1. Laurel Broten
The Liberal government has appointed Liberal insider Laurel Broten as president and CEO of Nova Scotia Business, Inc. Yesterday I explained how this plucky immigrant proves that Nova Scotia is the land of opportunity.
Broten is the former Ontario Environment minister who is perhaps best known for the “garage mahal,” a two-storey garage with a car elevator she wanted to build to house her husband’s four cars; she dropped the plans in face of her Etobicoke neighbours’ opposition. Her husband is Paul Laberge, who has been hired as senior counsel for special projects at Emera. In 2013, the couple paid $766,000 for a house at the end of a road in the sprawling Kingswood subdivision, a relatively modest price for the neighbourhood; a google maps satellite view of the house shows it has a substantial garage.
The Chronicle Herald’s Paul MacLeod reports that Broten will be paid $210,000 at NSBI. John Wesley Chisholm says that Broten once told him that “I am not a numbers person.” At NSBI she will oversee a budget of about $25 million.
2. Man making $350,000+ says others are paid too much
Halifax CAO Richard Butts told Halifax council that city employees are getting paid too much.
When Butts was first hired I was skeptical about him, but when I saw him in action, I was actually a bit impressed—Butts would stand while addressing council, he was well-dressed, he seemed to understand his role as a bureaucrat serving the politicians who employed him.
Of course, Butts is still a resident of Toronto. He maintains a house in Toronto with his wife, who is high in the civil service in Ontario, and flies to Halifax every Monday morning, staying here through the week, flying back to Toronto Friday evening. A few years ago, on one of my trips to the Big Smoke, I went and looked at his house—it’s a few blocks from the Eglinton subway station, in a remarkably modest neighbourhood. I’m told he likes Halifax, and he and his wife stay here many weekends.
However, of late Butts seems detached from his Halifax duties. He long ago stopped standing when he addresses council, and he’s dressing down—as I recall, a few weeks ago I was better dressed than Butts, which is saying a lot; at one recent meeting he was wearing a sweat shirt. Butts was late to Monday’s Police Commission meeting, and offhandedly apologized.
It feels like Butts has one foot out the door. A former Deputy City Manager for Toronto, Butts would be a strong candidate to replace departing Toronto City Manager Joe Pennachetti, who retires in April.
Maybe the Ontario-Nova Scotia public servant ratio is a zero-sum game: with Broten coming here, Butts is required to go back to Ontario. Maybe.
3. Breastfeeding OK
Melissa Holt, the woman who was told by a health inspector that she can’t breastfeed while selling goods at the Farmers’ Market, has received a letter from Barry MacGregor, the province’s director of food safety, saying it was all a misunderstanding. He’s apologetic, she’s happy, and the baby just wants to be fed.
4. Dalhousie Dental School
The Coast’s Jacob Boon is reporting that while 13 male dentistry students were suspended from clinical practice and placed in parallel classes, there were 15 members of the offending Facebook page, and the other two members are working and studying alongside their female classmates. As I did yesterday, Boon complains about Dal’s communications department’s non-responses to reporters’ questions, which Boon characterizes as an “omertà tactic.”
5. Dawgfather and free speech
The Dawgfather, aka Jerry Reddick, is the man best known for selling hot dogs outside the Dal Student Union and for his unsuccessful run for city council in 2012. Reddick is also a devout Muslim (the hot dogs are beef). Yesterday, in response to the Charlie Hebdo situation in France, Reddick took to Twitter and made a series of anti-Semitic “jokes,” which he says made a political point:
The Halifax police have announced they are investigating “a complaint about anti-Semitic comments made on social media,” presumably Reddick’s tweets. But Reddick has a point. Don’t get me wrong—I think Muslims are as much fair game for satire as anyone else, but we in North America are a bit hypocritical about this. Yesterday, Read’s Newsstand and Cafe in Moncton announced it is selling the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo, which has a cover showing a tearful Mohammed. That’s all well and good, but there are, what? eight Muslims in Moncton? That’s hardly in the spirit of Charlie Hebdo, which through its long run has been an equal opportunity satirist, insulting all religions. If Read’s wants to stand in solidarity with the free speech rights of satirists, it should sell a periodical that will rile up the largely French Catholic population of the area, say something with Piss Christ on the cover:
Piss Christ was a 1987 work by American artist Andres Serrano, a photo showing a crucifix in a glass of Serrano’s urine. The work has considerable artistic merit, not the least because Serrano, raised as a Catholic (as was I), was making a political statement about the commercialization and cheapening of religion. Still, the image sent Catholics into a frenzy; many (but not all) Catholics and other Christians wanted the work banned from museums, and Serrano received death threats not unlike the threats made against Charlie Hebdo staffers through the years.
