News

1. NSCAD board fires president Aoife Mac Namara

Dr. Aoife Mac Namara (CNW Group/The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design)

Yesterday, I learned that the Board of Governors at NSCAD University had removed president Aoife Mac Namara. I’ve since spoken with people with knowledge of the situation, and here’s what I’ve pieced together.

After a successful career as an arts educator in London, and then in British Columbia, Mac Namara was hired last year into the NSCAD position. Over the course of the year since, she has worked to bring NSCAD into the 21st century by focusing on diversity and inclusion. For example, while it was not her initiative (the idea predates her arrival to Halifax), Mac Namara championed the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery, and art historian Charmaine Nelson was hired just last week to start the program.

One person I talked with explained that such initiatives are often destined to fail because they aren’t given the resources to fully develop, but Mac Namara was intent on integrating the Institute across programs, and providing enough support staff to make the Institute a meaningful part of NSCAD.

As a result of such efforts, Mac Namara earned the respect of the university community; I’ve never come across a university president who is as praised by students and faculty as is Mac Namara.

The board of governors, however, was lukewarm to those efforts.

Meanwhile, something else was going on. Mac Namara stepped right into the closed and opaque circle that constitutes Nova Scotia’s managerial and real estate network.

You’ll recall that NSCAD was nearly bankrupted a few years ago by an ill-conceived purchase of property at the port. Ever since, the Board of Governors has been especially focused on real estate — there was the potential to relocate the Granville campus to the waterfront in a joint project with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, but for unknown (to me) reasons, that idea fell through, and now the AGNS is going solo with the waterfront project.

In the 1970s, the university moved from Coburg Road to downtown by purchasing the eastern half of the Granville Street portion of the Historic Properties developed by Ben McCrea, owner of the Armour Group. That sale included a provision that should the university ever sell the property, Armour Group would have first rights of refusal.

Fast forward to the present day. Ben McCrea died some years ago, and Armour is now controlled by his son, Scott McCrea. Saint Mary’s University awarded him an honorary degree last year. In addition to the Historic Properties, the Armour Group owns the Waterside, Founders Square, and the dog-awful Queen’s Marque project now blighting the waterfront.

And NSCAD’s Granville campus could join that real estate portfolio. McCrea has made some sort of offer to the university for the property. Does this make sense? Maybe. As the adjacent Cogswell redevelopment project is about to commence, now might be an opportune time to unload the property to a developer.

The problem, I’m told, is that as Mac Namara saw it, the potential sale of the Granville campus was tied up with conflicts of interest on the Board of Governors. In particular, vice chair Sean Kelly is a lawyer with Stewart McKelvey, where he represents the Armour Group.

I’ll leave it for others to decide if that’s a substantial conflict, but regardless, MacNamara has been working on a governance review of the board, with the aim of directly addressing potential conflicts of interest and of having the board better reflect the community, especially in terms of its diversity.

It’s been a busy summer for the Board of Governors. Last week, the board issued a statement condemning “all forms of discrimination and systemic racism” and vowing to ensure “representation from the BIPOC community. To that end, we are making a concerted effort to consider a diverse group of candidates as we look to appoint new members of our board.” As I understand it, the governance review is to start next week.

The Board of Governors met Thursday, and went in camera to discuss Mac Namara. Someone with knowledge of the situation tells me that the board voted to ask for Mac Namara’s resignation, and if she declined to resign, to fire her. The vote was 12-5, with the “no” votes coming from the two faculty representatives on the board, the two students, and the one Black person on the board, Duane Jones.

What now?

First, the Board of Governors should explain itself, and publicly address both the firing of Mac Namara and the potential conflict of interest with the proposed Granville property deal.

But the situation additionally needs to be taken off campus and addressed politically. We need a review of university governance with all universities, not just NSCAD. My cursory look at the various board of governors finds them top heavy with business and real estate interests, with only weak representation from the community at large.

I don’t know what the firing means for Mac Namara personally. I think she has tenure so will remain a faculty member, but I’m not certain of that.

I’ll keep looking into this.

#NSCAD University is thrilled to launch its first all-online program for #Summer2020. The online courses are as diverse as our usual full range of programming, making the NSCAD experience accessible from anywhere in the world! https://t.co/LOe1QwR0Yy#InThisTogether pic.twitter.com/MsNuUxptFr

— NSCAD University (@NSCADUniversity) May 5, 2020

And I know this might strike some as petty, but as I was googling around about NSCAD, I came upon the above tweet, about the upcoming virtual classes. Well, sure. But something struck me about the accompanying photo, so I zoomed in…. Yes, the I guess idealized potential red headed (check Nova Scotia box) virtual student is sitting on a lawn which is being watered by sprinklers. That ain’t Nova Scotia — it rains something like 425 days a year in Nova Scotia; there’s no need for sprinklers. So I ran the photo through tineye, and found that, yep, it’s a stock photo. You can buy it for US$13.

