Those darn kids today. And yesterday. And decades ago


1. RCMP response to mass murders was “awesome” retired assistant commissioner says

RCMP Assistant Commissioner (retired) Lee Bergerman testifies at the Mass Casualty Commission, August 22, 2022.

This item is written by Tim Bousquet.

Yesterday, RCMP Assistant Commissioner (retired) Lee Bergerman testified at the proceedings of the Mass Casualty Commission. Bergerman was the highest ranking RCMP officer in Nova Scotia at the time of the mass murders of April 18/19, 2020.

Bergerman’s testimony wasn’t hugely revealing. At one point she said she had not been following the proceedings of the commission because she was out of the country with spotty internet. I don’t know where this mythical place is — you can get adequate internet in a hotel room in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and even in what is arguably the most disconnected place on Earth, the unrecognized country of Somaliland.

It’s true that very poor people can’t access the internet in many countries (the simply poor can get on the internet via their cell phones), but a Canadian professional retiring from a six-figure job? It’s not a credible claim.

If Bergerman wanted to watch the webcast of the proceedings or access the documents made public by the commission, she could have, no matter where on Earth she was. And even if that weren’t the case (which it isn’t), all the commission’s proceedings and documents are archived, and she could’ve watched/read them on her return to Canada.

I’ve said before that many of the ranking officers who have testified before the commission are simply incurious — it boggles the mind that they haven’t thought about the issues raised since the mass murders, or followed along with the proceedings. I think this is absolutely the case with Staff Sergeant Al Carrol, who frankly should’ve been put out to pasture a decade before the murders, but watching Bergerman testify, I realized I was wrong about the rest of them. It’s not that they’re incurious; it’s that they hold the Mass Casualty Commission in contempt. They object to the inquiry’s existence, and while not challenging it openly, they are not cooperating.

In any event, Bergerman said that the only RCMP failure during and after the mass murders was with communications, otherwise the response to the murders was “awesome,” and that’s her word.

Otherwise, according Bergerman, all policing shortcomings that have been since revealed are “resourcing” problems that can be solved by, yep, giving the RCMP more resources — meaning, basically, money.

Apparently, there is no policing failure that cannot be addressed by giving cops more money.

The other bit of tiny non-news that came from Bergerman’s testimony is that she too left the phone call with RCMP Commission Brenda Lucki with the impression that Lucki was attempting to interfere with the local investigation for political purposes.

Lucki will testify today, starting at mid-morning. I’m off on some personal business before then, but I’ll be live tweeting the testimony via my Twitter account, @Tim_Bousquet.

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2. New climate change study shows widespread risks for marine life but hope for a path forward

A great white shark from Dalhousie University marine biology student Vanessa Schiliro’s shark-smart video.

This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont

A new study published Monday says that without a sharp reduction in human greenhouse gas emissions, climate change will result in widespread disruption and pose a significant risk to marine life. 

The study, “A climate risk index for marine life,” was published in the international journal Nature Climate Change and was conducted by an international team of researchers and supported by Oceans North and Dalhousie University’s Ocean Frontier Institute.

“The study provides an unprecedented picture of how marine life will fare in a warmer ocean,” notes a Dalhousie University media release

Researchers created a comprehensive analysis of almost 25,000 marine species and devised a “scorecard” that analyzes the climate risk for each species and ecosystem. This works by examining how things like body size and temperature tolerance “interact with past and future climate conditions” in the ocean regions where they live, along with their potential to adapt.

“We created a ‘climate scorecard’ for each species and ecosystem that tells us which will be winners or losers under climate change,” Daniel Boyce, the study’s lead author and a research associate at Dalhousie University, said in the news release. 

“It allows us to understand when, where and how they will be affected, as well as how reducing emissions can mitigate climate risk.”

The study evaluated climate risk for marine species under two different scenarios. 

The first is one in which emissions continue to be high. The second is where emissions are sharply reduced by following the Paris Agreement. 

87% of marine species could experience high or critical climate risk

Under the worst-case emissions scenario, the authors said that 87% of marine species would experience a “high or critical climate risk” across most of their geographic area by 2100. 

On average, species were at risk across 85% of their distribution, and top predators were identified as disproportionately vulnerable. 

In addition, the study found that climate risk was greater in coastal ecosystems and closer to the equator, “disproportionally threatening tropical biodiversity hotspots and fisheries.”

“Low-income countries have contributed the least to climate change yet have the highest climate risk to their marine ecosystems and fisheries,” co-author Derek Tittensor said in the release. 

