Category: That’s life
Our curmudgeonly friend is fine with the Grits’ plan to create a mid- winter statutory holiday, but not with letting schoolchildren name it.
What a load of precious crap. Why children? They’re cute, but they don’t know anything. A substantial number would solemnly recommend Fart Day or Dinosaur Day.
Why not Treaty Day? First Nations in NS already celebrate it. Why shouldn’t “we.” They’re “our” treaties, too. After enduring centuries of de facto apartheid, First Nations deserve to be welcomed as an important community in NS.
The worst of it is: think of all the treacly interviews we’ll have to suffer through as patronizing newsreaders humour eight-year-olds about their clever holiday name suggestions.
I see by the CBC that Nova Scotia Power wind turbines have laid waste to a Digby Neck emu farm, decimating a family’s livelihood in the process.
Twenty of Debi and Davey VanTassel’s 27 emus succumbed to the lethal noise produced by NS Power’s murderous machines in the three years since they began slicing the salt air over Digby.
Or maybe it was 30 of their 38 birds—the CBC story gives both sets of figures. In any case, the emus were as hapless as they were flightless, no match for the death-dealing, green-power monsters.
How do we know this?
Because Debi Van Tassel, voice choked with emotion, told the CBC so.
Why, when the birds that provided their livelihood began dropping like cluster flies on a warm window sill, the Van Tassels didn’t even call a veterinarian to examine the corpses. Why bother? They already knew the cause of death.
So certain were Debi and Davey of the emu-killing power of renewable energy, they had protested construction of the wind farm before it even started up.
A vet might not have been much help anyway, given the inconvenient lack of a single peer-reviewed study showing turbine-induced health effects on animals.
Public health researchers in Australia tabulated every known public complaint of human health problems related to wind farms, and found no correlation with the size of a wind farm or complainants’ proximity to them. Well over half of the country’s 41 wind farms generated no complaints; those that did were mostly in areas where protesters promoted health fears before construction began.
The Van Tassel’s putative plight reads like a classic fable. On the one hand, a grieving farm couple, raising charismatic birds from a distant hemisphere, seeking only to wrest a humble livelihood from the windswept Fundy shore. On the other, a corporation so reviled the press exempts it from ordinary standards of fairness and balance, replacing conventional news coverage with one-sided, crowd-pleasing screeds.
“With a vital portion of their income gone,” came the CBC’s maudlin conclusion, “the Van Tassels said they don’t know what’s next for them.”
Absence of evidence and rampant implausibility could not be allowed to interfere with such a stirring yarn. Score one for bunkum over news.
[Disclosure: I count many good friends among NS Power management and staff, and from time to time, I have done work for the company, mainly writing and editing.]
“Life is like a public performance on the violin, in which you must learn the instrument as you go along,” wrote E.M. Forster, in Room With A View. I don’t know much about life, but getting fired, unexpectedly, publicly, certainly feels like that. Having gone through it, I’m always interested to see how others handle the experience.
Hours after Rogers Media sacked him and 10 other News Radio 95.7 staffers, right-wing talk radio host Jordi Morgan posted “A note to Maritime Morning listeners” on his Facebook Page.
As you may have heard I will no longer be hosting Maritime Morning on News 95.7. Rogers has retooled to meet some very challenging market conditions and part of this process included the layoff of several personnel in Halifax.
I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of the people who have contributed to the program over the past three years. Academics, politicians, experts and engaged citizens volunteered their time and ideas to help create a program our team was proud to be part of. I believe our program with the input of so many, has contributed value to the discussion around municipal, provincial and national issues and topics of general interest.
He went on to briefly catalog the issues his show dealt with—cyber-bullying, discrimination against people with disabilities, mental illness, education, healthcare, and treatment of veterans—and to thank listeners, guests, regular callers, producers, and surviving hosts, before adding this:
While some may question the corporate decision makers, I want to take a moment to praise the efforts of Rogers media who have invested literally millions of dollars into our region by providing the content we have been able to provide.
I will miss being with you all… but hope that you continue to support the efforts of Rogers and News 95.7 to continue to provide such an important private sector news voice… a rarity in the Canadian broadcast spectrum. Without you… it’s a tree falling in the forest.
You might call this extreme grace and classiness—actually praising the people who showed you the door.
