Saint Mary’s professor Larry Haiven thinks blaming unions for unnecessary snow days is silly:
This is part of a syndrome of “if in doubt, blame the unions.” So convenient. So wrong.
A few years ago I was taking a tour of the new Toronto opera house. We were allowed to go everywhere except on stage, even though the stage was bare, with no current production going on.
One of the tour members asked the docent why we couldn’t go on stage. The tour member said he had been on tours of all the great opera houses of Europe and had never been barred from the stage. The docent looked serious and said “union rules.” All of the tour members (except me) nodded their heads sagely in rueful agreement.
It just so happened that I had an interview with the head of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (the stagehands’ union) on another matter later that day. So I asked him if this were true. He got very angry and told me that there was no union rule, no union prohibition and, in fact, the union was very much in favour of tours visiting the stage when there was no production going on. He said that “union rules” have become a pernicious legend in his field. I later phoned the management of the opera house to complain about the docent’s mistake.
What I found most interesting was not the docent’s duplicity but the tour group’s acceptance of it. As a former union staffer and a person who researches and teaches about unions, I’m amazed at the difference between the real power that they actually lack and the perceived power people think they have.
As I said before, I regret making the union issue part of this discussion, because it permits people like Larry to wrap themselves in solidarity’s flag and ignore the core issues:
- In the management of risk, our society increasingly allows knee-jerk caution to trump common sense, and important social values like child-rearing suffer as a consequence.
- After their sub-par performance during Hurricane Juan was criticized, Environment Canada and the CBC began to over-hype forecasts of routine weather. Ironically, this monomaniacal focus on safety has created a very unsafe situation.
- Senior managers in our school system either belong, or kinda-sorta belong, to the teachers’ union. The apparent willingness of class-struggle buffs like Larry to countenance this absurdity is astounding.
- We have far too many snow days, and the ones we have apply to far too wide an area.
I honestly don’t know whether point three plays any major role in point four, but it ought to be changed anyway. No one above the level of small-school teaching principals ought to belong to the Teacher’s Union, and the law should be changed to reflect this.
As for the accelerating trend toward a New Jerusalem of ‘fraidy cats, Contrarian will continue to rail.
Total accumulation: 2-5/8ths inches.
Cancellations: Cape Breton Victoria School Board; Strait Richmond School Board; NSCC Marconi Campus; NSCC Strait Campus; Mayflower Mall (until noon, except for anchor stores); and pretty much every other event you could think of.
Imagine! Two and five-eighth inches of snow! In February, in Nova Scotia! Gadzooks! Why hasn’t the army been called?
What on earth has happened to us? What has turned us into a nation of cowering, cringing, ‘fraidy cats who darsn’t get out of bed in the morning, lest something bad happen.
Something bad might happen. Get over it. Haul on your galoshes. Brush off the car. Get to work.
[Yes, dear readers, I understand there was significant snow in parts of the province, including Halifax. But not where I live. Our province is dominated by Halifax-rooted reportage, so we were bombarded all morning with the shrill weather warnings that have become the norm for Environment Canada and the CBC. Our province also has huge school boards, whose administrators seem to feel that if it's snowing in Bay St. Lawrence, they must cancel classes in Louisbourg, where is may be five degrees and drizzling.]
As a people, we have lost the ability to assess risk. An unachievable, zero-risk approach has infected every aspect of our lives. How this happened, the huge price we are paying for it as individuals and as a society, and what can be done to rein it in, will be continuing topics on Contrarian.
CBC newsmen Rob Gordon and Craig Paisley left Halifax for Haiti aboard HMCS Athabaskan January 14, but returned home Friday without setting foot on the island.
It seems the journalists were confined to the warship because their required training for operating in dangerous environments was not up to date. Both men had received the five-day course, provided by U.K.-based AKE Integrated Risk Solutions, before traveling to Afghanistan several years ago, but their accreditation has expired.
As a result, CBC brass ordered the men not to leave the ship.
“It’s analogous to a driver’s licence,” said CBC’s Atlantic Regional Director Andrew Cochran. “If you go in without it, it’s like driving without a licence: (a) it’s an offence, and (b) your insurance won’t cover you.
A source told Contrarian that the problem was only discovered once the reporters were en route, and frantic efforts to get them the required refresher course by phone were unavailing.
Not so, says Cochran.
“We were completely aware of the situation before they left,” he said in a telephone interview. “We knew there would be CBC reporters covering events on the ground, The decision was that it was still worth sending them to cover the story of the navy sailors going in to help.”
Gordon is Canada’s most experienced reporter of naval issues.
Cochran acknowledged that there had been discussions of getting the refresher course en route, but this proved impossible.
Since arriving off the Haitian coast January 18, the two men have blogged about their experience and filed occasional dispatches from aboard ship. Paisley filed his final blog post Wednesday.
Cliff White defends Ormiston:
I happened to catch both the clip of Ormiston holding the hand of, and then carrying, the little boy, and the one of Cooper tousling the head of another. I didn’t think there was any comparison. I was moved by the first and disgusted by the second.
Watching Ormiston’s reports over the last week or so, it’s obvious she has been deeply affected by what she’s seeing and reporting on. Her actions conveyed a real human warmth. It’s not such a bad thing for viewers to occasionally see that reporters are not just automatons, but are real people with real emotions. On the other hand Cooper’s actions seemed a classic illustration of the opposite, a reporter cynically faking concern hoping to heighten the impact of his story.