So an art school with an entire photography department purchases stock photos, instead of paying 13 bucks to a student in need of some cash.

2. Hero pay

Writes Stephen Kimber:

For supermarkets, hero pay was always more about PR than rewarding employees’ above-and-beyond work. They’re ready to move on and step back. But the rest of us should take the opportunity to have the important conversation we need to have around a permanent guaranteed annual income.

Click here to read “From heroes to zeroes… the pandemic bottom line.”

3. HPX

There’s a PR disaster unfolding on the Halifax Pop Explosion’s Instagram page.

It started when the org posted a black square in support of Black Lives Matter and said it was making a donation to the local solidarity fund. This caused one person to comment about some alleged harm (I don’t know the specifics of the allegation) done by top members to Black musicians. As someone who saw the comment explained it to me, the comment went on to say that HPX “didn’t follow up with mediation promises (a statement and monetary compensation), and then they apologized with an action plan for BIPOC inclusivity for their organization. They only consulted with their board and exec about this, so there wasn’t even any inclusivity within the action plan.. about.. BIPOC.”

And then, that comment was deleted. Which was followed up by a HPX statement:

Recently a comment that was critical in nature was removed from a previous Instagram post on our feed. Our team did not remove the comment and we are actively trying to understand how it was deleted. Many people, understandably, have expressed they are upset by this. We want you to know that we hear you and we are listening. Given the sensitive nature of the subject matter, we wanted to take the time to ensure we were responding appropriately and respectfully.

We understand that our actions in the past have caused harm to members of the BIPOC community. For that, we are sorry. We heard the conversations and we recognize there is more work to be done. We understand that, as an organization, we are part of systemic racism. We need, and are actively working, to change this.

In addition to listening, and educating ourselves further, we are committing to a full review of our organization. We will seek guidance from professionals and consultants that will create meaningful change in every aspect of the organization. We are in the process of determining actionable steps so we can better support artists and all of our stakeholders.

We know we have a lot of work to do, and are committed to finalizing an action plan in the coming weeks.

People weren’t buying the explanation that the comment was mysteriously deleted by unknown actors. And then…

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOW. you have absolutely no conscience. you are forcing me to release a statement and do SO MUCH WORK!!!!! for years!!! to cover up the gaslighting that this (and the last) post are showing your entire audience. how absolutely out of touch and shameful could a group of people be?????????? MAKE A STATEMENT ABOUT DANNY. MAKE A STATEMENT ABOUT JAMES AND STEPHANIE MANIPULATING US!!!! TELL EVERYONE HOW U PROMISED US COMPENSATION AND A PUBLIC STATEMENT TWO YEARS AGO (A YEAR AFTER DANNY ASSAULTED ME AT THE FESTIVAL) TELL YOUR AUDIENCE HOW YOU USED YOUR CONSIDERABLE RESOURCES TO GASLIGHT ME AND FORCE ME TO LEAVE THE CITY I WORKED IN FOR 13 YEARS!!!!!! i wasn’t thinking it but now i am. END. POP. EXPLOSION.

@bb.budiji This is James. I’ve been reading your posts. I’ve been reflecting a lot on this. I’ve emailed you directly, and I want you to know that I am sorry for the harm you’ve experienced over the past three years as a result of our actions. I let you down by not listening and responding appropriately. Effective today, I want you to know I have resigned from Halifax Pop Explosion. I regret it had to go on this long for you to be heard, and for this I am sorry.

I cannot verify that any of the comments are from the people they purport to be from, or that the comments are factually true.

4. Yarmouth ferry

The Alakai, docked at Yarmouth. Photo: Suzanne Rent

On Friday, Premier Stephen McNeil announced what we all knew was coming — the Yarmouth ferry will not sail this year.

McNeil quite rightly pointed out that the COVID situation in the US is completely out of control with no hope of saner or effective control measures to be implemented any time soon, and so it would be madness to provide the means for Americans to bring the disease to our shores. No one wants that. So sure, cancel the ferry. Makes total sense.

But I wonder if the thing would’ve sailed this year even had there been no coronavirus. A photo of the Bar Harbor ferry terminal published by the Mount Desert Islander last month showed the construction of a building at the site with the framing barely started. And there still hasn’t been any word that US Customs has approved operations in Bar Harbor.

