Parker Donham, election outlaw


You may have heard Elections Nova Scotia’s allegation that I violated the province’s election act Saturday. I don’t believe I did,  but however the controversy turns out, you may want to know how I got myself in this putative pickle.

On Saturday, I drove to Halifax, where I will do election night commentary for CTV. I had misread the yellow election card that came in the mail, and mistakenly thought I could vote Saturday at any returning office. Turns out that option expired last Thursday.

At the Blues Mills polling station, the helpful returning officer informed me the only two places I could vote that day were the advance poll at Geroge’s River and the returning office in Alder Point. The closer of the two, George’s River, was 104 kms back in the direction from whence I had come. This would add 2-1/2 hours to what should have been a 3-hour drive to Halifax. I considered skipping the vote altogether, but as it happens, I have an unusually keen interest in the outcome of the election in Victoria-The Lakes.

Keith_BainI have known MLA Keith Bain for 40 years. I believe he preceded me as president of the Boularderie Home and School Assoc. For many years, he was Chief of the Big Bras d’Or Fire Dept. in which capacity he helped my neighbours set up the Ross Ferry Volunteer Fire Dept. He served several terms on the Cape Breton-Victoria District School Board. He was the storekeeper in a one-store village, its own form of community service.

I cannot recall an important community meeting in the last 40 years at which Keith was not present and making a positive contribution. Never unpleasantly partisan, always trying to make things better for his community. Last year, he and Liberal Kelly Regan were the MLAs who most consistently kept the heat on Denise Peterson-Rafuse over Talbot House. In short, a decent man with an impeccable record of community service.

Running against him is Pam Eyking,* who has no comparable record of community service and whom I have never seen at a public meeting. Absent that fact she is married to Liberal MP Mark Eyking, there is no possibility she would be the nominee. I like Mark, and I have voted for him more than once, but I find Pam’s decision to run for the Liberals opportunistic and unbecoming.

Mark.PamA Liberal landslide could possibly sweep Pam into office. That’s the thing about landslides. They take out a lot of good people, along with the unpopular government that is their target.

As I sped through Iron Mines, Iona, Christmas Island, and Beaver Cove, I was annoyed at myself for not voting earlier, and annoyed at Pam for getting me riled up enough to drive 100 km out of my way.

“Why am I going to all this trouble,” I asked myself. “Because I want to be able to tell people I voted for Keith.”

As I approached George’s River, that idea morphed into a plan to show people I voted for Keith—by taking a snapshot of my ballot, and sharing it on social media.

I gave no thought to violating the NS Election Act, let alone testing it. My only thought was to come up with an effective way to make a political statement to my fellow electors in Victoria-The Lakes.

Elections Nova Scotia’s response is quite possibly wrong in law, and to my ear, disproportionate in tone. I would have thought the agency had more important matters to tend to three days before an election.


* New Democrat John Frank Toney will poll well in Eskasoni and Wagmatcook, but he has no realistic chance of winning the seat. Nor does Stemmer MacLeod.

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 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.

Contrarian’s submission to copycon

Contrarian’s submission to the National Consultation on Copyright focuses on an issue that has received little attention in the consultation, an area in which current Canadian law provides a striking lack of balance, an issue in which Canadian law is not decades but centuries out of date: the issue of Crown Copyright. To view the submission, please click the “read more” button. Continue reading Contrarian’s submission to copycon