News

1. Can we even discuss improving snow-clearing standards?

In her latest column, Erica Butler looks at how implementation of the city’s Integrated Mobility Plan (IMP) keeps sliding down the list of priorities. Butler takes as an example Councillor Shawn Cleary’s seemingly reasonable request “for a report assessing the costs and benefits of tightening up the standards for snow-clearing in Halifax,” which was turned down by his fellow councillors.

Councillor Bill Karsten compared the idea of improved snow clearing standards to paving streets with gold. We can’t have nice things.

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2. Terrifying investors

Stephen McNeil. Photo: Halifax Examiner

The CBC’s Jean Laroche follows up on Premier Stephen McNeil’s comments that releasing information about the Bay Ferries contract would send the “wrong message” to business and “it will send a chill [to] people … looking to do business in this province.”

Laroche, who, being an old pro, presumably kept a straight face, asked Dalhousie University economist Lars Osberg if he thought releasing the information would discourage companies from doing business in the province. Osberg, not surprisingly, called BS.

“It’s going to be pretty marginal and not detectable in real data,” said Lars Osberg. “The international business community has a lot of uncertainties to worry about these days from trade wars between United States and China, the price of oil, Brexit.

“There’s lots going on in the international business community that’s way, way bigger than this.”

Osberg called the premier’s warning of potentially serious consequences “boogeyman politics” where McNeil is trying to “scare the electorate with a dire outcome.”

Back in 1984, then-recently-elected Prime Minister Brian Mulroney famously declared (while speaking to the Economic Club of New York) that “Canada is open for business again.” The phrase was so catchy, governments — most recently Doug Ford’s in Ontario — keep recycling it.

One of the downsides of being open for business is that you come to see the government as a business — and this contract debacle is part of the fallout. Businesses may have good reasons to keep their contracts secret. But the government is not a business. The money is ours. We have a right to know how it is being spent and under what terms. Plenty of jurisdictions have far more open disclosure about contracts and we should too. Instead, we are shovelling more and more of them behind locked doors.

3. Sent home from the IWK

John McPhee of the Chronicle Herald has a disturbing story about a woman who visited the IWK ER three times in 48 hours with her 13-year-old son. Despite clear signs he had harmed himself, and despite his repeated talk of suicide, they were sent home on two of those occasions.

McPhee writes that staff told Tara Mills, the boy’s mother, “to keep him more involved with family activities and keep him away from dangerous objects such as knives.”

NDP MLA Claudia Chender is a friend of Mills’, and McPhee interviewed the two women together. Mills says she was told to watch her tone after swearing in frustration while speaking with a social worker at the IWK.

As for social workers’ reaction to Mills’ profanity, Chender said the staff’s response likely would have been different if it was a father expressing frustration.

“When a man uses a well-placed swear word, they are often deemed as powerful and exerting authority and a woman does it, they’re seen as crazy,” Chender said.

“So I think that’s an important piece of this story. As Tara said, when she showed up, what would have made the difference? For her voice to have been heard and respected. And for her knowledge about the situation with her son. Not only did that not happen, but the opposite happened, she was in fact left out and made to doubt herself, which I just think is unconscionable.”

4. Andrew Scheer will save the CBC

Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was in town. In an interview with the CBC, he weighed in on Northern Pulp (the Liberal government has screwed things up), marine protected areas, ACOA, and… the CBC.

When asked if he would cut funding to the CBC, Scheer said the best way to avoid cuts would be to vote out the Liberals this October.

“If they’re allowed to continue with this out-of-control spending, that’s when taxes go up,” Scheer said.

Looking forward to the Conservatives’ new “Save the CBC” rallying cry.


Views

1. Light in winter

Flowers in the Archibald home. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald’s latest is about finding joy, beauty, colour, and light in winter.

Archibald gives us a tour of “well-designed lighting schemes for our heritage buildings” like Province House and the St. Paul’s Building downtown, before moving on to Jordan Bennett’s Ketu’ elmita’jik exhibit at the AGNS, and photos from in and around Archibald’s own home. Perfect for a bright, snowy day.

2. Hearts, love etc

It’s Valentine’s Day, and you probably either love it or hate it. Former Halifax poet laureate Rebecca Thomas invites those who don’t want to “celebrate canned romance” to celebrate her birthday instead.


Noticed

A couple of days ago, writer Davide Mastracci wrote an opinion piece called “Schools Shouldn’t Be Forced to Subject Students to ‘O Canada’”.

Mastracci talks about his problems with the anthem itself, then gets to what I think is the heart of the argument.