I’ll have to update this information:

I’ve tracked publicly announced ferry expenditures since Bay Ferries was awarded the contract in 2015, as detailed below. None of these figures includes the costs of provincial bureaucratic staff working on the ferry file:

2015: $74,496 incidental expenditures to Bay Ferries to prepare for the service
2016: $13,100,000 subsidy to Bay Ferries (35,466 passengers)
2017: $10,248,421 subsidy to Bay Ferries (38,933 passengers)
2018: $1,500,000 for upgrades to the Portland ferry terminal*
2018: $13,964,393 subsidy to Bay Ferries (50,187 passengers)
2019: $8,500,000 for upgrades to the Bar Harbor ferry terminal
2019: $13,800,000 subsidy to Bay Ferries (target of 60,000 passengers)
Total: $61,187,310

That’s just over $15 million for each of the four years of ferry service.

In reality, the 2019 subsidy was much larger, as the boat never sailed. Also, we don’t have a final figure for the ferry terminal upgrades. And then there’s the subsidy for this year, which will likely be another $15 million.

My proposed helicopter drop is looking more appealing every day:

You think I’m kidding about the Yarmouth helicopter drop? Consider that Chase the Ace is considered an economic driver in this province.

Yesterday, Suzanne Rent made the point that dropping $20 bills from a helicopter would itself be a tourist attraction — “It would like one of those game show money booths! People LOVE those,” she says — and so generate even more business for the Yarmouth area hotels, bars, and coffeeshops. Let’s consider…

Suppose we hired a helicopter and pilot at a seasonal cost of a million dollars and sent the thing up above downtown Yarmouth each Saturday and Sunday for the 18 weeks of the summer season. The additional $14 million/year we’re already spending would translate into daily drops of $388,888, or 19,445 $20 bills, which is to say over an eight-hour period, 40 $20 bills per minute — call it one $20 bill every 1.5 seconds.

Granted, we’d need an extra person to actually toss the money out of the helicopter, but I bet we could get Pam Mood to do it gratis.

People would flock to Yarmouth to watch the spectacle. The running of the bulls in Pamplona would have nothing on the Yarmouth helicopter drop. Hotels would fill up, bars would do a brisk business, traffic would pile up on the 101 as Americans drive around.

We don’t need no stinking ferry.

5. The Herald’s mangled flag messaging

This — what is this? a disclaimer? — seems designed to upset everyone, regardless of their feeling about the flag. It’s a total editorial fail. Hey, print the flag, or not (although, I gotta say, clipping a paper flag out of a newspaper seems, I dunno, kinda pathetic, as flag-waving goes). Think the flag is wonderful, or hate it. All up to you. But these verbal contortions…


Government

City

Monday

No public meetings.

Tuesday

City council (10am, virtual meeting) — the meeting has been cancelled. I don’t know why.

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (6pm virtual meeting) — T. Chandler Haliburton, who owns LMNO Properties Limited, wants to build three buildings south of Portland Street, across from the recycling centre by Maynard Lake: two six-storey apartment buildings on Portland Street, with a four-storey apartment building behind, on a sort of stranded lot that will need to be rezoned from its current R2 designation (which allows for duplexes) to R3 (which allows for apartment buildings).

This is an odd property that slopes down from Portland Street. Walking along the street, I’ve felt that a misstep could send me tumbling down the hill, it’s that steep. I think developing it is going to involve considerable regrading. To the west is the old Neighbour’s Pub lot, which has sat empty ever since the pub was destroyed by fire. I had expected that someone would buy up the entire stretch of lots along Portland Street and bring forward one coherent development, but here we are going piecemeal. There are 16 properties adjacent to the site on Rodney Road and Hastings Drive that are mostly single-family homes, and then an elementary school across Hastings Road.

Portrait of Judge Haliburton hanging in the Red Room, Province House.

Haliburton shares the name of Thomas Chandler Haliburton, the 19th century judge, politician, and author who created the character of Sam Slick. I assume the present-day Haliburton is a descendant of the previous one.

I wrote about the 19th century Haliburton in 2014, back when I had the energy to read entire books (or most of them) the night before waking up to do Morning File, and then go on for thousands of words about it. An excerpt:

I read most of The Clockmaker last night. I could immediately see how Haliburton was, for perhaps the first time, tapping into the then-emerging cultural distinctiveness of America. In some ways, Haliburton strikes me as a proto-Twain, using American idiom and turns of phrase to illustrate the broad, sometimes outrageous, sometimes hilarious, American character.

