1. Even Stephens

Stephen McNeil “snapped” at Global reporter Marieke Walsh when she asked him about carbon pricing.

Image from premier.novascotia.ca
Image from premier.novascotia.ca

I’ll quote the exchange from the Global News story in full (video at the link):

When asked Friday by Global News’ Marieke Walsh about what the premier has pitched to the feds and is hoping they accept, McNeil went on the attack.

“Marieke, that is something I’m pitching to the federal government, and when we go through the negotiation you’ll be the second person I tell, OK?” the premier responded.

“We’ll communicate it to Nova Scotians. I think you think it’s unreasonable for you to suggest I should sit here and negotiate with you on what we’re trying to deal for Nova Scotians, this is an important issue for Nova Scotia families.”

“We’re trying to make sure that we articulate their views and it needs to be done in a thoughtful way. I don’t think anyone should believe that a government with any negotiating partner should be sitting here doing it in public, with you.

“You’re acting like an opposition leader, which is quite odd to me,” he said. “We’ve said, we’ve provided some options to the people of Nova Scotia, when we get to what is a solution we’ll bring that to Nova Scotians.”

“What I’ve said, the one thing that is not an option for us as a government is a carbon tax, it will not happen in Nova Scotia under my leadership.”

When Walsh responded that she was asking as a journalist, not trying to act like an opposition leader, saying she was “just trying to ask you what your government’s considering,” McNeil remained on the defensive.

“I have said to you, we’re negotiating with the federal government, what you’re asking me to do is to have my negotiations with you, you’re not going to be able to make the decision, Marieke, the decision will be made by the national government.”

Another reporter at the Nova Scotia legislature interrupted the premier, saying “I don’t understand why this just got so personal, can you just answer the question of what you’re considering?”

“We’re sitting there having a negotiation with the national government when we get to a solution, we’ll be happy to communicate it to Nova Scotians,” McNeil said before walking away.


I have hard time believing McNeil would be quite so condescending and belittling were the questioner a man and not a young woman. He doesn’t just show frustration with being asked a question he believes he’s already answered, his specific outrage seems to be about this reporter getting above herself.

The other reporter — Sarah Ritchie from CTV — who intervenes calls his responses “personal,” and they are in a very particular way.

For example, in the following sentence:

“We’re trying to make sure that we articulate their views and it needs to be done in a thoughtful way. I don’t think anyone should believe that a government with any negotiating partner should be sitting here doing it in public, with you.”

It’s the “with you” clause there at the end that is both unnecessary, and pointedly hostile. There is no reason not to end the sentence with “in public.” I had a Shakespeare professor who explained once that the power of iambic pentameter is we usually talk with four beats in a sentence, so the fifth beat creates the extra emotional emphasis to the point — something like “Please don’t mansplain politics to me, you asshole.” See how that extra clause, “you asshole,” is the extra beat and how adding it makes the whole thing more pointed? McNeil is doing the same thing with that “with you,” and that’s what makes disdain drip from the sentence. The issue becomes not revealing plans in public before they are ready, but the reporter. With YOU. The nerve.

So unseemly. A woman doing journalism. (Marieke Walsh.) Photo: Halifax Examiner
So unseemly. A woman doing journalism. (Marieke Walsh.) Photo: Halifax Examiner

McNeil keeps accusing Walsh of getting above herself, basically. She thinks she’s the opposition leader. She is inserting herself into a conversation where she doesn’t belong. She’s acting like she thinks she’s the chief negotiator. Ugh, why are you still talking, Marieke.

“Marieke, that is something I’m pitching to the federal government, and when we go through the negotiation you’ll be the second person I tell, OK?”

First of all, ew. And also, wait, can I guess the first person to know? Is it Kirby McVicar? Wait, no, is it Marilla Stephenson? Your dog? No, I got it! I got it! It’s your best friend!

Image from Huffington Post
Image from Huffington Post

And also, another unnecessary clause there with the “OK?” just to make the sentence that more patronizing. Stephen, you are talking like you’re explaining politics to a toddler, OK? And you’re actually speaking to a seasoned reporter, OK?

This is exactly what the term mansplaining was invented for:

“I have said to you, we’re negotiating with the federal government, what you’re asking me to do is to have my negotiations with you, you’re not going to be able to make the decision, Marieke, the decision will be made by the national government.”

Oh really? I’m sure that she thought she was actually the Prime Minister until you helpfully set her straight on that. You’re kind of sounding like a dick here, Stephen. Where did she say she was trying to make the decisions? Didn’t she simply ask you about YOUR decisions?

