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News

1. Pharmacare

Grandma kicked the premier's butt.
Grandma kicked the premier’s butt.
Grandma kicked the premier’s butt.

Yesterday afternoon the province issued the following press release:

The province will halt planned premium increases to the Seniors’ Pharmacare program and plans a full consultation with seniors across the province.

“Seniors told us these changes were too much, too soon – our actions had unintended consequences,” said Premier Stephen McNeil. “We have listened.

“We will consult with seniors from one end of the province to the other to ensure their thoughts are heard before we make changes in the future.”

Premier McNeil said premiums will not go up from last year. The maximum premium payment will remain at $424 a year per person.

Michael Gorman reviews the history of the proposed changes to Pharmacare, the politics around them, and then notes:

Perhaps the strangest aspect of all of this, however, is how no one could have anticipated the problems that followed the rollout of the proposed changes in the first place.

It’s difficult to imagine that in all of the planning that went into this (and it’s not as though it was just cooked up a couple of weeks ago) no one – not the politicians who ultimately approved the move and not the bureaucrats who are the supposed experts in the programs and policies – could see what might happen. It took reporters all of 10 minutes with the financial documents when they were finally provided by the Health Department a few weeks ago to see flaws in the premise this was partially rooted in sustainability.

That simply wasn’t true. More problems became evident almost just as quickly, and all it took was a simple three-page information package.

Furthermore, if premiums are going to jump from $424 a year to as much as $1,200 a year for some people, how can that not be expected to be a challenge, to say nothing of the plan to remove the exemption for people on the guaranteed income supplement?

2. Who’s watching out for patients?

Robin McGee
Robin McGee

With the creation of the new Health Authority, there’s been a shift of oversight of health services delivery from the Department of Health and Wellness to the Health Authority, which effectively ends independent review of service delivery, reports Michael Gorman for the Examiner:

“Monitoring should be done by people other than the clinicians who are actually doing the program,” [Robin McGee, who is on the panel addressing wait times] said. “It needs oversight and that oversight needs to be independent.”

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

3. Bill 148 sledgehammer delays Doctors Nova Scotia contract

David Milne
David Milne

Again, Gorman reports:

In an email to members [of Doctors Nova Scotia] on Tuesday, obtained by the Halifax Examiner, David Milne writes that updates have been quiet in recent weeks in order to allow the negotiations teams time to focus on talks.

“To say progress has been slow would be an understatement,” Milne writes. “We certainly thought we would be in a position to ratify a contract with the membership by now, especially following such an active month of discussions in January.”

The delay is caused by the province’s threat to implement Bill 148.

This article is also behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. You should really buy a subscription. Click here to do that.

4. Chronicle Herald

YouTube video

Meanwhile, management at the Chronicle Herald has placed an ad for “multiple” editors. The ad doesn’t say that the positions are temporary, so evidently Chronicle Herald president Mark Lever is moving on the assumption that all the unionized editors will be laid off.

5. Destination Cape Breton

A couple of days ago, I wrote about cbiftrumpwins.com, a website purporting to be encouraging Americans who hate Donald Trump to move to Cape Breton. The site had no actual contact info, and the URL was registered anonymously. It did, however, link to just one site, and that was to the Destination Cape Breton site, which is supported by ACOA. I assumed, therefore, that ACOA, a federal agency, was weighing in on the American election. Which I found odd, and problematic.

Turns out, cbiftrumpwins.com was not created by Destination Cape Breton, but rather by Sydney radio station announcer Rob Calabrese. I have no idea why he didn’t use his name.

Regardless, I got the Destination Cape Breton–ACOA connection wrong, but now Destination Cape Breton is getting involved retroactively, reports the CBC:

Destination Cape Breton is pitching in to help the ‘Cape Breton If Trump Wins’ website after it was inundated with inquiries after its launch on Monday.

[…]

The site has already drawn more than 30,000 visitors. Some people have sent Calabrese serious inquiries. A third of readers also clicked the link to the island’s official marketing website, hosted by Destination Cape Breton.

Destination Cape Breton chief executive Mary Tulle saw the interest building and called Calabrese Tuesday.

“We indicated we were on standby to help, and within 24 hours that has come to fruition,” she said. “So we will be able to track a little more significantly what this impact actually is.”

In fact, by Wednesday morning, the agency’s own website had 12,000 hits from the United States, compared with just over 1,000 this time last year.

