Long Goodbyes and Chats with the Chief

Let’s play a game. I’ll give you some quotes from two articles about CBRM District 10 Councilor Darren Bruckschwaiger and you tell me which are from September 2014 and which from December 2021:

Quote No. 1

“I love the job but there comes a time in anybody’s career when it’s time to turn the page, and I’m there. I’ll step aside and let someone young come in with some new ideas,” Bruckschwaiger said.

Quote No. 2

Bruckschwaiger said…after 25 years in politics, it was “time to turn the page.”

“I’ve been there since 1988,” he said. “When I was elected my son was just about to be born and now it’s 25 years later. That’s a huge chunk of someone’s life to be involved in politics and in the public eye. It was time.”

Quote No. 3

Bruckschwaiger…said his proudest accomplishments as a councillor include getting the new $20-million sewer treatment plant in Dominion which allowed the beach to reopen after being closed fully for four years and on and off over another two years, due to levels of fecal bacteria from sewage previously being dumped in the ocean.

Quote No. 4

One of Bruckschwaiger’s biggest accomplishments was successfully lobbying for a $20-million sewage treatment plant to save Dominion beach. A major tourist attraction for the area, the popular stretch of sand was closed for five years due to high fecal coliform levels.

“I think the thing I’m most proud of is getting sewer treatment for the community of Dominion,” he said…

Quote No. 5

Bruckschwaiger said Dominion was where it all started for him, when he ran a pizza shop in the community.

“People would come to my counter and for pizza and we’d talk about the issues of the day. A lot of them said to me: ‘You could make a contribution,’ and that’s when I made the move.”

Quote No. 6

One of Cape Breton’s longest-serving municipal representatives says his political career began while he was making pizzas.

“I was in business in the community and I had many conversations at the counter of my shop while the pizzas were cooking,” said Cape Breton Regional Municipality Dist. 10 Coun. Darren Bruckschwaiger.

“A lot of people complained about this or that. Sometimes I agreed; sometimes I disagreed. I always had my point of view, and a lot of the people sort of suggested why don’t I consider running.

If you keep a close eye on municipal politics, you’ll know that Quote No. 1 is from a December 2021 interview with Cape Breton Post reporter Christopher Connors while Quote No. 2 was from a September 2014 interview with Post reporter Sharon Montgomery-Dupe. The clue is in the numbers — having first been elected to Dominion Town Council in 1988, Bruckschwaiger has now been in politics for “more than 30 years.”

Some pages are apparently harder to turn than others.

Quote 3 is from 2014, but seven years later, the sewage treatment plant remains Bruckschwaiger’s proudest achievement. As for the pizzas, Quote 5 is from 2014 while Quote 6 is from December 2021.



Darren Bruckschwaiger

Darren Bruckschwaiger

In 2014, there was a clear hook for a story about Bruckschwaiger — he’d abruptly quit his seat on CBRM council and nobody knew where he was, hence the sub-headline, “Former Dist. 10 Coun. Darren Bruckschwaiger is happy, healthy and out West.”

Montgomery-Dupe had an “exclusive interview” with Bruckschwaiger, who told her he had quit his council seat, forcing a by-election, to take a job in Fort McMurray. (Or as Connors puts it in the more recent piece, Bruckschwaiger “stepped aside in 2014” for 18 months “to work in Fort McMurray, Alta.”)

The December 2021 piece, on the other hands, hangs on Bruckshwaiger’s decision to not seek re-election when his term expires…in 2024.

On the off chance that giving your exit interview almost two years before you leave office is about to become a thing for local pols, I want to go on record right now saying I oppose it.

But mostly, I just don’t understand it — why talk to a municipal councilor like his time in office is over when it’s not?

Especially when there was an angle that would have justified an interview with Bruckschwaiger, a good angle — his return to work after a six-month medical leave — but neither his medical leave nor his return was mentioned.


Good ideas

Bruckschwaiger’s latest interview seems intended to let potential 2024 candidates for his seat know it’s time to start their engines. (Maybe he’s hoping to touch off some sort of District 10 equivalent of the battle to succeed Logan Roy on HBO’s Succession. I’m not sure what that would look like, but I’m there for it.) He told Connors:

There are lots of people around who are doing good things in the community that I represent and I see a few shining stars who can come forward and do the job, but my advice is don’t wait for the last minute. If you have an interest, let people know and you can start talking about your issues and what you see as good ideas. Gosh, they can even share them with me prior and I might be able to start the ideas for them — I’m always interested in new ideas.

Although (and maybe this is just all that Succession going to my head) were I considering a run in District 10, I don’t know that I’d be bringing all my “good ideas” to an incumbent with two years left in his term.



Chatting with the Chief

CB Regional Police Chief Robert Walsh

Robert Walsh

A day before the Bruckschwaiger piece, the Post‘s Ian Nathanson sat down with Cape Breton Regional Police Chief Robert Walsh, bombarding him with hard-hitting questions like:

What do you see as your biggest accomplishments since becoming police chief?

Walsh’s biggest accomplishment turned out to be protecting police officers from COVID. This took up much of the interview, although efforts to increase diversity in the force, the high-cost of equipping and training police officers and ways to improve their mental health were also discussed.

I was struck by how police-centric these “accomplishments” were — it reminded me of a year-end interview with Walsh’s predecessor Peter McIsaac who talked, mostly, about improvements to the force’s various police stations.

As for what, exactly, the police have been doing for us lately, Walsh said:

We continue to make great strides in our targeted enforcement efforts around drug enforcement and disrupting activities of the increased presence of motorcycle gangs in the area, which we will continue to focus on.

And our crime rate continues to decrease, compared to provincial and national averages. Only about 10 per cent of our total calls for service translate into a crime stat.

So, despite the “increased presence of motorcycle gangs,” crime rates are decreasing and 90% of total calls for service do not “translate into crime stats.”

Walsh then said:

Yet over the past two years, our calls for service have increased — by about 5,000 per year. Especially through the pandemic, we saw a significant increase in calls for people in crisis needing assistance and mental health support. I look at this as a challenge but also an opportunity to adjust the way we deliver our services to the community and would consider new approaches to ways we can conduct well-being checks and better include mental-health practitioners earlier on in interactions with those in need.

People needing “assistance and mental health support” during the pandemic should have somewhere to turn other than the police. McIsaac said as much during his exit interview with the CBC in March 2021. As I wrote at the time:

[McIsaac] noted that police are called in to do many things that would once not have been considered their jobs, from entering schools to deal with students to handling individuals on probation.

I give McIsaac full credit here because this is familiar territory for him. He told the CBRM Police Commission in February 2019:

“You heard me say this before but the police have gone from the agency of last resort to the social agency of first choice, expected to be responders to just about anything and everything that happens in our communities.”

In speaking with [the CBC], he said:

“You want to defund the police? Good. Take the money away from the police, give it to the people that are supposed to be doing it. Let us go and do some other things.”

That still strikes me as a good idea.