Sure, the government, which has a vested interest in promoting allegiance to itself, pays for school. But school shouldn’t be regarded as an opportunity for patriotic inculcation any more than other public services.

The government also pays for health care and waste management. And yet, we aren’t forced to stand up with other sick patients in waiting rooms, wailing out the lyrics through sore throats before seeing a doctor. We don’t have to salute sanitation workers before they take our trash, although they deserve it more than the anthem.

Moreover, forced patriotism in school via the anthem is potentially more inappropriate than if it was mandated for many other public services. This is because patriotism holds back critical thought, which the school system should promote.

As I write this, the story has 339 comments, and you can guess the tone of many of them:

“Lefty’s need to justify their existence and the only way he gets paid is by ‘clicks’. He just wants as many views as possible. He just sat in his ‘safe space’ and wondered, ‘how do I get attention,’” writes, uh, Jason Bourne.

John Prevost: “If you have no pride in Canada you should find another country to live in, many proud Canadians have given their lives for this Country, if you are one of the few that agree with this article please feel free to contact me in person to discuss your beliefs.”

“Let me guess,” writes ken k. “Your father or grand-father was a black-shirt Fascist of Mussolini. Go back to your hole and learn to code.”

Over on Twitter, Mastracci wrote:

There are hundreds of replies to this article, and 99% of them are nearly identical, which proves my point. Mindless patriotism is an obstacle to genuine education and critical thought. You can tell these people have never had a critical thought on the anthem/army/state.

I grew up in Montreal. So even though I went to a private high school that prides itself on Tradition-with-a-capital-T, we didn’t have the anthem every day. (The office would play a different song over the PA, and you had to be in class by the time it ended. Students were encouraged to bring in songs — on cassette — and request to have them played.)

The national anthem didn’t become mandatory in Nova Scotia schools until 2009, when Conservative education minister Judy Streatch ordered all school boards to develop policies requiring that “O Canada” be played in schools every day. (Before my youngest son started school, his older sister wanted to make sure he was prepared — so she drilled him relentlessly to make sure he knew the lyrics to “O Canada” before the school year started.)

These kinds of directives may seem innocuous, but they are pernicious — because once they are in place they are hard to rescind without people going batshit about patriotism. Schools played “O Canada” before, just not every single day.

If you want to make kids hate the national anthem, force them to listen to it every single school day for 12 years. I guarantee you the experience is not one that will make them more patriotic. (Leaving aside the question of whether it’s the job of the education system to inculcate patriotism.)


Government

City

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — on November 27, 2018, police arrested taxi driver Seyed Abolghasem Sadat Lavasani Bozor for sexual assault. Problem is, because the police blotter isn’t made public, no one was told about it until January 8, when police issued the following release:

Police have charged a taxi driver with sexual assault in relation to an incident that occurred last year in Halifax.

At approximately 4:25 a.m. on September 17, 2018 police responded to a report of a sexual assault that occurred shortly after 2 a.m. in Halifax. A taxi driver drove two female passengers to a residence in Halifax and sexually assaulted one of the passengers, a woman in her twenties, while she was in the vehicle.

To protect the identity of the victim, we are not releasing the address where the sexual assault occurred.

As a result of the investigation, investigators from the Sexual Assault Investigation Team arrested the taxi driver on November 27 at 1975 Gottingen Street in Halifax without incident at approximately 1 p.m.

Seventy-four-year-old Seyed Abolghasem Sadat Lavasani Bozor of Halifax was charged with sexual assault and was scheduled to appear in Halifax Provincial Court today.

Between November 27 and January 8, Lavasani continued driving taxi. Only when the taxi regulators at City Hall were notified of the arrest on January 8 did they suspend his taxi driver’s licence.

Now, however, Lavasani is appealing his suspension. He wrote a letter to Halifax council’s Appeals Committee:

Dear Madams/Sirs:

I am appealing this decision to suspend my taxi licence #R 250 due to no other alternative means of employment due to my age.

Your kind understanding and concern is highly appreciated.

Best regards,

Seyed Abolghasem Sadat Lavasani

Recall that after taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi (the driver in the “a drunk can consent” case) was arrested, his licence was suspended but the Appeals Committee un-suspended it until he went to trial.

Friday

No public meetings.

Province

No public meetings Thursday or Friday.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Newfangling Rounds: Sleep Apnea Therapy (Thursday, 8:30am, Bethune Ballroom, VG Site) — Hamed Hanafi from NovaResp Technologies will explain how new technology being developed here in Halifax can help patients with sleep apnea.

