“Dear Leader” runs the show

Participatory dictatorship in Nova Scotia

Author Stephen Kimber complained in the

Moseley, Ebenezer Tilton
Ebenezer Tilton Moseley, independent member of the NS Assembly, 1874

Halifax Examiner Monday about the lack of consultation in deciding how to spend Nova Scotia’s $250 million offshore windfall.

But Kimber imagines that Nova Scotia’s system of government is a participatory democracy, whereas in fact it’s a participatory dictatorship.

And the dictator (“Dear Leader”) is the premier.

This may be why so many eligible voters find something else to do on Election Day — they know that democracy occurs only on the day we choose our Dear Leader. He, and I do mean “he”, will rule for the next four years, depending on his appetite for another election at any given time. (This assumes a majority government. Minority governments weaken Dear Leader’s grip somewhat, which is why voters like them.)

Here’s how it works.

Let’s say someone named Susan has caught your eye as an intelligent, caring member of your community. You and a group of other citizens convince her to run for the House of Assembly.

At first, Susan toys with the idea of running as an “independent” candidate. But then the historian in the group points out the last political rookie to be elected as an independent was Ebenezer Tilton Moseley, in 1874. (We’ve certainly had independent MLAs before, but only after they’ve been turfed out of their party for things like fraud.)

So, the first thing Susan must do is choose one of the three big parties to run for. To keep it simple, let’s further assume Susan joins the ruling party (the Party) and wins the right to be its candidate for your riding.

Accepting that nomination will likely be the last independent decision of her political career in Nova Scotia.

Susan will have to faithfully toe the Party’s line throughout the election campaign. If the Party believes the premier is still powerful enough to win it a re-election, then he will draw most of that line himself.

Once elected, Susan will typically take a seat in the back of the House where she will do and say exactly what Dear Leader wants. If she doesn’t, the premier will likely never appoint her to his cabinet. This is important because going from MLA to cabinet minister would boost her salary by 50 per cent to a total of about $150,000. This is just one of many jobs around the House that Dear Leader and other party leaders can offer their MLAs. They all come with extra cash, starting at about $10,000.

If Susan steps too far off the Party line, she should probably plan on running and being defeated as an independent in the next election.

However, Susan is free to speak her mind at meetings of the Party’s caucus, which is a group comprising the Party’s elected members and, rarely, outside luminaries. But you and your group will never know what Susan says in caucus because the discussions are secret. (In caucus, no one can hear you scream.)

You and your group may get little tidbits occasionally because you’re insiders, but even then you can’t be sure you’re hearing the truth.

As for the voters, well, obviously they’re in the dark. Susan tries to compensate for this by keeping a high profile in the community and helping people deal with the government. This makes her “a good constituency woman.”

Now let’s say that Susan plays the game well and Dear Leader gives her a job in his cabinet as the Minister of Roads.

At last, Susan’s got her hands on the levers of power. She can seek advice from a legion of professional, non-partisan civil servants, make decisions and give them marching orders. The civil servants will implement her decisions even if they disagree with her.

However, she can’t do anything Dear Leader doesn’t agree with on pain of banishment to the backbenches, or worse.

Susan will have an “executive assistant” to help her with constituency matters. However, depending on the premier, her EA’s real job may be to keep tabs on her. If she does or plans something that might hurt Dear Leader or — worse — the Party, her EA will snitch on her. (The Party is everyone’s meal ticket and must be protected at all costs. It also has mystical qualities that only its members can appreciate.)

Still, all in all, Susan has an opportunity to “make a difference” and the person best positioned to help is her deputy minister. Typically, the deputy is a talented, non-partisan person who can run a department of hundreds on a day-to-day basis and also has the savvy to keep Susan out of trouble.

The deputy works where the political rubber meets the non-partisan road without being drawn into politics.

It’s a critical job in a well-functioning Canadian democracy. The right combination of minister and deputy minister can get a lot of good work done.

