Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Johnny ‘No Comment’

During the 2021 provincial election, when he was running as the (ultimately successful) Progressive Conservative candidate in the riding of Glace Bay, John White (aka Johnny White aka Johnny Bubba) declined to answer the Spectator‘s questions.

I had forgotten that until yesterday, when I read about White and his fellow Tories using their majority on the public accounts committee to block Nova Scotia Power executives from appearing before it. Afterward, as the CBC’s Michael Gorman reported, White and his colleagues refused to discuss their vote with reporters:

“I have no comment,” said Glace Bay MLA John White as he and colleagues Trevor Boudreau (Richmond), John MacDonald (Hants East) and Nolan Young (Shelburne) walked by reporters.

Gorman’s article goes on to underline how far the path of Tim Houston, Premier has diverged from that of Tim Houston, Opposition Leader. Opposition Leader Houston used to tear his hair out when Stephen McNeil’s Liberals abused their majority on the public accounts committee. Premier Houston…not so much. (Media coverage of Houston these days is rife with this kind of comparison: see this October 12 gem in which Houston, who used to use Nova Scotia’s family practice registry wait-list as a club to beat the Liberals about the head and shoulders with, questions the validity of its latest numbers.)

John White and Tim Houston

John White and Tim Houston (Still from White’s campaign video)

I have never seen much daylight between McNeil’s Liberals and Houston’s Tories, so find none of this particularly surprising; besides which, hypocrisy is so prevalent in politics these days, it feels a bit schoolmarmish to even bother pointing it out.

But Wednesday’s vote really made me wonder about John White—who won his seat by only 29 votes, edging out the NDP’s John Morgan—and how in tune he really is with the people of Glace Bay. Are they so happy with Nova Scotia Power they wouldn’t enjoy seeing its executives asked a few questions by their elected representative? So I googled him, mostly to remind myself who he was, and the results were confusing.

John White MLA bio

White’s bio on the NS Legislature site. Screenshot taken on 14 October 2022

Candidate John White described himself, in this video endorsing Houston as a “skilled trades teacher.” A CTV new report focusing on the fun fact that all three candidates in Glace Bay that year were named “John” (the Liberal was actually “John John” McCarthy) noted that White was “a teacher who came close to defeating longtime Liberal incumbent Geoff MacLellan during the last election in 2017.” A similar CBC story stated:

White is a teacher at Glace Bay High School who came within a couple of hundred votes of beating Liberal cabinet minister Geoff MacLellan in the last election.

But White’s official MLA bio on the Nova Scotia Legislature website makes no mention of his having been a teacher. Instead, it focuses on his volunteer work—with the New Aberdeen Police Boys Club, the Glace Bay Volunteer Fire Department, the Glace Bay Food Bank, the Future Ready Youth Society and the Christmas Crew Society. (These last two are charities he founded himself and he’s still listed a president of both, according to the NS Registry of Joint Stock Companies.)

The official bio ends with:

…he also serves as a mental health professional with the Nova Scotia Critical Incident Stress Management team where he is past chair.


Not a teacher but a mental health professional? That’s interesting. But this is Friday, so rather than attempting to solve the mystery of John White’s occupation I’m going to be random return to that campaign video I mentioned earlier. White opens with this story:

I was in grade five and my family moved into New Aberdeen and, funny enough, knock came on the door, asked if I was gonna go out and hang around with people. And there was, uh, three of them. And I went out and walked down a house or two past my house and one of them pucked me in the mouth and I fought with him. And I finished fighting with him and then the other guy had his turn to fought [sic] me and then the other guy had his turn to fought [sic] with me. Then we got up and dusted ourselves off and we hung around and we became good friends.

He doesn’t make any effort to explain the significance of this story or draw any moral from it or link it to his decision to run for office, he just drops it and moves on to his family and his work (as a skilled trades teacher) and his love (I don’t think that’s to strong a word) for Tim Houston, who is “brilliant,” “educated,” “awesome” and not in politics “for political gain.”

