1. One year
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the strike by Chronicle Herald newsroom employees. The union is out picketing for the morning commute: at the MacDonald Bridge, at the Fairview overpass, at the Armdale Roundabout, on Bayers Road. The union asks that supporters join them for a noon hour rally at the Chronicle Herald building on Joseph Howe Road.
To mark the anniversary of the strike, the Halifax Examiner will be rolling out a series of articles about the Herald. The first is Evelyn White’s story about her experiences as a freelancer at the paper. We’ll be publishing more as the week proceeds.
2. Teachers and government reach tentative agreement
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union issued the following press release Friday afternoon:
NSTU ends strike action as teachers and Province reach Tentative Agreement
The province and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU), representing public school teachers, have reached a tentative agreement for about 9,300 public school teachers in Nova Scotia. The current work-to-rule strike action will be suspended and phased out beginning January 23.
“We know that this has been a difficult time for teachers, students, parents, and families,” says NSTU president Liette Doucet. “We thank and appreciate the patience and support we’ve received.”
“In reaching this tentative agreement, we are suspending our work-to-rule job action pending the upcoming ratification vote,” she continues. “We have been focused exclusively on teaching, highlighting the working and learning conditions of teachers and students, and demonstrating how teachers go above and beyond.”
Doucet also says that the NSTU has also been focused on resolving this issue and getting a new agreement for her members. “Both parties worked day and night over the last week to come to this new tentative agreement.”
The NSTU provincial executive reviewed this new tentative agreement today and yesterday and recommended acceptance by the NSTU membership.
This tentative agreement will be provided to NSTU public school members in regional meetings around the province to be scheduled within the next two weeks, in advance of the ratification vote scheduled for February 8. Details of the tentative agreement will not be released until the agreement is ratified by union members. The Teachers’ Provincial Agreement expired on July 31 2015.
Of course, teachers have rejected two previous tentative agreements, so we shouldn’t consider this a done deal.
It’ll be interesting to see the specifics of the agreement. It’s hard to see how the McNeil government could back down on its insistence on a wage freeze. Perhaps the government has made other concessions to teachers — delaying the end of the long-term service awards, or rethinking the absurd data collection requirements placed on teachers — but all of that would be idle speculation at this point. So we wait.
3. Examineradio, episode #97
On this week’s episode we speak with editor and former provincial NDP candidate Abad Khan about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to Halifax last week. Why was the municipal government involved, and how much did it cost City Hall? Would there have been this level of involvement if Mayor Mike Savage wasn’t a former Liberal MP?
Also at the town hall-styled event was NSCC journalism instructor Erin Moore. After she tweeted a photo of her and her son waiting to get in, Ezra Levant used the photo to prove how mainstream media are in the Liberals’ back pockets. Or some such nonsense. I mean, it’s Ezra, right?
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4. Drugs! Be afraid! (or something)
The CBC has been dropping a lot of Freedom of Information requests lately. This is a very good thing: it fulfills the watchdog function of the press, and it can lead to some excellent work. The recent revelations about the racial disparity of those targeted by police checks, for instance, is top-notch journalism. The ceeb, reporter Phlis McGregor, and the other journalists who worked on the project should be congratulated and commended.
But not every FOI request filed brings back meaningful data. Sometimes, all you get is junk, and the particular investigation should be abandoned. A lot of times, the information received should be a starting point for more reporting and more investigation — the data (or even the lack of data) should cause a reporter to twig that there’s a larger, incomplete story that can be pursued.
And yet, whenever the CBC files a Freedom of Information request, it seems to run a story about the data received, no matter how incomplete or meaningless they are. In such cases, the result is shoddy journalism.
Take, for example, yesterday’s article by reporter David Burke, headlined “Why drug traffickers logging huge highway miles are endangering the public“:
Drug traffickers driving long distances to transport their illegal wares are putting the public at risk with their non-stop driving, say the RCMP.
“You’ll see people going from Montreal to Cape Breton and they’re barely stopping to eat or sleep or do anything,” said Const. Mark Skinner.
