Nova Scotia’s political class bases much of their ideas and efforts on a bleak assessment of Nova Scotia that is wrong. Not just a little wrong. Totally wrong.
What happens if you make decisions based on wrong information?
Generations of Nova Scotian politicians and bureaucrats have often had a muddled understanding of the economy they preside over. Nowhere is that more muddled today than in Pictou County’s Boat Harbour.
At the centre of it all is a pulp mill and its poison garbage dump on the north shore of Nova Scotia. It’s a place that takes the pitiful remnants of our forest and uses it to make the goop from which toilet paper is made. You may have heard of the Mi'kmaq first nation protests about it, or the political ‘studies’ and promises to ‘look into it”, or the fisherman’s blockade, or you may have read Nova Scotia actor/activist Ellen Page’s tweets about environmental racism in Pictou County.
“That’s the smell of money and politics” my Pictou county grandmother used to say when I’d wrinkle up my nose and ask her what the heck the stench was. My grandfather, less circumspect and much more closely aligned with the woods, waters and wildlife around Granton and Pictou Landing, would just hawk and spit.
It's always seemed notable to me that Labour Day is a day as far from the labours of the day as one could imagine.
Labour Day in Canada dates back to 1872. Almost a full decade before the US Labour Day holiday.
Strangely, it has it's roots in Progressive Conservative government policy, ideology and passions as I wrote about last year.
But it couldn't be more different than the European May Day pagan celebration turned riotous workers rebellion.
Why do they call itGood Friday?
It must have been a pretty bad day. All the disciples in confusion. Jesus, their leader, dead. Could they have been wrong believing in Him? Mother Mary, surviving an extraordinary life, has lost her son. For Mary Magdalene and all Jesus friends and supporters it must have been a terrible day. In the bible story it was literally the death of their Way, their church, their hope.
It sure didn’t look like a Good Friday in the story.
Maybe tragic Friday. Betrayed by a close friend. Dealt a mortal injury. The government and all the powers of the land against him. Even God had forsaken him. No one left was given any help, hope, or explanation.
But time passed. In the bible story after three days Jesus came back in spirit and brought more hope, more believers, more help, and more understanding than a mortal Jesus ever could have. After three years the disciples turned apostles spread their teachings farther than ever imagined. After 300 years Christianity became the religion of the entire Roman world. Now, after more than 2,000 years the stories of the bible bring hope, help and a sense of understanding to hundreds of millions of people.
It’s only in looking back that the worst day ever – the darkest day in history for Christians – is Friday understood as good.
We’ve all had this experience; the days that are the darkest, the days that hold us back, stop us on our path; the days we must deal with the details of death; the days when terrible secrets are revealed and pain comes; days we expect the world to stop turning and that nothing good will ever happen again – that there will never be anything beautiful again. These days lead us to our destiny.
It hurts so much when we are done wrong, betrayed, brokenhearted, spoke against, unforgiven, left and lost . But these are the dark days that define the beginning not the end. These are the days that define our destiny. It’s up to us to push on – to see the light ahead.
Where would Christianity be without Jesus betrayal, without his mortal wound, without the government and people against him, without his death, without his troubles? Where would the world be?
It’s up to us to push on through our troubles; to wait for the light of future hopes to return when things go dark. That’s the point of the bible story; that’s the point of Good Friday. Three days changed everything. Time changes everything.
It may be Painful Friday in your life right now, but Sunday is coming.
Through terrible teaching of life’s lessons you learn that the things you thought you needed you can live without.
Bitterness, pity, mediocrity, and sorrow will tell you it’s a terrible Friday when you’ve been betrayed, when you’ve lost, when you’ve been fired, stricken, or talked down; when you’ve had violence done to you. But time will tell. Time will reveal another destiny, another purpose, another hope.
It may not seem good. But with the fullness of understanding that comes over time we will look back on all these bad things in our lives and say… it was a Good Friday.