However, deputy ministers are hired and fired by the premier. So, if Dear Leader really wants his way, he’ll get it.

Many believe the decision-making process in Nova Scotia is convoluted and time-wasting, which is a hallmark of a democracy. But in the final analysis, it’s actually a straight line that begins and ends with the premier.

It’s true that the other nine provinces and Parliament work largely the same way, although the federal Party now has to deal with an increasingly independent Senate.

And just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it’s right for Nova Scotia. Nova Scotians can change our system to something that better suits our values. In Kimber’s case, that includes more consultation. Me, I’d like to see Dear Leader come down a peg or two.

It would be great to hear some other ideas on this. Comments to this blog are moderated and real names are required.



B.C. schools use their words — badly


You would think people striving to be politically correct would be more careful with their words. Not in the Gold Trail district of B.C.

There, school-kids are subjected to a poster featuring the phrase “white privilege.”

The term appears to be acceptable in the academic world, where it has several subtle definitions, such as this from Wikipedia: “White privilege has been defined by David Wellman as a system of advantage based on race. It has been compared by Peggy McIntosh to an invisible, weightless knapsack of assets and resources that she was given because she was born White in her time and place in U.S. society … ”

But outside the ivory tower it’s like an experimental virus that’s escaped the laboratory. Some people are immune to it, but for others it causes severe inflammation, i.e., “all I’ve done is work hard at my job but it turns out I owe my success to white privilege, whatever the #$@%! that is!”

Worse, the poster features the schools superintendent wearing hang-dog expression — as if she’s just returned from re-education camp — and declaring she has “unfairly benefitted” from white privilege.

So there it is. It’s not enough to acknowledge we suffer from prejudice in Canada (duh), but we also have to blame whites for it. This is exactly the opposite of how you bring harmony to people with visible differences. (And invisible differences, too, such as language.) But it’s  good news for white supremacists, who can point to the poster and other white privilege rhetoric and say: “See, we told you they were out to get us.” Then they can just sit back and watch attitudes harden all around.

Black Lives Matter, by contrast, is a positive phrase. Its message is indisputable, and invites urgent change. But it doesn’t subtly incite retribution against the police.

Réne Lévesque, the late Quebec separatist leader and a great Canadian, understood the danger of inflammatory rhetoric. He avoided turning “the English” into the official enemy of Francophone Quebec, which would have been a winning but bloody tactic.

It’s also worth noting that as of 2016 about 73 per cent of Canadians identified as white (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Canada#Visible_minority_population) . In 1996 the number was 86 per cent. The intervening 20 years is roughly the time it takes to ascend to a position such as superintendent of schools. So, it’s fair to ask how many people owe their success to “overwhelming white numbers” rather than white privilege.

And you have to wonder about the effect of the poster on students, who have been rightly taught the importance of equality and fellowship from the get-go. Are white students to disregard their achievements because they’ve benefitted from “white privilege”? Are nonwhites to stop trying as hard because they now know — from authorities — that the deck is stacked against them? Should they ostracize their white classmates? Should all the kids be issued colour swatches to help determine their skin colour and therefore whether or not they are the enemy?

And none of this is news. White privilege is just a fancy way of saying something thoughtful Canadians already know and want to eradicate.

I like the old messaging better: we’re the same, we’re all in this together, let’s help each other out.

It takes time to sink in and I wish it didn’t, but it’s the better alternative.


Halifax too haughty?

Liverpool home page large
Home page of Liverpool’s “doctor wanted” website.

Council does nothing to attract doctors

While Liverpool eats our lunch

Are Haligonians too haughty to get involved in finding family doctors? Almost 21,000 people within an easy drive from City Hall want a doctor but can’t find one. City council is doing nothing.

By contrast, in Liverpool, the Queens General Hospital Foundation has created an attractive website about the advantages of practising medicine there.

Is Halifax Council too proud to admit we have a medical problem here? Is meeting in secret to discuss secret complaints apparently levelled against public Councillor Matt Whitman a diversion? Is their plan to distract prospective businesses from noticing that if they come here they won’t be able to get a doctor?

