Highway 103 between Halifax and Bridgewater is surely the dullest drive in Nova Scotia. For the last three or four years, motorists forced to traverse its dreary confines have enjoyed momentary comic relief near the Tantallon exit, in the form of a car-sized, more-or-less cubical rock outcropping, painted as a Rubik’s Cube.
“A jumbled Rubik’s Cube fixed in stone, really heavy stone,” said West Dublin resident Peter Barss, who waxed philoshical about its deeper artistic significance:
A monumental monument to confusion and frustration? A puzzle that never changes… and can never be solved? An implied order, an order that can never be realized? A metaphysical statement about some absolute truth about the universe?
This week, the nerdish joke got better when someone — Glooscap? Giant MacAskill? — solved the cube.
Contrarian does not condone the defacement of Nova Scota granite, but we are prepared to make an exception in this case.
Having already photographed Kempt Head, Cmdr. Chris Hadfield turns his attention to less important parts of Nova Scotia:
Hadfield has now photographed both of Contrarian’s official residences. The universe is unfolding as it should.
[UPDATE] Oops! A Twitter user with a Suessian pseudonym points out that Hadfield passed over, and photographed, Halifax on January 2:
[Click these images for larger versions.]
A couple of deft touches in Monday night’s swearing-in ceremony for CBRM’s new mayor and council hint at Cecil Clarke’s potential to be a transformative mayor for the island’s predominant municipality. [See update below.]
The first is a small thing: the musicians Clarke has chosen for the event are (1) young and (2) non-Celtic. This marks a departure from the cliched tartanism that usually dominates such affairs. Check out headliner Kyle Mischiek’s rap-remix of “We are an Island” on YouTube and iTunes. The freshening up of a slightly dowdy Cape Breton chestnut will bring welcome symbolic value to the ceremony.
The second is a far more dramatic signal: Clarke’s choice of a clergyman to deliver the invocation prayer for the event is Fr. Paul Abbass, the once beleaguered, now vindicated executive director of Talbot House. With this vivid gesture of compassion and solidarity, the new mayor will lead the community in a public laying on of hands to mark Abbass’s restoration from the cruel purgatory inflicted on him by the Department of Community Services. As a friend said, on hearing of Clarke’s choice, “That’s leadership!”
It is, and it’s a quality in desperately short supply these last dozen years.
I pretend to no objectivity in these matters. I played a small peripheral role in Clarke’s election campaign. I had no use for his predecessor, who doubled down on a self-defeating culture of defiance coupled with dependency. I’ve made no secret of my repugnance at Community Service’s furtive campaign of vilification against Abbass.
For future discussion: 12 years of crowd-pleasing attacks on “Halifax,” coupled with shameless demands for ever-bigger handouts from the same symbolic city, have widened the gulf between the island and the province. Both regions must shoulder some responsibility for allowing two solitudes to develop—political cultures who show little understanding of, and less curiosity about, each other’s positions, priorities, and interests.
One sign of this was official Halifax’s assumption that the Talbot House board consisted of incompetent rubes, when passing familiarity with Cape Breton would have alerted them to the solid record of achievement and stature among the recovery centre’s directors. Another was the inability of Cape Breton’s most important municipal leader to alert the the provincial government to the injustice unfolding at Community Services.
Clarke is an ambitious man whose sights are set higher than the Civic Centre on Sydney’s Esplanade. His new job offers a unique chance to make his mark. He has the leadership skills to inspire an ill-governed community, too long mired in real and imagined past grievances, to refocus on future possibilities. He has the governing and networking chops to pursue those possibilities with optimism, tempered by realism.
I’m betting he won’t squander this opportunity.
[Update] A few readers have taken the second-to-last paragraph above to mean that I am, as one put it, “in the know about Cecil’s future political ambitions – aka, his plan to run for federal office, if he has one.” Absolutely not. I do know, because I was present, that some campaign workers sought assurance before the start of the campaign that Clarke would serve out his full term as mayor. Clarke committed to that, and he repeated the commitment publicly many times during the campaign.
Like many Cape Bretoners, I cringe when fellow islanders, egged on by CBRM’s outgoing mayor, blame all our problems on Halifax. It’s unbecoming, it’s untrue, and it’s a lazy excuse for avoiding the hard work of re-imagining Cape Breton’s economy.
Just for the moment, however, I’m more annoyed by the volley of stones hurled these last 24 hours from the glass mansions of our capital city at the Dexter Government’s on-again, off-again, on-again rescue of the paper mill in Point Tupper, Richmond County.
There’s no question Dexter made a huge gamble on this bailout.* It’s natural for taxpayers to be nervous. No doubt Dexter himself harbours private doubts. How it all turns out only time will tell.