Destination Cape Breton will help field questions about what the island has to offer. Inquiries about immigration — and there have been a few — will be redirected to others better suited to answer.

Tulle calls the phenomenon “wonderful.”

“I just smile at the good news of Cape Breton,” she said. “Thanks to Rob Calabrese and his ingenuity and his passions.”

So, to set the record straight: the federal agency ACOA did not set out to involve itself in the American election, but retroactively, an ACOA-funded agency (Destination Cape Breton) with an ACOA-maintained website (cbisland.com) is totally good with the site that involves itself in the American election and is spending federal resources to help respond to a pitch that involves itself in the American election.

The errors are regretted.


Views

1. Visitor Information Centres

“The [Visitor Information Centres] are symbols, wrapped up in childhood memories, and that’s what makes them so politically sensitive,” writes Graham Steele:

But budget-crafting politicians have to look at the VICs as they actually are, not as we imagine them in soft-edged dreams.

The Amherst and Port Hastings centres were built in an era when there was no internet and baby boom families piled into the station wagon before hitting the road.

Those days are gone, gone, gone.

Maybe. But I’d like to get some solid numbers on this. Every time I stop by a similar centre anywhere in the world, the staff logs where I’m visiting from. I assume Nova Scotia’s VICs do the same, and a bureaucrat can tell us exactly how many people visit the VICs, where they’re from, and whether the number of visitors is trending up or down. Why is it so hard to make that information public? They’re information centres, after all.

My guess is that the numbers are down, and probably way down (although without having the numbers at hand, who knows?). If so, I’m not opposed to closing them, although, as Steele says, the province should say exactly how it’s going to better allocate the money.

Still, while Steele’s argument on the VICs makes sense, he takes a 90 degree turn at the end of his piece:

You can take the same basic dynamic and apply it to health, education, transportation, or anything else that involves infrastructure built for the baby boomers.

We can’t go on like this, and yet we do.

Wait a minute.

We are a rich society, and getting richer. Worker productivity is up, year after year, decade after decade. And while the financial collapse side-swiped anyone who wasn’t a banker, the strong trend over the long term is that GDP is up. Except for oil stocks, the stock market is up. Real estate? Look at all those cranes, eh?

Our society has plenty of money. More than ever before. More than ever in human history. We can afford what we want to afford. In fact, it’d be almost trivial to maintain and upgrade public works built for baby boomers for the present generation. All it’d take is political will. But we’ve made a set of decisions — to allow the increased wealth to be privatized, to let the already wealthy loot the collective public wealth, and to deprive the next generation the level of public services that their forebears took for granted — such that now the notion of providing a 1970s-era level of public services is unthinkable.

I’m not saying we have to provide public services in the exact form they came in during previous decades. Of course there are technological and delivery advances, and they should be adopted. Too often, however, technological advances are used as an excuse to stop providing public services at all. But just as responsible people delivering public services in the 1970s used the very best of the technology available to them, we should be doing the same now. And we can afford to.

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

I read a sign in our credit union that reads starting the end of February the branch in Reserve Mines will be closed for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to serve the members better.

Let’s put this in perspective.

They will come into work at 9 a.m., close at 11:30 a.m. and all staff will come back for 1 p.m. so anyone who regularly does their business at lunchtime will no longer be able to do so.

In a few months time they will then tell us that the Reserve Mines branch is not sustainable and therefore must close, putting three full-time jobs on the street or moving them to Glace Bay.

If the board of directors of the credit union believes that this is a good thing then why are they not closing the Glace Bay branch for the same reason?

This potential closure in Reserve Mines will certainly cause hardships for our seniors and others in our community.

I say to all residents of Reserve Mines and especially the members of the Glace Bay Central Credit Union wake up and smell the coffee because I believe this is the start of closing our credit union in Reserve Mines.

We should all contact our board members and find out exactly what they are thinking regarding this matter. Official are looking at closing our elementary school and if our only banking institution closes we may as well shut the community down.

Mel Bryden, Reserve Mines


Government

City

No public meetings.

Cogswell Interchange

Cogswell interchange. Photo: unfocusedphotos.com
Cogswell Interchange. Photo: unfocusedphotos.com

The city will soon begin surveying work on the Cogswell Interchange, with the work to be completed by the end of April. It’s possible we could see the interchange torn down this year.

Which is great, and as it should be. But, recall that on December 9, 2008 — just seven years and two and a half months ago — Halifax city council had a secret meeting in which it was decided not to tear down the Cogswell. In fact, not only was the Cogswell not to be torn down, it was to remain standing as a future “land bank” until such time as the rest of downtown was developed.