“This ongoing disparity between those who have produced the most emissions and those who suffer the most from the impacts remains an inequality that requires urgent attention at the highest levels.” 

‘Setting the stage for global recovery’

The authors said reducing emissions would reduce the climate risk for almost all species (98.2%) and help minimize disruption to fisheries and ecosystems. These actions would be especially beneficial to low-income nations. 

“The benefits of emission mitigation for reducing climate risk are very clear,” co-author Boris Worm said in the news release. “Mitigation provides the most straightforward path to avoiding the worst climate impacts on oceans and people, setting the stage for global recovery under improved management and conservation.”

Dalhousie University notes the study provides a framework to help stakeholders and decision-makers develop climate change strategies “to manage and conserve species and ecosystems more effectively.” 

“Our approaches to fisheries management and conservation were largely developed during a period of climate stability,” Boyce said in the release. 

“But anthropogenic climate change is rewriting the rule books. We need to continue to develop new approaches and adaptation strategies if we want to ensure that our oceans remain healthy and productive.” 

A brief two-page summary/graphic of the findings can also be found on the Oceans North website here.

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3. What’s a worker’s life worth? Emera subsidiary fined $500K after five killed on the job

Emera president Scott Balfour. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Paul Withers at CBC reports that Emera, Nova Scotia Power’s parent company, has been fined US $500,000 for an “industrial accident” that killed five workers in Florida.

I’ve put industrial accident in quotation marks, because “accident” implies something that could not have been avoided. (I’m not being critical of Withers here; “industrial accident” is the term we generally use, but just as “crash” seems to be slowly supplanting “accident” for vehicle collisions, so too should we come up with a better term to cover situations in which the safety of workers is sacrificed for expedience. These are not accidents.)

Withers reports that Tampa Electric Company (TECO), an Emera subsidiary, was sentenced “for willfully violating United States safety rules” at its coal-fired plant outside Tampa in 2017:

Workers were clearing a clogged tank containing slag, which is a glass-like waste formed when the remains of burnt coal are cooled with water.

Prosecutors said rather than shut down the furnace, Tampa Electric called in a contractor who tried to clear the blockage with high-pressure water blasting. An ensuing explosion sprayed workers with molten slag.

Witnesses said it “looked like a volcano and a jet dragster. It was a fireball with molten slag coming out. It was liquid slag/lava on fire.”

Several other workers were injured.

This story reminds me of an interview with Jessie Singer, author of There Are No Accidents, that I heard several months ago:

Early in the Industrial Revolution, you see these massive rises in workers dying. I mean, just huge, untold numbers. And for the employers, it was very easy — and very profitable — to tell a story that the reason people died at work was because they were drunk or they were stupid or they didn’t speak English or they were bad at their jobs. It was really easy for employers to tell a human error story, a story of accident-prone workers. And they really pushed hard on that story. That story extraordinarily benefited them. And what actually changed that equation was reformers starting to look into what the workplace looked like. And the workplace, you know, in 1900 was an extraordinarily dangerous place. I mean, it was just nothing but, like, flying sharp blades, open flames and loose, you know, buckets of dynamite…

There was very little cost to accidental death. There was no cost. You just had to get a new worker. And so what really changes the equation and starts to begin this debate in earnest is when reformers start to go into these factories and these coal mines, and they start to draw attention to dangerous conditions, and eventually pass workers’ compensation laws. And workers’ compensation laws put a price for corporations on accidental death.

The price on “accidental death” set by the court in the Emera case works out to less than 8% of what president Scott Balfour took home last year.

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4. Premiers call for more health funding and tout privatization

The emergency department at Cobequid Community Health Centre. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

The premiers of the three Maritime provinces plus, for some reason, Ontario premier Doug Ford, met yesterday to discuss health care. What do we call these guys? Maybe the four horsemen?

Nick Boisvert reports on the meeting for CBC. You will be shocked to learn that the premiers want more money from the federal government (what meeting of premiers would be complete without calling on the feds?) and that they like the idea of more private delivery of health care:

“The status quo is not working, folks,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford told a news conference following the meeting.

“We need to be creative, we need to come up with ideas from the [health care] sector.”

The thing is, these calls to “be creative” keep returning to the same old ideas, over and over again.

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5. SaltWire finds the Americans who actually moved to Nova Scotia, except they didn’t

The Canso Causeway, as seen in a 2018 Google Street View image.

Remember when all these Americans fleeing Donald Trump were going to move to Cape Breton? And then how it turned out moving to Canada was not so easy, because you had to follow immigration rules and stuff?