But the kneejerk assumption that any economic development spending outside HRM is by its nature a boondoggle, and the snide, supercillious tone of the spearchuckers—well, it’s beyond galling.
Forgive us for reminding you that Halifax swims in government cash. It is home to the head offices of every provincial department and most provincial agencies; to the Canadian military; to the regional headquarters of countless federal departments; to the province’s major hospitals; to a fistful of tax-supported universities. Government teats hang from every lamppost on the peninsula.
So why is it reckless and foolhardy to spend $125 million preserving the 1,600 jobs that depend on one of the most advanced paper machines in the world, but an act of statesmanlike foresight to spend $25 billion on warships for a country that hasn’t fought a naval battle in 67 years?
That’s $40 on Halifax ships for every one dollar to preserve a paper mill four counties depend on.
Last October, I didn’t hear a single resident of Antigonish, Guysborough, Richmond, or Inverness Counties complain about the use of their tax dollars to build those Halifax ships. Maybe the good burghers of HRM (where I reside part time) could have the grace to attenuate their pieholes for a brief interlude.
* Disclosure: I played a small, peripheral role in the paper mill saga, helping Richmond County communicate its position on municipal taxes over the last few weeks. The views expressed here are mine.
Spoken word artist and social advocate Ardath Whynacht won’t be taking part in the public consultations MT&L and Myrgan Inc. are conducting to smooth the way for Joe Ramia’s controversy-plagued Nova Centre in downtown Halifax. Her post at the Halifax Media Co-op website didn’t mince words:
To engage a single demographic in an orchestrated PR stunt, letting them believe that Joe Ramia and his development cronies will actually entertain the idea of having an after-school drop in centre in their luxury hotel is a crime against democracy. It is a lie. Consultation without a commitment to listen to the citizens is a PR stunt. And I believe too many Haligonians are being fooled into thinking that this process is legitimate.
Our food bank is broke. Youth programs are cut. Addictions services are being shut down. So to be honest, for all the facilitators who are turning a pretty buck off this consultation, you can take your Nova Centre and shove it up your “it’s gonna happen anyway, so let’s make it beautiful” bourgeoisie ass.
I get the sentiment. The cute, hand-drawn consultation flow chart on the chain link fence surrounding the Argyle Street
construction demolition site seems too slick by half. Nevertheless, the public has responded with surprisingly insightful if epigrammatic suggestions in the tiny cards the PR campaigners provided.
I can’t make up my mind about the Nova Centre. The city and the province need spaces capable of housing top-notch conferences and conventions, but with tens of millions in subsidies, government has put its thumb on the scale of office and hotel construction in the city for a generation to come. Future property developers will face a market in which Ramia has been given an artificial leg up, while they must play by the rules of supply and demand.
I don’t worry so much about the view from Citadel Hill as about what this massive building will do to one of the most successful commercial streets in Atlantic Canada. The wonderful collection of bars, bistros, and restaurants along Argyle St. will benefit from visitors, workers, and residents drawn to the street, but do they really need a 210-foot wall blocking the sun, the moon, and the sky? Will an unfriendly first storey replicate the calamitous Granville Street MetroPark that Kate Carmichael fought with her dying breath? Or the Nova Scotia Government’s more recent architectural vandalism in the form of the empty Barrington Street facade of the Johnston Building?
It would be nice to believe a genuine public consultation could head off such monstrosities. Time will tell.
The much anticipated fireworks display over Halifax proved an austere celebration. They were fun while they lasted, about 12 minutes, and the cheerful, appreciative, harbourside crowd was a delight.
This cheerfulness, a certain joie de vivre, has a leavening effect on patriotism, an emotion that, left unchecked, can be unpleasant and dangerous.
In that spirit, I point out that, over the last 24 hours, we’ve had the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team don Tory blue jerseys for their pre-Canada Day bout with the Yanks, and the managing editor of the National Post tweeted his outrage that the Globe and Mail occasionally publishes op-ed pieces by moderate-left New Democrat organizer, pundit, and genocide expert, Gerry Caplan.
Yet, somehow, the nation survives. Happy Canada, everyone, most especially Mr. Kay.
The town of Torshavn, pop. 20,000, capital of the Faroes Islands, now features wifi aboard its city buses.
The bright spot at the left side is
Montreal Quebec City;* that on the middle right is Halifax. Other bright spots include (left to right) Bangor, Saint John, Moncton, and Charlottetown. Close inspection reveals Truro, New Glasgow, Antigonish, Port Hawkesbury, and Sydney. The St. Lawrence River appears as a string of lights heading northeast from Montreal, and the Gaspe Peninsula is outlined in light. I believe the aurora borealis accounts for the greenish hue on the horizon.
