News

1. Council pay and publicly financed election campaigns

On Tuesday, Halifax councillor Shawn Cleary tried to revisit the ever-contentious issue of council pay, asking for a freeze on councillors’ salary until the issue can be studied again, but his motion was voted down. I had already left the meeting, but as Jacob Boon reports for The Coast:

[Councillor Russell] Walker claimed his residents in Halifax–Bedford Basin West don’t care about his salary and suggested Cleary and Craig’s reasons for bringing the issue forward were personal.



“Maybe you shouldn’t have run for council if you didn’t want the conditions that come with council?” 

That annoying sense of entitlement aside, I don’t have a problem with high pay for councillors (councillors get paid $85,443.94 this year), except that the very same highly paid councillors have approved contracts that pay other workers poverty wages. A high council salary should be dependent upon a living wage ordinance. Full stop.

Interestingly, parallel to the effort to recalculate council pay is an effort to establish new campaign finance rules. These rules are long overdue — the provincial and federal governments prohibit donations from corporations and unions, and set limits on campaign contributions, rules that don’t apply for city elections. Without those rules, there are charges that councillors are in the pockets of the development companies that funded their campaigns.

But why not marry the two issues?

The best financed council campaign last year, with just over $20,000 in contributions, was Waye Mason’s. The average successful candidate raised about $15,000. There were of course unsuccessful candidates, about three per district, most of whom could not raise the same sort of money as the winning candidates.

But for the sake of argument, let’s imagine a publicly financed election campaign, where each candidate is allotted $15,000 in straight-up cash and in-kind services like a publicly hosted website for candidate info and propaganda. With four candidates per district, that’d be $60,000 per district.

We could fund publicly financed election campaigns by reducing council pay by $15,000, to $70,443.94 annually. There’d be no net increase in costs to the city, and councillors would still get paid more than the average citizen. Moreover, and more to the point, we could outlaw all campaign contributions, taking that issue off the table, and publicly financed campaigns would open up the election to candidates who cannot now raise the kind of money needed to compete successfully.

2. Minas Basin turbines

Tugboats pull a barge containing the OpenHydro turbine into position near Parrsboro Nova Scotia on Thursday 12th November 2009. Cape Split is in the background. Photo: CNS/Len Wagg

“Contrary to earlier predictions, sediment texture in the Bay of Fundy is unlikely to change if we introduce large-scale tidal power development, according to the head of Dalhousie University’s Oceanography Department,” reports Chris Lambie.

Rather, the bigger threat from the turbines is probably to large sea creatures that are already at risk of extinction, says Paul Hill.

Click here to read “Dal oceanographer: Tidal turbines won’t affect Minas Basin sediments.”

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.

3. Court Watch

This week, Examiner court columnist Christina Macdonald discusses the Michael Kobylanski case, Lyle Howe’s disciplinary hearing, the six Bridgewater boys who pleaded guilty to sharing intimate images, and an ongoing disabilities rights case, among other issues.

Click here to read Court Watch.

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.

4. North Preston church

Photo: Eric Wynne / Local Xpress

“Fire ripped through the back end of the Saint Thomas United Baptist Church in North Preston on Wednesday morning,” reports Francis Campbell for Local Xpress:

Nearby, a shaken Rev. Wallace Smith, pastor of the congregation that gathers every Sunday morning at 11 a.m. for service at the church at the corner of Simmonds Road and Isaiah Lane, talked with several people sitting inside a vehicle.

Smith said he would not comment about the fire but would speak later. The pastor said services would be held in the North Preston Community Centre, across the road, for the immediate future.


Views

1. Opposition leaders

“The opposition parties face four key disadvantages compared to the government party,” writes Graham Steele:

First, the power of incumbency. MLAs are essentially being paid to campaign, and by definition the government has more incumbents.

Second, the power of money. There are strict limits on corporate and union donations, but even so it’s easier to raise money for the governing party.

Third, the power of government spending. Lately the largesse has been laid on like marmalade. There have been a couple of funding announcements every day. The opposition parties can’t compete.

And finally, the power of timing. The premier knows when the election will be, but the opposition can only guess. And they can waste a lot of money — for example on advertising — if they guess wrong.

2. Calvin Lawrence

Calvin Lawrence

Calvin Lawrence, a Black cop who worked for the former city of Halifax in the 1960s and ’70s, talks to Robert Devet about street checks.

3. Cranky letter of the day

To the New Glasgow News:

I live on the proposed corridor 4 highway and if this becomes tolled it shall cause undue hardship financially to me as I live in Kenzieville and travel back and forth to St. Andrews, N.S., five days a week for a 28.5-hour weekly pay.

