Elections NS will hold back poll-by-poll results until month’s end

In a break with decades of past practice, Nova Scotia elections officials say they will withhold detailed results of the October 7 8 election for almost a month. In previous provincial elections, newspapers published poll-by-poll results a day or two after the vote.

At a time when the internet has encouraged governments of all shapes and sizes to be more forthcoming with useful data, Elections Nova Scotia is moving in the opposite direction.

Dana Phillip Doiron, director of policy and communications, declined to explain the policy change except to say the Chronicle-Herald “had no interest” in publishing this election’s poll-by-poll results, and Chief Electoral Officer Richard P. Temporale decided to wait until official results are ready at month’s end.

Differences between the preliminary and official results are usually small, and rarely affect the outcome in any riding.

Doiron declined to let Contrarian publish preliminary poll-by-poll results, and did not respond to a request for an interview with the Temporale.

For those who weren’t around, it’s hard to capture the degree to which this reversal of longstanding openness about election results represents a throwback to attitudes that prevailed in Nova Scotia’s bureaucracy 40 years ago. It’s like walking into government office and finding shag carpet on the floor, lava lamps on the desks, and Wayne Newton on the P.A.

To be sure, some government departments still work hard to avoid disclosing embarrassing information, exploiting loopholes in the Freedom of Information law and the near total breakdown of its enforcement in the province. It’s a standard damage control tactic.

But this is different. Nothing in the poll-by-poll results could conceivably embarrass Temporale or his agency. He is withholding the information because he can. He has decided, in his wisdom, that we don’t need to have it, notwithstanding keen interest among political geeks eager to dig into it.

Father knows best. Mere citizens can wait.

Forty years ago, Temporale’s instinctual proprietary impulse was nearly universal in Halifax. Bureaucrats regarded information in their custody as personal property, and citizens seeking access to it as unworthy supplicants.

Ironically, election results were always an exception to these attitudes of yore. Unlike Elections Nova Scotia of 2013, responsible officials in the ’50s and ’60s saw the prompt release of election results as their duty.

Here is Contrarian’s email exchange with Doiron:

From: Parker Donham
Sent: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 10:59 PM
To: Doiron, Dana P
Subject: poll-by-poll results

Hi Dana,

In almost 40 years of covering and following NS elections, I cannot ever recall it taking so long to see poll-by-poll returns. In years past, they were in the paper within two days of the election. What gives?

(I just checked the http://results.electionsnovascotia.ca/ website, and at this moment, it appears to be down. http://electionsnovascotia.ca/ is functioning normally.)


From: “Doiron, Dana P”
Subject: RE: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 11:56:40 AM ADT
To: ‘Parker Donham’

The poll by poll results will be published at the end of the month. The website is working fine for me. Unsure of source of your problem.


From: Parker Donham
Sent: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 12:44 PM
To: Doiron, Dana P
Subject: Re: poll-by-poll results

It was probably a momentary thing, and quite possibly at me end

Why on earth are you taking so long to publish the results?

Sent from my iPhone

From: “Doiron, Dana P”
Subject: RE: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 12:48:48 PM ADT
To: ‘Parker Donham’

The poll by poll results you may have seen in the past are the unofficial count before “official addition” and the return of the writ. The Herald customarily published them within a couple of days of election night. The Herald had no interest in doing that this election. The CEO decided to publish the official results, poll-by-poll, as quickly as possible, together with maps and other data.


From: Parker Donham
Sent: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 1:38 PM
To: Doiron, Dana P
Subject: Re: poll-by-poll results


Contrarian is interested in publishing them. Can I get them?


Sent from my iPhone

From: “Doiron, Dana P”
Subject: RE: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 2:25:04 PM ADT
To: ‘Parker Donham’

Not until we’ve published them.


From: Parker DonhamSubject:
Re: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 4:28:57 PM ADT
To: “Doiron, Dana P”

Hi Dana:

Can you offer any explanation why? This data has previously been available much sooner. I just find the change in policy mystifying. Most organizations are publishing their data quicker now that it is so easy to do so on the Internet. Elections NS seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

If the answer is that it’s what the Chief Electoral Officer decided, could you please arrange an interview with him for tomorrow?

Thanks very much,

[As of this posting, there was no response.]

Today’s email glitch

Many of you receive daily updates from Contrarian by email. These are sent out shortly after 3 am every day from Google’s Feedburner service (to those who subscribed via the “once a day by email” link at right).

This morning, for some reason, Feedburner sent out a trio of week-old posts for the second time. It’s not clear why, but I wanted those who received it to know it was an error, not a deliberate reposting of these items.

We are trying to sort out what happened, and why, if only to prevent it from happening again. Meanwhile, our apologies for adding to your inbox.

Contrarian readers’ vocabulary chops — updated

In response to yesterday’s post about Merriam-Webster’s vocabulary quiz, on which 60-year-olds leave younger word-users in their dust, Contrarian readers of various vintage have shared their scores. In alphabetical order:

Andy Weissman (70+) 3420
Andrew Bourke (40-something) 3700
Anna Daniels (20-something): 3660
Blair MacKenzie (30-something): 3720
Charlie Phillips (50-something) 3660
Contrarian (sexagenarian): 3660
David Rodenhiser (5040-something) 3960*
Elaine Fournier (40-something) 3700
Greg Lukeman (30-something) 3900**
Jeffrey Shallit (50-something) 3900
John Denault (70+) 3720
Mike Targett (30-something) 3760
Peter Spurway (50-something): 3860
Shelley Porter (40-something): 3140***
Stan Jones (70+) 3800
Steve Manley (30-something): 3480
Suzanne MacNeil (20-somthing): 3400****

* Current raw score leader, verified by screenshot.
** Current leader on an age-adjusted basis.
*** Ms. Porter has filed a protest over the only word she missed. The judges have responded with majestic indifference.
**** The plucky Ms. MacNeil, punching above her age-adjusted weight, got adamantine right. Contrarian would have flubbed it.

