In the harbour
There were two local police-ordered evacuations yesterday. Monday night, a “suspicious package” found at 54 Lakeridge Crescent in Cole Harbour was reported to police, and on Tuesday morning police evacuated all houses within 100 metres of the package. Later in the day RCMP tweeted that “police have examined the suspicious package and determined it contains hazardous chemicals. No explosives.” People were allowed to return to their homes around 5pm.
A few hours later, police evacuated five houses on Dyke Road in Grand Desert, and told people they would not be allowed to return for 24 to 48 hours. “RCMP said they had found hazardous and volatile chemicals in a cottage on the road,” reported the CBC. The Red Cross is providing help, if needed.
The two incidents are related, but police aren’t saying exactly how.
2. Ryan Millet
A four-and-a-half-hour disciplinary hearing was held for Ryan Millet yesterday at Dalhousie University. Millet is one of the 13 men who was a member of the Class of 2015 DDS Gentlemen Facebook page. He says he objected to the offensive content on the page and is responsible for making it public. Millet refused to participate in the restorative justice process offered by the university and opted instead to go before the university’s disciplinary committee.
Millet left the hearing at 9:30pm last night without talking to reporters but his lawyer, Bruce MacIntosh, will hold a press conference this morning.
3. Wellness Centre unwell
The Pictou County Wellness Centre is running a deficit of about $700,000 a year, for three years running. Operational costs for the Wellness Centre are split between the governments of Pictou County and the towns of Stellarton, New Glasgow, Trenton and Pictou. Covering the deficit is a big problem for those cash-strapped communities.
When the nearby Northern Pulp Mill was in the headlines last summer for violating air standards, several people pointed me to the Wellness Centre as an example of what is wrong politically in Pictou County. I guess the idea is that the anti-mill sentiment is a product of a cabal of Progressive Conservative operatives who dominate party politics, and who for some reason went ballistic over the mill because of the new Liberal provincial government. I don’t know that it makes any sense to view the world through such a narrowly focused partisan lens—the smell from the mill offends noses of all party persuasions.
Still, something is amiss with the Wellness Centre.
4. Pedestrian struck by pickup truck
A police release from yesterday:
At 1:44 p.m., police responded to a truck/pedestrian collision at the intersection of Cowie Hill and Limerick Roads. A man in his thirties got off a Halifax Transit bus and attempted to cross the road in front of the bus when he was hit by a Halifax Water pickup truck travelling in the same direction as the bus. He was not in a crosswalk at the time. He was transported to hospital by EHS with undetermined injuries.
The collision remains under investigation and no charges have been laid.
5. Wellington Street, part 2
Yesterday, I raised three issues that have bothered me through council’s debate on the Wellington project: how councillor Darren Fisher, who was disqualified from voting on the issue, stayed in council chambers for the debate; how councillor Matt Whitman had seemingly contradictory votes on it; and how council disregarded advice from its own legal counsel.
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I had hoped to publish a third article in this series today, but the auditor general’s report on the Washmill Underpass fiasco will dominate my time today. See more on that under “Government,” below. Part 3 of the Wellington series will have to wait.
One of the always-bright Examiner commenters points out that December 23 was the date that the province dropped $2.5 million into the Yarmouth ferry and the date that Energy Minister Andrew Younger took a leave of absence. Probably just a coincidence.
1. Sawmill River
I made the wrong choice last night: I went to King’s College to see a bunch of aging former politicians prattle on about the evils of Twitter instead of going to the public meeting about the daylighting of Sawmill River in Dartmouth. If any other reporters were at the Sawmill meeting, they haven’t filed their stories yet, but historian David Jones went and gives a recap.
2. The evils of Twitter
Since the local commentariat is taking the day off, let me quickly elaborate on my complaint above.
At the King’s event, Michael MacMillan, who coauthored the book Tragedy in the Commons with Alison Loat, gave an overview of the book, in which MacMillan and Loat collected the thoughts of 80 former MPs they had interviewed. MacMillan said that all the former MPs saw themselves as outsiders, “anti-politicians,” and each claimed to have been drawn into politics against their better judgments.
“I found this strange,” said MacMillan. “Imagine having open heart surgery and the doctor says, ‘Well, I didn’t want to be a doctor.’” MacMillan went on to make some interesting if inoffensive observations and noted that even the possible solutions to the problems in Parliament offered by the former MPs were “soft and weak.”
But a panel collected to comment on MacMillan’s observations would have none of it. Former premiers John Hamm and Darrell Dexter, and former MP Mary Clancy (a last minute stand-in for former premier Russell MacLellan) were just plain cranky, and offered nothing resembling useful insight. They complained that young people aren’t involved in politics, and then spent 20 minutes complaining about social media—Dexter called it “anti-social media”—completely perplexed that young people have no interest in listening to a bunch of old farts dissing Twitter.
Dexter said that “legitimate newspapers” should shut down their comment sections, or majorly revamp their commenting policies. This might have been an interesting notion to pursue at length at a journalism school gathering, but Dexter threw it out almost as an after-thought just as the meeting was ending.
Not to pick on Dexter, but two of his comments stood out. In defence of the party system and how it operates, he said “the real heroes of the party are the people on the back bench.” I couldn’t help but wonder what Howard Epstein would think of that.
