Saturday, May 27, 2017

Life on the Lake Road

Click for larger image
Most of the time, the Lake Road is a mess. There are fields of potholes, especially in stretches where the land is level and the water lays on the road, softening the mud. There are great stretches where the subsoil surges to the surface as the frost comes out of the ground, and these parts of the road feel like a quagmire. Anyone who travels the Lake Road knows where all these perils lie. If the Department of Transportation could be coaxed into bringing out its grader, they could smooth the road somewhat but they would necessarily leave a slurry on the road, the kind of slurry that grabs car tires like slush and throws a vehicle back and forth. And even if the grader worked regularly on the road during the dry times the seeds of spring trouble would still be sown because the potholes are deeper than the grader blade can cut, so the holes don't get rooted out, they just get filled in temporarily.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Frank Corbett Stayed-To-Do-Well Award

Just over forty years ago I worked in Frobisher Bay (as it was then known; Iqaluit now), a northern town of about 2500 people. About 1/3 of the residents were from South - we were mostly Hudson's Bay Company staff, school teachers, government employees, a few clergy. There were a number of small businesses around, and many were owned by folk who had come North to work for government at some level, and ended up in their own business. Their best customers were always the government. There was a phrase we heard often: Came to do good, stayed to do well.

It's a phrase that has stayed with me these four decades, and it almost perfectly describes the political career of Frank Corbett, recently retired MLA for Cape Breton Centre. According to his official biography he was a TV cameraman at the CTV station in Sydney, and more importantly, he was a good union man, rising in the union ranks. Eventually he became an MLA, and then - wonder of wonders - in 2009 the NDP formed government and our shop steward became Deputy Premier among other jobs. His real job, as revealed by Graham Steele in his political memoirs, was to be the guardian of ideological purity in meetings where Premier Dexter was absent.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Failure of Leadership

Hon. Karen Casey
The new school year has just started and the Wentworth, Maitland and River John students are all enduring their long bus rides. Parents are upset. The basic premise of schooling for our children has always been that the little ones go to local schools and the older ones travel farther to middle and high schools. That compact is now broken.

It is easy to point the finger at the senior staff of the Chignecto Central Regional School Board, and especially now-retired superintendent Clarke and the current Director of Operations Steeves. They have long forgotten the concept of community schooling and community engagement, if they ever truly comprehended it. The CCRSB is now just another civil service empire presided over by bureaucrats whose principal occupation appears to be the maintenance and expansion of their empire, with providing education for children a distant second.

The communities of River John and Maitland have different troubles with their schools. They have large schools with empty wings. Wentworth, however, has a small school with no empty space. We have two classrooms, a small gym, a library and a smaller all-purpose room. We have a growing enrollment, currently at 23 and soon to rise to 30 students. Our school is in fairly good shape.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Watch Out, Wallace! Your School Is Next!

Wallace Elementary School
Parents in Wallace should be very worried about the future of their school. They have a nice little school that has been expanded and maintained over the years but the enrollment has been dropping. That's usually a good sign that the Chignecto Central Regional School Board sees a chance to chop another rural school and bus kids to larger schools.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The New Face of Entitlement

Gary G. Clarke
There is a class struggle coming to Nova Scotia, but it won't be between the 1% and the 99%, as is happening in the USA. Instead, it will be between the civil service elites (which includes our MLA's) and the private sector taxpayers who actually pay the bills.

This man, Mr Clarke, is the recently retired Superintendent of Schools and CEO of the Chignecto Central Regional School Board (CCRSB). He is the man most responsible for the closing of the schools in Wentworth, River John and Maitland, and he is the one who set the tone for the whole school review process.

It is important to understand the school review process from the point-of-view of the communities involved. There was a regulated process that was to be followed, with the Board staff making the case for closing the schools and the community making the case for keeping the schools open, and the elected Board would make the final decision. But the whole process is predicated upon both sides acting in good faith. The communities have no power in such a process so we have to rely on the Board staff acting in good faith. The Board staff are under no compunction to actually do so, and so they didn't.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Wentworth School Closes

28 June 2015 in Wentworth
The Chignecto Central Regional School Board (CCRSB), a proxy for the provincial government of Premier Stephen MacNeil, has finally closed our school. It was a nice little school, fully utilised, no room to spare, still in good condition after 50 years, and attended by 23 students, rising to 30 within a few years. It was closed on the fourth attempt by the bureaucrats, because they felt that they could spend our rural dollars better in larger urban schools where their own children attend. It certainly helped their effort that they owned the Minister of Education, The Honourable Karen Casey, who still tugged her forelock at the bidding of the Superintendent, for whom she worked most of her life.

But here we were, to close the school.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Regulatory Excellence (not!)

In several newspaper articles Ms Susanna Fuller, of the Ecology Action Centre, has floated the notion of regulatory excellence: that the citizens of Nova Scotia would be much more willing to entertain resource development if they thought that the government would protect the environment and a citizen's right to have clean air, clean water, and an un-despoiled landscape.  Comments at public meetings of the Wheeler Commission on fracking seemed to show a very high level of distrust of government's ability to protect the environment, and the same attitudes were on display at recent public meetings to discuss the disposal of treated fracking wastewater now sitting in lagoons in Kennetcook.

Folks have it right. They have all seen the mess at the Sydney Tar Ponds, the clearcutting of our forests, the proposals to create monstrous quarries, open pit mining in Pictou County, the unimaginable smell from the rendering plant in Lower Truro, and the smog and pollution from the Northern Pulp operation that assaults Pictou County every day.

Here's my story. How many remember the mess when the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline went though the province? Here's what the Wallace River in Cumberland County looked like after the pipeline went through:

The Wallace River