In the half day since Morgan’s post went up, 150 fans—including Bill Stephenson, Marc Patrone, Rob Smith, Waye Mason, Charles Cirtwell, Eva Hoare, Keith Bain, Kim West, Laura Peck, Fiona Kirkpatrick, Barry James McLaughlin, Mike Melski, Sam Moon, Peter Moirera, John Campbelljohn, and Laura Smith—have showered him with words of regret, encouragement, gratitude, kindness, and praise.
That such a diverse group of Maritimers could unite behind a right-wing host who once ran for the Alliance Party attests to Morgan’s deftness in dodging the pitfalls that give that breed a bad name. Mainly, he eschewed sophomoric rants, and treated contrary-minded guests with respect that felt genuine, not faked. Can anyone doubt he will land on his feet?
[See correction and clarification at end.] Two months ago, Atlantic journalists James and Deborah Fallows began traveling around the United States in a small plane, visiting relatively obscure cities in a quest to find out what makes some thrive while others struggle.
They spent much of last week in Eastport, Maine, hard up against the New Brunswick border. Jim’s initial blog posts bespeak a community well on the way to recovery, populated by leaders determined to go the distance. Since Eastport shares much in common with struggling Atlantic port communities, Maritimers might want to perk up their ears.
In a post last week, and again on the weekend, Jim focused on two factors residents believe will play a role in Eastport’s potential for economic prosperity: the depth of its harbour, and its proximity to Europe.
As you’ll hear, a group of ambitious people in the city are trying to use the port’s unique capacity — and its proximity to Europe, and its potential proximity to Asia as northwest passages through a warming Canadian arctic become more frequent (they are already happening) — as one foundation of its hoped-for economic revival.
As mentioned yesterday — and as cited non-stop by local port authorities — Eastport has the deepest natural harbor in the continental United States, at 60+ feet. Its siting, “remote” from the rest of America’s perspective, is also a potential strategic plus.
To buttress the point, he offered three maps, created by the nifty online Great Circle Mapper, showing how much closer to Europe Eastport is than Boston, New York, or Miami. And not just from Europe, but from the African ports of Casablanca and Dakar. Here’s the London map:
Compared to Boston, Eastport has the potential to save vessels more than 500 miles* in a round trip to London; 900 miles when compared to New York. All that means time, fuel, and money saved. Similar maps made the same point with the two African ports.
All this rang a bell with David Ryan, a Long Island, filmmaker, boat builder, and yachtsman, who happens to be a mutual friend of Jim’s and mine. In an email to both of us, he wrote:
I heard the same thing when we were in Port Hastings [on the Strait of Canso in Cape Breton Island], Nova Scotia, back around 2003. There was no reason a local should have been telling me in particular that they had 60 feet of water, were ice-free year round, and right on one of Canada’s main train arteries, yet I was; so I take it this is something that all Post Hastings boosters tell anyone and everyone who visits.
One curious feature of the superport formed by the eastern half of the Strait of Canso is that it was accidental. Construction of the 4,544 ft, rock-filled causeway connecting Cape Breton Island to the mainland in 1955 had the unanticipated result of creating an ice-free, deepwater harbour. This image from Google Earth shows how the causeway traps the seasonal ice flowing down from the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, keeping the deep waterway east of the causeway free from ice. Voilà! A superport.
For a time, the superport turned the nearby community of Port Hawkesbury into something of a boom town, albeit one that never quite lived up to its potential. An oil refinery, a gypsum plant, and a heavy water plant all eventually failed—
the heavy water plant spectacularly so**—but the paper mill still operates at reduced capacity, as does a tank farm, a bulk coal facility, and a massive rock quarry. Together they make Port Hawkesbury Canada’s second largest port by tonnage, after Vancouver. A biomass electrical generating station officially opens in Port Hawkesbury this Wednesday, but hopes for a container terminal remain elusive (though not as elusive as Sydney’s parallel pipe dream).
Thinking about all this history led me back to the Great Circle Mapper, where I reconstructed Jim’s images of the Great Eastport Advantage — this time including Port Hawkesbury. As I expected, the Nova Scotia port has as much of an advantage over Eastport as Eastport has over Boston.
Here is the map showing distances to Casablanca:
And here is Dakar.