Well, today we have a SaltWire story called “Meet the Americans who actually left for Cape Breton after Trump’s election.”

They are (drum roll please) a couple with a property on Lake Ainslie, who fixed up an old barn and live there seasonally:

Not long after Donald Trump was elected to the U.S. presidency, Missouri resident Peter LaVaute purchased the building, which had been part of an adjoining farm, along with 3.5 acres of land.

“About five years ago, we began looking at the possibility of moving to another country because we foresaw that there was a civil war coming to America,” said the 74-year-old self-described serial entrepreneur, whose wife Kathy Hunter is a health-care administrator.

LaVaute’s only known previous connection to Canada was that his father had been conceived in Quebec.

It’s a nice little story about the couple, with lots of photos of their place, including a wooden lobster trap Hunter turned into a light fixture that’s suspended from the ceiling.

LaVaute is also an artist whose works include “a Donald Trump mannequin with blood on its hands and its limbs connected to puppet strings being pulled by Russian leader Vladimir Putin whose head and hands are depicted above the Trump figure.”

But you’ll notice the headline says that they “left for Cape Breton” ⁠— not that they moved there. That’s because they are still residents of Missouri:

The couple now wants to live in Canada on more than just a seasonal basis. But according to LaVaute, the Canadian immigration process makes it difficult for seniors to secure permanent residence status.

“We can only stay here for six months a year – they won’t let us stay any longer,” said LaVaute.

It’s a fine profile and home reno story. Here’s hoping we can put the Americans who moved to Cape Breton trope to rest now.

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Those darn kids today. And yesterday. And decades ago

Photo: Zana Latif/Unsplash

In July, Suzanne Rent wrote about a series of newspaper clippings on the theme of nobody wanting to work anymore. The articles cited went back to 1894. At the end of her piece, Rent wrote:

Now, someone should do a thread on the history of the phrase, “kids these days.”

I said I would do it, and here I am, only a month later, coming through with the story.

Just as many religious traditions see us as being in a dark or degenerate age, or about to enter one, there is a long and storied tradition of seeing young people as harbingers of that degeneracy.

The short version is this: Throughout history, people have complained about kids. They’ve complained about their laziness, their lack of morals, their poor taste, and on and on and on.

My preferred term for this is old fartism. I used to challenge old fartism when I’d see my peers, usually high school friends, engaging in it on Facebook or elsewhere. (Now I’m more likely to mute, ignore, or unfriend, if it is egregious enough.)

Music is a common “kids these days” theme. What the hell is this garbage they are listening to? Whenever one of the aforementioned high school friends trots out contemporary pop lyrics as an example of general decline, I like to trot out the lyrics to Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Mak’er” (1973):

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
You don’t have to go, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
You don’t have to go, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
You don’t have to go
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, ay
All those tears I cry, ay, ay, ay, ay
All those tears I cry, oh, oh, oh, ay
Baby, please don’t go

Maybe it gets better after the first verse. Are you ready for more?

When I read the letter you wrote me, it made me mad, mad, mad
When I read the words that it told me, it made me sad, sad, sad
But I still love you so, I can’t let you go
I love you, ooh, baby, I love you

You get the idea.

I will admit to having been guilty of this type of thinking myself (hey, we can all learn). One of the very first pieces I published, in French no less, appeared in a community weekly and was called “Les gens ne pensent plus.” (“People don’t think anymore.”) I was all of 17 years old when I wrote it, but clearly I thought I wasn’t like those other damned kids.

A 2017 BBC story called “People have always whinged about young adults. Here’s proof” makes the point that criticism of young people tends to be fairly consistent. The story, by Amanda Ruggeri, juxtaposes contemporary criticisms with similar complaints, ranging from the early 2000s to the fourth century BCE. For example:

“They’re out-of-touch hipsters who spend too much on coffee and too little on facial hair care. Many are spoiled, entitled, or both.”
A Boss’s Guide to Managing Bratty Millennials, Momzette, 2016

“Whither are the manly vigour and athletic appearance of our forefathers flown? Can these be their legitimate heirs? Surely, no; a race of effeminate, self-admiring, emaciated fribbles can never have descended in a direct line from the heroes of Potiers and Agincourt…”
Letter in Town and Country magazine republished in Paris Fashion: A Cultural History, 1771

Or how about this?

“When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each. We’re at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high. They want to eat out every day, they want travel to Europe every year.”
Australian mogul Tim Gurner on 60 Minutes Australia, 2017

“The beardless youth… does not foresee what is useful, squandering his money.”
Horace, 1st Century BC

A fun thing to do, at least if you have an idea of fun similar to mine, is to search old newspapers for “kids today” and similar phrases.

