In the harbour
1. Austerity budgets
Wednesday, I noted the province’s cut of funding to the Ecology Action Centre’s program to encourage walking and bicycling, commenting that:
Maybe the EAC’s messaging is off and/or the press is getting it wrong, but the Chronicle Herald reports that “the program has been in place for 12 years and is in 24 schools, including eight in Cape Breton, directly engaging with over 2,000 students across the province.”
Let’s do the math here. That’s 50 bucks per kid per year for 12 years. It’s hard to disagree with health minister Leo Glavine. “It was the right decision at this time,” he said. “We have thousands of children who walk to school without any programs in place.”
This morning, EAC director Mark Butler writes as follows:
The cuts to EAC were $100,500. Fifty thousand of that supported school travel planning and related work in schools. The other 55,000 supported EAC in working with municipalities across Nova Scotia in improving active transportation infrastructure (walking and biking). For the school travel planning, along with working with 24 schools we work with 85-100 schools annually to organize Walk to School month. We also provide schools additional support.
The cuts were 100% and with no consultation or warning. We are not aware of too many NGOs that got their DHW funding cut 100%.
When we eventually met with Health Minister Leo Glavine he didn’t seem to know much about the program. There certainly was no departmental evaluation before the cut. There has been no indication at any point that the program wasn’t delivering — quite the opposite. We are happy to have our work evaluated and funding approved based on its merits. Janet Barlow, coordinator of the program, is very diligent and rigourous in her evaluation.
This gives some insight into how the Liberals’ austerity budget is being implemented.
I had thought that the cuts were being made at the last moment, without warning to the organizations being cut, because the Liberals had learned from the film tax credit cuts and didn’t want to give those affected by cuts time to organize a political response.
But the bad timing of the cuts — which have thrown nonprofit agencies into organizational disarray because they can’t plan properly — now appear to be simple governing ham-handedness. The Liberals don’t seem to be conducting any systematic review of their planned cuts and are not attempting to assess value for money. It’s cut, cut, cut, never mind whether what’s being cut is useful or not, reduces future governmental costs, or makes any budgetary sense whatsoever.
Then, when people complain about the cuts, the Liberals throw out bogus stats after the fact to justify the cuts — in this case, the 2,000 students costing $100,000 figure that I repeated uncritically. With the film tax credit, they fed misinformation to Rick Grant and otherwise issuing non-truths to cover their tracks. I suspect rationalizations for many of the other cuts are similarly works of fiction.
The Liberals won an election and have a majority government. They have every right to produce whatever budgets they deem appropriate, and cut organizational funding as they see fit. But without clearly and accurately laying out the fiscal case for the cuts with plenty of time for organizations to plan for the new reality, they’ll lose public support and undermine their chances of getting reelected.
2. The mother of all billboards
“A star-studded list of honorary patrons continue to throw their names behind” the dog-awful “Mother Canada” monument to bad taste that is proposed for the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, reports the CBC’s Catharine Tunney. The listed “patrons” includes MPs Peter Stoffer and Peter MacKay, the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge and Rex Murphy (can we fire them now?), CTV’s Lisa LaFlamme and Lloyd Robertson, Calgary Flames president Brian Burke, and Ian Tyson, among others.
See the complete list of “honoury patrons” here.
Oh, on the Never Forgotten Foundation website, below a tag that reads “Come…Be Humbled,” is this bit:
The Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation has developed recognition opportunities, at varying levels, for both Canadian and International donors. Additionally, there will be exclusive opportunities for major donors and partners to be recognized in the naming of halls, galleries, and displays throughout the memorial site.
As a living, breathing and fully interactive memorial, the Never Forgotten National Memorial will offer ongoing marketing opportunities for individuals and corporate partners
And under the “Interpretive Centre” section of the site more explanation is given:
At the southeast corner of the True North Commemorative Square is the proposed Interpretive Centre. The main hall of this facility will house a snack and gift shop, theatre, display area and visitor amenities and attractions.
The Founders Hall
The facility’s Founders Hall will recognize members of the Founders Club and other generous individuals and organizations who contribute to the creation of the Never Forgotten National Memorial. Naming rights located throughout the Founders Hall and other special areas of the Interpretive Centre will also recognize the contributions of project partners and other major donors.
So basically the thing is one colossal billboard, in a national park.
3. Wild Kingdom
Nova Scotia Senator Wilfred Moore has introduced “legislation aimed at gradually ending the increasingly controversial practice of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity,” reports the Canadian Press:
Moore’s bill would prohibit captive breeding, imports, exports and live captures of all whales, dolphins and porpoises in Canada, while allowing for the rescue of injured individuals.
Amanda Paulley and Frank LeRue found worms in their toothpaste tube.
Stephen Archibald went to Yarmouth and, true to form, meticulously documented the town’s visual wonders. Above is a mural at the Old World Bakery and Deli painted by Yarmouth artist Brian Porter.
2. Senate expenses
“Our senators are about to discover that the public loves a good expense story,” writes Graham Steele:
Maybe not everybody knows what our trade policy should be, and maybe not everybody understands how to build a destroyer or how much a fighter jet goes for, but they know a reasonable price for a glass of orange juice.
3. Evan Solomon
The Toronto Star liked the piece I published Wednesday in Morning File about Evan Solomon, so they asked me to take out all the swearing and tidy up the prose a bit, so they could republish it. Here’s that version.
My friend and Vice reporter Hillary Beaumont discussed Solomon’s situation with Canadaland’s Jesse Brown.
4. Cranky letter of the day
Last week, Quebec Agriculture Minister Pierre Paradis tabled a bill offering the toughest protection for animals the province has ever seen. The bill states, “Animals are not things. They are sentient beings and have biological needs.”