I ask because 6.3 per cent of Haligonians on the western side of the harbour can’t find one, the second-worst rate in the province. The rate on the Dartmouth side of the Harbour is 5.7 per cent, and Bedford-Sackville is 4.0%.  Taken together, the rate for these communities (metro Halifax, really) is 5.6 per cent, or 21,000 people. And these are people who WANT doctors, not healthy-as-a-horse twenty-somethings.

Meanwhile, “only” 1.2 per cent of people in Antigonish County can’t find doctors. Cape Breton, mainlanders’ favourite target for derisory comments, is “only” 2.4 per cent.

Here’s a video about Queens County posted by our enterprising Liverpudlians.

Still not worried, councillors? Well, guess which city is doing better than us. That’s right, Moncton. MONCTON!! 

Turpin Laboratories asked Halifax’s communications people what we’re doing to attract more doctors. The response: “Physician recruitment and addressing issues of possible physician shortages, is being led by the province as well as the Nova Scotia Health Authority. Although the municipality is not directly involved in these efforts, we aim to contribute to recruitment efforts by attracting potential residents through service and infrastructure improvements.”

Or, in Yiddish: “bupkis”.

Anyway, Liverpool looks like a good place for a doctor to set up a practice. Obviously it’s an engaged community, but there are some other advantages as touted by its website. 

For example, they’ve renovated their hospital, the Queens General. The $16m cost was 90% funded by the community.

Did I mention, councillors, that doctors interested in Liverpool have two more provincial incentive options available than they would if they were interested in Halifax? Have you asked the province why?

All that, plus an isolated, kick-ass, white-sand beach half an hour away that Liverpudlians won’t tell you about until you’ve moved there.

Better get moving ladies and gentlemen, before your family doctor sees that website.


” … an enchanting blend of rich seafaring history, quaint fishing traditions, modern conveniences and services, a thriving arts and culture scene, and numerous recreational areas, all on the shores of the spectacular Atlantic Ocean.

“Known for being kind, open, and generous, Liverpudlians welcome newcomers with enthusiasm. Our community is safe, diverse, and inclusive, featuring people from all walks of life–tradespeople, artists, entrepreneurs, young families, and retirees.”

Emergency Room

QGH has a full-service emergency room with 24/7Queens general hospital coverage. Unlike other smaller municipalities, the QGH ER has never closed in the past 64 years. The QGH ER includes features such as monitoring capabilities, a video-laryngoscope, and a FAST ultrasound, a new digital X-ray, and 24-hour laboratory services.


The QGH provides many expert services. These include:

  • Ambulatory Care area with endoscopy and small procedure operating room.
  • Respiratory therapy.
  • Occupational therapy.
  • Physiotherapy services.
  • Mental health services.
  • Public health services.
  • Pharmacy.
  • Stress testing.
  • Laboratory services, with full lab and point-of-care testing available.
  • Diagnostic imaging, with on-call technicians available after hours.


By using a holistic approach, the hospital’s collaborative practice gives patients access to the most appropriate, responsive, and comprehensive care available. Located in QGH, the collaborative practice features:

  • Room for five physicians.
  • A Nurse Practitioner, pharmacist, and social worker.
  • Family practice nurses.
  • A mental health group.
  • Addiction specialists.
  • Visiting clinics, including Medicine, Surgical, Geriatrics, Palliative Care, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry
  • Opioid replacement clinic.

Liverpool is a training centre for medical students and Family Practice residents from Dalhousie Medical School.


Notable facilities and features include:

  • Helipad.
  • Digital X-ray machine.
  • 22 acute care rooms with private bathrooms.
  • 4 concentrated care suites.
  • 2 bariatric rooms.
  • 2 infectious disease suites with laminar flow.
  • Ergonomically designed rooms with overhead lifts.
  • Large windows that maximize the use of natural light.
  • A rooftop deck and downstairs atrium for ambulatory patients.