Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 20: The Moncton Times and Transcript did good - maybe...

The Tand T report on the public meeting of city council was well done. The writing was good. The story gave a full hearing to those who went to protest the location proposed for a new Moncton High School. No-one could reasonably complain about the fairness and accuracy of the story.

Did you notice there was no editorial on the subject? No, the editorial was on the budget for the fire department. (No. I'm not being picky.)

The citizen protest at City Council was a rare - a very rare - example of citizen activity in Moncton. This was the major civic event of some years.But the fire department budget trumped it as an editorial issue. Why?

Indeed, a great many questions emerge from that meeting. We know the provincial government has the right to build schools whereever it likes. But wouldn't it discuss it a little - at least casually - with a city before going ahead? And would  a city that had a master plan for the city's future advise the provincial government on what its development plan was - and how the provincial proposal did or didn't fit into it?  None of this seems to have happened.

In fact, we don't even know whether the proposal really came from the Ministry of Education. The ministry announced it. But did it make the decision? If so, what a coincidence that there was a developer on the scene who happened to need a school.!

Let's assume that there might be some improprieties going on here. Let's assume that I am mayor or PM or developer - and there's a citizen protest. How do I  handle it?

Well, I would put a hold on rezoning. Then I would let the public in to h ave their say. I would conclude by thanking the speakers, and assuring them that city council is on their side, and will certainly take the matter to Fredericton. And, if I owned the TandT, I would tell the editor to find something else for Mazerolle to do for the day, and get somebody else to write up a sympathetic account of the meeting.

Then we can have a nice, quiet civic election - and get back to normal. After all, Monctonians are a pretty passive lot - and last night's tunout, though impressive for Moncton - was a tiny, tiny fraction of the population.

The people who represented Moncton High did a good job last night. So, in their own way, did the people who represent developers. They let the people talk. No harm in that.

The heat is going to have to stay on through the election. We need to know exactly where the mayor has stood - not just last night, but through the whole affair. We have to know which councillors really supported the citizens last night, and which ones were playing a stalling game to get through the election. We have to know exactly how this new school fits into the master plan we hear so much about but see so little of.

That done, we can elect a serious council to face the next stage, putting some real heat on Fredericton.

Can you seriously believe that the ministry of education chose a site without even mentioning it to the Mayor and council?  Can you seriously believe that we have a master plan for the future which calls for urban sprawl out to Royal Oaks? Can you seriously believe the Irving papers are suddently going to start being honest about the news? This isn't over. Not by a long shot.

Watch for a similar game being played over shale gas. The Liberals are demanding a pause in shale gas development until we get adequate regulations in place. Right. New Brunswick's Liberals have a long record of standing up to big business.  What will happen?

Well, if it strings out to the next election, it will give the Liberals a possible win; and they will then enact a set of regulation agreeable to the developers - which probably won't be enforced, anyway.

Or, more likely, the Conseratives will respond that they have already prepared a set of regulations acceptable to the developers (though they won't say that last part.) - which they probably won't enforce, either.

The biggest story in today's paper is the push for an elected Senate, supposedly to give New Brunswick more power in Ottawa - as though New Brunswick's coporate aristocracy don't already have power in Ottawa.

Still no report on Sgt. Bales, the American soldier who killed 16 people in Iraq. Check out the Washington Post on this one. Bales has a worse criminal record than I had suspected. In fact, he seems to have joined the army to escape a fraud charge he was later found guilty of. His record of violence is quite striking. This is clearly a man whose social and mental problems long predate the Iraq war.

There was a time when people with criminal records were not desirable in the American military. Now they are sought after. Partly it's because volunteers are hard to find. But it's also because the army wants thugs. It's also because the army trains them to enjoy killing and violence. The Washington Post includes an account of the enormous damage done to the minds of recruits in the course of modern military training. It particularly examines the stunning rates of crime and mental instability at an advanced training base.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has reached epidemic proportions. And it is not simply the result of combat. It's also a result of what we do to our soldiers. And, so far, neither Canada nor the United States is doing nearly enough to help those people we self-righteously thank every November 11.

There's an important  commentary on the op ed page by Aurea Cormier of the Common Front for Social Justice. It's statement of truth we don't usually hear about.

And Norbert Cunningham did a very readable and interesting column on the editorial page. When Norbert's good, he's really good.

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