A Contrarian reader supplied the image without identifying information, and I’ve been unable to pin down its source precisely. Based on a similar image taken a few hundred miles to the southwest however, I believe it was taken on January 29 by Expedition 30, the current crew of the International Space Station.
H/T: Shine boy.
*[Correction] Contrarian reader Bill Swan thinks the light blob on the left is Quebec City, not Montreal. He’s probably right.
What’s that ghostly visage cruising over Halifax on an overcast Fourth of July, 1936. Hint: take a closer look at the logo emblazoned on the airship’s tail.
It’s Luftschiff Zeppelin #129, better known as the Hindenburg, on a transatlantic flight just 10 months before its catastrophic docking at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey.
The Hindenburg overflew the city at about 1000 feet, causing the Halifax Herald to fret two days later over the possibility “those aboard the Hindenburg were taking pictures of Halifax and other places, for the files of the German air ministry.”
The same Nova Scotia Archives web feature includes film clips from the period, including this riveting footage of a German U-Boat crew surrending to US and Canadian vessels off Shelburne in 1945. Note especially the crewmen being patted down at the 0:50 second mark, and the sullen faces of the hapless submariners assembled on an unidentified wharf at the 1:30 mark. This is not how they expected their war to turn out.
UPDATE: Reader Derek Andrews points out that a dirigible—one of ours, presumably—appears in this video as well.
The Nova Scotia Archives also makes its videos available in a more user-friendly format on YouTube.
H/T: Iain Grant and Richard Stephenson, and thanks to the Archives’ social marketing whirlwind Lauren Oostveen.
Here are the events that led to today’s arrests in Halifax.
- A group of protesters exercised their right to assemble peacefully and petition their government for redress of grievances by camping out in the Halifax Parade ground.
- City burghers found the demonstration unruly, distasteful, and inconvenient. Seizing on the central role the Parade Grounds traditionally plays in Halifax’s Remembrance Day observances, Mayor Peter Kelly demanded the protesters vacate the area before November 11.
- Showing more strategic accumen than one might have been inclined to expect, the OccupyNS protesters negotiated respectfully with veterans’ groups and HRM officials, and voluntarily withdrew to Victoria Park, a few blocks away.
(A parenthetic note seems warranted here: For those unfamiliar with Halifax, Victoria Park scarcely merits the designation. It’s more of a grassy verge than a full-fledged park, a walkway whose round-the-clock use by protesters, however scruffy, should not have made any city official’s list of top-10 concerns. Peace, order, and good government-wise, it was a non-event.)
- On Tuesday, Mayor Kelly and HRM Council met behind closed doors and voted on… something. Maybe they voted to evict the protesters, as Kelly claimed. Maybe they voted to serve them with an eviction notice, as Dawn Sloane claimed Friday evening. Mere citizens cannot know who’s telling the truth and who’s confabulating because there was no mention of the protests on the council agenda, and the city’s elected officials acted, as is their wont on important and controversial matters, in secret and unaccountably. As the Coast’s Tim Bousquet reported, the vote, if it happened, was not confirmed in public session, as required by law.
- On Friday, having made so much of his reverence for the solemnity of Remembrance Day last week, Kelly ordered – or at the very least, allowed – the eviction to proceed, with only cursory warning. Police forced protesters out of Victoria “park,” arresting those who failed to co-operate, and confiscating their tents and paraphernalia.
What harm were the OccupyNS protesters doing that could conceivably justify their violent eviction? City officials made a few, feckless attempts to conjure up a rationale. Kelly claimed the protests had cost the city $25,000 extra police and trash removal services, then abruptly upped the estimate to $40,000. The roundness of the numbers suggests they were plucked from the mayoral navel with as much accounting acumen as Kelly applied in the past the the use of city parks for big name concerts.
City officials claimed an ordinance required city parks to be vacated overnight, but pedestrians routinely use the grassy walkway at all hours of the day and night. Critics were quick to point out that Kelly’s administration tolerated an encampment at Seaview Park for months on end, before eventually conceding that the protesters had a point and negotiating a settlement of their grievances.
Carrying out the forcible eviction on Remembrance Day was tactless, and added insult to injury, but it’s a side issue. The core principle here is the right to petition for redress by peaceful assembly. That’s what our vets fought for. The city has sacrificed these Constitutional pillars in the name of an obscure and petty municipal ordinance, and a stuffy concern for orderliness. Is it any wonder Halifax, which could be such a great city, wallows instead in mediocrity?