De Adder gets the treatment

The offending political cartoon.

Cartoonist has met the enemy and he is us

The social media scolds bagged some big game last week, extracting an apology from cartoonist Michael de Adder for an innocuous cartoon (above).

The cartoonist was calling out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cronies for their treatment of former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould.

A boxing ring was the perfect setting, because Trudeau gained notoriety as an amateur boxer by knocking the stuffing out of domestic-assaulter Sen. Patrick Brazeau in a charity match.

So far, so good, but de Adder made the mistake of portraying JWR as gagged and bound, symbolizing the fact she was (maybe) legally gagged by solicitor-client privilege and (perhaps) bound by cabinet solidarity. I don’t feel bad for de Adder. He dishes it out and he should be able to take it. But I can’t help wondering about the scolds.

Their reaction is pretty much summed up here in a Tweet that appears to be from John Cleese.

Well, de Adder’s drawing wasn’t doing that. If you enjoy violence against any gender, I recommend the entertainment industry, including best-selling books.

Below are some possible explanations for de Adder’s scolds.

• Because they interact with him on Twitter, de Adder has become an extension of their egos. With this cartoon, he has damaged those egos and must be brought into line.

• The cartoonist is part of an “elite.” This offends those who believe themselves to be intellectually or socially superior. They, like the rich, believe they have achieved their status through merit. By contrast, they see de Adder is a one-trick pony, unworthy of his status. He must therefore be humbled.

• Think of it as psychosomatic, a restricted vision caused by existential adherence to beliefs or causes. The scolds can only see the lower left corner of de Adder’s drawing, causing them to believe the artist is making light of violence against women.

• Others can see the entire cartoon, but cannot grasp its context.

• Or, they are aware of the context but choose to ignore it because willful blindness enhances their cause.

• This is closely related to the propagandist tactic of erecting a straw man and attacking it with full force. In this way, one can inspire outrage against de Adder without having to address substance.

• The above tactic is typically supported by constant reinforcement lest the targets get a chance to think for themselves. For this, Twitter is the best tool in the box.

• De Adder is a journalist, and journalists are seen by many as know-nothing, would-be intellectuals. But even would-be intellectuals, we’re told, are enemies of the people and common sense. Therefore they must humbled. (See Stephen Harper, Donald Trump, the Khmer Rouge et al.) NB: I say this with greatest respect for the broader know-nothing community, which has always been a source of fellowship and inspiration.

Lastly, de Adder is a threat to authoritarians from the entire political spectrum. So, in time, he may regret his insouciance still more. Let us hope his apology will be enough to keep his head from sitting atop a pike or rolling into a wicker basket designed by Louis Vuitton.

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Bad Sunday

If you’d gone to the Atlantic Superstore on Easter Sunday, you’d have found the doors closed, but not for the reason you think. True, it’s a holy day for observant Christians but, unlike Good Friday, Nova Scotia law does not consider it a paid holiday. However, the law DOES require big retail stores to close, which means their employees, who are not unionized, can’t work and therefore don’t get paid.

For them, it’s Bad Sunday.

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Confused? The link above is the government’s attempt to explain it, but it can be head-scratcher. It helps to remember this: government can force stores to close whether or not it’s a paid holiday.

The workers affected are in retail stores greater than 4,000 square feet (370 square metres). That means the most useful stores, selling goods such as groceries and hardware, are closed on Bad Sunday — with no legal requirement for holiday pay.

Many retail employees are not even aware of this because they’re on shift work, so the bosses simply avoid scheduling anyone for Bad/Easter) Sunday. That means the loss of an outrageous number of paid shifts, a loss obscured by the scheduling process.

Retail folks not doing shift-work, however, are well aware they’re getting docked and they don’t like it.

The unions don’t care because their members are covered by collective agreements and therefore exempt from this law. In addition to Good Friday, they typically get Easter Monday off with pay. Some of the larger non-union shops follow suit because management would rather not take a stand.

This is what the Nova Scotia government does with its non-union employees, most of whom are managers. The union long ago negotiated Good Friday and Easter Monday as paid holidays. Managers get the same deal without having to bargain for it.

