Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Premier King

PEI Premier Dennis King.

PEI Premier Dennis King.

My interest in the recent PEI election, I will admit, was largely confined to the referendum on moving from a first-past-the-post electoral system to a mixed-member-proportional (MMP) system, which islanders ultimately chose not to do.

The success of the Green Party on election night also piqued my interest — I had assumed the island would continue to bounce back and forth between Liberals and Conservatives the way some cable subscribers (I won’t name names) bounce back and forth between Bell Aliant and Eastlink, so the Green Party’s breakthrough (winning eight seats to the Tories’ 12) was notable.

I’d registered that the leader of the PEI Progressive Conservatives was a “nice guy” — the phrase seemed to come up in every report I heard — but I hadn’t paid much attention to him.

And then last week, I saw his picture and there was something really familiar about him, so I looked up his official bio and read that his first full-time job was as a reporter for the Eastern Graphic, a weekly newspaper based in Montague, PEI.

And that’s when the penny dropped: he’s Denny King, the nice kid I worked with at the Eastern Graphic!

I’m excited. I think this is as close to power as I have ever come. (And yes, that tells you all you need to know about me and power.)

I don’t know if we’d agree on anything, policy-wise, but King really was a nice guy — and apparently still is — which is probably a good thing given he’s leading a minority government.



Talk of the Eastern Graphic provides an excellent segue way into my next topic: the 2019 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards (CCNAs).

Paul MacNeill, son of Jim MacNeill, the founder of the Eastern Graphic, won Outstanding Columnist this year.

But closer to home, the Victoria Standard — run by Andrew Brooks and Carolyn Barber — bagged a bunch of awards, including Best All-Round Newspaper and Best Front Page in its circulation category.

Brooks ranked third for Best Feature Story and the paper ranked second for Best Editorial Page.

Sean MacDougall took second place for Best Feature Photo, while Brooks took third-place for Best News Photo.

Perhaps most strikingly, the paper ranked third for its Arts Coverage — by Barber and Kristin Nord — a category in which it competed with newspapers with much higher circulations. That’s really great.

Three cheers for weekly newspapers!

You can see a list of all the 2019 CCNA winners here.


Barack Obama

Former US president Barack Obama is coming to Halifax this fall to help mark the 70th anniversary of the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council.

Why has the council chosen Obama? According to its Facebook feed:

They’re inviting him because “why not?”

Well, one reason “why not” is his speaking fee, which has been known to hit $400,000. I asked Atlantic Credit Unions (which sent me one of two “exclusive” pre-sale offers I received — the other came from the Cape Breton Post) what they’re paying Obama to accept their “invitation” but spokeswoman Jane Harwood told me by email:

In regards to your question, the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council will not be releasing this information as is the standard for any organization hosting events of this nature.

The Harry Walker Agency, which lists Obama as one of its “exclusive” speakers, doesn’t publish his fees but does note that in addition to the fee, clients are expected to pick up the tab for some additional expenses:

Standard expenses include (but are not limited to) unrestricted, first class, round-trip airfare; hotel accommodations; ground transportation by a professional car service (both in the event city and city of speaker’s origin), meals, and incidentals. Some of our speakers require additional expenses such as security or expenses for an aide. It is possible to have the airfare included in the fee and this would be discussed at the time the Firm Offer is presented to the speaker. Your Agent will detail the specific expenses required for the individual speaker prior to the Firm Offer and you’ll know what they are before you sign the contract. No surprises.

That’s got to add up. No wonder bowl tickets for the event — scheduled for the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax in November and billed as a “conversation” with the former president — are so pricey:



Believe me, I understand the desire to see Obama in person — I spent hours standing in a cobblestone courtyard in Prague Castle back in 1999, waiting to see him and Michelle and I was excited, no question. (Mind you, I didn’t have to pay $79 — let alone $284 — for the privilege.)

I was even more excited when I heard his speech, which was about cutting the world’s nuclear arsenals.

And then, as the Spectator‘s own Sean Howard has noted, Obama initiated:

…a $1 trillion, decades-long modernization of America’s strategically-obsolete nuclear ‘triad,’ an investment in mass destruction evidently incommensurate with America’s disarmament commitments under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

I would like to get excited about Obama, but I just can’t.

That said, I’m sure lots of people will, so I will hold my peace.


Where are the womens?

Halifax-based journalist Suzanne Rent wrote Friday’s Morning File for the Halifax Examiner which includes an item about women in the Nova Scotian workforce.

Rent’s interest in the subject was sparked by the Halifax Regional Municipality’s workforce report for 2017-2018 which showed women make up 29.1% of the municipality’s workforce. (Does the CBRM issue a report like this? I couldn’t find one on the website but will look into it.)

Rent then did some digging and came up with numbers for a variety of other sectors — including law, medicine, engineering, the military and more.

You should read the whole item but I need to include the most eye-popping statistic here. Curious about “who was getting the money from ACOA [Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency] for projects,” Rent contacted the agency and was told:

The agency just started encouraging applicants to self-identify in November 2018, but self-identifying is not mandatory. Since November 2018, ACOA has funded 891 new projects. Of those, 63 projects are women-owned and/or -led. More specifically, 46 are women-owned and -led businesses, 10 are women-led businesses only, and seven are women-owned businesses only. Chris Brooks, the director of communications and outreach, gathered all this information for me and says the agency knows, anecdotally, those numbers are higher.

Perhaps the numbers are actually higher, but even if they were double what Rent reported, women-owned or -led projects would represent only 14% of total projects funded since November 2018.



Summer Hours

The first full summer I published the Spectator — the summer of 2017 — I published every Wednesday, like clockwork.

And every Wednesday, like clockwork…nobody read it.

Because it was summer. And people were on vacation, as they should be.

So last summer, I instituted a bi-weekly schedule, under which I published full issues every two weeks and Fast & Curious columns in the weeks I didn’t publish full issues.

But also last summer, I spent a full week attending proceedings in John Whalley’s civil suit against the CBRM (and then several more weeks making sense of what I’d heard in a series of articles). As I wrote at the time, it was a great experience for me  — I really felt like I had the time to come to grips with a detailed story.

So this summer, with your indulgence, I’m going to experiment a little. I will publish bi-weekly, on Wednesdays, but I may just use the extra time to produce one in-depth piece or series of connected articles each issue. I have a number of stories that would lend themselves to this approach, stories I haven’t been able to devote sufficient time to while producing the full issue and Fast & Curious each week.

I will also write in response to current events if I’m so moved.

I am looking forward to having some time off, but I’m also looking forward to spending more time on individual stories. And if you are enjoying some time off and taking a break from your daily news diet, don’t worry — it will all be here for you when you get back from the woods. Or the beach. Or the mountains.

Happy summer!