That’s an odd lede. Together with the headline, it suggests we’re about to get evidence that drug traffickers are more dangerous drivers than the methed-up long-distance truckers, coke-snorting holidayers, tired commuters, or moonshining farmhands on the roads. Perhaps they are, but intuitively, I think drug mules worried about getting stopped by the cops are probably better drivers and more adhere to speed limits than most. Maybe I’m wrong.
Is Burke going to explore the issue and help us learn something? No, because despite the headline and lede, that’s not what’s the article is about. Instead, this is a FOI request-driven article about drug seizures on the province’s highways.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with filing such a FOI request. It could lead to interesting information. It could uncover an important social or public policy issue that only such data could reveal. The more of this kind of exploratory research, the better.
But the results in this case — “For the first six months of 2016, Nova Scotia RCMP made 199 drug seizures on the province’s highways,” writes Burke — by themselves don’t merit an article. Is 199 a lot? How does that compare to other provinces? To previous years? What’s the context here? How big of a nuisance is this?
What context that is given is completely useless:
Skinner said RCMP often find a range of substances in the cars being driven by traffickers, including cocaine, acid, prescription drugs, methamphetamines, mushrooms and marijuana.
The information provided by the RCMP didn’t include the type and quantity of drugs seized.
So we’re talking everything from a dead roach in the astray to grandma’s expired prescription pills in the glovebox to a case of purloined OxyContin in the trunk to eight tonnes of hash hidden beneath the floorboards. I would helpfully submit that without further analysis, this is completely useless information.
Another subject for analysis might be: Did any of these seizures lead to actual charges or, better yet, convictions? And come on — just two weeks ago the CBC published an explosive article revealing that people stopped by cops are de facto being racially profiled; could we perhaps get some discussion of that?
It appears that the data received did not get into the demographics of the people being stopped. Well, OK. Maybe the CBC is following up on the initial FOI request with more requests to dwell into that issue, in which case some consideration should have been given to delaying publishing on the issue. But if they absolutely had to publish something, shouldn’t the demographic / police check issue at least have been mentioned? It is not.
And so we get shoddy, meandering “reporting” like this:
Organized crime is usually involved in the movement of illegal drugs, sometimes through an established network with a well-defined hierarchy or just a loose group of people working together.
Hmmm. “Organized crime” is either very organized or not organized at all. That’s insightful.
And then this:
Most drug traffickers are using everyday passenger vehicles like cars, trucks and SUVs to travel on the highways.
Look, you asshole drug traffickers: it’d be a lot easier to pinpoint you if you would drive a Gigahorse:
But since drug traffickers cleverly use regular vehicles like the rest of us:
Specially trained RCMP officers work to determine if a vehicle is transporting drugs.
So much is loaded in that sentence. A curious reporter would ask: wait, what kind of training? Is there a manual or something that teaches a cop how to tell that when I’m driving my Honda Civic up the 104 I’m moving drugs as opposed to just en route to the Anne Murray Museum? Is this racial or demographic profiling?
But Burke ignores those potential questions and jumps to this:
The destination for some of those trafficked drugs is Halifax, the largest city in the Maritimes. However, the roadways are only one way of getting drugs into the city, said Det. Sgt. Darrell Gaudet.
“It can come in through the mail, come in through the road … through water,” said the head of Halifax Regional Police’s drug unit.
So, basically every conceivable means of transport is suspect, and worthy of police interest.
Because that data received by the CBC isn’t getting at anything in specific, and because Burke doesn’t have a way to intelligently discuss the issue, what we’re left with is an advertisement for increased police stops:
• Drug traffickers are dangerous drivers! (With no evidence to back that up.)
• Drug stops resulted in 199 seizures of drugs that would’ve otherwise flooded our streets with billions of tonnes of Fentanyl and killed every church-going, hockey hopeful teenager in the neighbourhood! (Although the stats don’t give any insight into what kind of drugs were seized.)
• Cops are trained! (We don’t know how, just trust us.)
• Drug traffickers use regular vehicles like the rest of us, so all vehicles are suspect.
• Everything normal people do in the course of everyday life — use the mail, take the ferry, drive a car — is a potential drug deal in action.
Therefore… as my old friend Khaled puts it:
It’s written like a stale public affairs job circa 1984. The drug mob is endangering our safety by driving on the highway, so we all should be reasonable and cooperate. And all of you who drive long treks (or God forbid live in your cars), we just need to check ya out.
