Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

As a matter of fact…

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation symbolI just heard the CBC Cape Breton Information Morning “issue panel” discuss the PC leadership race — more specifically, whether Mayor Cecil Clarke should resign to run for the leadership. I was a vocal participant in that discussion, although you may not have heard me, as I was in my kitchen and the acoustics there are not the best.

But having spent a week digesting 30 years’ worth of information on Nova Scotia leadership conventions (and far too much time poring over the Municipal Elections Act and the Municipal Government Act) I could hardly remain silent as a panelist blithely recited a fact-free list of Nova Scotia “precedents”– sitting mayors who ran for party leaderships or higher office — intended to bolster Clarke’s right to remain in office while he campaigns for the next EIGHT MONTHS.

Here’s the list provided by panelist Stephen Tobin of the Horizon Achievement Centre, followed by the relevant information from each candidate’s Wikipedia page:

Manning MacDonald

MacDonald resigned from the mayor’s office in May 1993 [emphasis mine] and was elected to the Nova Scotia legislature later that same year.

Edmond Morris

Between 1974 and 1980, Morris served as Mayor of the City of Halifax. After stepping down as Mayor of Halifax, [emphasis mine] Morris, entered provincial politics by standing as the Progressive Conservative candidate in the urban riding of Halifax Needham, during a by-election, on 6 May 1980.

John Savage

He was approached to run for the Liberal leadership and took a leave of absence from his mayoral duties. [emphasis mine]

Rollie Thornhill

Okay, I will give the panelist this one:

On February 3, 1971, while serving as mayor of [Dartmouth], Thornhill announced his candidacy for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia.

He didn’t win the leadership in 1971, then in 1974, when he was no longer mayor of Dartmouth, he ran for the legislature and won.

But can we all agree that the Roland Thornhill example — besides being 47 years old — is special? The second time he ran for the PC leadership, in 1991, Thornhill was facing his second RCMP investigation for influence peddling. (He was charged with 17 counts days after losing the leadership contest, although he eventually received a discharge on 13 of those charges and had the rest dismissed.)

Personally, I don’t see the need for Clarke to resign to run for the leadership but I think he should take an unpaid leave of absence — as I explained at some length two weeks ago, this is required by law of municipal councilors in PEI who run for higher office and is a step frequently taken by municipal officials voluntarily.

NOTE: Stephen Tobin replied to this post at some length and the Spectator was required to eat some crow on this one. You can read all about it here.


Municipal Governance Act?

Drawing of a ballot boxTobin’s fellow panelists — graphic artist Alison Uhma and Mike Kelloway of the NSCC — then added to the confusion, Uhma by suggesting that if the mayor won the leadership race and stepped down in October, the deputy mayor would complete his term in office.

I cut her some slack after I discovered the source of that misinformation: an editorial in Thursday’s Cape Breton Post. The anonymous editorial writer consulted something called the Municipal Governance Act, which apparently states that if a mayor resigns “within two years of the next election,” no by-election takes place — the deputy mayor simply takes over.

(My best guess is that the writer picked up his copy of the Municipal Governance Act the same place I got my fine Roleks watch.)

At any rate, he should have been consulting his copy of the Municipal Elections Act, which states that if a mayor or councilor resigns with more than six months left in their term — which would be the case if Clarke resigned in October — a special election must be held to replace them.

The Post editorial sounded so authoritative, I double-checked this with the Department of Municipal Affairs. I asked:

If the mayor resigns with more than six months remaining in his term, a by-election is required, correct?

Spokesperson Krista Higdon responded, by email:

Yes, correct.

The Elections Act says a meeting must be held to call a special election within four weeks of the mayor resigning and:

The day fixed for the special election shall be a Saturday not more than eleven weeks after the meeting of the council at which the day was named.

So within 15 weeks of the mayor resigning, we’d have a new mayor.

Kelloway’s contribution to the murk was to ask, “If a councilor wants to run for mayor, would you expect them to resign?”

The question should actually have been: “If a councilor wants to run for mayor in a special election, does the Elections Act require them to resign?” And the answer is: YES, yes it does. As per section 18 (7):

A councillor who is nominated to fill a vacancy in the office of mayor where a special election is required sh-+all thereby vacate his/her office as councillor.

(I wrote that on Thursday, on Friday morning, thanks to CBC listener — and sometimes issue panelist — Nicole LaFosse, who clearly has a good copy of the Municipal Government Act herself, Information Morning corrected this particular inaccuracy.)

It is difficult to have an “informed electorate” — widely considered essential to a functioning democracy — when the people doing the informing don’t know what they’re freaking talking about.

I’ll give the panelists a pass (grudgingly) but I’m not going to let the editorial writer at the Post off the hook: you are giving people bad information about the electoral process in their municipality. You need to print a correction.


