Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

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Call Mr. Campbell

Donkin Mine VP Shannon Campbell. (CBC Photo/Tom Ayers)

Donkin Mine VP Shannon Campbell. (CBC Photo/Tom Ayers)

On Friday morning, I heard CBC reporter Tom Ayers’ interview with Shannon Campbell, Donkin Mine vice president, who attended a public meeting in Port Morien last night (organized by District 8 Councilor Amanda McDougall) to discuss residents’ concerns about coal trucks traveling through their community.

On the coal truck issue, my sympathies (unsurprisingly) are with the residents. I remember dealing with large trucks during the years the Scotia Limestone quarry was active near my family’s summer place. When we’d see one coming, my siblings and cousins and I would yell, “TRUCK!” and pile into the ditch until it passed. Of course, we were children, as spry as we were paranoid about road safety. I do not offer this as a solution (even a temporary one) for the residents of Port Morien.

But the aspect of Ayers’ report that stopped me in my tracks was an exchange between him and an unnamed man (apparently a Donkin HR person) who tried to shut the interview down saying, “You can call Mr. Campbell at his office tomorrow.” Ayers was having none of it (you could hear him saying something like, “We’re just asking questions at a public meeting”) and managed to squeeze in a couple more questions which “Mr. Campbell” was gracious enough to answer. CBC video producer Gary Mansfield kept his camera running too  (The radio interview has not been posted yet on the CBC site or I’d link to it. The video version will run on tonight’s CBC tv news.)

CBC Information Morning Cape Breton host Steve Sutherland didn’t let it go either, underlining that the CBC has tried to call “Mr. Campbell” at his office numerous times to no avail.

The CBC has been doing great work on Donkin, most recently this Frances Willick story about ongoing safety violations at the mine, which is owned by the US-based Cline Group. That piece, as it happened, also contained a story-within-a-story, as Willick explained on Twitter this week:

 

 

Press release as straight line

Speaking of CBC Information Morning Cape Breton, a former co-host, Laurel Munroe, has just been named communications director for Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.

I hesitate to classify this as yet another example of McNeil co-opting a journalist, as Munroe, although she did work for both the CBC and the Cape Breton Post, has been on the communications side of the business for years now. She’s even worked for McNeil before, in the capacity of press secretary from 2013-2016, after working in communications for Cape Breton Canso MP Rodger Cuzner and before working as director of communications for federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr (her most recent gig).

I am actually writing about Munroe’s appointment for one reason and one reason only — so that I can make the following joke:

Is it a plus or a negative that half the province will think your communications director’s name is “Yanny?

 

Equalization

One of the final items on the agenda of Tuesday night’s CBRM council meeting was “Equalization — Discussion of Action,” brought forward by District 11 Councilor Kendra Coombes as business arising from the 1 May 2018 meeting of the General Committee.

During that meeting Coombes, noting growing public concern with the equalization issue, had proposed a number of possible actions mayor and council could take in response, including  writing letters to other Cape Breton municipalities requesting their support; seeking updates on two private members’ bills related to equalization; writing to the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities (NSFM); and requesting meetings with local MLAs and MPs. Council also asked the CBRM’s chief financial officer (CFO) Jennifer Campbell to draft an Issue Paper on the subject of municipal transfers to the provincial government, which Campbell did.

Unfortunately, after what Coombes told the Spectator was an “exhausting 13-hour day” on Tuesday (the CBRM has a strange habit of cramming as many meetings as it can into a single day — often the day of the regular monthly council meeting), the issue did not get an airing. Coombes says because it was not formally introduced at the meeting, she was able to ask the CFO to resubmit the Issue Paper for inclusion on a future council agenda.

It’s still worth looking at the documents attached to Tuesday’s agenda — I’ve clipped the relevant pages and it’s all pretty self-explanatory. Of particular note: the Issue Paper on municipal transfers to the provincial government. The review was requested by council during that May 1 meeting of the General Committee and submitted by CBRM Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Campbell on May 16.

Council_Agenda_May_29_2018reduced_for_email.split-and-merged

 

If you don’t have time to read the relevant pages, then just look at this relevant chart, which shows very clearly the problem with the current provincial equalization regime. All you need do is compare “total unconditional grants” (money the CBRM receives from the province) to “total provincial mandated costs” (money the CBRM pays to the province):

Source: CBRM

Source: CBRM

 

Doggy Daycare

Tuesday’s council meeting also included a public hearing on a request to amend a land-use by-law to allow for the opening of a “boarding kennel and an animal sitting establishment” on Keltic Drive (which CBRM planning director Malcolm Gillis described as a “frontier area,” making me immediately want to apply for a saloon license).

This is one of those municipal issues in which everyone is right (or maybe everyone is wrong, which kind of amounts to the same thing).

CBRM’s planning department has come down in favor of Nicole Campbell, the would-be doggy daycare owner, recommending the applicable by-law be amended to delete the phrases “kennels are not permitted in areas serviced with both Municipal water and sewer” and “animal shelters and animal sitting establishments are not permitted in areas serviced with both Municipal water and sewer.”

Campbell is right in that it’s good to encourage new business and there is already a veterinary clinic on Keltic Drive.

The neighboring businesses who are opposed — particularly the owners of Breton Brewing — are right that dog kennels are noisy and could constitute a nuisance for patrons of their planned beer garden. (I’m not sure how real the risk of “cross contamination” of the water supply is.)

Several competing dog kennel owners, who also oppose Campbell’s plan, are also right: they followed the letter of the by-law by locating their businesses outside the area serviced by municipal water and sewer and allowing Campbell to locate on Keltic Drive would give her business a distinct geographic advantage over theirs.

Campbell is right that any kennel owner could have applied to have the by-law amended.

Dogs are great.

So is beer.

I wish Breton Brewing was on Charlotte Street, but that’s obviously not germane to this discussion.

What is the answer? I really don’t know, but I do know, for what it’s worth, that dogs and beer gardens are not mutually exclusive:

Letenske Beer Garden, Prague. (Source: PragueStay https://www.prague-stay.com/lifestyle/review/97-letenske-sady-beer-garden)

“Letenske beer garden attracts all types of people, chances are you will meet families with young children, students, expats, sporty people passing through on bike or rollerblades, professionals after work and people who love to party with a large beer in hand and of course, dogs!” (Letenske Beer Garden, Prague. Source: PragueStay)

 

 

 

 

Note: This article has been updated to include the reference to CBC video producer Gary Mansfield and to add details about the equalization discussion that wasn’t during Tuesday’s council meeting.

 

 

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