My sons and their families also have their homes in this area, which is about halfway between New Glasgow and Antigonish, so this proposal shall affect us greatly! Every time we would go anywhere, for work, groceries, my grandchildren’s ballet or skating, appointments, etc., everything would be a toll.

They say there would always be an alternative route, but how safe would that be (for example, the old road through Wentworth now with the Cobequid Pass) as 100-series roads always are the first priority and I’m pretty sure there will be no new salt trucks bought and drivers hired.

I attended the meeting in Antigonish and the resounding consensus was that if they saved one life they were worth it. I too believe that a divided highway would be good, but not a toll. If I may… I too know the horrific sorrow of losing a loved one. My son became addicted to prescription drugs and he was told in his hotel room where he was staying overnight waiting to be admitted in the morning into a program for substance abuse, that he could not attend, and he committed suicide!

The death rate from mental health and prescription drug addiction is staggering. Could we maybe put an extra fee on every doctor or hospital visit, on every painkiller or every prescription filled, etc., and put all this money toward this very tragic and overwhelming problem and hopefully save many lives?

Joyce Ross, Kenzieville


Noticed

A reader points me to a new subscriber-supported sports news site called The Athletic. Announcing the site, editor James Mirtle wrote a letter explaining the site and the justification for the paywall:

One of the things I’ve made an effort to do the last few years is learn more about the business side of how the media operates. A lot of people in the traditional media feel helpless the way the business is floundering, and my response to that was to get as much information as I could and at least understand the why behind those struggles. I was on audience committees at the newspaper, used analytics to track how stories performed in terms of engagement and followed industry trends in terms of business models.

What I learned along the way is there is a big disconnect between what the public believes is happening in media and what is actually happening.

Journalists are not losing their jobs because they are bad at what they do. The No. 1 killer of newspapers and websites — and radio and television appear to be next — is ad rates, in print and online. As Facebook and Google corner the ad market, and companies increasingly turn to social avenues to promote themselves, ad rates are dropping, often at exceptional rates.

In the (recent) past, you could attempt to make money online by going for scale – a high number of clicks — but that is becoming increasingly difficult. Even a very high-end website, like the New York Times, has online ad rates of about $8 CPM (cost per thousand impressions). Most newspapers and websites are much lower than that — and the number seems to be falling every year.

Even very well read stories for large outlets may only generate $75 or $100 in revenue online. Not enough to pay a writer for a day’s work, let alone add in an editor, or any other costs associated with a large company producing content.

And those are the ones that hit relatively big. Others about more niche subjects, or that require a high level of sophistication, research and time, would generate even less revenue relative to the cost to produce them, in that click-per-penny model.

That, on a basic level, is why newspapers like the New York Times and The Globe and Mail are pursuing a subscription model. They have to in order to produce the content that makes those brands what they are. They have done the math that shows getting even two or three subscribers for a story is worth more than 20,000 hits.

Let me repeat that: even a very well read New York Times article, spread all over the world, will make just $100 through online advertising.

That’s a nonstarter for local news sites like the Halifax Examiner. Nothing we publish costs less than $100 to produce. Not even this free Morning File, if you consider my time.

Even without my time, considering writer pay, website costs, legal and professional fees, and other ancillary costs, a freelancer-written article will cost from a minimum of $200 to $1,000 or more.

I’ve written extensively about my disdain for advertising — it raises ethical issues for news media, and ubiquitous advertising has perverted our societal value system — but the very best reason for rejecting advertising is that advertising simply can’t pay the bills.

That’s why, like The Athletic, the Halifax Examiner relies on a subscription-based business model. It’s the only way this publication can exist.

Er, please subscribe.


Government

City

Thursday

Community Planning & Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — a full agenda.

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — that snarky thing I said about Jerry Blumenthal a couple of days ago happens today. I think whoever has been putting together the city’s event calendar has been messing things up — yesterday’s council meeting happened three hours later than calendared, and this meeting is happening two days later.

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm, City Hall) — a couple of interesting-looking presentations: one from Ali Shaver, the Healthy Built Environment Coordinator at Public Health, on “Active Transportation Indicators”; and the second from Eliza Jackson of the Ecology Action Centre and Kelsey Lane of the Halifax Cycling Coalition on a “Minimum Grid Bike Lane.”

Public Information Meeting – Case 20401 (Thursday, 7pm, St. Peter’s Anglican Church Hall, Halifax) — more rezoning in Bedford West.

Friday

No public meetings.

Province

Thursday

Resources (Thursday, 9am, Province House) — DNR reps will be asked about the Forest Fire Prevention and Protection Strategy; the plan seems to be that we won’t have so many forest fires if we cut down all the trees.

Friday

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

There’s no word if woo-woo music will accompany Toke Moeller’s talk. Photo: YouTube

Collaborative Innovation (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building)  — Toke Moeller, who is a sort of Danish version of Tim Merry, will speak on “Hosting Conversations that Matter: Leadership for Collaboration.”

