Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Eating (some) crow

For the record, I love crows and would never actually eat one.

I received a detailed response to last week’s Fast & Curious from CBC Cape Breton Information Morning panelist Stephen Tobin of the Horizon Achievement Centre. He took issue (see what I did there?) with my critique of his list of Nova Scotia mayors who remained in office while running for higher office — or party leaderships.

He’s out-researched me on this one, to which I can only say, “Well played, Sir!” although I don’t think his research shows a precedent for a Nova Scotia mayor remaining in office for eight months while running elsewhere.

Tobin began with a timely warning about trusting Wikipedia as a “primary form of conclusive findings” and advised me that it is “not the most reliable or comprehensive source” and that “perhaps more research” was required on my part. Ouch. It stings, because of course it’s true. (Although pols usually police their Wikipedia pages pretty closely. And I have to wonder why all the entries make a point of stating the mayors either resigned or took a leave of absence — could it be because it sounds better?)

Anyway, here’s what Tobin had to say:

Manning MacDonald

Although former CBRM Mayor and MLA Manning MacDonald’s Wikipedia page says he resigned as mayor to run for provincial office, Tobin assures me MacDonald did not:

He was in fact still Mayor when he was sworn in as an MLA. He won the (provincial) election in May of 1993 and only officially resigned as Mayor on July 1st of the same year. I spoke to Manning about this and confirmed all of the above.

While I have seen no proof that Tobin spoke to Manning or that Manning confirmed any of this, I’ll cede this point. (Although, if we’re going to be sticklers for sourcing — and clearly, we’re being sticklers for sourcing —  “I talked to the guy and he told me I’m right” is about on par with “I read it on Wikipedia” in the reliable source category.)

Most importantly, though, I would note that remaining in the mayor’s office two months after being elected to another office is a precedent I really hope CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke does not follow.

Edmund Morris

The former Dartmouth mayor’s Wikipedia entry also listed him as having resigned as mayor before running in a provincial by-election in Halifax Needham in 1980. Writes Tobin:

Similarly, It is my understanding that Edmond did not resign his seat as Mayor of the city of Halifax prior to being elected provincially. He won his seat in the Nova Scotia Legislature on May 6th 1980 and was still sitting in the Mayor’s chair the week after he won….Deputy Mayor Hanson would eventually take over, but well after Mayor Morris won his provincial seat.

First of all, Halifax has its city council minutes from 1841 to 1996 online! How did I not know this? This is fabulous! Why can’t we have this in the CBRM? (Let me guess: money.)

Second, Deputy Mayor Hanson took over the next month — he’s listed as mayor in June 1980. (Two can play at this research game!)

And finally, the writ for the provincial by-election in Halifax Needham was dropped on 28 March 1980 and the election was held on 6 May 1980. That’s two months. Which is a far cry from eight months. (I think we can agree on that, right? I could source it if necessary.)

John Savage

The other former mayor of Dartmouth’s Wikipedia entry said he’d taken a leave of absence as mayor to run for the provincial Liberal leadership in 1992. Per Tobin:

Similarly, it is my understanding that Savage did not take an unpaid leave of absence while running for the leadership of the Liberal Party. While it appears he did miss a couple of meetings, he was still the sitting Mayor. I am attaching minutes which show he was still in the chair in April. He missed the May Meeting and the Leadership vote was then held June 6th.

Again, I will bow to Tobin’s more in-depth research (Dartmouth council minutes from 1873 to 1996 are also online!) but I’d point out that Savage decided to run in February and was elected in June — that’s four months. Which is considerably less than eight months.

Rollie Thornhill

We agreed on Rollie Thornhill — he ran for mayor but did not resign.

Tobin then threw in a wild card:

Bruce Clarke

Per Tobin:

Though I did not bring this up during the panel — Bruce Clarke who was the Mayor of Glace Bay, ran provincially in 1988 and similarly did not resign his seat as Mayor. In fact when he lost the provincial election he continued to serve as Mayor for some time.

The minutes from Glace Bay council meetings are not, alas, online and Tobin didn’t cite any sources for this information, and I don’t know how long “some time” is, but according to the Old Town Hall Glace Bay site, Clarke was mayor from 1981-1988 and Donald MacInnis was mayor from 1988 to 1995.

The really pertinent number, I would argue, is that the provincial election in which Clarke ran unsuccessfully was called on 30 July 1988 and held on 6 September 1988 — so two months. Which is a much shorter period than eight months, as I believe we have by now established.

In conclusion, although I owe Tobin an apology for suggesting his list was “fact-free,” the facts in no way change my thinking on the matter: if Cecil Clarke is going to spend eight months campaigning for the PC leadership, he should take an unpaid leave of absence as mayor and his political staff should do the same.



The HATCH report — which, according to the date on its cover, was released on 29 November 2017 and so has been in the hot little hands of the Port of Sydney and port “developer” Albert Barbusci for almost three months now — was published on the Port website last week.

