Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

In camera

CBRM council, 12 December 2017.

CBRM council, 12 December 2017 (File photo.)

The CBC’s Tom Ayers doesn’t seem to like closed doors any more than I do and this week he kicked one open (figuratively, not literally) at the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Ayers reported on Thursday that the CBRM Council has discussed its own compensation in secret four times since 2016 — discussions culminating in Monday’s decision to raise mayor and councilor salaries to compensate for the federal government’s decision to eliminate a tax break rendering one-third of those salaries tax free.

Ayers got confirmation of the discussions from Municipal Clerk Deborah Campbell, who told him that council met to discuss its own remuneration in camera on 7 December 2016, 8 May 2017, 24 October 2017 and 26 June 2018.

As reasons for the in-camera meetings, the municipality cited “personnel in all four cases, and for two meetings they also cited contract negotiations. In one case, they also cited acquisition, sale, or lease of property.”

Ayers then confirmed, with CBU political scientist Tom Urbaniak, that council remuneration (a word I always pronounce “renumeration” when I say it out loud so I’m glad I’m just writing it) is not one of the matters the Municipal Government Act (MGA) permits councils to discuss in camera.

Ayers then put the icing on the gravy by getting Mark Peck of the Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA) to state, on the record, that Urbaniak is correct — while there may be some “nuances” around remuneration that may be discussed in camera, the mayor and councilors are not “personnel,” they’re elected officials and their pay cannot be discussed in secret.

Mayor Cecil Clarke told Ayers:

The  standing practice and procedure has been that it was treated as related to the same as an employee.

If this is true, then it means the “standing practice and procedure” of council has been to violate the MGA.

But if you think Clarke then promised to bring CBRM practice in line with the applicable law, you’d be dead wrong:

The mayor said it was a longstanding practice that he inherited from previous CBRM councils, and no one has asked him to change it.

“If there’s a desire to have a broader compensation review, then I’m totally open for that and totally open for it to be in open session,” Clark said.

But it’s not something he would champion himself.

“There’s no desire to change anything, so what’s to champion?”

Peck told Ayers there is no penalty for a council discussing its own compensation in camera, leading me to wonder, as I have oft times before, what exactly is the point of the MGA?


Vive la résistance?

So, this happened:


It looks like the cover of the Vanity Fair Plain-Clothes Detective Issue. (It also looks like they were photographed separately and photo-shopped together.)

My first thought, though, upon seeing it, was that somebody must have sacrificed multiple goats to the gods of satire, because they’ve delivered big time: can you imagine a riper target? And sure enough, I’d barely registered the thought before the The Beaverton struck, explaining that the cover was Maclean’s attempt to top its famous “Too Asian” cover:

“It’s been far too long since this noble Canadian institution has done something fully batshit insane,” stated Alison Uncles, editor-in-chief. “I know it’s not quite the same as giving a platform to people who want to see our universities racially purified, but we’re still hoping that by appropriating a term currently used to describe disenfranchised communities trying to fight for their survival and instead applying that term to a bunch of powerful politicians who are doing their best to make the world burn, we can once again really show people how out of touch Maclean’s truly is.”

Non-Tory politicians and Twitter (and sometimes non-Tory politicians on Twitter) were all over it:

Although not everyone got the joke:

But in totally missing the point, Raitt actually made an even better one, which I would state (Caitlin Moran-style) as: WHERE ARE THE WOMENS?

I knew that Christy Clark’s loss of power in British Columbia in 2017 left only one female Canadian premier in office — Alberta’s Rachel Notley. And I knew there had been no female premiers in Atlantic Canada since Kathy Dunderdale resigned in 2014. But somehow, knowing it wasn’t as stunning as seeing it. And the full picture is even more depressing:

Canadian provincial and territorial premiers as of 9 Nov. 2018, clockwise from upper left: Joe Savitaaq (Nunavut), Sandy Silver (Yukon), Bob MacLeod (NWT), John Horgan (BC), Doug Ford (ON), Brian Pallister (Man), Wade MacLauchlan (PEI), Stephen McNeil (NS), Blaine Higgs (NB), Dwight Ball (Nfl & Lab), François Legault (QC), Scott Moe (Sask). Centre: Rachel Notley (AB)

Canadian provincial and territorial premiers as of 9 Nov. 2018, clockwise from upper left: Joe Savitaaq (NU), Sandy Silver (YT), Bob MacLeod (NT), John Horgan (BC), Doug Ford (ON), Brian Pallister (MB), Wade MacLauchlan (PE), Stephen McNeil (NS), Blaine Higgs (NB), Dwight Ball (NL), François Legault (QC), Scott Moe (SK). Centre: Rachel Notley (AB)


I’d been thinking about the issue of women in politics anyway, in light of the US midterm elections on Tuesday. A record number of American women ran for office and a record number will now serve in Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate) — 117 of 535 or 22%. The list of historic firsts for women had me quite dazzled, until I started comparing it to the Canadian list and realized we’re actually ahead in some ways.

For example, federally, 92 of 388 MPs — or 27.2% — are women and here in Nova Scotia 17 of 51 MLAs — or 33% — are women.

The US elected its first two Native American congresswomen on Tuesday, whereas Canada elected its first female First Nations member of parliament — Ethel Blondin-Andrew — in 1988. On the other hand, Blondin-Andrew’s election didn’t exactly open the floodgates, there’ve been only six indigenous female MPs (Métis, Inuit or First Nations) since she paved the way and Nova Scotia has never elected an indigenous MLA, male or female.

In the entire history of the province of Nova Scotia, only 19 women have served as cabinet ministers — the first one in 1985 — and the total number of women elected (as in, ever) is 52. (There have been 52 female cabinet secretaries in the history of the United States, I can’t find a total for female federal cabinet ministers in Canada but I’ll keep looking.)

Damn, I started out laughing at a Maclean’s cover and now I’m almost crying in frustration.



What’s in a Name?

The group hoping to bring a Canadian Football League team to Halifax launched a “name-the-team” contest on Wednesday and provided an initial shortlist of options including:

The Atlantic Admirals




I am going to offer a few of my own, but I want you all first to recognize my maturity in leaving “Footy McBallface” off my list, realizing it not only doesn’t work in the context of a team name but represents a joke that arguably reached its apogee with “Boaty McBoatface” and should be put to bed.

Some of the names on my list are offered in recognition that corporations have cornered the market on naming stadiums and it’s only a matter of time before they also start naming teams after themselves and why shouldn’t that trend begin in corporation-loving Nova Scotia?

It’s also worth bearing in mind these names are coming from an embittered resident of the CBRM, which can’t even secure provincial funding for a new central library but is watching the province weigh its options for supporting a football team:

The Northern Pulp Effluents

The Sobeys BOGOs

The Irvings

The Halifax Blueberries

The Greenhouse Gassers

The Atlantic Clear-Cuts

The Atlantic Surf Clams

The Jacques Dubés

This is way too much fun. I’d better stop before I lose the whole day.

[Exeunt, laughing.]





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