God, women, you let them talk and then it’s like they just keep nagging you and then they just have to take everything over. So bossy.

The impression I’m getting is that he actually hasn’t done any negotiating at all. It’s like when mommy is all “did you clean your room?” And you didn’t, so you’re like “I HATE YOU! YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!”


I’m actually getting more and more infuriated the more I read McNeil’s responses. He reads like every guy “negging” women on OK Cupid or something.

 McNeil: hey honey whats up (:

Woman: Hi. Can I ask you a question about your profile? What’s your job, exactly?

McNeil: wow, u must think ur all that. ur not, ok?

Also, it says quite a lot about the kind of reporting “elites” believe they are entitled to if simply asking questions equals “acting like an opposition leader.” I’m sorry, was Global just supposed to take out some full page ads trumpeting your accomplishments? Should they create the McNeil Award for Gender Relations and hand it out to business leaders at a lavish ceremony every year? What he calls “acting like an opposition leader” used to be known as “journalism.” It’s not the same thing as PR, Stephen, OK?

Marieke Walsh is doing her job here, and doing it well. There’s no need for demeaning sarcasm on McNeil’s part and the implication that she has some nerve being there, in public, asking all these questions. You know what you’re acting like, McNeil?

YouTube video

2. Justice, again

I have some thoughts on the Classified vs. the Newfoundland courts situation.

Image from cbc.ca
Image from cbc.ca

I actually don’t agree with Classified here. Not because I think the justice system actually works, or that it is fair to women or rape victims, or that I think people shouldn’t relentlessly protest the system — I obviously agree with all these things! And obviously this is a horrific case, and people are of course outraged and upset at the rape of a little girl.

But I’m also not sure what the judge could have done. The family didn’t want to girl to testify. Adult women speak about how traumatizing testifying about their rape is, so it’s understandable that the family didn’t want to put a little girl through that. Making a deal allows the girl to be spared the pain and trauma of going on the stand and being cross-examined.

We can obviously argue about the way the courts treat victims of sexual assault, but given what actually exists, I don’t see what the judge could have done, really. The sentence was a joint recommendation from the Crown and the defence. If judges don’t take those recommendations seriously, then that prevents lawyers from coming to an agreement. And if it’s pointless for lawyers to try to avoid trial because the judges ignore their recommendations, then that means everything has to go through trial, and through lengthy sentencing hearings, and that means the courts will be backed up, and that means that everyone’s charges will be dropped anyway if they can’t meet the 30-month limit on bringing matters to the Supreme Court.

So then it seems like, if people are going to be mad at anyone, they should be mad at the Crown for accepting the deal. But that makes the best of a bad situation, too. Forcing the girl to testify doesn’t help her or her family and causes more damage. If the girl does testify and falls apart on the stand, or if she isn’t able to testify during the trial, then you could be looking at an acquittal. From their viewpoint, it’s better to secure the guilty plea than take the chance that the case falls apart, and that the victim is more seriously victimized by the whole process.

But no competent defence lawyer is going to take a deal for a heavy sentence. If the Crown comes with a deal at the high end of the sentencing range, then they might as well take their chances at trial. A five-year sentence allows the defence to tell their client to take the deal, and not risk getting a much heavier sentence at trial. And that allows the girl and her family to be spared going through court. If the Crown was asking for a sentence the defence thought he’d get at trial anyway, they might as well go for it, and have the chance of an acquittal.

Making the deal ensured Butt was convicted, that he did federal time, that he would be registered as an offender, and that the family would get some kind of closure. It meant the girl didn’t have to go to court, and that the defence would encourage Butt to take the deal rather than risk trial. It’s obviously not a perfect system or a just one, but given what the justice system is and the options available, it seems like the best solution out of a series of bad ones was found.

Of course it’s normal and human to feel like the punishment isn’t enough. But it also raises the question of at whose expense the public wants punishment to come? Do we need the little girl to go through with testifying to satisfy our conception of justice? He likely would have got a longer sentence if he were convicted at trial, but is that worth putting the little girl through court? That doesn’t seem satisfactory either.

And, Butts was a victim of sexual assault himself. That’s no excuse, but what it does show is how much abuse and trauma cycles through generations, and how often that trauma goes untreated. No matter how long we imprison people, it isn’t going to help heal people, or help people get the access to the treatment they need. Butts became a terrible predator, but he also was victimized too. It’s obviously too late to go back in time and give him the treatment he needed, but we also need to be talking about why the resources for victims aren’t there, why we don’t invest in treatment for mental health, and how we can intervene before people commit acts of violence. When our conversation becomes focused on prisons and sentencing and not on rehabilitation or treatment, it’s easy for the government to not invest in programs that help people and that actually reduce crime and violence, and to stoke outrage instead about criminals.

