Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Cone of Silence

I’ve been thinking about the way Stephen McNeil has been quietly turning out the lights in any room in which his government might be held accountable to the public.

Just this week, for instance, the Liberals limited the number of times the public accounts committee will meet each year to 12. Why that matters is best explained by the CBC’s veteran legislative reporter Jean Laroche, who wrote an article about the issue but then took to Twitter to add context:

 

 

The Liberals argue that the creation of a standing committee on health, which will also meet 12 times a year, makes up for the reduction in public accounts committee meetings, but as Laroche pointed out in his story, public accounts met as often as 29 times per year. (The Liberal MLA he put this to, Gordon Wilson, responded by denying 29 was a bigger number than 24 — a trick that must come in really handy when reading opinion polls.)

But it’s not just about holding fewer meetings, it’s also about limiting what can be discussed during those meetings. The Liberals have limited the public accounts committee to discussing items raised by the Auditor General (AG) in his reports, but then took it a step further, as Stephen Kimber explained in the Halifax Examiner  (paywalled, but isn’t it time to get that joint Spectator/Examiner subscription already?):

Last Wednesday, the opposition members of the public accounts committee tried to add discussions of the mental health crisis in Cape Breton, home support contracts and family-doctor numbers to the committee’s agenda.

It should be noted the revised mandate of the public accounts committee ­— thanks to the Liberals own insistence — is now only to consider reports of the auditor general. The auditor general examined all of those issues in his 2017 report.

But No, No, piped up Liberal committee space-taker Ben Jessome. Issues of health can now only be discussed over at the health committee.

The very next day, the selfsame health committee — whose mandate is to consider “matters of access to and delivery of health care services” met. Wilson presided. Jessome — yes, that one — Lohnes-Croft, Irving and DiCostanzo assiduously assented. Surprise, surprise. The Liberal majority voted down discussion of… wait for it… access to and delivery of health care services resulting from emergency room over-crowding, ambulance off-loading delays and physician working conditions.

Of course, you have to hand it to the Liberals, it’s brilliant strategy — everybody knows that problems you don’t talk about solve themselves.

It struck me that, taken to its logical conclusion, this determination to limit the issues his government will discuss in public will result in everything triggering a Code Magenta and if you are a child of the ’70s you know what that means:

Committee meetings will all look like this:

 

Changing of the Guard?

You know the old saying, “Every time God closes a door he opens a window and throws down a rope ladder and encourages you to climb it and reaches out and grabs you by the scruff of the neck and hauls you back into your old office?”

I was reminded of it the other day when reading about Mary Tulle’s replacement as CEO of Destination Cape Breton (DCB). The Cape Breton Post reports that Tulle, who “retired” in December, has been replaced by Terry Smith, DCB’s “senior marketing partner” for “the past three years on a contract basis.”

I’d tell you more about Smith but DCB — which receives funding from three levels of government, including the proceeds of an accommodations levy charged by each of the island’s municipalities — “would not make Smith available for an interview prior to taking on his new role on Friday.”

I know what you’re thinking and I agree: it’s a great relief that Smith is showing no signs of being any more open or accountable than his predecessor. What would we have done if the new CEO were some sort of renegade who took the organization off in some crazy, transparent direction?

And the reassurance just keeps coming. As DCB board chair Debbie Rudderham explained to the Post:

The door has also been left open for Tulle, who would be welcomed back on a contract basis if the need were to arise where Destination Cape Breton might make use of her “expertise” in the field, Rudderham said.

“If we’re doing something new, whether it’s developing a new plan for a particular sector or whatever … we can hire her on a contract.”

I think we’ll all sleep better knowing that.

 

Dog Island

Why did I not know about the Dog Island podcast?

For that matter, why do I still know so little about the Dog Island podcast?

Presumably because that’s the way the hosts — who identify themselves simply as Andrew, Graeme, Hugh and Chris — want it. I mean, the dog doesn’t even want to be identified. (I realize I’m probably the only one in the world who knows the podcast but doesn’t know who the hosts are. This is what comes of living on a rocky outcropping in the North Atlantic.)

I believe I saw Tim Bousquet reference Dog Island at some point but assumed he was talking about an episode of Land & Sea.

All of which is a Rube Goldberg-esque way of saying I really like the Dog Island podcast and as soon as I read the official description, I understood why:

Atlantic Canada’s premier cultural marxist podcast. We talk about politics, work and culture with an emphasis on Atlantic Canada. Dirtbag leftism with a local focus. Political economy with swearing.

Seriously, what’s not to love? They’re smart and funny and they stick completely to local issues and — guess what? — local issues can be really interesting when interesting people talk about them.

What I particularly appreciate is that, although they are based in Halifax, the hosts not only know Cape Breton exists, they comment on some of our issues — like Glace Bay’s intersections and our lack of provincial funding.

I just became one of their supporters via Patreon, which I think means I now get to censor content and insist on more stories about my business.

Just kidding! I became a supporter because if you don’t support good things, they tend to disappear, and I’ve only just found this good thing.

 

Makerspace not yet made

"Learn how to code with Arduino and the Garoa Dojo Shield," makerspace Berlin, 2016. (Photo by re: publica from Germany CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Learn how to code with Arduino and the Garoa Dojo Shield,” makerspace Berlin, 2016. (Photo by re: publica from Germany CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve been following my coverage of Sydney’s makerspace, you’ll know I’m very excited about it and have all kinds of ideas about things I could make (and as the launch  date gets pushed further and further back, my list just gets longer and more elaborate).

If you haven’t been following — or need a refresher — in June 2017, the federal and provincial governments announced they’d put $1.9 million ($1.4 million from ACOA, $500,000 from the provincial government) into something called (don’t laugh) the Momentum Initiative. As media reports explained at the time:

The money will be used to rent space, purchase equipment such as a computer numerical control machine, a mill, welding and soldering gear, and a high-end 3D printer, among other things, and to hire people to support tech startups.

The makerspace was to be located at the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation (Holy Angels) and then it was possibly to be located somewhere else and then it was back at New Dawn again. It was supposed to have officially opened on 13 June 2018. It didn’t.

In September 2018, Nova Scotia Power donated $250,000 to “help facilitate the development, growth and operation of the space” and ACOA provided another $300,000, bringing total public money in the program to $2.2 million and yet, through that special alchemy that renders private sector dollars more powerful than public sector dollars, our makerspace is now called the Nova Scotia Power Makerspace.

(Because everyone loves Nova Scotia Power and the name has no unfortunate connotations of high power rates or soaring C-suite salaries, right?)

On the bright side, NSPI describes the space this way:

A creator’s dream, the space includes a general work area, a tool library, a metal working shop, a selection of woodworking tools, an electronics/robotics lab, as well as 3D drawing and printing abilities.

I was promised a tour of the space before Christmas, so I reached out to Matthew Swan, makerspace director, and he told me that they had hit “significant delays” in opening to the public, and it would be better for me to tour when they are open for business.

I asked what had caused the delays and Swan said:

There have been delays with occupancy of the makerspace because of the ongoing renovations on the rest of the property owned by New Dawn. As I’m sure you know, there are significant reno’s going on in the former convent next door to the school building, and there are overall site designs and approvals that need to be completed before we are able to get approvals to use our makerspace, which is seen in the context of that overall property design.

It just wasn’t something we expected in the process.

Swan said, on February 4, that the opening could be as early as two weeks from now.

So, at the moment, we have a $2.2 million space for making…promises.

 

 

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