To My Contributors, With Thanks

The Cape Breton Spectator would be a shadow of itself were it not for the work of its regular contributors, each of whom writes with such clarity and focus and passion that reading, editing and formatting their work counts among the best parts of my job.

I can’t thank them enough for what they do, but I can certainly recognize them for it, so here, without further ado, is a look at what they’ve been up to this year:


Sean HowardSean Howard

Sean Howard began 2021 expressing guarded optimism about the coming into force, on January 22, of the long-awaited United Nations’ Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW or ‘The Ban Treaty’); in February, he interviewed British peace activist Rebecca Johnson, founding co-chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), about the treaty; and in March, he considered the horrific damage a nuclear conflict would cause.

In April, he looked at the, frankly, terrifying topic of the weaponization of artificial intelligence and in May, he considered the devastating consequences of sanctions.

In June, Howard wrote about NATO, giving us a glimpse of what might have been if, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the defense organization had become “a defensive, denuclearized alliance seeking ‘partnership’ with, not absorption of, ‘Eastern Europe, including Russia.’ (It makes for timely reading just now.)

In July, Howard marked a grim anniversary — 75 years since Operation Crossroads, which saw the US testing nuclear weapons at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, and in August, he revisited John Hersey’s Hiroshima.

September brought an interesting meditation on where the world might be today “had the US response to 9/11 been something other than “war, war, war…”

October found Howard — like the rest of us — thinking about Canada’s federal election, while November saw him speaking with Matt Korda of the Federation of American Scientists and also finding time to write a thoughtful take on Remembrance Day, and what might happen if we “changed the metaphor.

Howard ended the year with an inspiring discussion of Citizens’ Assemblies, an idea whose time, I personally think, has come.


Dolores Campbell

Dolores Campbell’s first column of the year focused on the lack of affordable housing in this province and the saga, then unfolding on the mainland, of the temporary shelters built by Halifax Mutual Aid.

In February, she took us on a trip down “Tin Can Alley,” otherwise known as Armstrong Court, a very short street in Sydney’s North End that housed an amazing number of people in large tenement buildings that no longer exist. If you haven’t read this piece, you really should. (By a funny coincidence, Armstrong Court was paved this summer, finally making it to the top of the CBRM’s “worst first” list.)

In March, Campbell looked at the history of Mass for Shut-Ins, the “longest-running TV production in the country,” then changed gears in April to consider Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID).

May found Campbell writing about the pandemic, something she hadn’t done since the early days of the provincial state of emergency, and the kerfuffle about a court facility at Centre 200, which many feared was being proposed in place of a new Central Library.

In June, she returned to a subject she feels strongly about — basic income. The inspiration for the column was a letter to the editor of the Cape Breton Post in which the writer claimed that “throwing money” at people was not the answer to poverty, instead what was needed was “money management” training. Later that same month, Campbell discussed the role of the Catholic Church in Canada’s Residential School system and in October, she questioned the value of the apology offered by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

After a summer hiatus, Campbell was back in September, with a very interesting look at food banks that included this incredible factoid: in terms of food distributed in 2020, food banks, which distributed $33 billion worth, would be “the second-largest grocery store chain in Canada, having served about 6.7 million Canadians.”

In November, she wrote an appreciation of former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

And in December, well, you’ll just have to read it. Her last column for 2021 is in this issue.


Rachel Haliburton

Rachel Haliburton

Rachel Haliburton

Rachel Haliburton, the Spectator‘s resident ethicist, took a break this year, but before she left us, she wrote that COVID was showing us how many of the things we took for granted — “like trips to the mall, visits with friends, hours spent in the library, and in-person classes” — were vulnerable and that our way of life was fragile.

In March, Haliburton began a series of columns using various works of science fiction and fantasy to “consider some of the ethical issues generated by our current situation.” The first set the stage for what was to come by rooting both science fiction and fantasy in “the practice of philosophic speculation.” The second, in April, considered the fascinating possibility that our reality is a computer simulation while the third, in May, looked at Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, which Haliburton found helpful in imagining possible, post-COVID futures.


Paul StromePaul Strome

Paul Strome began 2021 thinking about municipal by-laws, more specifically, how they could be used for environmental protection purposes. One of his suggestions — which he expanded upon in February — was encouraging the transition to electric cars. Later that month, he made a pretty compelling case for why it was time to replace the Canso Causeway with a bridge.

In April, Strome used the Lahey Report (“An Independent Review of Forest Practices”) as the starting point for a piece in support of biodiversity. and later that month asked whether our response to the looming environmental crisis will be urgency or complacency?

In May, Strome wrote not just one but two pieces about Pieridae’s plans for an LNG terminal in Goldboro, NS.

He returned to the Spectator‘s pages in July with a list of priorities for candidates running in the provincial election and the piece contained a line I particularly enjoyed, “Nova Scotia made the dumbest move EVER by selling out the public power company to Emera Inc…”

In September, in the midst of a federal election, Strome called on all federal parties to work together to combat climate change.


Michelle Smith

I’ve been re-running Michelle Smith’s gardening columns regularly, but had had no new material from her in a while — until, that is, she came out swinging in this marvelous May 26 defense of libraries as “public infrastructure” rather than iconic architecture or tourist attractions. Sample content:

Many of us read the paper with our own subscriptions. We buy books and magazines or occasionally share them with our equally affluent friends. We have home computers with high-speed internet that allows us to apply for government services and support, arrange medical appointments, even get our groceries in a no-touch, COVID-protected way. What if, instead, we belonged to that unseen, unnoticed and largely disenfranchised group that had to read the paper and search the want ads on public computers after politely waiting their turn in the queue at the McConnell? What if we were one of the many print-disabled people who had to debase themselves by asking for help to access even the most basic of government forms, now available exclusively on-line?