In 2010, I obtained the staff report written for that secret council meeting. You can read it yourself, here. The report argued that the Cogswell shouldn’t be torn down until certain things happened, including:

• Intensify downtown first (page 5 of the report): “HRM By Design identifies over 30 vacant sites in the existing downtown, which does not include the developed but under-utilized “opportunity sites of which there may be more. To bring Cogswell lands to market before these sites in the core have been infilled is to cast aside the important goals of intensification and sustainability.”

• Previous municipal investment in the urban core (pages 5 and 6 of the report): Basically, the city has spent a lot of money on streetscape improvements in the Spring Garden Road area and downtown, and was developing a heritage preservation process for the Barrington Street corridor. “Each of these investments have been directed in varying degrees at bringing vibrancy and prosperity back to the downtown core. To now begin investment in the Cogswell area (outside the core) would be to undermine these other excellent investments.”

A majority of council agreed with the arguments in the staff report, and secretly voted to not tear down the Cogswell. As a result, the interchange required about a half a million dollars in repairs to keep it usable for the future.

Yet here we are, just seven years later, tearing down the Cogswell. Have the “over 30 vacant sites in the existing downtown” been developed? Has the Barrington Street corridor been revitalized? What gives?

Here’s the thing you should know: the background for council’s secret 2008 meeting was that there was a proposal to build the convention centre on the Cogswell Interchange land. That proposal, put forward by the Hardman Group, was rated as a better proposal than a competing proposal put forward by developer Joe Ramia. But if Hardman was to build the convention centre, then city council would have to agree to tearing down the Cogswell. If city council didn’t agree to tearing down the Cogswell, then Hardman couldn’t build the convention centre, and Ramia would suddenly have the winning proposal. Of course, Ramia is now building the convention centre on Argyle Street.

Draw your own conclusions.

Oh, by the way, the author of the secret 2008 staff report to city council was none other than Andy Filmore, then the city planning guru and now the MP for Halifax.

Filmore has repeatedly declined to be interviewed for the Examineradio podcast.

Province

No public meetings.


On Campus

Reading week, so nothing going on. Go read.


In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Friday. Map: marinetraffic.com
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:30am Friday. Map: marinetraffic.com

ZIM Constanza, container ship, Valencia, Spain to Pier 42, then sails to sea
NYK Rumina, container ship, Rotterdam to Fairview Cove, then sails to sea
Afro Oak, oil tanker, Saint John to anchorage, then sails to sea

Nanny sails to sea
Carmen sails to sea


Footnotes

I too am reading all day, or at least trying to. Stop sending me email.

Tim Bousquet

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

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4 Comments

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  1. As has been show on many occasions, the Regional Council of today does not feel that it should be in anyway bound by the decisions made by a previous Regional Council… such is the respect for the quality of past municipal decision makers. One need not wonder, if after the next municipal election, if the new Regional Council will respect the previous Council’s decisions…. the precedent has already been set.

  2. Mel Bryden of Reserve CB wrote: I read a sign in our credit union that reads starting the end of February the branch in Reserve Mines will be closed for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to serve the members better.

    This is par for the course in my experience of Credit Unions. I have tried mightily for over 50 years to support the IDEAL, but the REALITY is that Credit Unions, more and more are emulate all the BAD aspects of commercial banks while FAILING to serve the customer (member) anywhere near as well as those banks. In my experience Credit Union hours are NOT for the convenience of depositors — they are set for the convenience of the managers who feel «entitled» to close whenever they feel like it and the customer «go to grass».

  3. Tim wrote: Our society has plenty of money. More than ever before. More than ever in human history. We can afford what we want to afford. In fact, it’d be almost trivial to maintain and upgrade public works built for baby boomers for the present generation. All it’d take is political will. But we’ve made a set of decisions — to allow the increased wealth to be privatized, to let the already wealthy loot the collective public wealth, and to deprive the next generation the level of public services that their forebears took for granted — such that now the notion of providing a 1979s-era level of public services is unthinkable.

    NOTHING COULD BE MORE TRUE. Unfortunately, the Great Unwashed are too busy being TWITS and soaking up American Violence and Depravity Propaganda TV on their 10-foot monster screens to actually THINK; and our schools SUPPORT that mindless degeneration rather than challenging it. Then we wonder why other societies see us as «degenerate» and seek to annihilate us. We’re the authors of our own demise.