The fact is, we in North America don’t have much acceptance for even mildly provocative work like Serrano’s, much less satire that openly ridicules, like that found in Charlie Hebdo. Our press is by and large timid and compliant, unable or unwilling to challenge the powers that be. In Halifax, the prevailing “church” is the business class, whose every utterance is dutifully transcribed in the pages of the Chronicle Herald as the spoken word of god. The buzzwords and campaigns promulgated by the likes of Greater Halifax Partnership are treated by a wide swath of the population as were papal encyclicals by Medieval scribes.
Meanwhile, some academics are sure to come to the defence of any racist or misogynist in town, but are strangely silent when, say, a developer initiates a SLAPP suit against a citizens’ group that dares to question the Nova Centre.
Sure, let’s celebrate free speech. But it’s real easy to support free speech when it takes on the already marginalized. Let’s see if we can celebrate the free speech that actually takes risks.
Andrea Arbic, Peggy Cameron, Kathy Moggridge, Steve Parcell and J. Grant Wanzel condemn proposed exemptions to planning rules for developments planned along Quinpool road.
Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (1pm, City Hall)—the committee will look at the weed problem in Dartmouth lakes and new pesticide regulations. We’ll have a full report on this later today.
Public information meeting (7pm, St. Peter’s Anglican Church Hall)—Eastlink wants to build a 30-metre cell phone tower between Dunbrack Street and 90 Donaldson Avenue. More information here.
Standing Committee on Resources (9am, Room 233A, Johnston Building)—Keltie Butler and Natalie Smith, respectively the Executive Director and President of Farmers Markets of Nova Scotia, will be questioned.
Scallops (Thursday, 11:30am, 5th floor Biology Lounge, LSC)—Helga Guderley will talk on “Scallop escape response strategies: Impact of reproduction and morphology, or, Serendipity and the Impact of Choices in Science.”
Twitter may be evil (Thursday, 1pm, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building, Room 3089)—PhD candidate Ryan Deschamps will discuss “Social Activism on Twitter: How ‘Wise’ are Online Social Movements?”
Forum on Misogyny (Thursday, 1pm, McInnes Room, Student Union Building)—”A forum co-sponsored by the DSU and the Gender and Women’s Studies program to discuss how we can harness momentum for transformation in our campus community.”
What stuff means (Thursday, 1:30pm, Slonim Conference room, Goldberg Computer Science Building)—Raymond Ng, from the Computer Science at the University of British Columbia, will talk on “Rhetorical Structure Analysis and its Application to Sentiment Summarization.”
Aquaculture (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain building)—Meinhard Doelle and Bill Lahey will talk about their recent report of their Independent Review Panel on Aquaculture regulations. More here (behind the Examiner’s pay wall).
Oceans (Friday, 12:30pm, Lord Dalhousie Room, Henry Hicks Building)—Clive Schofield, from the University of Wollongong, will talk on “Advances in the Spatial Governance of Oceans in Europe and Beyond.”
Synchrosomething something something (Friday, 12:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building)—Tsun-Kong (T.K.) Sham, from the University of Western Ontario, will talk on “The Interplay of Synchrotron Spectroscopy with Performance of Functional Materials—Addressing Scientific Issues with Synchrotron Capabilities.” Yep, that.
Psychology (Friday, 3:30pm, Life Sciences Centre 4263 Psychology Wing)—Kevin Kelloway, President Elect and Karen Cohen, Chief Executive Officer, of the Canadian Psychological Association, will present “Psychology in Canada 2014/2015: Agendas and Activities for Science and Practice.”
Sufi Polemics (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building)—Historian Amal Ghazl will discuss “‘Illiberal’ Thought in the Liberal Age: Dream-stores and Sufi Polemics Against the Modern Era.”
Sea turtles (Thursday, 1pm, Loyola, Room 271)—Mike James, a Marine Turtle Ecologist at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, will talk about “Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles in Canada.”
Thesis defence, International Development (Thursday, 2:30pm, McNally Main 211)—master’s student Meagan Symington will defend her thesis, “Community-Based Conservation and Development: The Case of the Mourri Kunda Community Forest in Tujereng, The Gambia.”
Thesis defence, Business Administration (Friday, 1pm, Loyola 173)—PhD candidate Shannon Webb will defend her thesis, “Expedited Arbitration: Is it Expeditious? Evidence from Canada.”
In the harbour
I’ll try to update shipping information later this morning.
This is a rushed edition of Morning File, as I am attending the Bold Halifax breakfast at 8am.