The role of a free press is not to write thoughtless, inane, and warrantless justifications for increasing the intrusion of police into our lives. That’s what bloated police communications departments are for. (As I’ve written before, if every reporter were to disappear tomorrow, the corporations and governments and police departments would have no problem getting their messages out — our job as reporters is not to be their stenographers.)
I don’t know: There might be interesting and revealing information that is still to be discovered about drug seizures on our highways, but Burke didn’t give any to us.
Moreover, we’ve been conducting this stupid war on drugs for a century with no tangible positive results; on the negative side there are the families and communities that have been victimized by it, the creation of a huge revenue stream for criminals, the explosion in prison populations and the deep and pervasive corruption of policing and courts that comes with it, and the destabilization of entire countries.
Further, when we reporters write about drugs and problems related to them, we should acknowledge that there’s a wider debate about criminalization versus harm reduction, and give the counter-context successful decriminalization strategies.
It’s just lazy reporting to imply that increasing the presence of police in our lives is the only answer to the drug problem.
5. Pedestrians struck
At approximately 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, January 19 Halifax Regional Police responded to a car vs pedestrian collision at the intersection of Jubilee Road and Preston Street in Halifax. A car being driven by a 69-year-old man was travelling Eastbound on Jubilee Road when he struck a female pedestrian in the crosswalk at Preston Street. The 24-year-old pedestrian was assessed and transported to hospital by EHS Paramedics for non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the car was issued a Summary Offence Ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian within a marked crosswalk.
At approximately 7:30 pm Halifax Regional Police responded to a report that a car had driven into the business at 5639 Spring Garden Rd, Halifax. After arriving at the scene HRP determined that the taxi, driven by a 43 year old man, was traveling southbound on Dresden Row. He struck a 37 year old woman who was walking eastbound on Spring Garden Rd and crossing Dresden Row, in a marked crosswalk. The taxi then made a wide turn westbound onto Spring Garden Rd and accelerated over the sidewalk and into the business. The driver of the taxi received minor injuries in the crash. Both the taxi driver and the pedestrian were assessed and transported to hospital by EHS paramedics for non life threatening injuries. The driver was issued a summary offence ticket for failing to stop at a red light and for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk.
At approximately 7:10 pm Halifax region police responded to a report of a car pedestrian collision in the intersection of Gottingen St and Cogswell St in Halifax. A car driven by a 37 year old female from Halifax, was turning left from Gottingen St onto Cogswell St when she struck a pedestrian who was walking north across Cogswell St in a marked crosswalk . The pedestrian, a 50 year old man from Halifax, was assessed and transported to hospital by EHS with non life threatening injuries. A decision on charges will be made when the investigation is complete.
1. The first column I never wrote for the Chronicle Herald
On the one-year anniversary of the Chronicle Herald strike, Evelyn C. White writes of her stint as a freelancer for the paper, including the time a staffer doubted that a Black woman would be welcomed at a swanky golf club.
2. What’s an un-built McMansion really worth?
“Is $119 million for an undeveloped chunk of un-serviced land in the middle of an area already designated to become a public wilderness park really fair market value?” asks Stephen Kimber, who goes on to provide a two-letter answer to that question.
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
3. “Still We Rise”
Examiner contributor El Jones performed at the Women’s March at Grand Parade Saturday. A subscriber caught most of the performance on video, and Jones graciously allowed us to reprint the text of the poem. Find both here.
4. Could we put a whale in Centennial Pool?
“Canada celebrated its 100th birthday 50 years ago, in 1967. To commemorate the event, the Federal government offered funding for civic projects across the country,” writes Peter Ziobrowski. “The result was a legacy of centennial arenas, museums, and even a UFO landing pad built across the country to commemorate Canada’s birthday.”
UFO landing pad? Yep:
In 1967, a proposal was made to build the world’s first UFO Landing Pad as a landmark for the town [of St. Paul, Alberta]. The Government of Canada responded to this proposition and, during the grand opening on June 3 1967, St. Paul was declared the Centennial Capital of Canada.
