Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

The Irvings

The latest installment of Dynasties, the Canadaland Commons series on Canada’s wealthiest families, focuses on the Irvings and, as my sister said, “It’s the plot of Succession!

She’s right — only the Irving saga is weirder than the HBO series about an “American global-media family that is not only rich and powerful but is also powerfully disfunctional” by virtue of being true.

I would have listened to a podcast twice as long about our oil-refining/forest-destroying/newspaper-owning/Kent home-selling/warship-building overlords but alas, it’s a standard-length installment.

But it packs a lot into that standard length — and as usual, draws on some great reporting, this time by Bruce Livesey, Jacques Poitras and Erin Anderssen.


Harbour Hopper

Navy beachmasters come ashore at Makua Valley Beach aboard an amphibious resupply cargo lighter (LARC V) during Operation KERNAL BLITZ.

I was wondering where the Harbour Hopper had disappeared to — not that I’ve missed it. Quite the contrary, actually; I’ve been noting its welcome absence every time I drive up the Esplanade on a cruise ship day and am not required to pull into oncoming traffic to get around it.

In fact, I had hoped it had sprung a leak and sunk, unmourned, into the harbor. (Without casualties, of course — in my imagination it was left unattended on a hill with the emergency brake disengaged and just rolled into the drink.)

Turns out, the Harbour Hopper (or as the Post’s David Jala would have it, the “platypus of the transportation world”) was simply “ahead of its time.”

At least, that’s what owner Dennis Campbell thinks. Remember Campbell? The chief executive officer of Halifax-based Ambassatours Gray Line? The man who owns most of the Halifax Waterfront and who was supposed to help transform ours? Yeah, him, he told Jala:

It was a trial to try to give us a feel if it would work in the short or long term – we gave it two years and after that we realized we may have been a bit premature in the market place.

Part of the issue is that Sydney already has a lot of great features – you have Louisbourg, Baddeck, Iona, the Cabot Trail, so we found that the bulk of the people that wanted to go on tour really wanted to get to some of those places that Cape Breton is so well known [sic].

Clearly, Campbell’s target audience was cruise passengers — those people who are traveling on a boat and therefore (I’m just spit-balling here) might not need to get in another boat as part of their “onshore” excursion. People we’ve been assured actually told don’t like boats at all — at least, not little ones — which is why we had to build them a $20 million second berth.

Imagine if, instead of targeting cruise ship passengers with an amphibious Vietnam-era military vehicle, Campbell had run a water taxi to Westmount or even North Sydney? A service for tourists and locals alike? Like the one that was (you guessed it) the subject of a consultant’s report back in 2013?


Last words

The late Earle Tubrett — a former mayor of Sydney — penned an op-ed for the Cape Breton Post prior to his death last August at the age of 75, and it ran in Thursday’s paper.

Tubrett’s thesis is that Cape Breton (and the rest of non-HRM Nova Scotia) is suffering at the hands of a modern-day Family Compact — a group of influential people based in the capital. The piece reads occasionally like a roman à clef — although discerning the identities of the Compact members is not that difficult:

Presently the provincial cabinet has 17 members, 11 of whom are from Metro Halifax. Aligned with this executive council is an ex-premier, an ex-minister, some retiring MPs, a former deputy Minister of Tourism, a few lobbyists and some wealthy people. All together they constitute a very powerful decision-making group who believe that their way is not only best for them but also for the general population. Their attitudes about the proposed Inverness airport project and other issues of concern in the rest of Cape Breton, such as medical staffing and the new CBRM library, suggest that an evolution has taken place that may be more detrimental than beneficial.

Tubrett began with a diagnosis of the causes of the “malaise” he detected “throughout” the island:

Serious medical issues around a doctor shortage and ER closures, a major new library project being stonewalled in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM), environmental groups being ignored in their efforts to protect local interests, Nova Scotians for Equalization Fairness being dismissed and local councillors experiencing difficulties having their opinions heard all have combined to create a toxic environment against advancing the interests of Cape Bretoners.

I’m not going to recap the entire article, you can read it yourself, but I have to say, I wish he’d joined the conversation earlier.

(I’ve chosen to illustrate this item with this 24 March 1973 clipping from the Cape Breton Highlander not because it’s a great picture of Tubrett — it’s a poor reproduction — but because the caption reminded me why I got into this local weekly racket in the first place.)

I include this clipping from the Cape Breton Highlander (24 March 1973) not because it's a great picture of Mayor Tubrett, but because the caption cracked me up and reminded me why I got into this racket.

Cape Breton Highlander, 24 March 1973


Rail Corridor

I looked up the rail corridor that runs alongside the second berth — the one we’re apparently paying Genesee & Wyoming to migrate so that we can then, through the CBRM-owned Port of Sydney Development Corporation, buy it.

It seems to be part of a much larger — 35 acre — parcel of land that is assessed at $1,856,100 by the Property Valuation Services Corporation:



The civic address is 109 Ferry Street, the PID (parcel identification number) is 15642309 and the AAN (assessment account number) is 07279000, so you can verify my findings.