HATCH is the consulting firm engaged by the Port to estimate the costs of upgrading the Sydney-Truro rail line to handle double-stacked containers. The kind of containers that would come streaming off Ultra-Large Container Vessels (ULCV) at “Novaporte,” the horrible name for Sydney’s proposed ULCV transshipment terminal.

The Port of Sydney paid $90,000 for the study from monies left over from the dredge of Sydney harbor…No, let’s be clear here. We, the citizens of the CBRM who own the Port of Sydney Development Corporation and whose tax dollars funded that harbour dredge, paid $90,000 to Hatch to find out it will cost $103 million to bring the rail line up to Class 3 running conditions (40MPH).

On the other hand, to bring the track up to Class 1 running conditions (10MPH) would cost an estimated $43 million and could, with the help of God and 10 policemen (my words, not Hatch’s) be accomplished in two years.

Readers with far more in-depth knowledge of railways than I can lay claim to will find much to discuss in this report. Personally, I was struck by one line, which shows the Port chose a consultant with a striking ability to turn lemons into lemonade:

…the Sydney subdivision is out-of-service and rehabilitation works will not be impeded by train traffic, which normally dramatically affects the speed at which rail maintenance can be performed.

Um, yeah, but, doesn’t the fact that the line has been completely neglected since 2014 mean the work that needs to be done is that much more extensive? Isn’t HATCH effectively saying, “Man, imagine how disruptive it would be to fix this gaping hole in the tracks if the trains were still running over it?”

Source: HATCH


Artistic license

A reader got in touch after reading my report on Tuesday’s public hearing about the proposed Big Pond RV Park to say:

I would like to comment on that virtual Potemkin beach which accompanies the article. I realize other publications have also used it but it exists only on the developer’s Facebook page. As a Big Ponder, I can tell you there is no glittering strand there. What you will find along that shoreline is a lot of grass, mud and some bog fronting a shallow cove.

I didn’t critique the artist’s rendering of the beach because I assumed anyone looking at it would recognize it for what it was: an artist’s rendering. But the reader is right — anyone unfamiliar with the actual terrain might be excused for believing the Bras d’Or shoreline takes a sudden, inexplicable, 1,500-foot turn for the tropical in Big Pond Centre that is simply crying out for development:

Water playground.

Water playground.

I think artists just can’t resist making their representations appealing. I understand this from personal experience: in Grade 2, for Pollution Week, I made a clay model of the tar ponds. They featured sparkling blue waters and smiling ducks. I couldn’t help myself.

It’s the same force that was at work on the good people at Ekistics who, whatever other reference material they were supplied regarding the Sydney waterfront, clearly hadn’t received the raw sewage reports. How else to explain “Port Cove Beach,” located next to the government wharf?

Source: Ekistics Sydney Harbourfront Conceptual Vision & Design 2014

Source: Ekistics Sydney Harbourfront Conceptual Vision & Design 2014

Tim Bousquet at the Examiner has a lot of fun with artist’s renderings — my all-time favorite has to be the city with two suns:

Never mind the ghost building up above: the power lines will not, of course, be placed underground, nor will the city allow two one-way streets be un-signed. But the real problem with this rendering is that the building will apparently be built on a planet with two suns. Notice how there’s a late afternoon sun that casts the shadow of the buildings on the west side of the street eastward, right to the curb line across the street, such that the proposed building is in full sunlight and in stark contrast. And yet, there is a second sun, a morning sun, that casts a shadow of the tree on the northeast corner of the intersection (a large tree actually exists at that spot) into the intersection — that is, westward.

The moral? Just because you see it doesn’t mean you should believe it.


A Very Fatal Murder

I didn’t actually listen to the Serial podcast. I honestly don’t know why — it’s right up my alley. I love podcasts and I love documentaries. I watched Making a Murderer and The Keepers on Netflix and I listened to the podcast S-Town by the same team that produced Serial. And yet, I missed Serial, which tells one true story over the course of a season. (There have been two seasons, to date).

What I didn’t miss was the impact of Serial, which hit like a meteor and spawned immediate imitations (like the CBC’s Someone Knows Something which I also didn’t listen to. Maybe I’m not as attached to this genre as I thought I was). It was a serious pop cultural phenomenon, the proof of which is that it is now the subject of a dead-on satire by the Onion.

Yes, Onion Public Radio brings you, A Very Fatal Murder, which doesn’t just send up Serial-style true crime podcasts, it sends up podcasts generally. I particularly enjoyed the messages from the sponsors which are always the most jarring aspect of the genre — the part where the host has to turn away from the weighty matters s/he’s been discussing and shill for mattresses or companies that send all the ingredients for a meal to your home along with detailed prep instructions (the Onion version includes professional chefs to cook the meals and spoon them into your mouth.)

Each episode is about 12 minutes long and there are only six in total (although one is billed as “extra-long and incredibly poignant”), so the joke doesn’t have time to wear thin. I laughed but cringed occasionally too. In future, I think I will listen to such podcasts with a little more of my usual skepticism.