As I said in the original post (about a Herald column by Jim Meek), I did not see the Ormiston piece. I did see, and didn’t like, Cooper’s display of affection, but I would not presume to say he was faking. My objection is to making the reporter’s display of compassion, real or contrived, the focus of a story, when the focus ought to be on the people who have been harmed by the catastrophe, and those who are trying to help.
It’s obviously a difficult line to walk, but surely this is a situation that calls for the most rigorous possible factual reporting, rather than titillation.
Tories knock off Bloc in eastern Quebec – Gazette
Tories retake former Nova Scotia stronghold – Globe and Mail
This is likely a losing battle, but could the national press corp please stop calling the Harper Conservatives “Tories?” The Conservative Party of Canada is not simply a renamed Progressive Conservative Party. It was borne of a hostile takeover by the Reform Party, thinly disguised as a merry merger.
Headline writers need short substitutes for party names — Grits, NDP, Bloc, etc. — but that’s no excuse for enshrining Reform spin into every story about national politics.
The Harper Conservatives are trying mightily to convince Canadians that they’ve moved to the center. They’ve done a pretty good job of this, except when the curtain slips (as it did in the Fall 2008 Economic Update) and exposes their plans for the country, should we ever give them a majority.
Aiding and abetting a national party’s branding strategy is not in the press gallery’s job description.
I’m curious to know how Tories — real ones, adherents of the Progressive Conservative Party that still exists provincially though not federally — feel about this.
Suggestions for a proper Conservative Party nickname welcome.
[UPDATE] Real Tory, loyal foot soldier, and premier-to-be-maybe Rob Batherson is ready with a smackdown:
Parker, Parker, Parker…
Throughout Canada’s history, Canada’s Conservative Party has taken on many different labels – Liberal Conservative, Conservative, Unionist, National Government, Progressive Conservative and Conservative. Part of that Conservative tradition has also manifested itself in parties such as Social Credit, Reform and Canadian Alliance (particularly in Western Canada). I recommend Bob Plamondon’s book Blue Thunder for anyone interested in a more detailed history of Canada’s Conservatives.
In 2003, both the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative parties voluntarily and democratically voted in favour of merging the two parties into the Conservative Party of Canada. The leadership selection process for the Conservative Party of Canada was inherited from the Progressive Conservative Party, as were the vast majority of the party’s aims and principles as contained in the Constitution. [*cough* *cough* - Ed.]
As a Progressive Conservative, I feel it is perfectly reasonably and legitimate for the media to describe the federal Conservatives as Tories.
You’re a Tory, Rob, no question. Those guys up there? Not so much.
[UPDATE 2] A Contrarian reader with the nom de post Educhatter disagrees with Rob:
Your post on Party names is contrarianism at its best. Yes, George Grant is rolling in his grave, not to mention old Dief. Might I suggest a 21st century variation for headline writers?
- ADP (Aging Democratic Party)
Contrarian reader PC responds to our annoyance at our future king’s mispronunciation of the name of Canada’s 10th province:
I am more troubled by the many Canadians west of the Atlantic Provinces who use the same mispronunciation, including Carol Off on As It Happens just a few nights ago. How can someone who works for the CBC, where every national program announcement finishes with “half an hour later in …,” not say the name correctly without hesitation? For that matter, what excuse does anyone have for this mistake 60 years after Newfoundland joined Confederation?
(And, of course, the correct way to say a place name is the way the locals say it: “The Commons” in Halifax, “L’Ardoise” and “Port Mouton” elsewhere in NS, and “Etobicoke” in Ontario.)
Not sure which recent AIH episiode contains Off’s purported unpardonable, but in fairness, she pronounces our easternmost province more or less correctly in the closing credits of this recent show.
Contrarian’s personal favorite placename pronunciation remains, “Harve Boucher,” rhymes with tushy.
[UPDATE] Jeff from Halifax demurs:
I am with you on pronuncing local place names (e.g.: Trafalgar) the way those who live there pronounce them — EXCEPT when the pronounciation is just a misreading of the correct name. It is the Halifax Common. Period. No “s” at the end. Different word. If we keep going with the chopping up of the Common, then maybe we will have a plural version, but right now, I believe the lands are still contiguous, albeit smaller than the original version.
That’s a pretty big “if,” Jeff. The prescriptivists would say local usage rules, no exceptions.
After hectoring us for five days about Bill, a hurricane that was actually a tropical storm, the media took an only slightly more restrained approach to Danny, a weak tropical storm that actually appears to be a half-day rain shower. CBC still wrung its hands for much of the week, but didn’t cancel regular programs. Many contrarian readers responded to the hype, starting after the jump with CW.
Most economists have at least grudgingly accepted the need for deficit spending to replace economic activity lost to the worldwide economic meltdown.
But when CBC Radio’s The Current sought to analyze Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s miscalculation of the federal deficit, the national broadcaster’s idea of balance was to match Harper booster Janet Ecker with anti-tax zealot Kevin Gaudet.
Ecker is a former Ontario Tory finance minister who now toils for the Toronto Financial Services Alliance. Halifax native Gaudet is national director of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation.
With balance like that, who needs a center?