VIBERT: Halifax becoming the centre of its own universe

April 27, 2017, Chronicle Herald…

Halifax might be a nice town if they ever get it finished.

The rush to stamp out the city’s annoying charm with glass that reflects not much is taking longer than expected. They’re half done. The charm’s pretty much gone.

The perpetual pursuit of “world-class” status has closed the downtown. Not to worry, special arrangements will be made so dignitaries can conveniently park and watch tall ships and other city-centred Canada 150 celebrations. ‘Cause that’s how we roll.

Canada’s anniversary has been marked in the capital’s core, without irony, by blocking, bulldozing and dust-burying any architecture that pre-dates ugly.

Great cities — New York, Paris, Prague, London, Cairo, Beijing — don’t sacrifice their character on the altar of post-modern planned obsolescence.

The city is convinced it defines Nova Scotia. Sadly and increasingly it does, with the eager promotional aide of the provincial government. The rest of Nova Scotia has to put up with it.

But if the city wants to lead it should lead. The Mississippi-of-the-north rep is hard to shake when a black guy in his Lexus can’t drive around a Halifax city block without producing licence, registration and insurance. Racism is a provincial scar but, as with all else, the city’s the epicentre.

There aren’t two Nova Scotias. There’s one that’s Halifax and one that’s not.

For instance, while Halifax, the provincial government and their confusing plethora of economic development bureaucracies — all in the city — do their thing with impunity, folks in an underpopulated but somehow successful rural municipality in northern Nova Scotia are crucified for working their butts off to try to keep their communities alive.

Guysborough is damned, not for malfeasance or illegality, but by an Ombudsman whose value judgments are gleefully and repeatedly repeated on the news.

The above reference to “butts” is coincidental but carries a reminder that HRM bought its bureaucratic leadership in Toronto for years. That experiment ended badly. Apparently, when it comes to developers, it you can’t hold them accountable, join them.

HRM moved on with conflicted emotions to accompany its interests, and satisfied its Moncton-envy by hiring the rather dull little New Brunswick city’s top bureaucrat.

Speaking of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly . . . we weren’t. But Halifax city hall has taken on a Fox News feel in the past week, not for its political philosophy so much as for its work culture.

Admittedly, to fathom the above, some vigor in news consumption was a prerequisite. Due apologies are rendered.

Vigor was unrequired to notice the scorn Halifax-centric media heaped on Guysborough for running its own business attraction efforts with a team of two or three people and efficiencies that would embarrass the Halifax-based network of business development networks.

Armed with a sort-of-report, the peninsular news folks went on to fry former Guysborough warden and current MLA Lloyd Hines for costing absolutely no one absolutely anything.

An opportunity to find non-existent clan politics in the backwoods is just too juicy to pass for reporters living in the geographically-and-politically correct Halifax echo chamber. Due apologies to Parker Donham, who recently made that observation on a related matter.

Donham argued that there is hope for non-urban Nova Scotia on the media front with the acquisition of TransContinental news and print assets by SaltWire, which owns The Chronicle Herald. That hope has also been dismissed, without substance, by the metro media cadre.

Editors like a point, so let’s make one. The handwringing, head-shaking and crocodile tears shed for the demise of “rural” Nova Scotia in government offices and elsewhere in downtown Halifax are self-fulfilling meditations.

Planned or not, the policies and place of government, media focus, the concentration of attracted investment all favour Halifax at the expense of Nova Scotia beyond the ‘burbs.

And because this is an important and lasting social development, Nova Scotians are left on their own to discern the consequences — unintended or otherwise — without murmur of notice from their putative leadership.

Ah, but with an election in the offing come sprinklings of welcome local largess to bucolic towns and villages whose place names on provincial government maps were obscured for the past 42 months by post-it notes that offered the road distance from the Halifax office and thereby available mileage claims.

Farewell to Nova Scotia. Hello Scotia Square.