Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

What does $160 buy you? 

Nova Scotia’s Liberal government has promised an average $160 tax cut for half the province’s population, in a surplus budget that seeds the ground for an election campaign that may begin within days. — Globe & Mail, 27 April 2017

So, if I’m a middle-class Nova Scotian and I’m about to receive a $160 windfall from the provincial government, how will I spend it?

If I’m like most middle class North Americans, I’ll probably buy more stuff and then struggle to find a place to store it.

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have found that contemporary US households have more possessions per household than any society in global history and I’m guessing Canadian households cannot be that far behind. (To take just one example: the United States has 3.1% of the world’s children and 40% of the world’s toys.)

Conversely, I could try, by myself, to pay for some of the things I keep telling government I want. Like, say, twinned highways. At $3 million per kilometer (that figure is low — it is from 2009 and was a rough estimate to begin with), I could take my $160 and twin 5.3 centimeters of highway. I could name the newly twinned stretch of road after myself, provided my name is short and I use small type.

The point, in case I’m being too subtle, is that putting $160 back into middle class taxpayers’ pockets doesn’t make their highways safer or help them find a long-term care bed for an ageing parent or improve classroom conditions for their special needs child. Those things require that taxes be both paid and spent wisely (I stress both, I believe entirely in holding government accountable for how they spend our money).

Putting $160 back into middle-class taxpayers’ pockets allows them to buy a bit more stuff, which is our consumer society’s answer to everything.


That St. Andrew sure gets around

Sharp-eyed readers will know that I rely heavily on Wikimedia Commons for the images I use in the Spectator.

The site features particularly fine photos on its home page and last week, this one caught my eye:

Russian battleship By George Chernilevsky (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Russian battleship (Photo by George Chernilevsky, own work, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

What jumped out at me was the flag, which made me think for a moment the Province of Nova Scotia had its own navy.

Turns out, the Russian naval ensign also features the cross of St. Andrew, who is the Patron Saint of Russia as well as Scotland. The ensign, designed by Peter the Great and flown by the Russian Imperial Navy, continued to be used during the Soviet era and then, in 1992, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, was re-adopted by the Russian Federation.



I read this week that Prince Edward Island is leading the rest of Canada in recycling and composting.

According to Stats Canada, in 2014, PEI put 429 kilograms per person in its recycling or composting bins. The Canadian average was 255 kilograms. Here in Nova Scotia, it was 296 kilograms (on the bright side, that represents a 9.7% increase over 2012, so at least we’re heading in the right direction.)

I’ve been thinking about garbage lately, now the snow has finally melted and the winter’s accumulation of Tim Hortons cups and plastic bags lie revealed in all their tattered glory; now heavy garbage pickup and the Great Cape Breton Clean Up are both on the horizon.

While I think we have a long way to go to reduce the amount of waste we produce (and I think reducing, even more than recycling, is key) I also recognize what a long way we’ve come. Consider, for example, this photo from The Cape Breton Highlander of Cape Breton garbage disposal, 1960s-style:

Garbage disposal, Cape Breton, 1960s. (Photo via Cape Breton Highlander)

Garbage disposal, Cape Breton, 1960s. (Photo via The Cape Breton Highlander)

The heavy garbage is on Monday, May 1 and the CBRM would like you to have your stuff at the curb by 6 a.m.

The Great Cape Breton Clean Up happens Saturday, May 13. Here’s what the CBRM would like you to know:

All participants meet at a participating local fire station or designated location at 9:00 a.m. for supplies and return at noon for a complimentary BBQ with other volunteers.


Supplies and noon BBQ are available at:

Albert Bridge FD
Bateston FD
Big Pond FD
Dominion FD
Donkin FD
East Bay FD
Frenchvale Road FD
Florence FD
George’s River FD
Glace Bay FD
Howie Centre FD
Louisbourg FD
Marion Bridge FD
Mira Road FD
New Victoria FD
New Waterford FD
North Sydney FD
Port Morien FD
Reserve Mines FD
Sydney Central FD
Whitney Pier Youth Club
Southside Boularderie FD
Sydney Mines FD
Sydney River FD

Supplies only are available at:

Birch Grove FD
Boisdale FD
Christmas Island FD
Coxheath FD
Grand Lake Road FD
Northside East Bay FD
Southbar FD
Tower Road FD
Westmount FD


NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect the new date for the Great Cape Breton Cleanup.

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