Historically, Quebec has had the weakest laws of protection for animals. The province has been called the “puppy mill capital” of North America.
I hope Mr. Paradis’ legislation is enacted. In Canada, animals are considered property, just like your car, your bike or your lawn mower.
The label “property” has protected some animal abusers. A few years ago, a man in New Brunswick was under investigation for animal cruelty. The SPCA were on their way to seize his 13 (puppy mill) dogs. The man tried to kill the dogs by smashing their heads with a hammer. Five dogs died. One dog survived.
The man was charged with causing pain and suffering to that dog only. He was acquitted of animal cruelty charges in the five deaths. The judge found him not guilty of cruelty in killing his five dogs because she felt he had rendered them unconscious, therefore they did not suffer.
Canada has a long road ahead to enact legislation to protect our animals. To date, not one political party has actually stood up for animals or made it part of their platform.
Animals might not vote, but at the end of each leash, there is a vote. Please be kind to animals.
Tracy Jessiman, Chester
No public meetings. It’s Friday, in the summer, sort of; of course there are no meetings.
In the harbour
Advantage Award, oil tanker, Saint John to Imperial Oil
As Palatia, container ship, Quebec to Pier 41
Fundy Rose, the new passenger ferry for the Digby-Saint John journey, returns to Pier 9 for more work, then will sail for sea trials.
Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, St. John’s to Pier 41
Tasman Strait sails to sea
The cruise ship Saint Laurent is in port today. You have four hours to make a buck off a tourist.
I was driving around a lot yesterday, listening to the car radio. Halifax now has an oldies station devoted to, gulp, 90s music.
I think that, in terms of conflict of interest, a journalist signing on in favour of something that is part of the public debate is far more serious than one brokering art deals in their spare time.
Not to belittle Tim’s commentary, which is bang on, it’s just I’m trying to figure out if there are any consistent standards when it comes to journalistic ethics in this country.
Whoa, the Star! Good on ya, Tim. Do conservativess still call it the Red Star?
In a world where the hard questions are left to Rick Mercer and Jon Stewart I believe that Solomon was no longer the reporter he may have been. Most of the hosts of political shows are PR flaks highly paid to polish the turds of the governing party, poo-poo the concerns of the opposition and punch the hippies whenever possible. Solomon was no exception and had traded his reporter’s ethics for PR flak principles, ie. if you don’t like them he has others.
Sadly, he probably didn’t think trading on his connections was wrong. Sadder still, a number of smart and influential people knew but said nothing. Says something about our “betters” doesn’t it?
It’s nice to see that Senator Moore is concerned about whales. I wonder if he ever turned over the financial records of the Bluenose II Preservation Trust. Now that would be a nice thing to do.
The Interpretive Centre gift shop may end up resembling the 9/11 Museum gift shop: http://nypost.com/2014/05/18/outrage-over-911-museum-gift-shops-crass-souvenirs/
EVAN SOLOMON AND THE BORROWED KETTLE
Solomon’s first answers to questions about his hidden career as an art broker capture exactly Freud’s joke to illustrate the strange logic of dreams.
“I never borrowed a kettle from you. I returned it to you unbroken. It was broken when I got it from you.”
The point is: such an enumeration of inconsistent “explanations” offered by Solomon only confirms what it intends to deny.
Here is a note I sent to MP, Peter Stoffer regarding the Mother Canada thing. Mother Canada? The ick factor just gets worse every time I say it or write it.
Hello, Mr. Stoffer;
I have always regarded you as one of our better MPs, first for your unwavering support for our veterans and your hard work on our veterans behalf. Secondly, as someone who considers himself to have generally progressive views, I have appreciated your principled stance on many issues that concern me as a Nova Scotian and as a Canadian. In short, you have always had my support and admiration.
But, I fear you have been misled by the folks who are promoting a project that I consider to be against the mandate of our National Parks and an affront to our veterans. The promoters of the Mother Canada project have aligned themselves with PM Harper’s obsession with the glorification of war. You, more than anyone know, that the right wing traditionally glorifies war and uses the military conflicts to instil fear in the populace to achieve their own political ends. They then ignore veterans when they return home injured and broken in the name of fiscal responsibility. In short this so called memorial is just another Harper attempt to glorify war and create a more militaristic society. Frankly, the people most likely to object to this proposed Mother Canada theme park are the same people most likely to honour our wounded and fallen soldiers, sailors and airmen when they return home.
I would respectfully request that you reconsider your support for what I consider to be a desecration of our treasured Cape Breton Highlands National Park. As someone who visits this small piece of what’s left of our natural environment at least once or twice per year, I can tell you I will not have the stomach to even drive or paddle by this this ostentatious monument to Stephen Harper’s re-made Canada. And I haven’t even mentioned the blatant commercial pitch being made by the proponents. For more information, I think it would be helpful to read the piece in today’s Halifax Examiner:
As the son of a decorated Second World War veteran, I am asking you to be instrumental in stopping this travesty by simply, but publically, withdrawing your support. I believe your leadership would motivate many others to re-evaluate their support.
Thanks for your deeper explanation of the ethics in the Evan Solomon situation. Like most people, I can tell something’s wrong, but need a bit of handholding to figure out where it is on a scale of one to ten. I see the seriousness a lot more clearly now.
On the subject of conflicts, do you think it’s appropriate for journalists like Mansbridge and LaFlamme to be endorsing one side of a controversial public issue like the monument?
I think they had no idea what the thing is and just put their name to it.
And no, I don’t think it’s appropriate. I think it’s OK for them to express an opinion on it, but to be listed as registered “patrons” crosses a line, imo.