But in the end, Haliburton left me cold. The joke — and there’s only one: industrious Americans contrasted to lazy Nova Scotians — gets stale. Where Twain is magnanimous, Haliburton is mean. Where Twain finds individuality within stereotype, Haliburton finds only stereotype. Consider this passage from Sketch XII, The American Eagle:

Now the Blue Noses are like that are gall; they have grown up, and grown up in ignorance of many things they had’nt ought not to know; and its as hard to teach grown up folks as it is to break a six year old horse; and they do ryle one’s temper so — they act so ugly that it tempts one sometimes to break their confounded necks — its near about as much trouble as its worth. What remedy is there for all this supineness, said I; how can these people be awakened out of their ignorant slothfulness, into active exertion? The remedy, said Mr, Slick, is at hand — it is already workin its own cure. They must recede before our free and enlightened citizens like the Indians; our folks will buy them out, and they must give place to a more intelligent and ac-TIVE people. They must go to the lands of Labrador, or be located back of Canada; they can hold on there a few years, until the wave of civilization reaches them, and then they must move again, as the savages do. It is decreed; I hear the bugle of destiny a soundin of their retreat, as plain as any thing. Congress will give them a concession of land, if they petition, away to Alleghany backside territory, and grant them relief for a few years; for we are out of debt, and don’t know what to do with our surplus revenue. The only way to shame them, that I know, would be to sarve them as Uncle Enoch sarved a neighbor of his in Varginey.

Update a few of the words and replace the American interloper with “risk-takers, dreamers, doers, and builders” and this could come right out of Laurel Broten’s tax proposal or the Ivany report.

In the end, Haliburton’s mean-spirit mischaracterization of Nova Scotians may have been too fully embraced by many Nova Scotians. Like Haliburton angling for a crown appointment to office, our present-day stuffed suits are all too happy to ridicule the backwards and lazy populace in order to advance their own self-entitled interests.


In the harbour

05:00: YM Modesty, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
05:30: MOL Marvel, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
06:00: Zhen Hua 29, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Shanghai
07:15: Maersk Mobiliser, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 30 from the Sable Island field
08:00: Seaways Hatteras, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Saint John
10:00: YM Enlightenment, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
13:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
14:00: Adhemar de Saint-Venant, cable layer, sails from Pier 27 for sea
14:00: AS Federica, container ship, sails from Bedford Basin anchorage for sea
15:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
16:00: YM Modesty sails for New York
16:00: Tortugas, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
21:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
22:00: YM Enlightenment sails for Rotterdam


Footnotes

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Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Glad to see that NSCAD is doing its wee small bit to support american photographers ——- rather than its own students and alumni. “BUY AMERICAN” indeed. I’m just waiting for a thank you tweet from P45…..

  2. Regarding the firing of Dr. Aoife Mac Namara… Shameful ! and utterly predictable. Once again oxygen, and intelligent innovative vision sucked out of the province by the suffocating “clan-culture” dementors – i.e. white men with money. Thanks guys. Your stupidity only equals your greed. Your vision will not build the much lauded ‘world class city.’ But her vision would have !

  3. Without commenting on the efforts to get a more diverse board and one more representative of the whole community, which seems laudable for sure, normally what happens when there is a conflict of interest on a board is that the person declares it and leaves the room when the issue is discussed or voted on. Just because a conflict of interest may occur isn’t of itself a reason not to sit on a board. A lawyer of all people I would assume would realize the legal implications of not declaring a conflict of interest when it arises.

  4. You have to wonder how the past several years of Yarmouth Ferry subsidy could have helped with the long term care situation.

  5. For more on TCH’s exploits in Annapolis Royal, Finding Fortune by Brenda Thompson, is an interesting read

  6. I hear NSCAD recently hired a former oil industry hack as a communications head. Expect truckloads of corporate bullshit to try to blunt this controversy. NSCAD as a business, NSCAD as anti-art. A truly sad state of affairs.

  7. An Armour Group lawyer being on the BoD hardly seems like a significant conflict. If expect the terms of the right of refusal to be simple, not open to a lot of interpretation. Fair market value, yes/no.

    No room for buy backs or second mortgages or financial wizardry. Sure NS had a history of sweet deals on crown property, but it’s a low price. So get an appraisal by an independent agency, and done.

    1. There is no conflict until he takes part in any discussion re the sale of the property. The minutes will show if he was in conflict and if he was in conflict certain board members would have provided proof. It is an arts organisation and conflict is par for the course.