Defence of the Status Quo nothing new in “Slackers”

I grew up a navy brat, fed a steady diet of Napoleonic War era novels like Hornblower, Aubrey Maturin, and Sharpe.

But I also grew up reading Canadian novels from another era, the Battle of the Atlantic.  Hal Lawrence’s Bloody War and James Lamb Corvette Navy are two books that capture the experience of a colony becoming a nation, a token force becoming a world renowned navy.

Reading these, I learned something later reinforced by Stephen Kimber’s book on Halifax during the war: Halifax was not a fun place during World War II.  A massive economic boom transformed our city from a sleepy backwater to “the most important port in the world.”  At the time it seemed our city leaders couldn’t wait for everyone to leave them be, though they were by most accounts unhesitant to charge top dollar to anyone with the misfortune to be posted through here.

This lead to the famous decision to stop tram service and close all the restaurants and bars on Victory in Europe Day, which in turn lead to servicemen rioting and taking vengeance against “Slackers” as Halifax was known.

When I was growing up Halifax was one of the few cities with really strong enforcement of the rules against skateboarding.  The province said no skateboarding on the roads, the city said no skateboarding on sidewalks, and the kids…. they loved it.

The very act of skating being so tied to rebellion and sticking it to the man was a direct contributor to its enduring popularity in Halifax.

As recently as this year, the city has continued to try and impose a postering ban on utility poles next to streets, in the “right of way.”  This despite a clear ruling almost twenty years ago, Ramsden vs Peterborough, where the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that postering is a Charter right.

We live in a city where a bylaw has been crafted and defended that cannot and will not withstand judicial scrutiny.  Council and the Mayor continue to placate uptight voters upset with the “litter” while ignoring the role elected officials should have in defending our Constitutional rights.

These three disparate items are just some of the very many examples of Halifax’s tendency towards rigorous defense of the status quo.

Yesterday fourteen protesters were arrested and the Occupy Nova Scotia site taken down in a public park as a result of bylaw enforcement.  With just several hours notice on Remembrance Day, Peter Kelly took a worn out but peaceful protest and gave it the legitimacy it had been struggling for from the first moment a tent went up in Grand Parade.

Sure, sometimes I may wish I could get the police to come and shake down my student neighbors when they fail to shovel and salt, as I find it frustrating that my daughter might fall walking to school.

But police response within two hours of a notice to enforce a by-law simply does not happen under any other circumstance, because by-laws are simply not that kind of important.

This pattern of short sighted, heavy handed and pandering administration is clearly not new, historically for our city, or for the last three terms with our Mayor.

I live in Halifax because I love it, I love both the facts and the potential of this place.

But it didn’t need to be that way, it should not have been that way yesterday.  We must do better.

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