Presumption of innocence: a primer for Nova Scotia’s NDP

Back on the last day of June, CBC Radio’s Information Morning program put Justice Minister Ross Landry on the hot seat for the Dexter Government’s embrace of the Civil Forfeiture Act, a right-wing scheme to short-circuit the presumption of innocence. More accurately, the program’s listers put him on the hot seat.

The act lets cops seize property from suspects as long as they can convince a court the assets probably came from criminal activity. No proof needed. Just probability. As a standard of justice, it’s more Queen of Hearts (“First the verdict; then the trial”) than Justice Blackstone  (“Better ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”).

Callers to the CBC understand the principle, even if the NDP Justice Minister does not.

Caller One: “Is it too difficult for our highly trained police service to obtain a conviction? Maybe it is. It would certainly explain why they’ve had to find an easier way to go, but it doesn’t explain why we are letting them do it.”

Caller Two: “This is 1984 guys coming at us here. This is Orwellian beyond a reasonable doubt. Due process. That’s why they fought the bloody wars. Isn’t that why we’re fighting the bloody wars today? This is outrageous.”

Caller Three: “With no due process and no actual determination of guilt, innocent people fall between the cracks. It is an unconscionable travesty of justice that gives police unprecedented powers and will lead to abuses as has been evident in other jurisdictions.”

Caller Four: “It surprises me that we are willing to stand by and watch such corners being cut in our justice system. We should all remember: We could all be next if this type of procedure continues.” Under restrained questioning from host Steve Sutherland, Landry responded with the sort of vapid talking points that are becoming a hallmark of the Dexter administration.

The act is another tool for police to go over criminal assets and go after assets that are the proceeds of unlawful activity.

Well sure it’s another tool — one democratic societies have eschewed for generations. The whole interview is worth a listen:


My question is this: What on earth has happened to Nova Scotia’s NDP? Why wasn’t this malevolent piece of legislation rescinded at the first sitting after their election? Where are Maureen MacDonald, Howard Epstein, Graham Steele? How can they sit quietly while their government tramples on the very principles that brought them into politics?

Where’s that shovel? —feedback

For the better part of a decade, developers have successfully quashed efforts to block new office and residential projects in the city, and then failed to build them. Contrarian reader Marian Lindsay asks:

What gives? Does anyone have anything to say about all this procrastination? This seems a ridiculous waste of time and perfectly good space. Does no-one in power find this unacceptable? Can no-one get these projects rolling?

And, why, I ask, if these are private developers, are they dependent on government hand-outs? Has this just become the standard way of operating in this province? Yet, it seems to me, that business interests, and the right-leaning public refuse to accept, or give any break whatsoever, to governments who want to give so-called hand-outs to the “small citizens” who really need it to live. But it seems they are fine with corporate hand-outs (while usually denying that they exist) to build projects often of questionable need, and dubious design (it would seem to some).

What’s wrong with this picture, Nova Scotia?! Perhaps we really ARE as backward and stupid as some in the rest of Canada think we are! Even so, is it necessary for us to make it so easy for some people to claim this? I can only shake my head at the things that go on – or fail to go on – here.

I don’t know, but perhaps Ms. Lindsay should keep an eye on the Chamber of Commerce this morning where, according to media reports, Defence Minister Peter MacKay will announce $47 million in federal funding for Joe Ramia’s controversy-drenched Halifax Convention Centre. That’s on top of $56 million each from the province and the city.

So maybe,  just maybe, developers who aren’t being showered with government subsidies don’t appreciate having to compete for tenants against a developer who is.

Just a thought.

Where’s that shovel again?

Developers often portray Halifax as a place where they face a demoralizing obstacle course of preservationists and pencil pushers whenever they try to build anything. But lately, the self-styled progressives have been winning the day, vanquishing opponents  to win approval for project after project.

So where are the shovels?

A friend of Contrarian took a stroll around downtown Halifax recently and sent us this photo album of projects long since approved but not yet begun.


Sisters missing, not twisted

This project, approved in 2007 after a long fight with its detractors, featured two buildings with vertical twists, like licorice sticks. The “Twisted Sisters” were to replace the unlamented Tex-Park garage at Sackville and Granville.


Former O’Carroll’s et al

In 2008, then-premier Rodney MacDonald intervened in favour of development here because Halifax “must move forward, not step backward.” (Duke and Lower Water)


 St. Joseph’s Catholic Church

Shovel-ready since May 2009. (Gottigen and Kaye)


Former Herald Building

The building was dreary, but the new view, created in March 2010, is worse. Work on a convention centre at the site will begin as soon as the developers can get more government money. (Argyle St.)


Former Midtown Tavern

The Midtown Tavern, with its terrazzo floor and access to the women’s washroom through the kitchen, had genuine character. Across from the Herald, it, too, makes way for the new convention centre – as soon as the developers can get more government money. (Grafton and Prince)


WDC Property 

The Waterfront Development Corporation took back this lot in March 2011 after it got tired of waiting for the developer to break ground. (Lower Water St., across from the Brewery Market)


Unique view of Province House

This lot’s been empty so long that it would be unfair to include it if it weren’t across from Province House, Nova Scotia’s legislature (background). Mercifully, that building has so far escaped the attention of Halifax’s dynamic demolition development sector. (Barrington St., south of George St., looking through to Granville)

H/T: Anon.


Disabled marathoners drub runners

Here’s a bit of contrarian sporting news that escaped my attention when it happened April 18:  The 20 fastest finishers in the men’s 2011 Boston Marathon had one thing in common: All raced in wheelchairs.

Our friend Warren Reed highlights this remarkable (but largely unremarked upon) fact in an article for the Journal of Medical Ethics decrying the use of outdated terms about disabilities in scholarly writing by medical researchers. It’s a point Reed has gently chided Contrarian about in the past.

In an informal search of half a dozen medical journals, Reed found 8,680 articles in which the word “wheelchair” was paired with either “bound” or “confined.”

Clearly there are many in the medical profession who don’t understand that wheelchairs are instruments of liberation, not confinement.

In his recent introduction [pdf] to the World Health Organization’s World Report on Disability [pdf], Nobel Laureate Stephen Hawking voices hope that “this century will mark a turning point =for inclusion of people with disabilities in the lives of their societies.”

Notes Reed: “It’s hard to imagine how that might happen if 8680 medical researchers continue to think of wheelchairs as anchors rather than sails.”