenty of public officials who are good, decent people, trying to do the best job they can and do right by the citizenry. I talk to them pretty much every day — people in city hall or in provincial back offices, or constituent workers in all three parties working to make government operate correctly. Fire chief Doug Trussler is one of them. I don’t think he’s incompetent, and I don’t think he’s one of the old boys. In fact, he is the opposite, a professional who knows what he’s doing and who is trying to nudge an old, tired bureaucracy into the 21st century. I trust him. But believe me, if he gave me reason not to trust him, I’d be the first to call him out.
I’ve written plenty about Trussler’s proposed redistribution of fire resources, so I won’t re-hash all that now, except to say that the short of it is that given the limited budget council has set for the fire department and the response time standards council has established, and trying to meet what Trussler (bolstered by outside consultants and insurance companies) considers the best way to improve performance of the department, he has suggested redeploying firefighters and firetrucks in such a way that four, not two, firefighters will respond to fire calls.
Four firefighters responding to a call can safely enter a burning building to save lives. Two firefighters arriving at a scene, even more quickly, cannot: they must simply wait outside and watch the building burn down.
Kimber boils the issue down as such:
The issues are multi-dimensional — urbanization, expanding suburbs, national response time standards, changing technology, evolving data collection, economic trade-offs — and the discussion needs to be multi-dimensional too. Are councillors up to that challenge? We shall see Tuesday.
I think it’s going to be an ugly meeting, as councillors decide they’re instant experts in fire department management. Trussler has already put up with more assaults on his character than any responsible public official should have to deal with. I wouldn’t blame him if, no matter what council decides, he quits his job and goes into retirement, leaving the rubes and instant experts who run Halifax to fend for themselves.
Parker Donham lambasts Mary Campbell’s review of Sydney port history (which I linked to last week), hilariously condemning Campbell for her “smart-alecky tone.” It’s like a room for kettles calling a lone pot black.
Anyway, I was going to off on a riff about ports and expectations and how delusional thinking leads to…. but I don’t have time. You’ll have to riff amongst yourselves.
3. Cranky letter of the day
As I wrote this, I had just arrived home from walking my dog and now understand part of the reason people are being struck in HRM crosswalks.
I was waiting at an intersection for the walk light to turn green when a lady motorist, who was also at the lights, asked for directions. After explaining directions to her, the light turned green, so I proceeded to cross the road. Well, not only did she cut me off in the crosswalk, but the driver behind did as well. They both looked directly at me and did not bat an eye.
The province and city can make laws and attach fines, but there is no solution for ignorance.
Bob MacNeil, Lower Sackville
Districts 7 & 8 Planning Advisory Committee (4pm, City Hall) — nothing much is on the agenda.
Northwest Community Council (7pm, Bedford-Hammonds Plains Community Centre) — a public hearing for a proposal from Bluenose Inn & Suites for a nine-storey mixed use (commercial/residential) building with approximately 102 residential units and 7000 square feet of commercial space at 636 Bedford Highway.
No public meetings.
Senate (4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Building) — here’s the agenda.
Still Alice (7pm, QEII Royal Bank Theatre, Halifax Infirmary) — a screening of the 2015 film directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland and starring Julianne Moore. The film is about a linguistics professor and her family who deal with her diagnoses of Alzheimer’s Disease. After the screening, there will be a panel discussion involving Francoise Baylis (bioethicist & philosopher), Sultan Darvesh (neurologist & geriatrician), Faye Forbes (reverend & patient advocate), and moderator Timothy Krahn.
This date in history
On January 11, 1996, the wild blueberry was boldly proclaimed the Provincial Berry of the Province. The legislature had debated Bill 48 a few weeks before, just as the Liberal government of John Savage was trying to rush through its legislative agenda before the Christmas break.
Immediately before the blueberry bill, a bill to reorganize health authorities was debated. “I don’t believe that big is necessarily better but there seems to be a strange preoccupation with the present government that we have to make everything bigger, whether it is municipalities, whether it is school boards or whether it is health care facilities,” argued Ron Russell. But house speaker Paul MacEwan refused to delay a vote on that bill so that the NDP’s Robert Chisholm and John Holm could be present.
By the time the blueberry bill came up for debate, Chisholm was present, and he and Russell began giving the speaker what-for for breaking precedent and calling the vote. “We are dealing with second reading of the Provincial Berry Act, Bill No. 48, and if there is a speaker on that bill, I will recognize the speaker,” replied MacEwan. “I have made my ruling on this already, while the honourable members were out.”
And so blueberries were debated, sort of.
“We have a Nova Scotia duck troller, a nice dog, and we have a blueberry, Mr. Speaker, as the official berry for Nova Scotia,” argued John Holm. “We have record unemployment, we have assaults being made on part-time workers, we have problems in the health care system because this government is too pig-headed, they are unwilling to sit down and try to resolve issues. But, obviously, they are so busy dreaming up the berry bill that they don’t have time to address the other crucial issues.”
George Archibald rudely but correctly pointed out that Ross Bragg, the Liberal MLA for Cumberland North, was the nephew of John Bragg of the Bragg blueberry “conglomerate.”
But in the end the bill passed, 34-1, with only Russell voting against.
I don’t write about pop culture because I’m not hip and don’t know anything about anything. I will say this, though: I saw David Bowie’s Serious Moonlight tour in Norfolk, Virginia in 1983. I had the world knowledge and experience of a toadstool, but somehow a girlfriend who was several leagues beyond me. In a word, I was a twerp. Bowie was dismissive of and uninterested in the crowd — he could’ve been in Memphis or Berlin or Vancouver, and made it clear he didn’t care. Still, something happened on that stage… I dunno, the world opened up a bit for me. It was part of an awakening for me that eventually led to all sorts of weird and dark places, but got me to where I am now, for better and worse.
And last year I was fortunate enough to find myself in Chicago with enough free time to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art and check out the Bowie exhibit. It was fun and insightful stuff. He was a large person, and the world was a more interesting place because of him.
In the harbour
The port is closed this morning due to high winds. The Port Authority will reevaluate the situation at 10am.
We’ll publish Erica Butler’s next column this afternoon.