To be added to the reader scoresheet, send your scores and age cohort to comment @ contrarian dot ca. If you believe you have surpassed a top score, please include a screenshot.

And speaking of begrudgery – updated

In response to this, someone called Peter Watts or perhaps Paul Buher, writes from a cryptic email account:

You, sir, are a pig, and no different than Darrell Dexter.

You hide under the guise of a political blog during the day, only to be writing for the NDP at night. A $15,000 pay cheque isn’t too bad I suppose. Good for you.

I have news for you. Anything you write on that virulent blog from this day forward is tainted with the stink of NDP orange, corruption, and self-serving interest. As I said, you sir, are a pig.

I wonder how Mr. Whateverhisrealnameis would feel to learn that Rodney MacDonald’s Tories hired me to write that government’s energy strategy.

Andrew Terris chimes in:

15K for 26 pages of text with lots of white space?


On the other hand, an erstwhile Daily News colleague writes:

That was a breathtakingly shoddy piece in the Herald this morning. Seems like Dan et al have made up their minds about the Dexter government.

I’ll leave it to others to decide whether the Herald’s shoddiness was breathtaking in this case, but I do think Judy Myrden’s story falls into a category of invidious reporting sensible people can see through without knowing much about the topic. She calls it a $42,000 press conference, but cites only $11,000 in costs (including transportation, catering, audio-visual, and event-management) related to the event.

The other $31,000 was part of the process of producing the plan, an effort that included several government departments, and discussions with interested companies, organizations, and individuals. Myrden falsely conflated production costs with news conference costs to make the latter appear four times larger than they were.

The sad thing about this is that if Myrden, or any other Herald reporter, would bother to read the energy plan, they would find it choc-a-block full of issues vital to Nova Scotia’s future—questions that could use robust discussion, debate, criticism, and even, dare I say it, investigation. Alas, that would take time, effort, imagination, and intelligence. Unlike finger-wagging.

Perhaps all provincial announcements should take place in Halifax, the centre of the known universe. Perhaps government should aways communicate with one hand tied behind its back, issuing reports written in bureaucratese and printed in gray ink on newsprint, Enver Hoxha-style.

[Update:] Stan Jones writes:

Sorry, Parker, but when you are sucking $15,000 from the same tit as the MLAs I really don’t think your opinion is going to sway me.

Perhaps Mr. Jones, who bills himself as a consultant specializing in social, health and educational research, is too pure to take government money. I’m not. About a quarter of my consulting work is with government. I relish these assignments because they give me a chance to work on the most important and difficult public issues facing our society, and to interact with thoughtful, energetic, well-motivated people.

The cynical assumption at play here is that doing government work automatically makes one corrupt. If that’s true, then it stands to reason that the most important and difficult decisions of our time will be worked on only by corrupt people, while all the good people (like Jones, Terris, and Watt) stand on the sidelines. Enjoy your purity, folks. Some of us want to tackle these issues.

Less pure readers can check out the Energy Plan here. They tell me it’s a pretty good read.

Contrarian sleep habits

In answer to concerned queries from readers: No, I do not personally get up at 3 a.m. to send out the daily Contrarian e-mail. Google’s Feedburner service does that for me. At 3 a.m., Google automatically sends every item I have posted over the preceding 24 hours to everyone who has signed up for the daily Contrarian email (option 1 in the box at right).

My brain & Maritime Noon

Parker's brain - section-2-550

The Brain Repair Centre at the QEII Health Sciences Centre took a magnetic resonance image of Contrarian’s brain today, as part of a study on memory loss in people with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers assured me I was there solely as a control!

While the machine buzzed, clicked, and roared, the kindly technicians played CBC radio through my headphones. This is what Contrarian’s brain looks like while listening to Costas Halavrezos.

Contrarian slowdown

Over the last two days, Contrarian readers in Halifax, Sydney, and England have reported that the website is loading slowly or not at all. HostPapa, my normally reliable hosting service, confirmed tonight that the server is responding slowly. The customer service rep has escalated the problem to the technicians who work on Hostpapa’s servers. I hope they fix it soon. Apologies for the inconvenience. In most cases, apparently, if you are patient, the page will eventually load. The strange thing is, it works perfectly here at Kempt Head.

(And yes, I appreciate the fecklessness of using a website people can’t load to let them know they can’t load the website. However, anyone who subscribes to the daily email — see link at right! — will see this post Tuesday morning.)

Contrarian and friends on blogging

Contrarian will be at the Inverary Inn‘s Thistledown Pub in Baddeck this evening to lead a discussion about blogging sponsored by the Cabot Trail Writers’ Festival, the group that organized this event last fall. In addition to an annual fall festival, the group plans a series of satellite events, of which tonight’s discussion is the first. I’ll be talking about the writerly (journalistic, aesthetic, ethical) aspects of blogging; Mike Targett will be on hand to backstop me on those issues, and to add his technical smarts to the discussion.

The pub serves supper from 5:30 to 8; The fireside blogging discussion, upstairs in the lounge, will begin at 7, followed by live entertainment at 8. So come any time before 7.