In the 1990s, Mayor Paul Langevin officially opened an adjacent UFO tourist information centre to welcome visitors. As you enter St. Paul from the West, drop in to visit this landmark and see the UFO exhibit downstairs. This is an opportunity to view actual photographs of UFOs, crop circles and cattle mutilations. The exhibit is designed to educate. A UFO Hotline compliments the display with reports of UFO sightings and encounters of all kinds.
“The exhibit is designed to educate.” Uh-huh.
Anyway, here in Halifax, writes Ziobrowski:
In August 1964, the City of Halifax’s Centennial Committee met to review suggestions for a suitable Centennial project…
The Halifax committee reviewed the options, and suggested to Council that an aquarium was the most suitable project…The city then began a series of discussions about where the aquarium should be located… [and in] November 1964, City Field or a lot at the corner of Bell Road and Ahern Street were suggested as possible locations. The city also hired architect Aza Avramovitch & Associates to do design work, for a fee of $35,000.
As planned, the aquarium was to be a circular three-storey structure, of about 30,000 sq ft total, constructed of precast concrete. The programming would feature an emphasis on local fish, and the centrepiece was to be a two-storey, 42′-diameter beluga whale tank. The aquarium was viewed as the first piece of a civic square, with a science museum, and possibly a new city hall and performance theatre being constructed in the complex.
So where’s our beluga whales? Well, long story short, unlike our mucky mucks today, the mucky mucks of the day could recognize a white elephant when it came marching towards them, even in the form of a whale house, so they aborted the whales (the metaphors are getting messy here) and instead built Centennial Pool.
5. Round and octagonal buildings
“A delightful little architecture tale we enjoy telling in Halifax is that Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, had a fondness for round buildings and left us four examples,” writes Stephen Archibald, who goes on to detail the Martello Tower, the Town Clock, St. George’s round church, and the prince’s personal Music Room, now called Prince’s Lodge.
Archibald says the Town Clock inspired the bandstand in the Public Gardens, which he admits is more octagonal than round, but better to expand on a post about round buildings by digressing into octagonal ones than to cut short a perfectly good stream-of-consciousness, eh? And so Archibald explores a bunch more octagonal buildings that have nothing to do with the prince.
Police Commission (12:30pm, City Hall) — continued discussion of the department budget.
No public meetings.
Thesis Defence, Physiology and Biophysics (9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Andrea Nuschke will defend her thesis, “Spatiotemporal Assessment of Axonal Transport and Cytoskeletal Structure in Retinal Ganglion Cells Following Acute Elevated Intraocular Pressure in the Rat.” Bring your own rat.
Trans Issues on Campus: Answering Your Questions (2pm, Room B400, Killam Library) — Alexandre Baril answers anonymous questions about trans issues. Register here.
Senate (3pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — agenda here; I’m told that this week Richard Florizone will finally answer some questions about that MIT junket.
Beyond Colonialism? Libraries for a Canada We Don’t Yet Know (4pm, Paul O’Regan Hall, Halifax Central Library) — Monique Woroniak, from the Winnipeg Public Library, will speak.
The Human Genome (7:30pm, Just Us coffee shop, 5896 Spring Garden Rd) — Andrew Fenton will moderate the “Café Scientifique — Fixing the Human Genome: Promises and Pitfalls — What Can We Do, What Should We Do?” with panelists Graham Dallaire (from Dal) and Josephine Johnson (from Columbia University).
In the harbour
5am: Itea, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
4pm: CSCL Asia, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Port Klang, Malaysia
4pm: Itea, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
6pm: Atlantic Pioneer, cargo ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Puerto Tarafa, Cuba
9:30pm: CSCL Asia, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
When it was built in 2004, CSCL Asia was the world’s largest container ship, at over 100,000 tonnes and with a capacity of 8,500 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units), and was placed on China Shipping’s cross-Pacific routes. More recently, the ship was moved to the company’s “Columbus Loop.” Halifax is the ship’s first east coast stop after transversing the Suez Canal; from here it heads on to New York, Norfolk, Charleston, and Savannah, then back around Africa to Malaysia.
There will be more articles coming today, likely. One’s with the lawyer, I’m writing a second, another… I don’t know where it is, but maybe.