In the TV business, in the writing business, and certainly in the news, we learn early that problems drive stories, complications make us rise to the challenges. Good times rarely push people to try, harder, to do more, to reach out, to expand their understanding, to pay attention to other possibilities. Only troubles do that. Our enemies do more to promote us, to help us, to make us stronger than they will ever know. Without them; without the critics, cheaters, backstabbers, whisperers, and bullies we wander, we atrophy, we lose our way, we become weak in mind and spirit. If we had only friends and supporters, if we are sheltered, coddled, and protected, we would live as mindless, heartless, soulless shadows. Our humanity, our history, and our future, is forged in the fire of trouble. We need the detractors, the demons, the troublemakers, and the unbelievers. We need their sparks and violent flame to light our fiery path.
However, dark, sad, and terrible it is, Friday is good because it means Sunday is coming.
The Grünewald Crucifixion
It was because of the war. In the summer of 1940 the British government needed to understand many things, including their war costs and where the money would come from to finance a defence of England.
Simon Kuznets was tasked with working it out. The idea was to use accounting… the same bookkeeping developed 300 years before for the merchants of Venice… in a really big way to account for everything.
Kuznets called these national income statistics the Gross National Product (GNP or sometimes GDP for regional calculations). Variations of this idea have become the key measure of the success of nations, provinces and states. In the same way the quality of business decisions depend on good bookkeeping and accounting, national accounting is a critical component of institutional infrastructure that government and politicians need to face the challenges and opportunities of our economy.
But this singular economic tool used to analyze economic cycles and as the basis of budgeting, planning and forecasts – the single number used by government and media to underpin and justify all our foundational political decisions – was known to be wrong almost from the start.
Today the GNP or GDP has very few friends and many good alternatives.
"I'm not a member of any organized political party. I'm in the Progressive Conservative Party."
It's an old joke, but Halifax Chebucto's Constituency Association is meeting this fall to reorganize, regroup, and reboot. The institutions and people that hold power are rarely as organized or as united as they first appear. This creates wonderful opportunities for people advocating for positive change.
Whether you're a long time member, past member, or new to politics, we'd love to have you join us.
The next meeting is September 20, 2017, 7-9 pm at my place… 6484 Jubilee Road in Halifax.
If I was a more cautious person I wouldn’t write this. I’ve quit dozens of times. I’ve always gone back. This time I think it’s different. A couple weeks ago I was suffering from terrible stomach pains. Bad enough that I went the hospital emergency at midnight. A bunch of people in my circle have had appendicitis. I thought it was my turn.
The wait was reasonably short. Then I was poked prodded and examined all through the night. They took vitals and blood. Their concern, for a ‘man of my age’ was my heart. Eventually, I was on a table with a deeply engaged doctor working an ultrasound. He started to kind of laugh. He apologized and explained as he moved the lubricated wand around my belly, “what I’m doing here is pushing around giant balls of gas… you have gas!” He continued his work. “Wow, this must be really uncomfortable. It looks like it’s going to explode.” His observations seemed to veer from professional to curious, to grossed out.
I tell myself to calm down, to take less interest in things, to not get so excited and to mind my own business. But the good journalists won’t let me. They won't release me from the problems of the day.
Here are 3 quotes from today's Halifax Examiner. Solid Muckraking journalism like this, as uncomfortable as it is for some people to read, is what will improve our government and help make Nova Scotia whole.
Some people are connected and some aren't. Government sees the 'positive' impact of the connected people and sees the unconnected people as 'the problem'. The irony of Ivany is that the report was an opportunity to get at the 'unconnected people' and understand how their disappointment, discouragement, and disconnectedness impacts our economy, our culture, and our hopes for the future, but it was created, shared by, and used to rally the connected people. Ivany simply told the unconnected people to buck up.
