A week of shifting sands

I’ll remember the last full week of January for a long time, particularly the 72-hour window that saw shocking falls from grace for three political heavyweights, sweeping changes for Nova Scotia’s education system, the swan song of a veteran Nova Scotia broadcaster, and the passing of a local heroine who arguably saved her best for last.

To put it in perspective: The ink was barely dry on a report delivered by government-appointed consultant Avis Glaze regarding the operation of Nova Scotia’s school boards when Education Minister Zach Churchill announced that his department was adopting all 22 of Glaze’s recommendations, including the replacement of the six English-language school boards with a provincial advisory council.

Rumoured for months in Nova Scotia’s political circles, the possibility of school board dissolution kicked into overdrive during the last provincial election campaign when Premier Stephen McNeil announced the planned review of board operations as part of his party’s education platform.

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From where I sit, the brief timeframe Glaze got for her work following her appointment last fall carries the scent of a government hoping to stack the deck in favour of its preferred options. Given that Churchill waited less than 24 hours to announce the school boards’ fate, this strikes me as an incidence of a government being told exactly what it wanted to hear, and then pouncing on the opportunity.

The dust had barely settled on this game-changer when we learned that provincial PC Leader Jamie Baillie, already preparing to leave the job he had held for the previous seven-plus years, was abruptly quitting the Opposition Leader post and his Cumberland South seat “for personal reasons.” Over the course of an astounding few hours, we learned that the “personal reasons” included a united front by party brass and the PC caucus to oust Baillie, after a third-party investigation confirmed an accusation of inappropriate behaviour brought against the Tory leader by a party staffer in December.

I still hadn’t digested this news when, later that same evening, national newscasts led with what turned out to be the beginning of the end for Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown. Originally refusing to step down from his post despite a series of allegations of sexual misconducts involving teenage females during his time as a federal Conservative MP, Brown saw several senior party staffers resign and others call for his head. In the wee hours of Thursday morning, the man many Upper Canadians were ready to anoint as their next premier bowed to the pressure and relinquished the Ontario Tory leadership.

Less than 12 hours later, it was federal cabinet minister Kent Hehr’s turn to face the music, as social media blared of the Calgary MP’s alleged use of phrases like “You’re yummy” to describe at least one female accuser. Hehr resigned his position as Minister for Sport and Disabilities, posting a statement on his own Twitter feed declaring that “harassment is never acceptable and everyone deserves to have their voice heard.” (I hope he also feels this applies to previous encounters in which Hehr, a paraplegic himself, is alleged to have dismissed veterans and mocked survivors of the thalidomide-usage era.)

Notwithstanding the cries of “innocent until proven guilty” that arose in many corners in the wake of these cases (particularly the Brown situation), the shifting sands of tarnished gender relations – hurried along by the avalanche of truth known as the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements – preceded two farewells for two Nova Scotians who have carried themselves with class and dignity throughout their lives, particularly in recent decades.

Thursday morning brought the news of Joyce Carter’s passing. My 12 years in The Reporter’s newsroom frequently brought me in contact with Joyce, whether it was through her frequent Letters to the Editor, or the occasional interview. Her brave battle to preserve federal benefits and respect for veterans and their widows inspired many of us, particularly when she brought her fight to Ottawa and stood toe-to-toe with then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Parliament Hill.

The following day, Don Connolly hosted his final edition of the mainland version of CBC Radio One’s Information Morning, ending a remarkable 42-year run with the Halifax-based show. Hearing Don’s deep, sincere voice for the last time brought back memories of my four-week internship with CBC during my final year at the King’s College School of Journalism. Don was friendly, encouraging and thoughtful, even letting me prepare questions for a couple of his pre-recorded Information Morning interviews, which he then trusted me to edit (in those tape-splicing reel-to-reel days prior to the digital era).

Eras are ending. Pages are turning. Familiar faces are bidding goodbye – not all of them on their own terms.

Sands are shifting.

And that’s in just one week.