Dexter also said that “if you want a political party you always agree with, you’ll have a party of one,” and went on at length about how compromise between people with broadly similar political aims is the heart of the political party. This is the same Darrell Dexter who strong-armed his caucus, locked dissenters like Epstein out of cabinet, and ran the tightest messaging management regime in Nova Scotia history. In that context, Dexter’s anger at the unmanageable public opinion that unfolds on Twitter is, well, telling.
North West Community Council (9am, City Hall)—this is a special meeting called specifically for a closed session discussion of a “Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board Appeal of North West Community Council Decision.” The agenda doesn’t say, but this is likely an appeal of the community council’s approval of the planning changes to allow the Wellington Street development.
City Council (10am, City Hall)—ongoing budget deliberations.
Audit & Finance Standing Committee (1:30pm, City Hall)—FINALLY, the Washmill Underpass report. Auditor General Larry Munroe told me that he presented the report to CAO Richard Butts in June, and the pair have been going back and forth over the details ever since. To be clear, Munroe had every right to release the report all along, and the decision not to release it was his, not Butts’. There’s no untoward intervention here, just an abundance of caution on Munroe’s part.
For background on the Washmill issue, see the first story I wrote about it in The Coast.
I don’t know what Munroe will reveal today. I’ll be at the meeting and will liveblog it via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer.
No public meetings.
Ethics in Architecture (Wednesday, 9am, Auditorium, Medjuck Architecture Building)—Deborah Gans, from Pratt Institute and Gans Studio in New York, will present.
Whose Crisis: Capital, State, and Labour Today (Wednesday, 12:30pm, Lord Dalhousie Room, Henry Hicks Building)—Leo Panitch is presenting. He “is Canada Research Chair for Comparative Political Economy and Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science at York University. He has been editor of The Socialist Register for 25 years and has written extensively on globalisation and theories of the capitalist state and imperialism. His most recent book, with Sam Gindin, ‘The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire’ (2012) is the product of more than a decade of research, and demonstrates the intimate relationship between modern global capitalism and the American state.”
Ocular Endocannabinoid System (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building)—Melanie Kelly will talk about “Pharmacological Actions and Therapeutic Potential for Drugs Targeting the Ocular Endocannabinoid System: A New Vision or Another Smokescreen.” I think that means eyes.
Ethics in Architecture (Wednesday, 6pm, Auditorium, Medjuck Architecture Building)—Paul Nakazawa, from Harvard, will present.
US-Cuba relations (Thursday, 12:30pm, Lord Dalhousie Room, Henry Hicks Building)—John Kirk, who has written several books on Cuba, will speak on “US-Cuban Relations (Finally) Normalized: the Significance of Recent Events.”
Indigenous Perspectives on Law & Rights (Thursday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library, Ground floor auditorium)—Karen Drake (Métis), Naiomi Metallic (Mi’kmaq), and Sherry Pictou (Mi’kmaq) will speak.
Environmental Justice and Social Transformation (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain building)—”An all-female panel discussion on issues of environmental justice and social transformation. Shubenacadie Band member Dorene Bernard (Mi’kmaw First Nation) graduated from Dal with a Bachelor of Social Work degree and has had a long career in child welfare and community support work. Kaitlyn Mitchell is a lawyer with Ecojustice Canada who is troubled by the inequality that overexposes low-income and First Nations communities to harmful industrial pollution. She has recently worked with Harrietsfield NS residents to protect their groundwater from contamination. Katie Perfitt is a dedicated activist and organizer in Halifax, working with Divest Dal, CYCC, and the Blue Dot project of the David Suzuki Foundation.”
Planetarium show (7:15pm, Room 120, Dunn Building)—”Viewing the wonders of the winter sky” by Tony Schellinck. Five bucks at the door. Leave the more annoying kids at home.
Padraig O’Siadhail (Wednesday, 2:30pm, Room LI135 Patrick Power Library)—O’Siadhail will talk about his new book, Katherine Hughes: a life and a journey.
Public Education and Parental Rights (Thursday, 7pm, Room 255, Sobey building)—Marc Ramsay will speak on “From science to ethics to religion, when parents and educational institutions clash, whose interests prevail, and why?”
I was amused to come across this tweet from Halifax councillor Matt Whitman:
Whitman is famously known for his “positive thinking.” He regularly blocks people on Twitter for “negativity”—he blocked me—and his Twitter feed is full of such glib pronouncements as “The difference between opportunity & obstacle is your attitude,” “There has never been a better time to reflect on relentless courage & resolve fed by love and planted in hope,” and “Do not judge or you too will be judged. Why do you look @ the speck of sawdust in your bro’s eye & pay no attn to the plank in your own eye?”
Does Whitman have any idea what Charlie Hebdo is? It’s the very definition of “negative thinking,” of passing judgment, of rejecting feel-good bullshit aphorism.
It’s possible, of course, that Matt Whitman is self-satire.
In the harbour
Zim Monaco, container ship, Valencia, Spain to Pier 41, then sails to New York.
Busy day today. I’ll be at the Audit and Finance Committee at 1:30pm to hear the Washmill report, and then rush over to talk with Sheldon MacLeod at News 95.7 at 4pm.
The Sawmill River daylighting meeting was an upbeat meeting, with lots of engagement. I left feeling hopeful and optimistic.
PS. Matt Whitman was glued to his smartphone for the entire session.
And now the Chimo Hotel in Ottawa has been evacuated and NS RCMP say it is related to the NS evacuations. Interesting times we live in.