The Canso Superport wins all three.
Whether this makes it any more likely than Eastport to foster lasting economic growth, and what other factors might affect the two communities’ prospects, is a much tougher question, and a topic for another day. We may get some hint, however, from an apocryphal Presbyterian prayer one hears quoted from time to time in Cape Breton:
And more especially do we thank Thee, O Lord, for the Gut of Canso, Thine own body of water, which separates us from the wickedness that lieth on the other side thereof.
* [Clarification] In response to a question from Robert G. McNeil, the units are nautical miles.
** [Correction] Thanks to Stanley Beaton for reminding me it wasn’t the heavy water plant at Port Hawkesbury that proved a disaster. It was AECL’s sister facility at Glace Bay.
On Thursday, I criticized local news organizations for credulous reporting of an Abacus poll, commissioned by the Company of Canadians and two local anti-fracking groups, purporting to show overwhelming public opposition to fracking. In reality, the only question the survey asked was framed in such a way as to insure that result.
The poll question was not a push poll. Push polls are used by campaigns to influence or change the opinion of respondents under the guise of a survey. As such they are not considered legitimate research and therefore strongly frowned upon by the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, of which we are a member.
My terminology was imprecise. I did not intend to imply that the survey was a bogus poll whose real purpose was to influence public opinion. Rather, I believe the poll question was deliberately designed to influence the results of the survey.
The question commissioned by the Council of Canadians and other groups was intended to measure public perceptions around the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in Nova Scotia.
The question was meant to gauge support for maintaining the moratorium under strict conditions – that being the results of a review that found the procedure to have no impact on human health, etc. The preamble provided some context to respondents.
I believe the question fairly measured public reaction to the issue and a point of view that the moratorium should remain in place until a review is complete that found no risk of harm to the public or the environment.
Thanks again for the inquiry.
Nomenclature aside, my core objection remains. You say the poll was intended to measure public perceptions around the moratorium, and the preamble merely supplied “some context.”
Didn’t the preamble do more than that? By selectively listing negative concerns about fracking, but omitting arguments for it, was it not specifically designed to drive an anti-fracking response?
You could have used a “some say this, some say that” approach: “Some say fracking endangers the water table and human health; others say fracking technology has improved so much that it offers a low cost energy supply with negligible risk. Do you favour retaining the moratorium even if the independent review now underway finds it poses no risk to the environment or human health?” Or even, “Do you favour lifting the moratorium if the independent review finds no risk?
My wording could no doubt be improved, but the Abacus wording was tendentious and designed to produce the client’s desired result. Don’t you agree it seems deliberately designed to produce the largest possible anti-fracking numbers?
I take your point. Much of my work is balancing the needs of my client and the needs of good methodology. I think we did that in this case. I agree there are other ways to measure opinion on fracking but the question was specifically about the moratorium and the high standards the client wanted to keep.
I appreciate Abacus’s willingness to engage.
Our curmudgeonly friend drew my attention to a Canadian Press dispatch listing the factors Premier-to-be Stephen McNeil will have to consider when choosing his cabinet before he gets to competence or talent. This led me to a momentary reverie about the sort of government we might have if ability were the only factor in picking the government.
Contrarian reader Tim Segulin writes:
You never know, McNeil may just run the government out of his office the way Harper does and Dexter apparently did. That way important decisions don’t really get made by ministers who are implied to not be up to the job, but they still act as his regional ears to the ground and their ridings feel well served.
Ron Stockton has a different view:
If we give up all consideration of factors other than who is “best,” we’ll end up with a bunch of white men, mostly old but at least with old ideas, because it has always been old, white men who define what is “best.”
My guess is there are different “bests” depending on the background and interests of those setting the standards. All the more reason to require a broad representation and to have more than one white man making the decision about who gets in Cabinet. For example, let caucus decide who amongst them will sit in Cabinet subject only to those other representational considerations.
Seriously? Aren’t we past the day when aging white men with old ideas are the only people thought to have talent?
To my complaint that a small cadre of apparatchiks in the premier’s office exercised far too much central control, a party supporter employed in the administration offered this colourful label:
[A] group of too-young, nasty, disconnected, Harper-style assholes.
Another longtime party supporter on the party’s left flank wrote:
One of the most disappointing failures of the government was not bring more talented, knowledgeable, and competent people into the government and the party.
