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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What's in a name?

The new District 3 has changed names—without anyone being notified.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 4, 2012 at 3:03 PM

Councillor Jackie Barkhouse
  • Councillor Jackie Barkhouse

Councillor Jackie Barkhouse, who represents what is now called the Woodside—Eastern Passage district, announced on June 20 that she was going to be a candidate in the next municipal election in the newly created “Woodside – Dartmouth South – Eastern Passage” district.

Barkhouse had good reason to use that name—that’s what the new district was called through a year of debate at council’s district boundary review committee, and that’s the name of the district as presented to the Utility and Review Board and the name the UARB used in its ruling on council districts. It was also the name the city applied to the district on the city web page—or at least it *was*, until some unknown time when a “revised” notice was placed on the page.

The new “revised” name for the district, according to city election officer Cathy Mellet, is “Dartmouth South—Eastern Passage.” That is, Woodside has been deleted from the name.

What’s the big deal? Well, Barkhouse has spent over $5,000 on campaign literature with what she considered the real name, “and now it looks like I don’t know what the district is called. It pisses me off,” she says.

Mellet admits that another councillor, among others, complained about the UARB-approved name, but says the decision to change it was hers alone. Still, says Mellet, Barkhouse or anyone else can call the district what they want.

“There were also a number of other issues raised with the names of other of the new districts,” says Mellet. “Rather than return to council and the UARB to begin the process of renaming a number of districts the decision was taken by my office to advise the UARB that HRM would not be using Woodside in the name for the new district as posted on HRM web site, and leave any issues of renaming with the new council to determine.”

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mayoral candidate Tom Martin calls for a Sunshine Ordinance

New policy statement echoes a Coast proposal.

Posted on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 10:53 AM

Tom Martin
  • Tom Martin
Mayoral candidate Tom Martin has come out with a policy platform, which he titles "Fixing City Hall by Opening Government and Strengthening Fundamental Democracy." You can read the whole thing here.

I'm particularly heartened to see Martin embrace the notion of a Sunshine Ordinance, a policy I've been pushing for many years, and which I detailed last August.

Martin has echoed many of my suggestions, including that all public contracts be in the public record; that the city adopt a public accounting system such that all public expenditures, including public employee salaries, be published annually; that a complete system of campaign finance reporting be implemented; and that a time at all council meetings be set aside for the public to address councillors about anything that's on the public's mind. I called for all agendas to be posted seven days in advance; Martin wasn't quite so ambitious---he calls for 48 hours.

Martin also calls for the creation of a Sunshine Ordinance task force, which given our abysmal starting point and the huge bureaucratic cultural shift we need to bring about, is an excellent idea. He also has suggestions for rights of employees and the public.

I'm impressed. Here's hoping that the other mayoral candidates can also embrace the Sunshine agenda, not just in wishy-washy platitudes about the "need for openness," or whatever, but, as Martin has done, with concrete policy proposals that will give openness real legislative teeth.

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

You too can run for election

Candidate support efforts help regular people run for city council.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2012 at 12:12 PM

City elections are in October, but for anyone with thinking of running for council, now is the time to get started.

Councillor Lorelei Nicoll attended special candidate workshops for women before being elected in Cole Harbour in 2008.

“Focus on where you want to see change the most,” she says. Nicoll was already involved in the community. She says she knew she was interested in government so she attended the candidate workshop trying to decide where she saw herself fitting in.

A mother of three, Nicoll says that it’s important for women to get involved in politics. “It’s in our genetic makeup to want to create a better tomorrow.” Candidate workshops aren’t just for women. The city is holding free workshops on running in municipal elections starting this Wednesday, April 11.

Jack Novack leads a similar workshop for potential candidates through Dalhousie University’s College of Continuing Education. He says the most important message in his workshop is that all you need to become a good elected official is to care about your community and have time to participate. His advice? Don’t “self-disqualify.”

Novack is running a new website explaining local government and encouraging new people to bring ideas to the table. He says having more voices creates healthy conversation. People take municipal functions, such as waste management or zoning, for granted, he says. Dealing with local issues that you can see and touch makes it easier to engage in politics and foster democratic values.

Three types of people attend campaign schools, says Novack. People who are already committed to running, incumbents checking out the competition, and people who are curious and want to hear more. Of the latter, he says he has seen a number of people encouraged to run or find other ways to participate in government.

“Legislation can be pretty daunting if you’re not familiar with it,” says Cathy Mellet, the elections officer conducting the city’s workshop. Participants learn about becoming a candidate in municipal elections, running a campaign and the role of city councillors on the job. Mellet calls her workshop a “plain language guide” to running for office.

HRM candidate workshop
City Hall, 1841 Argyle Street
Wednesday, Apr. 11 or Thursday, May 17, 6-8pm
To register email

Dalhousie candidate workshop
NSCC Waterfront Campus
June 8, 6-9pm
To register contact Shelby Lang at 902 494 7459,

UNSM women’s workshop
NSCC Waterfront Campus
June 9, 9am-4pm
To register contact the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities at 423-8673,, or go to

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Halifax election not at risk, says city clerk

Denial of Service attack on NDP leadership vote was the first such attack ever, says Scytl manager.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 12:07 PM

Last weekend’s NDP leadership vote was the target of a “deliberate large-scale Distributed Denial of Service attack that attempted to deny NDP members access to the online balloting system,” says a press released issued Tuesday by Scytl, the company hired to conduct the e-voting.

Scytl is a Barcelona, Spain-headquartered company, and the largest e-voting firm in the world. It recently entered the North American market via its Toronto-based Scytl Canada subsidiary, and has been hired by the city of Halifax to conduct the e-voting portion of the October municipal elections.

Scytl’s press release says that the attack came via 10,000 unique IP addresses. By Wednesday, when The Coast spoke with Scyltl Canada general manager Susan Crutchlow, that number had been increased to 15,000. It seems unlikely that 15,000 people were involved in the attack, agrees Crutchlow; “you’re probably good to assume it was a virus.”

Both Crutchlow and Halifax municipal clerk Cathy Mellet are quick to defend Scytl’s e-voting system. “This is the first time a Denial of Service attack has ever happened in an election,” Crutchlow tells The Coast. “And the attack did not compromise the integrity of the election.” Voting was delayed up to three hours, however.

“The electronic portion of our election is spread over 13 days,” Mellet tells The Coast. “So it’s unlikely we’ll face the kind of problems the NDP saw.” Moreover, the e-voting ends 36 hours before in-person polling stations open, she adds, giving time for problems to be worked out.

Scytl was awarded a $553,000 contract for the Halifax election in January, beating out Dartmouth firm Intelivote. An eight-week Proof of Contract test was completed successfully on March 16, says Mellet.

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