Friday

Tobacco (12:10pm, Rm 104, Dalhousie Weldon Law Building) — Camille Cameron will speak on “Litigation as Regulation? A Tobacco Class Action Case Study.”

World Development (12:30pm, Great Hall, Dalhousie University Club) — Luís-Felipe López-Calva will discuss “Governance and the Law – Launch of the World Bank’s 2017 World Development Report.”

Green Solvent Technologies (Friday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 2260) —  Preston Chase of Green Centre Canada will speak on “Development and Commercial Application of Novel Catalyst and Green Solvent Technologies.”

Thesis Defence, Interdisciplinary Studies (Friday, 2pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Calvino Ka-Wing Cheng will defend his thesis, “Truism (Transfusion Inventory Process Mining Framework): A Process Mining-Based Framework for Understanding Blood Transfusion Product Inventories.”

Elaine Fahey

(Dis-)Integration (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 204, Weldon Law Building) — Elaine Fahey, from NYU Law School and the University of London, will speak on “Models of Institutionalized (Dis-)Integration? What Next for EU-US, CETA, and Brexit?”

Ceylon (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Ajay Parasram will speak on “Liberal Imperialism and the Colonial Politics of ‘Improvement’ in 19th Century Ceylon.”

Neurotrophic Factors (Friday, 3:40pm, LSC 5260) — Margaret Fahnestock will speak on “Neurotrophic Factors — Their Role in Nervous System Development, Emergence of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.”

Poetry Slam (Friday, 7pm, The Muse Cafe and Pub) — hosted by Halifax’s Poet Laureate, Rebecca Thomas.

Speak Easy (Friday, 7pm, Coburg Coffee) — art, music, poetry and a safe space to discuss mental health and substance use.

King’s

Thursday

Sharing with Strangers (Thursday, 7pm, Alumni Hall, King’s College) — Kwame Anthony Appiah, from New York University, will speak on “Sharing with Strangers: Compassion Through Arts and Humanities in the Age of Globalisation.”

Saint Mary’s

Thursday

Yann Martel (Thursday, 6:30pm, Halifax Central Library) — the author of Life of Pi and The High Mountains of Portugal will speak on “Loss.”

Friday

Saint Mary’s Town Hall (Friday, 9:30am, McNally Theatre Auditorium) — you can come and complain about the university’s Institutional Plan. Or praise it. They’d probably prefer the latter.

Something in the Water (Friday, 12:30pm, Room 216, Atrium Building) — Ingrid Waldron will speak on “There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism and the Politics of Waste in Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian Communities.”

Yann Martel

Yann Martel (Friday, 7pm, McNally Main Auditorium) — Martel, the author of The Life of Pi and The High Mountains of Portugal, will talk about “The Power of the Imagination.” Imagine he bought a comb.


In the harbour

0:30am: Lake Ontario, bulker, arrives at anchorage from New Orleans for bunkers
5:30am: Boheme, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
10am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from anchorage to Pier 41

NYK Rigel. Photo: Halifax Examiner

10:30am: NYK Rigel, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Southampton, England
Noon: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 42 from Saint-Pierre
Noon: Lake Ontario, bulker, sails from anchorage for Montreal
1pm: Atlantic Pioneer, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea
1pm: ZIM Shanghai, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Kingston, Jamaica
6pm: Boheme, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 31
8:30pm: Nordic Amy, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
11pm: Palena, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy


Footnotes

We’re recording Examineradio today.

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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17 Comments

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  1. ” we could outlaw all campaign contributions..” IMHO that should be an axiom for financing campaigns for Councillors, MLAs, MPs and all political parties.

    No individual or organization (including unions, corporations, advocacy groups and churches) should be allowed to contribute money to a political party, an elected representative or a candidate for such office, and that should be backed up by jail time. These should all be publicly funded using a common formula that puts neither older parties nor newer ones at a disadvantage, but encourages new blood and with it new ideas (don’t tell me we don’t need those).

    How you design that is open to some serious discussion of course, but one idea might be to determine what constitutes a legitimate candidate or party, and offer them a basic amount. Beyond that, it would need to somehow take into account previous support (a party that won 35% of the seats in the last election should receive more in this round than one that won only 10%) and current support that would especially keep governments honest (perhaps by mandating a minimum small contribution, say $25, in income tax returns).

    Right now we are reimbursed 75% for most political donations we make, so fully funding parties Mlas and MPs does not amount to a massive new expense. Imagine a democracy where Mulroney ere “Mister Five Percent” contractor scams, or Liberal Quebec Sponsorship scandals or Conservative “in and out” schemes or developers quietly bribing Councillors simply didn’t happen – both because they are illegal (most were) and because they are unnecessary.