Let's agree that journalism is a cornerstone of good government. Good journalism connects the unconnected. Journalists from Joseph Howe to Tim Bousquet act as mediators - translators between regular citizens and policy-making elites.
A transit-oriented development (TOD) is a residential or commercial area designed to maximize access to public transport, and often incorporates features to encourage transit ridership. A TOD neighborhood typically has a center with a train station, metro station, tram stop, or bus station, surrounded by relatively high-density development with progressively lower-density development spreading outwards from the center. TODs generally are located within a radius of one-quarter to one-half mile (0.4 to 0.8 km) from a transit stop, as this is considered to be an appropriate scale for pedestrians.
Many of the new towns created after World War II in Japan, Sweden, and France have many of the characteristics of TOD communities. In a sense, nearly all communities built on reclaimed land in the Netherlands or as exurban developments in Denmark have had the local equivalent of TOD principles integrated in their planning.
The idea of transit-oriented development has been around for over 100 years. In fact, most of Halifax is built on that idea. That’s why few middle class houses in residential Halifax have dedicated driveways or garages. When they were built 80 to 100 years ago it was assumed that the best way to get around town was public transportation focused on hubs or ‘stops’ which would be centres of commercial activity… all small business of course.
With the coming of the automobile we lost the ball. But now it is time to pick it up again. Practically no new ideas are required. This has all been work out quite elegantly over 80 years ago by urban planning movements that focused on beauty, efficiency and the idea of separating the various modes of transport in an meaningful way to allow room for humanity to prosper. The most exciting and successful of these movements was the Garden City Movement (check it out on Wikipedia) and we would do well to revive these ideas.
A couple immediate results: Making combined car, bike, pedestrian thoroughfares is not the way to go. These are very different modes of transportation and deserve to be treated differently. Second, all future development should be controlled by the government to embrace Garden City ideals. It makes no sense to continue to allow automobile-centric residential and commercial development when we know with certainty it is leading on a path to disaster.
What's the most beautiful neighbourhood in Halifax?
Is this a question of opinion, taste or preference?
Is your neighbourhood the most beautiful to you?
Does the market price beauty?
When it comes to neighbourhoods is beauty in the eye of the beholder?
Here's the ultimate history lesson... everything was worse before.
My father used to say that he could remember when The Good Old Days were called "These Trying Times".
Today a cannonball crashed from history into modern Quebec city. A live round from 1759 was uncovered in the city by work crews. An artifact of a half forgotten war. Nothing could more forcefully impose itself on the present than a live bomb. Nothing could be a more stark reminder that the past was fundamentally different - worse - than our present.
CBC Image from July 15th Protest
The importance of retaining historical ideas within their context is crucial to reading and interpreting the past. Some of the most important memorials are formed by freezing the frame of a lived moment of history. Jewish concentration camps, left as they were, remote and silent, are a chilling reminder of Nazi horror; Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island says more about his incarceration and resilience than any exhibit.
The 'feedback loops' of history are also worth recording and remembering. In Halifax today we're having an interesting discussion about how to think about statues of historic figures like the modern city's English founder Edward Cornwallis. This week the Halifax Examiner published an interesting article that investigated the public narrative view of the 1931 erection of the statue of Cornwallis. When Cornwallis School was similarly renamed I couldn't help but think about the builders of the school in 1948, then men and women who where just beginning to see the light after a decade of war and its aftermath darkened the world. They built the school as a living temple to the thing they believed would solve the problems of the past and point the rising generations - us - to a better future... Education. They weren't vexed by the Cornwallis issue. He was simply and uncontroversially named the founder of their town which they loved. Today the elite who set our public narrative and provide the content for others to read look on the people of 1759, and 1931, and 1948 as benighted fools; people disconnected from the knowledge, the moral and ethical superiority we all have simply by virtue of our place in the present.