What do diabetes and malaria have in common? (Thursday, 11:45am, theatre D, Tupper Building) — Marta Cerruti from McGill University will speak.

Ocean Frontier Institute grand opening of new lab space (Thursday, 1:30pm, Steele Ocean Sciences Building) — come see the new “incubators, freezers, chemical storage, fume hoods, a glassware washer and sterilizer, and multiple benches and microscope rooms.”

Climate Warming and Aquatic Ecosystems (Thursday, 7pm, in the Auditorium named after a bank, Marion McCain Building) — Suzie Currie from Acadia University will speak.

Concerto Night (Thursday, 7:30pm, Dunn Theatre) — Leonardo Perez conducts the Fountain School’s “finest musicians” with the Dalhousie Symphony Orchestra. $15.

Friday

Ada: A Selfdriving Laboratory for Accelerating Materials Discovery (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Curtis P Berlinguette from the University of British Columbia will speak.

Melissa Shaw. Photo via twitter.

The Darker Side of Imperial Belonging: The League of Coloured Peoples’ Social Activism in 1930s Britain (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Melissa Shaw from Queen’s University will speak.

Saint Mary’s

Thursday

Used books and board games sale (Thursday, 9am, Loyola Colonnade) — and a $2 lotto board, all in support of the United Way.

Friday

No public events.

Mount Saint Vincent

Friday

Tianyuan Yu. Photo: msvu.ca

Classical Chinese poetry: Feel the beauty of Chinese language (Friday, 2pm, Keshen Goodman Library) — Tianyuan Yu will speak.


In the harbour

02:00: AlgoNorth, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Imperial Oil
05:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
06:00: CMA CGM Thames, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
06:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at HalTerm from St. John’s
15:30: Atlantic Star sails for New York
21:30: RHL Agilitas, sails for Kingston, Jamaica


Footnotes

Then-Deputy Mayor Matt Whitman meets Canadian Hope and Canadian Joy prior to the panda naming ceremony at the Toronto Zoo.

District 13 Councillor Matt Whitman is notorious for blocking people on Twitter. I am one of his constituents and I too am blocked. Whitman has frequently said that he is not required to have a social media account, and that constituents have other avenues to contact him. He has referred to phone calls and emails as “mandatory” and says he replies to those.

I decided to put that to the test.

Since I can’t follow Whitman on Twitter, I wanted to see how else I could find out what he was up to in the district, and I detailed the results in a Twitter thread you can read here.

The short version: the most recent newsletter on Whitman’s website dates from October 2017, and on his website he says the best way to learn about his activities is from Halifax.ca (16-month old newsletter) or Twitter (blocked). I went down the rabbit hole of Whitman websites (HP Matt Whitman, Your Friend Matt Whitman, Mat Whitman, Matt Whitman HRM 13… and on and on and on) without finding any useful information.

On one of the sites Whitman referred to himself as managing the Volunteer Association of Nova Scotia, which has never been registered with Joint Stocks or CRA, and whose website (since deleted) was facebook.com/whitman2020.

So, since email is mandatory, I emailed and asked about the Volunteer Association of Nova Scotia. No reply.

I tried again:

Dear Matt,

I’ve followed the budget discussions with interest and I am appalled at the suggestion to cut library funding. When we served on the library board together you consistently took positions in favour of supporting the library and I hope that continues at council. I would much rather see a minor increase in my property tax than a cut to library services and I hope you see things the same way.

I also want to follow up on my email from last week.

You’ve said repeatedly that it’s OK to block people on social media because it’s not mandatory, and that you pride yourself on replying to all emails and phone calls from constituents.

Last week, I emailed to ask for some information about the Volunteer Association of Nova Scotia, because one of your Facebook pages said you were managing it. I did not hear back from you. It does appear that the VANS Facebook page (facebook.com/whitman2020) has been removed. If I have that wrong, please let me know. I am still curious about the organization though. Does it still exist? Did you cease your role as manager?

More generally, many councillors post their daily schedules on Twitter. I don’t know if you do that because I am blocked. Is there any way to find out about your activities representing our district? Public meetings? Meet and greets? Is there an email list I can sign up for? A place to get recent newsletters? A Facebook page devoted to your activities as councillor (ie not one described as “personal and partisan”)?

Finally, I am told that people in the district (and some out of it) received a print newsletter from you last week. I have not received one, but I’d love to get a copy. My mailing address is…

Best,

Phil

And I got (or at least was copied on) an answer!

