Category: That’s life
Each December, the L’Arche Cape Breton theatre group stages a Christmas pageant at the SAERC auditorium in Port Hawkesbury. This year’s show, on December 8, was a dramatization of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Christmas poem, The Three Kings.
Hollywood Oommen, Jamie Stewart, and Joan MacDonald starred as the Kings Melchior, Gaspar, and
Baltasar. Esther Akurut played Mary, Buddy Payne played Joseph, and Simon Zavo was the baby Jesus. David Gunn played Herod (with the help of a fantastic costume designed by Dennis Murphy). Dancing Maggie Power (my granddaughter) portrayed the star that led the kings to the stable where Jesus was born.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
Simone’s studies in Nova Scotia are supported by the Science Without Borders Scholarship Program of the Brazilian National Council for Science and Technological Development. You might also enjoy her Flickr stream.
H/T: Marla Cranston
Contrarian’s friend and neighbour Valerie Patterson was in the North Sydney liquor commission Wednesday, picking up supplies for Darts Night at the Ross Ferry Volunteer Fire Department. She was surprised to find our recently defeated MLA, Keith Bain, a member of the United Church, staffing the Salvation Army kettle. Why? He had heard the Sally Ann was having trouble finding members to staff the kettles. So he volunteered.
Perhaps in “retirement,” Keith will do for MLAs what Jimmy Carter has done for former U.S. Presidents: find ever more imaginative outlets for his leadership and compassion.
My friend and former Halifax Daily News colleague David Rodenhiser, who has met more than his share of worthy Nova Scotians, both celebrated and unsung, has been thinking about the nameless February holiday:
Our February holiday should recognize the everyday Nova Scotians who make this a great place to live.
I’m talking about the community volunteers, small business owners, and all-around interesting people who give Nova Scotia character. These are the people we all know in our communities, but they’re not the ones who get celebrated with regular media coverage, the Order of Nova Scotia, or the Order of Canada. (Order recipients would be specifically excluded.)
We can all appreciate the contributions people like Joe Shannon and Mel Boutilier have made to Nova Scotia. But there are countless other Nova Scotians whose work, and good works, contribute to our quality of life, but who receive little recognition or celebration. Our February holiday should honour them.
Here’s how it would work:
- Nova Scotians would send in nominations for a living Nova Scotian deserving of recognition, explaining their contribution to the life of our communities;
- A diverse committee of ordinary Nova Scotians, appointed by cabinet, would review the nominations and prepare a shortlist of, say, 10;
- The Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia would select the honouree from the short list, announcing that the upcoming February holiday will be “[Recipient's Name] Day”;
- In subsequent years, the process would be repeated, but with the incumbent making the final selection, not the Lieutenant Governor (unless the incumbent is unable].
Thus, each year we’d celebrate someone new, with the attendant media coverage of their contribution, be it cultural, non-profit, entrepreneurial, or whatever. It would build awareness of the great things people are doing in our province, and perhaps encourage others to do a little more. The announcement of each subsequent year’s honouree would be done in the fall, so that it captures two media cycles: announcement day, and the holiday.
Maybe one year it’s Gloria Fisher Day, and the next year Susanna Fuller Day, followed by Zoe Lucas Day, succeeded by Frankie MacDonald Day, and then Ed Matwawana Day, and so on, and so on.
This feels more meaningful to me than Joe Howe Day. His day happened more than a century ago. Let’s, instead, embrace the present and inspire the future.
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?