The truth is much has been lost. We are the disconnected ones. We're separated not just from our communities but from the spiritual and natural world around us; we've not been educated in the fundamentals of reason, logic, argument that would have made occasions like the discussion of the Cornwallis statue opportunities for improvement. Without the ability to argue we end up with argument's poor cousins - fussing and fighting, and worse, political 'slow walks', a new type of discourse that breaks down responsibility and accountability into small forgettable pieces over a long timeline and layered bureaucracy so that decisions are made but no one is actually responsible for making them or accounting for their meaning.
In this world the citizens aren't easily lead, they simply choose not to believe or think anything at all. They are disenfranchised, disappointed, discouraged and disconnected. Nothing could mater less to them than history or the shape of things to come. Talk of the legacy of the past and human destiny leaves them cold. They remain detached from everything of the past nd future that could make them whole.
What's the most important thing we can learn by arguing about the past?
The answer is simple. It was well known by the people who we so easily look down on today. In generations past any school kid could have told you the answer and ricited a little Aristotle to poetically support it.
Argument has tense: past, present and future.
According to Aristotle, all arguments boil down to just three issues: Blame, Values and Choice. For example, “Did Cornwallis order scapling?” is about blame, “Is the statue offensive?” is about values, and “Should take the statue down?” is about choice. These three kinds of arguments are each associated with a different verb tense. If you understand tense you understand a lot about argument, others, and the world.
Blame = past tense
Values = present tense
Choice = future tense
It’s important to focus on the type of argument – and the tense – that will achieve your ultimate goal. For example, the past tense is what you use to determine “whodunnit”, to apportion blame and mete out punishment, while the present tense is great for getting your audience to unify behind a particular belief, identify in a certain way, or judge something as good or bad. If you want to come to a joint decision about something, however, you need to focus on the future – the kind of argument Aristotle called “deliberative”. Deliberative argument is the most pragmatic, productive and interesting because it helps build our future together. Arguing about the past is the most difficult and quarrelsome... that's why we have police, courts, lawyers, judges, and prisons.
One way we can improve the quality of public argument is to actively agree on the tense and try to focus on the future. We can go from blame to choice by saying “What should we do about it?”, “How can we keep it from happening again?” or “These are all good points, but how are we going to…?”
It's pointless to wish for a better past. That's the root of most of the world's bitterness. But think of any language, anything you can say about working for a better shared future. It almost always sounds sweet.
Neo-Folkie Dan Bern wrote the most poignant verses I know about the conceit of judging the past. God Said No
The past is cherry picked and treated horribly by those who find power in divisiveness and bitterness. It should be resisted. The political armchair quarterback. The clearness of hindsight. These are poor populist arguments.
So, if we don't get much out of arguing about the past, if we can't change it, what's it good for?
In Dan's song he realizes the significance and power of time as nature (God's) ultimate tool. Time, like argument, beauty, and death, is something we don't choose to take the opportunity to think about often enough. We are less than whole and life is less for it.
One of my favourite writers, thinkers, leaders and managers, Adm. H.G. Rickover USN, wrote most clearly about the past.
"We need to regain some of the certainties of the past. For the uneasiness and the malaise of our time is due to a root cause: In our politics and economy, in family life and religion, in practically every sphere of our existence the certainties of the 18th and 19th centuries have disintegrated or been destroyed. Much of the social cement that has held our society together - shared values, strong family structure, the influence of the church and the local community - has been dissolving steadily over the years. At the same time, no new sanctions or justifications for the new routines we live, and must live, have taken hold. So there is no acceptance and there is no rejection, no sweeping hope and no sweeping rebellion. There is no real plan of life.
Many certainties of the past have been lost through ill-founded criticism of past customs and institutions. It is easy in the light of present-day knowledge and achievement to ridicule and condemn the men, the ideas, and the customs of a past age. But this is a mistake. Much of the wisdom and most of the beauty of the past is lost because we do not have sufficient knowledge and imagination to divest ourselves of our modern refinements and to relive the struggles, the hopes and fears, and faiths and beliefs of our ancestors who were in contact, like us, with the mystery of life."