In every area the government claims to be interested in improving—the environment, poverty, health care, metal health, economic development, law reform, poverty reduction—there are activists who have toiled for years to bring about change. Many of these people are highly competent, and often more knowledgeable about these issue then either the elected politicians or the departmental bureaucrats.
Many, but certainly not all, are (or were) likely NDP supporters. They represent of pool of talent and possible new ideas that has been left almost completely untapped. I’m not suggesting that they should have immediately done a wholesale house cleaning, either in the government or the party but they should have immediately began recruiting among their ranks and brought them into influence as opportunities arose.
If they had, perhaps some of the mistakes you listed might have been avoided and we might also have seen much more solid progressive legislation. I think the similar case can be made for the approach to cabinet selection.
On the positive side, in spite of making some major mistakes and ignoring for too long concerned voices from their base, they have generally been more competent then any recent government, and much more competent then either of the opposition parties are likely to be. They have also made major positive change in a number of areas such as health care and the environment. Yet in spite of this it seems as if we are about to return to mediocre ineptitude.
Over the last 48 hours, polls have tightened from the breathtaking 30-point Liberal lead reported by Corporate Research Associates early in the week, to a merely commanding 18-20 point lead Thursday. The prospect of the Liberals carrying all but a handful of seats seems to have given some citizens pause, including one Halifax voter who was overheard to say:
I don’t like [the NDP], but the government wasn’t THAT bad.
On the weekend, a closer look at the Liberals’ election-lite platform.
Unintended Consequences Dept.: If next week’s election turns into a Liberal sweep, as seems increasingly likely, there will be many, many new faces at Province House. All those new members will be required to find fully accessible constituency offices within one year, or forego reimbursement of their office expenses. Returning members have three years to comply.
AMI, the accessible cable channel, has a nice video on the new rules:
These consequences aren’t completely unintended, of course, but at the time the new rules passed the House of Assembly Management Committee, few realized how many freshman MLAs might be arriving later this month.
Don Mills sounds nervous.
Nova Scotia’s best known pollster has been conducting a rolling poll for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, and over the last week, his numbers have pointed to an historic rout. For the last five days, he has shown Stephen McNeil’s Liberals holding steady between 55 and 57 percent of decided voters—enough to propel him to a lopsided majority.
“We’re under a lot of scrutiny here,” he told Contrarian.
Here’s the latest edition, published Tuesday morning:
To understand how unusual such an outcome would be, I looked at every Nova Scotia election since 1960. Over those 15 provincial votes:
- The winning party got more than 55 percent of the vote only once: Robert Stanfield’s PCs took 56.2 percent in 1963, in what was essentially a two-party race.
- Only three times has the winning party won more than 50 percent of the vote: Stanfield did it in ’63 and ’67; John Buchanan got 50.6 percent in 1984.
- In all three of these contests, the opposition party or parties were crushed. The Liberals won just four seats in 1963 and just six in ’67. When Buchanan got just 50 percent of the vote in the 1984 election, the opposition parties shared 10 seats: six for the Liberals, three for the NDP, and one for independent Paul MacEwan.
John Savage’s Liberals won 49.7 percent of the vote in 1993, and took 40 seats to the PCs’ nine and the NDP’s 3. All of these number reflect the reality that, in a first-past-the-post election system, when one party’s vote percentage goes above 50 percent, the number of seats it can win goes up exponentially.
Here’s the historical record, minus third parties and independents:
[Yellow highlighter indicates a minority government. The complete spreadsheet, which includes third parties and independents, can be downloaded here.]
If CRA’s numbers are anywhere near correct, and I expect they are, then every assumption about this election goes out the window. Seats thought to be in play will fall easily to the Liberals. Some seats assumed to be safe will fall to the Liberals. The premier’s seat, Jamie Baillie’s, and those of prominent cabinet ministers, could be at risk.
Mills views this cautiously. Much could change in a week, but if the current spread holds, he expects both opposition parties will have high single digit seat tallies, “closer to 10 than to zero.” If the total exceeds 55 percent, Mills may be understating this.
“To have [a 30-point spread] in a three-party election is extraordinary,” Mills said. “I’m stunned by it. It’s very hard to explain.”
On which, more later.