There’s no doubt we live in a society that takes rape lightly, and where women and girls rarely find justice. Writing the judge helps express that anger, but the judge isn’t really the problem in this case. I’m just not sure what he was supposed to do given the circumstances.

If Classified is using his platform to fight injustice in the courts, that’s great. Black Nova Scotia News pointed out that there doesn’t seem to be any record of him ever speaking out against the injustices facing Black people in society.As a white rapper working in an art form created by Black people, he also has a huge amount of privilege and success granted to him because of his race, because white rappers are seen as a novelty, as more intellectual, as not like those other criminal rappers, and because white people have access to structural advantages that are denied Black musicians. Acknowledging this and speaking about how race impacts how we experience justice throughout society would also be an important step. Too often people enjoy the style of Black culture with none of the struggle or substance that motivates it in the first place. Too many stories about Black people experiencing injustice can pass without raising outrage because we are assumed to be guilty, or it just seems normal.

Hopefully his followers can also speak up against the police shootings, mass incarceration, disproportionate representation of Black people in the criminal justice system, racial profiling, the school to prison pipeline, and the many other ways Black people experience oppression, often accompanied by media stories that highlight the rap lyrics on the social media profiles of shooting victims, the style of hip hop clothes they wear, or their so-called “gangster” activities that justify unfair sentences. Hip Hop is still used to profile and even convict Black people as “thugs” and criminals. That is an injustice worth recognizing too.

3. Kids are cute

Awwww. CBC Mainstreet went to Anne Leblanc’s Grade 4 class at Bel Ayr Elementary School in Dartmouth and asked them for their thoughts on the election.

Ms. Leblanc is clearly indoctrinating a generation of environmental terrorists:

“I want them to start recycling cause eventually just the whole entire world is going to be trash. There’s a park by my sister’s school and there’s a lot of trash there.”

“Some people can afford them and other people don’t have enough money to afford them so they don’t have enough water and they could get very sick if they don’t drink as much water as they need.”

You need water to stay hydrated and flush the toilet and stuff and even [for] washing your dishes cause then you will have messy food and it will get gross soon.”

Good lord, is this a Greenpeace training camp? What’s next, lessons in chaining themselves to bulldozers? Obviously these kids don’t have any classes in the free market or they’d know that every time we lower taxes on the wealthy, a water droplet gets its wings.

Apparently Lil MacPherson is planning an anti-government insurrection using children as troops:

“[She said] that we could collect rainwater instead of paying for our water so soon there will be no water bills left.”

Riley Fraser is the best:

He wants more parks: “There’s not a lot of parks here.” He said he likes to play in them.

Favourite leader: Toss-up between Superman and Lil MacPherson.

Sure, kid. Today it’s parks to play in, tomorrow it’s blowing up the Halifax Water Commission.

Maybe we should send Hudson McLaughlin to MIT instead since he already has ideas for innovative technology and food security:

“… People really like video games. There’s this game I really like. It’s called Five Nights at Freddy’s. I think they should make a pizzeria based off of it. If I was running for mayor, I would give people the money to do it … I would make the pizza $1.99 so people can get pizza.”

Isabelle Macleod has some first class shade:

She’s rooting for Halifax mayoral candidate Lil MacPherson: “She got’s good reasons, in my opinion, on the water bills and I think we should give her a chance trying to run mayor because Mike been mayor last year.”

Hahahaha. Isabelle is not here for you, Mike Savage. You been mayor.

So, I went around and asked a bunch of cats what their major issues were this election:


It was weird, man. All the cats kept complaining about the convention centre and developers and newspaper strikes and phosphates in the food and wrongful convictions and stuff. I wonder where they got all that.

El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor, community advocate, and activist. Her work focuses on social justice issues such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism, and decolonization.

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  1. The issue with the sentence handed out by the judge is that judges are not bound by joint sentencing recommendations. Yes, typically they do accept them, but if they are grossly disproportionate (which I would certainly argue is the case here), then the judge can choose a different, more appropriate sentence. We’re not talking about a guy holding up a convenience store for a couple hundred bucks here. This was a horrific, disgusting series of attacks and the judge had the opportunity to make sure the sentence was an appropriate one. He failed.