I would urge a more sympathetic understanding of the past, so that we may recapture some of its beauty. Certainly, some of the past is not worthy of preservation. But much is. In nature, the demolition process is a living process; the destruction of the old is caused by and is part of the generation of new life. In all areas of our existence, the present is the fruit of the past and the seed of the future.
It is ourselves who, for all our cleverness and intellectual development in temporal matters, are nevertheless plunged in darkness and ignorance about our own nature, the invisible world around us, and the eternal spiritual verities. The opporutnity here is concious conversation with shared understanding about what argument is, what it is good for, what it can do - blame, value, and choose, and how we can use it to improve ourselves and our community.
Nova Scotia releases its annual report on gambling... well... not really... they call it gaming and as an accounting document it is woefully short on truth.
Alexander Gilbert was a Montreal journalist who toured the Maritime Provinces in 1867, with an interest in exploring anti-Confederation feelings there. The following is condensed and edited from his From Montreal to the Maritime Provinces and Back, first published in the Montreal Evening Telegram, and describes what he found in and around New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.
Read about what Angus L. MacDonald and Robert Stanfield thought about the failed economics of Confederation
A Nova Scotian View Of Confederation
AN ADDRESS BY The Hon. Robert L. Stanfield, PREMIER OF NOVA SCOTIA
To think of Nova Scotia is to be confronted by history. This is the "akade", the Micmac Indian word for "place", where Cabot and Cartier found the new world, where Champlain built Port Royal over 360 years ago and where the ravages of the wars of Europe left their toll during a period of 100 years, long before Canada was born.
"...the scheme [confederation with Canada] by them assented to would, if adopted, deprive the people [of Nova Scotia] of the inestimable privilege of self-government, and of their rights, liberty and independence, rob them of their revenue, take from them the regulation of trade and taxation, expose them to arbitrary taxation by a legislature over which they have no control, and in which they would possess but a nominal and entirely ineffective representation; deprive them of their invaluable fisheries, railways, and other property, and reduce this hitherto free, happy, and self-governed province to a degraded condition of a servile dependency of Canada."
Be beautiful and vote says the election advert for Lebanon's 2009 election. Either the best or most ironic of the many "just vote" ads coaxing and cajoling citizens to vote.
In Canada we citizens have our Charter of Rights and Freedoms that are the envy of the world's citizens.
But beyond the ballot box and beyond the Canadian box of citizen goodies, what does it mean to be a citizen?
Canada Day is coming up. A summer holiday long week end. Another reward for being a good citizen?
What makes us so deserving?
I know, from recent controversy, that history is as much about forgetting as remembering. Canada Day is a melancholy one for Nova Scotia. What was lost and what was gained remains, nearly 150 years later, largely uncounted and unaccounted for. Maybe it should be a day of sadness.
Here's an accounting of Confederation and "Canada" from newspapers around Nova Scotia on the first "Canada Day", then known as Dominion Day...
John Wesley Chisholm
The question I get asked the most by smart and informed voters in Halifax-Chebucto is what would I do different.
There’s a lot of political talk these days but to them all the ideas are the same old same old repeated since the sixties… more taxes and debt to finance ever bigger government and corporate interests that, like a “mousetrap” game are purported to be the means to the economic and social ends we want but never really come through.
Where will our wealth come from in the future? How will we create it without making a mess? And how will we keep it, and our work, here?
We do need new answers.
Voting has historically served as a powerful expression of political voice. But over the last 30 years voter turnout has steadily declined. Making things worse, young people, newcomers, the weakest and most vulnerable among us are even less likely to vote. It becomes part of a cycle of exclusion. The situation is compounded many times worse when modern politics discourages citizens from running for office and offering for public service.
In the next Nova Scotia Provincial Election where we elect local members of the legislature and the party with the most elected members decides the premier, it's likely that only a little under half of the total citizens in the community will vote.