Adding to the confusion is a long list of very specific exceptions to Bad Sunday. It includes taverns, prefabricated home sales and fish stores, to name a few. Detail lovers can find more here, under “Exceptions”.

As for consumers, well, they can get drunk on Bad Sunday, but they can’t buy a hammer.

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Yes we can: Revoke pols’ hospital privileges

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Architectural drawing of an upgraded hospital building in HRM

For far too many Nova Scotia politicians, the interests of their party outweigh those of the people who vote for them. This is why citizens hold them in such low regard. So, if we want see the Halifax’s hospital and outpatient services upgraded to modern standards, we will have to wrestle the project away from our political class.

An independent authority would do, but not the NS Health Authority, which was born wearing the political stink of 2013 campaign politics. Problem is, the task of creating the authority would fall to partisan politicians, who hate to put distance between themselves large amounts of money or power.

A case in point is the Efficiency Nova Scotia Corporation, which lost its legislated independence and revenue stream shortly after the Liberals took over in 2013. The money was about $45 million a year tacked on to electricity bills, where government couldn’t get at it. The corporation’s short-lived independence was the result of consultations in which the public was clear that ENSC should be free of politics.

ENSC had its own Act because, the thinking was, it would be too embarrassing for a government to repeal it. Turns out it wasn’t a problem for Stephen McNeil’s Liberals, who killed the law six months after they were elected and seized control of ENSC.

ENSC’s other problem was that it was an NDP creation and thus inherently unacceptable to Liberals, just as the NDP loathed the Conservative-crafted Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act. What saved that act from repeal was its unanimous passage by a House that wasn’t really paying attention. It’s harder to repeal an act you voted for.

The QEII redevelopment project involves hundreds of millions, which presents both an opportunity and a problem for Nova Scotia partisans. The opportunity is obvious: the  budget estimate starts at around $714 million, according to a 2009 Capital District Health Authority PowerPoint you can find here. The problem is, no sane politician campaigns on a promise to spend that kind of money in Halifax. You would win more votes by promising a mandatory puppy-cull.

Oh, and all the rooms would be private and have big windows, something proven to pay for itself in shorter recovery times, but nonetheless hard to explain to a certain class of voters.

Why am I so cynical about this? Because all three major parties have had a crack at the  project since 2009 and all three have dropped the ball after an election. And self-serving political parties are the reason. In a better world, new governments would pick up important projects where their predecessors left off. But not in NS.

To wit: the PCs got the 2009 plan just months before an election and turned a blind eye. The NDP appears to have ordered the project cut by half (see below) just before the 2013 election, although unlike the other parties, they did consult the public on the plan. The Liberals won’t even discuss the cost, preferring to add up all the bits sometime in the future and THEN tell us. Or they don’t want to be accountable for it. Or it wouldn’t fly in rural NS. Or they have no idea.

And don’t think the Liberals jumped on the job right after they were elected. They announced “their” plan in April 2016, borrowing heavily from earlier work, after wasting 2.5 years amalgamating nine health authorities.

Just for example, this is an excerpt from the “final report” the NDP had in front of them in May 2013. If you’re a lover of detail, here’s the full version, but prepare for a long download.  It’s worth your time, though, because it’s the standard we should be aspiring to. (I expect, as with the NDP, whoever is in power will prefer something much cheaper.)

For a quick fix, here is a single page from the report illustrating with a photo of the concept the planners had hoped to emulate, with some explanation.

Or, here’s a cropped version of the picture:

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Banner Page Hospital in Arizona, an example of what the defunct CDHA aspired to.

This could have been ours by 2015, if the NDP or Conservatives had been interested.

What happened, you ask? Here’s a clue — just a clue — from a subsequent draft report dated August 2013, two months before a general election, but likely never seen.

"To develop cost reduced scenarios within a fixed budget assumption, several major potential space/ bed capacities were explored ... Project budget is $360m."

In other words, Capital Health had been told to slash the project cost. To see the impact of that budget cut, you can look here. Of download the full document.

What to do? Well, the groundbreaking Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act was passed by a Conservative minority government. The power dynamics of such governments often produce creative results. The job of citizens is to persuade the party holding the balance of power that it’s in their partisan interests to force the winners into de-politicizing the hospital project if they want to stay in power.

Yes we can.