    My $CD 0.02

    1. No evidence of ‘developers quietly bribing councillors’.
      An HRM councillor can be a nominated candidate for federal or provincial election and can continue to dispense District Capital Funds until she/he becomes ‘ officially nominated’ as a candidate in a federal or provincial election. A candidate has been officially nominated when the receipt on the nomination paper has been signed by the Returning Officer.
      The largest single donation in the 2016 HRM municipal election was the $5,000 for Gabriel Enxunga in District 5 from the Halifax-Dartmouth District Labour Council, see here : http://www.halifax.ca/election/PastElections/documents/161015rc05.pdf

      Mayor Savage set a donation limit of $2,500

  2. My more immediate problem with campaign donations is that the actual reporting and it’s release to the public is a mess. Most small university students’ unions have more standardized and clear reporting standards for expenditures than our municipality has for contributions.

    CBC’s database (which has some sorting decisions I wouldn’t make but is good) is searchable, but the official release isn’t and that makes zero sense. It’s literally just the scanned, hand scrawled submissions of the candidates. It also doesn’t require candidates to actually add up the totals (some do, some don’t) and doesn’t even specify a standard way of naming contributors. For example, Uteck’s individual contributions just use initials instead of full names (which seems to be totally above board and fair for her for her to do under current rules and is almost definitely nothing intentional on her part) which isn’t helpful for public oversight or clarity.

    We have three quarters of a million dollars coming through in contributions and all we end up with is scans of non-standardized forms released two months after election day with no sorting, analysis or even basic math done by officials to make it more understandable or usable by the public. That’s absurd.

    (But yeah. We need some more significant changes to contribution rules as well)

    1. Yeah, it would be a big step forward if the Municipality just improved the reporting. I don’t really care toooo much who’s donated, I mostly just want to see transparency about it so I can make my own decisions about whether those donations matter or not.

      Perhaps the Municipality could set up a “candidates’ portal”, where the Official Agent for each candidate entered all donations and expenses into a database as they occurred. Then they could be released almost immediately after the election in a searchable and sortable format.

  3. Who would qualify for funded campaigns? First 4 to sign up? First 4 who get 500 signatures? Top 4 by nomination signatures?

    How do you fund the campaign for nominations?

  4. “Collaborative Innovation.” I remember when that was called brainstorming. For awhile it was called “a Charrette.” And before that it was called group discussion.

    “Leadership for collaboration.” Used to be called facilitating group discussion.

    “World Cafe.” Used to be called breakout group discussion.

    One term still persists: “Charlatan.”

  5. Call me crazy but the point of freezing councillor salaries is something called leadership by example.

    To ask for restraint from everyone but themselves smacks of hubris and entitlement.

    Bravo Councillor Cleary.

    1. Freezing Council salaries is political pandering period. The reason council positions are paid is to ensure their is neither a financial enticement nor discouragement to seek and serve in public office. Councillors in HRM represent as many or more people than an MLA and almost as many as an MP and are compensated at a fraction of those higher offices.

      1. Political pandering?

        So a councillor cannot act on principle? Cleary is a new councillor, recently elected not quite sure how he is pandering.

        Not saying they are overpaid or underpaid. If they are asking others to sacrifice they should be willing to do the same.

      2. MPs serve around 90 thousand people and are paid about twice as much as MLAs and Councilors who serve 15-20 thousand.

        Then again, MPs have budgets for offices and multiple staff, not so for councillors.

        1. And councillors are paid almost as much as MLAs (pension not withstanding) and will blow past them at this rate of growth. MLAs salaries haven’t budged in years…

  6. For some strange reason the CBC online report decided to not report that Waye Mason received money from developers.
    Waye received $500 from developer Jim Spatz, $250 from developer Ross Cantwell, $500 from developer George Lawen.
    I gave a small amount to Waye because I appreciate the work he has done. I gave a small donation to Lindell Smith after speaking with him well before the election. Lindell also received a donation from Ross Cantwell.
    It appears that unions tried to buy a council seat in District 5 where Gabriel Enxunga received just 335 votes, a poor return for the Halifax Dartmouth Labour Council (HDLC) $5,000 donation, CUPE $500 donation,Solidarity Halifax $2,646 donation and the Socialist Project $100 donation.

  7. Tim,

    To add to your campus news section, students at Mt. A in Sackville, N.B. are finally taking direct action to get the university to sever its ties with Big Oil. I’ve been covering their protest on my blog, warktimes.com

      1. Thanks Tim. I missed yesterday’s morning file. Yesterday, the Mt. A students occupied the admin bldg and finally got to meet with President Robt. Campbell. Bitter tears followed.