A 1969 story in the Michigan Daily takes to task Stephen Tonsor’s views on education, as published in the National Review. (I can’t find the original National Review piece online.) Tonsor was a professor of history at the University of Michigan for 30 years. Stop me if you think his views on what ails universities sound familiar:

Drew Bogem, the author of the Michigan Daily piece writes:

The clear and present danger to the existence of higher education is “the growing wave of irrationality and anti-intellectualism which has caught up large numbers of students and professors…”

The trouble with kids today, Tonsor tells us, is that they seek “relevant orthodoxy rather than agonizing inquiry… The student wants to know what to think rather than how to think.”

Sir, let me introduce you to my 17-year-old self.

Maybe kids aren’t too radical. They’re just too soft. Writing in the Owosso, Michigan paper the Argus-Press in 1992, Latter Day Saints bishop Joseph Walker introduces us to “Linda”:

Sixteen, blond and beautiful, she seems to have everything going for her.

Linda is “failing.” Why?

Somehow, during her growing-up years, Linda has never learned to accept the consequences of her actions… In Linda’s world, if things get tough at school you just quit because “you just go to school to get a job, and I’ve already got a good job.” If you have a run-in with the boss, you just quit because “I can always get another job. Besides, my parents will give me money if I really need it.” And if you get tired of living with Mom and Dad’s rules, you move out. “I can live on the streets. I don’t need them. I don’t need anyone.”

I suspect Bishop Walker would have harkened back to an earlier era in which youth weren’t so seduced by the easy path. Perhaps, an era such as 1926. That’s when a story ran in the Beaver, Pennsylvania Daily Times (slogan… I am not making this up: “A clean newsy newspaper for the home”). The subject? Why, the youth of today, as described in an article reporting on a talk by one Dr. John. R. Powell of St. Louis:

There are some things about youth which we condemn, and there are some things which are very desirable and should be retained. The fault for this laxness and lowering of standards rests both with the children and parents, for the parents have not insisted upon duties and restraints which build character.

As a result of this revolution in life leisure is one of the significant factors… We have become so accustomed to luxury that we scarcely remember plain living… A great part of the criminals today are under twenty years of age and showed that leisure was largely responsible for this condition. The general spirit of irresponsibility which leisure brings soon leads to questionable practices and may be regarded as the microbe of lawlessness…

The passing of the patriarchal home life and its discipline, however, is to be deplored.

Not all that long after we had a slew of articles about the disruptions being caused by millennials in the workplace (or, as I like to think of it, the linear progression of time in which younger people get older and move into the workforce), now we’re seeing pieces about millennials having to adapt to Gen Z. Like this one, by Rita Trichur, which ran in the Globe and Mail on August 17.

“Grab your popcorn, folks,” Trichur, a business columnist writes:

It seems millennials, now 26 to 40 years old are feeling intimidated by ⁠— you guessed it ⁠— the new Gen Z cohort that’s entering the labour force in larger numbers…

“They don’t listen!” and “Why are they telling us what to do?!” have become familiar refrains from exasperated millennials who seem utterly perplexed at Gen Z’s lack of deference to authority.

What are the terrible things these entitled young people want? Back to Trichur:

It seems younger workers want companies to provide them with meaningful careers and appropriate compensation for their skills.

Additionally, they want employers to behave like responsible corporate citizens… In short, Gen Z wants their credentials recognized, better working conditions, and a fair shot at success ⁠— just like anyone else.

Good on them.

I will leave the whole question of whether these generational divisions are meaningful in anything but the most superficial way for another time.

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Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda includes a second reading of Proposed By-law N-207, to change the end hour for construction noise to 8 p.m., Monday to Friday.


Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am, online) — agenda

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, online) — agenda

District Boundary Resident Review Panel (Wednesday, 3:30pm, City Hall) — agenda


No meetings

On campus

No events.

In the harbour

06:00: Carpathia, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Taicang, China
06:00: MSC Aniello, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Sines, Portugal
07:30: Algoma Integrity, bulker, moves from anchorage to Gold Bond
10:30: Morning Lena, car carrier, arrives at Gold Bond from Zeebrugge, Belgium
15:30: Carpathia sails for sea
16:00: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Valencia, Spain
16:00: One Majesty, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
20:45: Happy Buccaneer, heavy load carrier, arrives at anchorage from Kotka, Finland

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures


I’ve spent about 10 minutes trying to think of something to write here, which is probably nine minutes too long.

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