Presumably, G&W is carving a piece of this off for the Port — Port of Sydney spokesperson Christina Lamey told the CBC’s Tom Ayers they were interested in “a small, unused piece of rail line along Sydney Harbour next to the cruise ship terminals.”

She also said they had no plans for its use and had reached no deal to buy it.

Which, if true, raises lots of questions about that item on the April 2019 invoice submitted by G&W to the province under its “rail preservation agreement.” You know, the unknown amount paid Halifax law firm McInnes Cooper for professional services related to the “Sale of Lands to Port of Sydney Development.”



I’m going to end with the best thing I’ve heard this week: Randolph Mantooth will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Cape Breton Paramedic Conference.

Did you hear me? I said RANDOLPH MANTOOTH, or as those of us who grew up in the 1970s will forever think of him, Johnny Gage. Because although Mantooth is not actually a paramedic, he played one on television from 1972 to 1979 on NBC’s EMERGENCY!

Gage and his partner Roy DeSoto (played by Kevin Tighe) of Los Angeles County Fire Department Station 51 were both firefighters and paramedics, working in concert with the staff of Rampart General Hospital — Dr. Kelly Brackett, Dr. Joe Early and Nurse Dixie McCall. (As I remember it, they were the only staffers at Rampart General, which may explain why people of my generation expect doctors to be able to handle a caseload of 2,000 patients.)

For those of you too young to have learned everything you know about healthcare from Johnny and Roy and Dixie (“ringers lactate” are always needed “stat,” defibrillators see a lot of action and nurses can have six-inch fingernails) here’s a summary of a “top-rated” episode a fan has contributed to the EMERGENCY! Internet Movie Database (IMDB) site:

The Hard Hours (1974)

Dr. Early becomes a patient as [h]e is diagnosed with a heart condition and undergoes a bypass, after fixing Station 51’s truck. Dixie becomes more concerned about Early’s operation, after Roy and John exchange words with her. A professional football player is hit hard by his son and suffers a broken ankle, much to his embarrassment. The firemen rescue a boy trapped in his homemade rocket, a woman whose toe is stuck in a bathtub faucet, and worker electrocuted when the basket he’s working in slips onto live wires. Dr. Early’s operation was a success, and the boys gave their colleague, a thermos of his favorite, Captain Stanley’s clam chowder soup.

Mantooth suffered a “career lull” in the early ’80s, post-EMERGENCY!, according to his IMDB bio, but “found a new direction in his career with daytime soaps.” I don’t remember this, but that’s because the only daytime soap I ever watched was Another World, and he wasn’t on it.

But also during the ’80s (1986, to be exact), Mantooth launched a career as a motivational speaker at “Fire Service and EMS Conferences and Special Events.” His booking website explains:

First responders all over North America have been touched by Randy’s uplifting and heartfelt message; one that draws upon his experiences on the show, and more than 40 years of close relationships with firefighters, paramedics and EMTs, and inspires them to rededicate their careers to their higher calling — caring for people and protecting the communities they serve.

Here’s how one fire chief responded to a Mantooth keynote:

When he took the stage, both gray-haired statesmen and energetic youngsters sat in awe … while he insists he is neither a firefighter nor a paramedic, Randolph Mantooth has certainly embraced the fellowship and spirit that drives us all. And whether he took a test or not, it’s embracing that spirit that truly makes him one of our own.

I’m not going to argue with that — if paramedics want to hear from a man who played a paramedic on television, that’s their business. And from what I’ve been reading about EMERGENCY!, the show actually made an effort to be realistic, to the point where the non-functional equipment used by Johnny and Roy was manufactured by the companies that made the real thing. This included the aforementioned defibrillator and the biophone (a portable radio and data transmitter) — both of which can now be found in the Smithsonian Institution:

Telecare Inc. Defibrillator and Biocom Inc Biophone from the TV show EMERGENCY! (Source: Smithsonian Institution

Telecare Inc. Defibrillator and Biocom Inc Biophone from the TV show EMERGENCY! (Source: Smithsonian Institution)

An essay on the Smithsonian site says the show’s producers, Jack Webb and Robert Cinader, aimed to make:

…a program where the lines between reality and drama intersected. Their goal was not simply to entertain, but also to educate the public about life-saving measures. Although the stories presented in the episodes were scripted, they depicted real dangers faced by firefighters and paramedics. The series motivated many people to embark upon careers in the emergency medical field. The Atlanta Constitution reported that after the series premiere, Los Angeles County increased its paramedic units from three to fifteen and credited the show for that increase.

Besides which, inviting Mantooth sets an excellent precedent for local professional association keynote speakers — I can’t even decide which I’d rather see, the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society bring in Seinfeld’s Jackie Chiles or Doctors Nova Scotia bring in 30 Rock‘s Dr. Leo “What can you do? Medicine’s not a science” Spaceman.

(I will leave a blank here for you to insert your own preferred “I’m not a __ but I played one on television” keynote speaker. Why should I have all the fun?)