Nadine pls mail a newsletter to the resident below

I followed up, in one final attempt to get a reply:

Thank you. Do I take this to mean there is a zero percent chance of getting answers to any of my other basic questions, like how, besides Twitter, I can find out about your activities in the district?
Phil

 I suspect I will be waiting a long time for a reply.


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Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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13 Comments

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  1. Andrew Scheer claimed if he became PM he would axe the news division of the CBC. Quoted in ipolitics December 9th, 2016.

  2. When and where the national anthem should be played is a perpetual hot button issue. Back in 1919, in a wave of nationalism, the Ontario Board of Film Censors decreed it be played after every film. By 1960, the requirement was once a day, unless the theatre closed between matinee and evening shows, in which case it was twice a day. Until 2005, if you sat through the credits of the last show in any auditorium at the multiplex, you would hear the anthem. That playing (like the one that signalled the end of the TV broadcast day, is no more). So “forced patriotism” is no longer part of the movie experience in Ontario.

    I recited the Lord’s Prayer every day at school for six years, and it did not make me more religious. On the other hand, I sang God Save the Queen at the end of every assembly, and I’m a monarchist. Perhaps indoctrination works best when its subtle.

    1. I always thought it would be funny/more appropriate to play it at 8am in our hospitals. There’s nothing more patriotic/Canadian than ‘universal’ healthcare.

  3. Minor correction – in 2010 the NDP was in government in Nova Scotia. I thought I remembered that they were the ones who actually implemented the provincial O Canada policy, though I can’t find evidence of that after a cursory search.

    1. Thank you. It was 2009. I’ve fixed it. The Cape Breton Post has a story about it dated 2010 but that’s clearly a mistake. There are several stories on the CBC site and elsewhere from 2009 about adoption of the policy.

  4. I am more interested in the people who meet with the mayor each day and why they meet with him. Dube doesn’t tell you whoi he meets with and neither does the Chief of Police.
    Come to a meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners and take note of who fails to attend – one member has failed to attend 60% of the meetings of what is a stautory body. A previous member spent months in the sunny climes of Arizona and listened in using the wonders of technology; all without any members of the media taking note. All of which means that Whitman blocking you on twitter has little relevance to what actually transpires at city hall and the voters will render their decison in October 2010.

    1. I wouldn’t care if he blocked me on Twitter if he were willing to communicate some other way. The blocking is tangential.

  5. Erica Butler’s article is terrific and dead right! For many who are on fixed incomes, owning a car does not make sense. Our monies are better used for housing, food and the like. So we walk to get our groceries, to attend classes, to support local businesses (which presumably pay tax) and to get around generally. Oh and many of us on fixed incomes, read and vote. So the rotten sons of gun who think that clearing sidewalks is the equivalent of “paving streets with gold” had better watch out for their older constituents, who understand the dangers of slipping on icy sidewalks and have no patience for councilors who fail to understand that almost all of us use sidewalks every blessed day. It is time to vote the idiots out.

    On the government’s reluctance to disclose information about ferries, it is worth noting that the maritime industry is heavily regulated, especially for ships that carry passengers. It is not uncommon for regulations to require the disclosure of financial and safety information, in part because passenger vessels often have special bonding requirements to cover the costs of passenger injury and death in the event of accidents.

  6. “If you want to make kids hate the national anthem, force them to listen to it every single school day for 12 years. I guarantee you the experience is not one that will make them more patriotic.”

    I’m not sure – and keeping in mind that public schools have been playing the anthem in imitation of the American tradition for decades prior to 2010 – perhaps it worked on those people who left those comments on Mastracci’s article. By the same logic, indigenous land acknowledgements would foster contempt of the Mi’kmaq and so on.

    What I mean by indigenous land acknowledgements: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/halifax-regional-school-board-mi-kmaq-lands-declaration-1.2551752

    Of course most people really have nothing to contribute in terms of critical thought – for the most part, people believe what they are told by who they view as authority figures. And of course, Trumpism, Brexit, ‘learn to code’ and so on and so forth are a response to a media/academic/corporate class who exist in an increasingly self-referential world – and as a consequence are no longer viewed as authority figures by large tranches of the public, and are mocked and disobeyed accordingly.

  7. “releasing information” .. would send the “wrong message” to business and “it will send a chill [to] people … looking to do business in this province.”

    Such BS. If government has money to spend on work for the private sector, there will be plenty of business willing to take it in return for that work. Any business that prefers to hide behind some secret deal can pound sand, we don’t need their business.