Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Out of Order

Tom Urbaniak. (Photo by Rob Beintema)

Tom Urbaniak. (Photo by Rob Beintema)

As an armchair political scientist (we’re almost indistinguishable from the real thing until we open our mouths), I was quite happy to read what an actual political scientist, CBU’s Tom Urbaniak, had to say about the go-ahead at last Tuesday’s CBRM council meeting.

In case you went to Boston with the Christmas tree and just got back, the Mayor raised a point of order and a point of privilege at that meeting, both intended to criticize District 8 Councilor Amanda McDougall for remarks she’d made in the media.

Writing in the Post on Thursday, Urbaniak said that CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke’s reprimands of Councilor McDougall failed to meet the criteria for a “point of order” and a “point of privilege.”

(Confusingly, a Cape Breton Post headline on an accompanying story referred to Clarke’s “censure” of McDougall — censure being “a debatable main motion that could be adopted by a majority vote,” which is clearly not what Clarke introduced.)

Urbaniak explained what points of privilege and points of order are actually for, then told the Post what he thought the Mayor might have done instead:

Urbaniak suggested that Clarke should have temporarily relinquished the chair to the deputy mayor at the meeting and participated in a debate on the topics involved, treating them as regular agenda items. Then, Clarke could have expressed his disagreement with McDougall’s comments.

Urbaniak did not mention that Clarke had intended to issue his reprimand in secret — his points of order and privilege were on the agenda for Tuesday’s in camera meeting, which was held under section 22 (2) e of the Municipal Government Act, “contract negotiations.” I can’t stop mentioning it because the idea of a Mayor reprimanding councilors in secret sessions seems so wrong to me — like some sort of low-rent Star Chamber.

(That’s because the items were not on the agenda of the in camera meeting as the Spectator has just been reminded. Councilor Kendra Coombes was asked when she left the meeting if the rebuke of McDougall was one of the disputed items and said, “No.”)

The Spectator is suitably chastened and apologizes to Mayor Clarke for saying he’d intended to discuss the matters in private. But the Spectator would also add that this is part of the problem with a) holding in camera meetings and b) providing so little information about what it is to be discussed. And it remains the case that four councilors left the meeting because, whatever was being discussed, they did not feel it fell under Section 22 (2) a of the MGA.)

Urbaniak felt the Mayor might have used the debate to call for greater “collegiality” among councilors, but from my vantage point Tuesday night (huddled near a power outlet because my phone was almost out of juice), it’s not the councilors who have trouble playing well with others.


Ports of Call

I realized it had been a while since I’d looked at the Mayor’s travel expenses, which are posted on the CBRM website, so I decided to check out his travel related to “Port Development” to date in 2017.

It looks like this:

January 10-13Toronto - Port Development Meeting$1,00.50$762.18$12.00$1,774.68
February 7-9Port Development Meetings -- St. John's, Toronto$1,582.83$216.58 (mileage & cab)$506.62$75$2,381.03
March 23-28Savannah, Georgia-Port Meeting$1,592.99$148.57 (mileage 32.01; cabs $116.56$1,712.69$382.64$60.44$3,897.33
May 9Meeting in Halifax$81.93$81.93
July 10-13Toronto - Port Development Meetings$968.30Cabs, $142.59 kms 35.20$288.84$267.42$,1702.35
July 18-20TO and Montreal, Port Development Meetings$968.30Cabs, $95.20, kms 35.20$568.84$187.50$1,855.04
August 9-11Toronto-New York-Port Development Meetings$1,783.2172kms -- $30.88$351.42$65.96$2,231.47
August 31-September 2Montreal - Port Development Meetings$968.30Cabs $103.00 82 kms $35.17$545.02$100$1,751.49
September 5St. John's Nfld, Port Development Meeting$30$289.87 - Lunch
Meeting Expense


Here are my takeaways:

Clarke’s most expensive trip to date this year was to Savannah, the home of port promoter Barry Sheehy.

“Meeting in Halifax” (May 9) seems unnecessarily vague, even for an expense sheet.

The expenses in row five (July 10-13) and six (July 18-20) don’t add up. I’ve added them four times and I get totals lower than those recorded on the expense sheets.

I’m curious as to why port travel is still listed separately from regular travel. The port-related expenses used to be listed under “Port Development Travel Expenses — Cost-Sharing Agreement” but the reference to cost sharing disappears as of July 2015.

I’ve asked for clarification from the Mayor’s Office and will write more about it when I receive an answer.


Take my jellyfish, I’m not sellyfish

Jellyfish salad.

Jellyfish salad.

A reader sent me this article from the Tyee which just adds to my conviction that negotiating with the People’s Republic of China is not for the faint of heart. (The title kind of says it all, “Chinese Trade Deal Would Take Canada to the Cleaners.”)

I get nervous every time I hear someone talk about Nova Scotia supplying pulp or fish to the Chinese market and Thursday’s CBC report about us potentially supplying them with jellyfish did nothing to allay my fears. As Kathleen Martin of the Canadian Sea Turtle Network told the CBC:

China is a huge market. The idea they have fished out other sources for jellyfish, that they have to look other places to provide them, should be chilling to us. It’s not sustainable, clearly. If it were, they would not have to do that.

Leatherback sea turtles, which migrate here each year and are considered an endangered species, eat jellyfish.

Before you dismiss me as a turtle hugger (jellyfish hugger seems so unlikely), let me just say that the problem is one of sustainability and sustainability is not a bleeding heart idea, it’s actually a pretty sound business idea. If the Chinese had taken sustainability more seriously, they’d probably still have jellyfish. And don’t get me started about us and the cod…

China has a population of 1.4 billion people, that’s 40 times the population of Canada. Are we disciplined enough to know when we’ve met as much of their demand as we reasonably can? Will Canadian regulations protect us? Clearly, it’s time for me to stop asking myself questions and speak to someone who knows about these matters. Maybe speak to a few people. Maybe read some more. (Anyone got any suggestions? I’m open.)


Down time

I keep thinking, “Now it’s time to lighten up and do something seasonal,” and then I get all riled up about government secrecy or endangered turtles and instead of writing something merry and bright, I write like a less cheerful Nostradamus.

The funny thing is, for all my dark worries, I am actually a pretty positive human being.

That said, I think my world view could only be improved by a few days off, so I plan to publish less content than usual in the December 21st and 28th editions and preempt Fast & Curious until the New Year. If something particularly fast or curious happens, I will no doubt write about it, but mostly I hope to dedicate myself to eating the best of the Pot of Gold chocolates before my siblings can and losing at crib.

No big goodbyes, though; I will be here next Wednesday — just less voluminously than usual.