I, however, am going to draw a parallel between White’s anecdote and these latest developments with the public accounts committee (and you can’t stop me). Tim Houston came to White’s door and invited him to run for the Tories, promising to be, as Gorman puts it, a “a champion of accountability” once in office. White happily joined him and, a house or two past his house, Houston pucked him in the mouth—METAPHORICALLY—by making him do things like vote against hearing from NSPI executives on the flimsiest of grounds.

So the question is, do they dust themselves off, become good friends, and continue being every bit as unaccountable in government as their predecessors?

(I’m guessing the answer is “yes.”)


I Don’t Like Mondays?

The SaltWire Network has ended publication of the Monday print edition of the Cape Breton Post (and three other Atlantic Canadian newspapers) and I think a moment of silence is in order.

The decline of print newspapers is, ironically, not news—we’ve been watching the lights go out at newspapers across North America since the advent of the internet and having a physical newspaper even just four days a week puts us far ahead of the many communities in Canada that have lost their papers entirely.

But it’s not just about losing the physical paper, it’s about the lack of anything much taking its place. The CBC reported that:

With the savings from the change, [SaltWire COO Ian] Scott said the company intends to put more efforts toward its digital platforms, with a focus on producing more multimedia pieces. In place of the print editions on Monday, the four publications will have an exact digital replica of the physical paper, which he said has the benefit of being more accessible, allowing readers to listen to stories out loud or translate them into other languages, among other options.

The digital edition is “more accessible” if you have a computer and an internet connection and like reading your paper online which, I’m guessing, people who subscribe to the print edition or pick it up at the newsstand don’t. They like to read their newspapers in the original English. There’s something silly about trying to pretend the loss of the print edition will actually be a good thing for the people, however small in number, who prefer the print edition.

Woman reading newspaper

Woman reading newspaper, Hungary, 1962. (Photo by FORTEPAN / Lencse Zoltán, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

And that silliness makes Scott’s other statements—about improving the digital editions and producing “more multimedia pieces”—immediately suspect. As Stephen Kimber put it in the Examiner earlier this week:

…it seems unlikely that SaltWire will, as Scott suggested, use any savings to improve its now abysmal digital platforms or invest in producing more multimedia journalism.

Far more likely, in fact, is that any savings will go to help repay its recently refinanced $18-million mortgage on a once state of the art Wifag printing press it bought back in 2003 when it was already clear print was going the way of the dodo bird. And/or the purchase of those Transcon newspapers, which is the subject of lawsuits and counter-suits over which party deceived which in that deal.

SaltWire’s tragedy is that its brutal cuts to the newsroom have meant there is little of interest to read in the papers anyway. I am one of those people who used to spend Saturday mornings with a hot beverage and a big, fat, weekend newspaper but I haven’t done that in years. I miss it a lot, but I suspect I will never experience it again—although I’d be happy to be proven wrong. The ball is in your court, SaltWire.


Green Hydrogen

When last we discussed green hydrogen, I quoted reporter Joan Baxter’s interview with Professor Larry Hughes, a founding fellow of the MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance, who suggested the amount of electricity required for the second phase of a green hydrogen project in Point Tupper would dwarf Nova Scotia’s total electrical demand for the year.

It turns out similar calculations are being made in Quebec where, according to Francis Vailles of LaPresse:

About fifty projects have been submitted by companies here and abroad that require huge blocks of energy. In total, these projects exceed 15,000 megawatts (MW), or nearly 40% of all of Hydro-Québec’s installed capacity.

Several of these projects relate to the development of green hydrogen. Experts consider this sector unprofitable in Quebec, except for limited specific needs, since more electrical energy is needed to produce energy than hydrogen obtained from water provides. If the green hydrogen is exported, this energy is even equivalent to a subsidy to the buyer countries.

Vailles writes that Sophie Brochu, the CEO of Hydro-Québec, has threatened to quit if these energy-intensive industrial projects (which include “the expansion projects of a few aluminum smelters”) are prioritized over reducing the carbon footprint of businesses and electrifying transport.

Sophie Brochu

Sophie Brochu

It looks like she’s heading for a showdown with Economy and Innovation Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon who, according to LaPresse, may become the head of an “economic superministry” that includes the Ministry of Energy when Premier François Legault names his cabinet on October 20.

I’ll keep you posted.