Ralph Surette

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Ralph Surette is a veteran freelance journalist living in Yarmouth County.
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Nova Scotia budget repairs the boat but doesn't do any fishing

Photo: bambe1964/flickr

It's at risk of being lost amid the commotion over cuts to the film tax credit, but last week's budget, for better or worse, marked a milestone on the icy road to wherever it is we're going in the rickety wagon of Nova Scotia politics.

That is, after years of working up to it, a government has finally touched the brake on public spending and seriously tried to streamline public services. Backed by major reports advising this, considerable public support, a somewhat improving economy and dry runs by previous governments, the budget, in the main, represents a large consensus. Significantly, I thought, neither the opposition parties nor the public sector unions complained very much.

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Power utility deal is a light-bulb moment for Nova Scotia energy

Photo: Jason Michael/flickr

Have you ever been exasperated -- nay, infuriated -- by good news?

This unusual sensation hit me when I saw that story last week about Nova Scotia and New Brunswick power utilities intending to save up to $20 million a year by operating their two systems as one.

So easy -- apparently just a casual agreement, a technical shuffle, and voilà.

The infuriating part is that this bit of daylight illuminates the ruinous and sometimes outright imbecilic affair that has been our energy politics for the past 50 years, a swamp from which we have yet to emerge. Is this a sign of better things?

In other words, why couldn't this -- and other logical energy interconnections with New Brunswick -- have happened years ago?

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Beyond dirty politics: Harperism threatens democracy itself

Photo: pmwebphotos/flickr

It's getting worse.

Stephen Harper is now serving notice that he's willing to tear the social fabric of the country apart if that's what it takes to get his party re-elected. That is, if torquing democratic process, the rule of law, election rules, the tax system etc., etc., to make them conform to Harperism isn't enough, he'll throw stink bombs in the public place in the expectation that, amid the chaos, he'll be seen as the strong hand who can straighten things out.

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How to reform N.S. forestry? Break up Department of Natural Resources

Photo: John Douglas/flickr

Surely this is the last straw in the long-running calamity which is woodlands management in Nova Scotia. As predicted, the Port Hawkesbury biomass generator, making 60 MW of electricity by burning wood, is a disaster -- so much so that two high-end flooring mills in eastern Nova Scotia are shutting down mainly because the good hardwood they need is going into the biomass hopper, the latest version of the long-running arrangement wherein small operators are starved in favour of big ones.

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War, terror, security: Blowing the whistle on Harper's dirty politics

Photo: pmwebphotos/flickr

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Stephen Harper, a master propagandist of the first order, is doing it again. He's blowing the dog whistle and he's got them running, no matter what gets trampled. This time, the overblown tune is war, terror, security, with civil liberties, prudence and rational thought underfoot.

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The economics of energy are changing -- will policies keep up?

Photo: net_efekt/flickr

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Nova Scotia's McNeil government is chewing on a couple of energy-related tax changes recommended by this fall's Broten report on taxation: a carbon tax, and removing the HST rebate on home energy. Plus, it's reviewing the subsidies for renewables.

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In 2015, will we throw Harper out?

Photo: flickr/Stephen Harper
Harper's been distracting us with propaganda and manipulation. This federal election, will we finally smarten up and throw him out?

Related rabble.ca story:

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Next election puts Canadians to the test: Will we throw Harper out?

Photo: pmwebphotos/flickr

From now until election day, everything -- economy, security, foreign policy, oil prices, etc., and every trivial thing besides -- will erupt into a political firefight. Everything, that is, except for the core issues running under the radar that make the coming election one of the most vital in Canada in a very long time.

What's going on under the radar -- where it's kept thanks to the Harper government's expertise in propaganda and manipulation -- is the rodent-like gnawing at democratic process and the country's fundamental legal structure.

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Public sector contracts: A chance to improve N.S. labour relations, government

Photo: Taber Andrew Bain/flickr

Speaking of what could be the noisiest and most divisive events in Nova Scotia politics this year -- public sector contracts -- would it be too radical to suggest that the various parties rethink their ingrained habits, exercise some self-restraint and attempt to settle matters for the common good of this province?

By various parties, I mean governments, unions and -- let me add another one -- the media. Let me start with my own gang. The morning of New Year's Eve, my coffee almost came up through my nose when I saw the headline across the top of this newspaper: "Public sector under siege."

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Education has changed, administrative structure has not

Photo: frankjuarez/flickr

The malfunction at the Tri-County (Digby-Yarmouth-Shelburne) regional school board revealed by the auditor general is not just a bump in the road, nor is it just about education.

As the most recent of a string of similarly misfiring school boards, it's close to the heart of the general malaise in public administration that's been rising for a generation in this province and which governments, knee-deep in small politics, struggle fitfully and sometimes counterproductively to manage.

In fact, the McNeil government would have done better to have tackled the school boards than the health boards, the radical centralizing of which may or may not advance anything.

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