Are you part of the "Voting Class"?
Story-based voting is the idea that in the current circumstance a citizen who votes has the opportunity to cast a ballot to represent the interests of many.
When I was a little kid and got sick while visiting my grandparents in Pictou County it was Dr. John Hamm who came to visit. Through fevers, croup, mumps, measles, chicken pox, and a nail through my lip; after the home remedies, baby aspirin, calamine lotion, iodine, Mercurochrome, vicks vap-o-rub, and vaporizers with fryer's balsam failed to get results it was Dr. Hamm who was called. The thing I remember most is his calm kindness and the scientific approach he would take to the problem - testing, measuring, writing. He took responsibility.
Many years went by and I was only slightly aware of politics when I heard he had been elected premier.
Last week many Nova Scotians shared outrage and concern at the outcome of the case where Judge Gregory Lenehan ruled in Halifax that Bassam Al-Rawi was not guilty of sexual assault.
By now, everyone has read the facts presented in the case as reported by the media.
The verdict turns, by the judge’s account, on the notion that an intoxicated person can give consent.
Many called for more training for judges. And that’s great of course. But that’s not how government and the legal system best work together. The idea is that government makes clear laws, supported by the people, which the legal system applies fairly and impartially as society demands.
This is my research on Fracking.
This is no fracking joke. Media reports that fracking is a serious environmental concern across the globe and/or it’s the future of jobs, energy and saving everything we love from certain death. Some predict an economic boom, others predict environmental gloom.
Nova Scotia, like many thoughtful places in the world, is trying to figure out fracking.
What’s it going to be? To frack or not to frack?
OK! Let’s Go!
Lots of folks have asked what I would recommend doing regarding the teachers contract.
Here’s what I would recommend…
It’s not a simple fix and I want to “show my work” because I think that process matters - so this is not a short note.
None of this is intended to be even an implied criticism of contemporary school teachers. We have many fine teachers in our schools. Most of them, however, are required to spend so much time on so many things having nothing to do with the basic education that they were trained to do that they have little opportunity to teach. The good teachers are also victims of the systems and ideologies "educationists" have imposed on our schools, which we are not prepared for or able to finance properly under the current system.
For those looking for a simple ‘yes or no’ quick fix easy-way answer to this complex problem faced in uncertain and changing times… well, I don’t have that.
I do have a process to follow and ideas, including the notion of a "non-stoppage strike", that I will work as a citizen to see pursued now, at the next election, and as the next contract negotiation comes up in the not distant future.
The Rhythm of Rest
Let’s rest here.
Rest is part of the rhythm of life. Rest isn’t the end, something we do when everything else is done. Everything else will never be done.
In music ‘rests’ define the spaces between the notes. Music itself has been defined as the space between the notes. That’s to say that the beauty of music comes in part from the rhythm of the quiet spaces – the rests – the parts where notes are not played.
In the good life rest is part of every day. Think of the 24 hours in a day divided into three parts. 8 hours for work, 8 hours for relations with others and the world, 8 hours for rest. These are not options. Without this balance, without this rhythm, the good life isn’t possible. Everything suffers.
Why is rest important?
Creativity, Character, and Conserved strength are built in rest.
Hey ! Where's our $110.3 m to build the new hospital in Nova Scotia? !!!
In the April Nova Scotia Budget the government said... well, something like the opening of the convention centre was so awesome it would give us $110.3m to put toward a new hospital and a BIG budget surplus of $127.4.
*PSAB = Public Sector Accounting Board is a public service organization. Invoking their name here and implying they're the boss and endorse this budget is incorrect
BUT... wait, there's more. In this month's fiscal update the $110.3m is gone... Where did it go? Heck, where did it come from in the first place? Who's got it? When will we get it? And most important... what is it?
I started to write it out. But I was even boring myself. So, I've made a video to try to explain...
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.