Wonderful Wednesday

Port of Sydney, NS. (Spectator photo)

Port of Sydney, NS. (Spectator photo)

This past Wednesday was a momentous day: Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day and PORT OF SYDNEY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION AGM DAY all rolled into one!

Even if you don’t mark any of these occasions, you have to admit, that’s quite a lineup.

Valentine’s Day, of course, falls when it falls but Ash Wednesday and the Port AGM are moveable feasts. And while the precise date for Ash Wednesday depends on the phases of the moon and the vernal equinox, I don’t believe either of these factor into the date selection process for the Port AGM. So why have it on a Wednesday morning?

Well, I hate to sound paranoid, but who can’t make Wednesday morning meetings? (I mean, besides everyone in the CBRM with a 9-5 job). Me, that’s who. I am up to my ears in editing, writing, formatting, posting, tweaking, emailing and tweeting on Wednesday mornings and I can’t help but wonder if my production schedule factored into their planning.

If so, I gotta say, it worked out for them — they got a big picture and a banner “In the black” headline on the front page of the paper they like. I read the accompanying article and I find it raises a few questions. For example, according to the Port’s 2016-2017 finances:

On the expense side, salaries and benefits were $738,136, up from the $686,481 that had been budgeted as the port hired a business development manager.

I thought the port had hired another business manager, but in fact, this was a reference to Abraham Somavarapha, the business manager hired in 2016. Usher told me by email on Thursday that Somavarapha has since resigned and will not be replaced, instead “business development will be a shared responsibility with management.” That’s a piece of information worth knowing, don’t you think? (It’s also $51,655 that can be put toward the $100,000 share of Usher’s salary the Port must pay in 2017-2018.)

While I was poking around the Port website, looking for mention of a business manager, I noticed they’ve posted the cruise schedule for 2018 and it looks like another banner year — 90 scheduled visits, including a number of double- and triple-bookings in the fall. (Interesting, given we’ve been told we need a second berth because the cruise lines don’t like docking offshore and tendering passengers to the wharf.)

I also had a look under “Documents and Media” to see if the Port had, as it did around the time of last year’s AGM, spontaneously dumped  a year’s worth of Port Board meeting minutes onto its website, but no such luck. The last board minutes posted date to March 2017, before the permanent board was even appointed.

Gosh, who wouldn’t want me at the Port AGM? I’m so interested in everything.


Wanted: Culture Vultures

In recent weeks, I have seen two terrific local theatrical productions — Marat/Sade at the Boardmore Playhouse and The Glass Menagerie at the Highland Arts Theatre (HAT).

When I say a production is “terrific,” I have a very definite, personal definition in mind: I mean, “I now feel that I have seen that play.”

Let me explain.

If the grade four class at Harbourside Elementary put on an age-appropriate production of Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross (with all the swearing removed) I would go to see it. I would probably be delighted by it. But I wouldn’t feel I’d “seen” Glengarry Glen Ross. 

On the other hand, when I lived in Montreal in the ’90s, I used to go to the graduating class productions (in English and French) at the National Theatre School. Admission was pay-what-you-can (I just checked the NTS website and apparently it still is). The productions (two or three in each official language) were amazing. I saw plays by Shakespeare, Corneille, Molière and Tennessee Williams. And I “saw” those plays. Sure, if someone wanted to fly me to New York to catch some hot new Broadway production of Vieux Carré, I’d go, but if that doesn’t happen (and it seems highly unlikely) I will be content with the version I saw at the National Theatre School in the ’90s.

That’s the feeling I now have about Marat/Sade and The Glass Menagerie (and a slew of other productions I’ve seen since I’ve been home). And don’t even get me started on the original plays I’ve seen — or the local films, or the live music or the arts and crafts. The local arts scene is one of the things — along with family and the Bras d’Or Lakes — that make life here so damn good.

So what is my point?

I’ve been thinking that the arts need a champion on CBRM council. Someone with a Naheed Nenshi-level commitment to the “creative economy” —  who goes to the plays and the movies and the photography exhibits and the book launches and tells the world about it on social media.

Or what the hell, maybe the entire council could give it a try. Start slow — make a point of going to one arts event a month and telling us about it. You don’t even have to have a Facebook account or a Twitter feed (although it would help). You could write a letter to the Post or tell Wendy Bergfeldt about it when it’s your turn on CBC Mainstreet’s Seeking Council.

It’s not always easy, I know — I missed a screening of Ashley McKenzie’s Werewolf the other night despite my best intentions to get there, but I did see Dan Yakimchuk’s debut short, The Roseand you can too. I don’t always make a point of praising the work or the artists or the productions I’ve appreciated publicly. And I definitely need to develop the arts component of my own publication. But I am feeling so grateful to live in a town where talented people will make the kind of effort necessary to mount a production like Marat/Sade that I hereby vow to do better and I challenge everyone — especially our councilors — to do the same.






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