Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Slouching toward Green Cove?

I happened to visit the Never Forgotten National Memorial website in the course of  researching another story this past week, and was fascinated (and by “fascinated” I mean “terrified”) to discover that Mother Canada is still out there like some rough beast, waiting for its hour to come.

A disclaimer you encounter on entering the site reads:

As of February 5, 2016, Parks Canada announced that it would no longer be a partner or a supporter in the Never Forgotten National Memorial, and would as well, refuse permission for its construction at the Green Cove site. While the NFNM Foundation remains as a registered charity and continues to accept donations, we would however like to make it perfectly clear, that we are not actively engaged in any and all fundraising activities, that would be specifically intended for the sole purpose of the actual construction of this very same memorial at the Green Cove, or for that matter, at any other alternative and/or suggested sites.

However, we have and will remain strongly committed to our current mandate/goal of “Keeping The Flame Alive” for the sole purpose of achieving the final successful realization of the Never Forgotten National Memorial, and with that, in the creation of Mother Canada at that very same Green Cove site, and one that will forever be in the sanctity and the protection of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

The sheer elaborateness of the website really suggests the project hasn’t gone away but instead lies dormant, waiting for a more monument-friendly federal government to take over management of the country’s national parks.

Two years ago, I went through hundreds of pages of documents related to the Mother Canada project — documents I’d ATIPed from Parks Canada — and what I discovered at the time seems suddenly, in the face of the continued existence of Toronto businessman Tony Trigiani’s nightmare vision for Green Cove, worth revisiting.

First, I discovered that the Green Cove site was actually suggested to Trigiani by Helene Robichaud, the CBHNP superintendent. This was made clear in a 2013 email from Trigiani to then-Field Unit Superintendent (FUS) Chip Bird:

The first time around, we had actually chosen Lakies Head and made our first presentation to Helene in Halifax based on that site over several others that we had seen at that time…..

Helene had liked the concept but felt that the Lakies Head site was far too small, and we totally agreed with her on that point and were prepared to scale back our version to suit the site if necessary.

Then she asked if we had seen Green Cove, to which I said Green what?????

While for on[e] strange reason or another, I guess that we had actually just driven right by it on a search of suitable sites along the Trail on our way to Ceticamp [sic]

While two weeks later, Bob Davey the general manager of Norstar Corporation, Trigiani’s industrial food packaging company] and myself flew right back to Sydney and drove straight to Green Cove and…….WOW!!!!!

I immediately fell head over heels in love with the very heart and soul of it!

It honestly talked to me Chip, and I to it…….and the rest is history!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Robichaud is no longer the CBHNP superintendent, so perhaps support for the project from inside the park is less assured.

Secondly, I discovered that, at least as recently as 2014, Parks Canada had no policy on monuments in national parks. That was made clear in an email from Darlene Pearson, director of the legislative & regulatory affairs branch of the Protected Area Establishment and Conservation Directorate, to Diane Wilson, senior activity analyst at Parks Canada:

There is nothing in Agency policy that deals with establishing memorials on national park or national historic sites lands. The issue of erecting monuments or memorials does come up frequently and is dealt with on an ad hoc basis, with the decision generally being left to the FUS or site superintendent. I believe that a memorial plaque was allowed in Banff NP last year (small metal plaque commemorating a former park vis[i]tor/climber, placed in an unobtrusive location) but do not have the details.

I am attaching a couple of documents which show that NHS has considered this issue and has developed at least one discussion paper and draft guidelines on this. However, neither document has been finalized into guidelines approved for general use in the Agency.

That issue paper notes that there are a total of 89 memorials spread across 25 of the national historic sites administered by Parks Canada, the majority being “plaques (some mounted on cairns),” along with “some monuments,” the balance consisting of “interpretive panels, tree plantings, signs, etc.”

I emailed Parks Canada just now to find out if they are any closer to establishing a policy that would prevent the construction of a 24-meter-high concrete woman in a national park and hope to have an answer for you in next week’s issue.

In the meantime, know that Mother Canada is still out there and her supporters, although perhaps not numerous, are well credentialed. They include:

The Honourable Frank McKenna, P.C., O.C., O.N.B, Q.C.
Deputy Chair, TD Bank Group

General (Ret’d) Paul D. Manson, O.C., C.M.M., C.D., B.Sc., D.Mil.Sc.
Patron, Nato Veterans Organization of Canada

And my favorite, the man with the three-foot business cards:

Mr. Douglas Cardinal, O.C., Ph.D. (h.c.), B.Arch, O.A.A., A.A.A., S.A.A., A.I.B.C., A.I.A., NCARB, R.C.A.A., F.R.A.I.C., F.R.I.A.S., F.R.S.C.
President, Douglas Cardinal Architect Inc.

(They forgot E.I.E.I.O.)


Pink slips

The ridiculously named Saltwire Network, Mark Lever and Sarah Dennis’ newspaper empire, has shuttered its printing operation in Sydney.

The Cape Breton Post will no longer be “proudly published in Cape Breton.” It will be published in Halifax, on Saltwire’s “world-class press” (a phrase devoid of meaning unless Saltwire actually won some sort of international printing Olympics).