  2. Re: McNeil’s language to Walsh… It also bothers me when public figures address journalists by their first names. At best, this is some sleezy PR-inspired pandering. At worst, it’s an assertion of perceived hierarchy. Public figures should consider that when a journalist asks a question, they are asking on behalf of their audience, which means rudeness and disrespect like this is directed at them, too.

  3. Voted for Macpherson (and Waye) today! Hopefully it isn’t a violation of the NAP to gather rainwater.

    I think in the age of Trump the hermenutics of environmentalism deserve some serious thought. Al Gore, Leonardo DeCaprio and Justin Trudeau are not going to change many people’s minds on the subject.

  4. There were other reasons given by the judge for his minimum sentence of Butt’s 5 years for repeatedly (anal and vaginal) rape of the little girl. El, you have only mentioned the avoidance of a trial when you say ” I actually don’t agree with Classified here”.

    “In his decision, the justice said the circumstances of the assaults “attract a high degree of public abhorrence,” but mitigating factors included Butt’s guilty plea, apology, participation in rehabilitation programs and commitment to further counselling.”

    Perhaps these were the reasons he was outraged. Outraged that the judge feels an apology (gee i’m sorry) is relevant to mitigate the ordeal she suffered over weeks, and will endure for the rest of her life.

    And why is it relevant that the musician has not up to now made a protest about any other issue at all? the plight of whales, the ozone layer, gmo? What on earth does race have to do with being outraged about a little girl’s rapist being given a MINIMUM sentence? Doesn’t everyone have the right to choose their own boiling point?

  5. Mr McNeil’s tone has been condescending, and irritated sounding, quite frequently, no matter who is asking a question. His bad days outnumber the good by a large margin. I get the sense that he feels that we (um…taxpayers) are none too bright, and needlessly curious about issues that he and his ministers and deputy ministers are addressing in an enlightened, and innovative fashion, far above our weak intellectual abilities, and, of course, always in our best (if not deserving) interests. I am sure that if I were to suggest that his fits of temper in public are unprofessional at the least, and offensive at the most, he would snap at me.

  6. Re: 3. Kids are cute

    You’ve outdone yourself today, El. Thanks for this piece of sweet charm and the few surprising, embedded barbs. As I smiled and finished reading, thought of Brit comedian’s directive to “always leave them laughing.” Warmly smiling’s just as good.

  7. Thank you for taking on the Premier’s ugly, withering tirade — his self-important rant against journalist Marieke Walsh and journalism itself. You nail it with: “It’s not the same thing as PR, Stephen, OK?” I’m generally more into text and transcripts than video, but this is that rare example of stark, printed words not remotely adequate to convey the emotion of the moment, exactly as printed words don’t capture the full horror of Donald Trump’s spoken words on sexual assault. McNeil’s demeanour, his facial expression, the tone and delivery of his words drip disdain and contempt … and why? Because a journalist continued to ask relevant, appropriate questions and professionally fulfill the vital role of journalism. She inadvertently hit a nerve on an issue that both captures McNeil’s politically subordinate role, and may represent his perceived failure on an issue that’s assumed outsize importance to him. That’s politics and our federation, Premier, and governing is difficult and complex. McNeil owes Marieke Walsh and Nova Scotians an apology, and is in need of professional help. He’s not only lost perspective, he’s lost self-control.

    1. No doubt they’re far more qualified than the white men who inherited their positions! But it also shows the problem with “diversity” as an apolitical concept – as if more Black women on boards of oil companies who have the reputation of violence against Indigenous people and environmental disasters is what will make the world better…it’s like this conference I went to at Harvard about Black activism sponsored by Goldman Sachs where people argued activism was recruiting more Black people to predatory banks…

      1. Nobody inherits a position on a board of a large international public company.
        Perhaps the Chair & CEO of Xerox is more to your liking : https://www.xerox.com/en-us/about/executive-leadership/board-of-directors/ursula-burns
        or the Chair and CEO of Merck http://www.merck.com/about/leadership/board-of-directors/home.html

        Get off your high horse and appreciate the significant educational and business accomplishments of of the 4 people I have posted.
        The two people on the board have outstanding credentials.

        1. If people don’t inherit public positions like that, how else do you explain, say, the Bush political dynasty? That the junior Bushes would become successful politicians is just really, really, really unlikely. It’s not the dictionary definition of inheritance, but for all intents and purposes, it is inheritance.
          I mean, don’t you think that happens everywhere, all the time, at all levels of everything?