Given the parlous state of print media and the fact that Saltwire owns multiple presses, this day was probably inevitable. But the whole thing is somehow made worse by the weaselly way it was announced — in a by-line-free article in Friday’s paper under the headline:

“New printing location for Post.”

So much cheerier than:

“Press closure throws 14 out of work”

The fact of the job losses was buried in the sixth paragraph — and softened to “Fourteen full- and part-time employees were affected [emphasis mine] by this move.” The author first had to explain that the equipment in Sydney was “aging” and would require “costly upgrades in the near future” and to focus resolutely on the bright side:

Readers in Cape Breton will see a more colourful paper with sharper images. In fact, because of some challenges over the fall, Cape Breton Post readers have already had an opportunity to see the enhanced quality as the Post was printed for several weeks in Halifax.

I guess we’re expected to enjoy our “more colourful paper” and not trouble our heads about what Saltwire will close next.


Revisionist history

History is written by the victors and I think the group that managed to secure $4 million in public money to construct the Ben Eoin Marina (at a time when the local federal economic development agency, Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation, had put a moratorium on funding marinas) count as victors, so I was interested to see their version of the project’s history, as recorded on the marina website.

They offer a brief timeline (the Ben Eoin Ski Hill is established in the early 1970s, the golf course opens in 2010 and the Marina is founded in 2011) and bring equal brevity to the discussion of the generous public support that made the marina possible:

The idea for a marina at Ben Eoin was borne out of the efforts of a group of community minded individuals who sought to expand upon the existing recreational amenities that already existed in this rural cottage country community. The marina itself was completed in November of 2012.

Building on the vision to establish a world-class recreation facility together with enhancing the potential economic potential of the Bras d’ors, [sic] partnering with Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation, the not-for-profit entity known as Ben Eoin Marina Ltd. was put into action.

Nowhere is it explained that the thing was built entirely with government (read: citizen) money.

And it certainly isn’t explained that while the “community-minded” individuals behind the project hoped to enhance “the potential economic potential” of the lakes, they also balked at ensuring 25% of the marina’s berths would be available to “transients” (read: tourists), telling ECBC:

Through much discussion and consultation with other marinas, the Board has assumed the split between seasonal and transient berths to be 85% seasonal and 15% transient. Based on the current financial landscape and the need to at minimum break even, the Board does not feel it is financially feasible to increase the percentage of transient berths in year one.

In fact, as of November 2016 when I was going through a pile of ATIPed information about the marina, it had 68 seasonal berths and 7 transient berths—which means it had set aside 9.3% of its berths for visitors.

I could write a much better history of the Ben Eoin Marina than the one on the website. Funny they didn’t call me.


Big Night Out

I got to help with the raffle draw.

I not only got out of the house — I got out of town last weekend. Made it all the way to Halifax for Tim Bousquet’s annual Halifax Examiner subscription drive party.

It was a very good night. I got to meet some of our joint Spectator/Examiner subscribers (people I’ve communicated with via email or social media but had never met in person). I got to meet some Examiner contributors whose work I’ve enjoyed but who, again, I’d never met — like Jennifer Henderson and Evelyn White and El Jones. I even got to meet Iris, the Examiner‘s office manager, the one who keeps everything humming along (subscriptions, tech support, swag wrangling, Morning File sending, it’s all Iris) and who has been so generous with her time and help since I launched operations.

And, of course, I got to see Tim Bousquet, who has encouraged and assisted me from the get-go.

We all of us got to hear Linden MacIntyre (I’m thinking I don’t need to add “former CBC Fifth Estate host” or “Giller Award-winning author” to his name — you all know who Linden MacIntyre is) who gave a very entertaining talk that incorporated stories about his own early days as a reporter in Halifax and Sydney with thoughts on the current state of the profession. He sees independent upstarts like the Examiner and the Spectator as the future of journalism and was kind enough to say so in public. There are witnesses.

All in all, it was a fine time. My work mostly involves me sitting by myself in front of a computer, so it was nice to actually go somewhere and see some people. I might have to make a habit of it…


Media criticism

This week’s episode of Canadaland, Jesse Brown’s media criticism podcast, is a real must-hear.

Brown speaks with Jesse Hirsh, whom you may recognize (I did) as the tech columnist we used to hear on the CBC’s Information Morning.

I always enjoyed Hirsh’s segments and wondered why he’d suddenly disappeared — turns out he lost his syndication deal with our national broadcaster after he did a masters in algorithmic media and became more vocally critical of  platforms like Facebook in his segments.

He remained the tech columnist for the CBC’s morning program in Toronto until, as Canadaland puts it:

After 25 years at the CBC, tech columnist Jesse Hirsh decided to risk it all. During an interview about Facebook, he turned the tables, asking why CBC continues to promote Facebook after we’ve seen what that company has done to undermine democracy.  CBC refused to post the segment online, raising questions about what you can and cannot say on our public broadcaster.

As Brown says, while what happened to Hirsh particularly is concerning, it raises a bigger question of whether people employed by the CBC can criticize it. And the answer seems to be “No.”




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