Blue­print in red ink

Valley Journal Advertiser - - NEWS -

At­lantic Cana­di­ans are still as­sess­ing the im­pact of last week’s fed­eral bud­get on the re­gion and more im­por­tantly, on their pock­et­books. On pa­per, the spend­ing mea­sures un­veiled by fed­eral Fi­nance Minister Bill Morneau ap­pear solid, hold­ing the prom­ise of grow­ing our econ­omy and im­prov­ing the daily lives of mil­lions of Cana­di­ans. But dan­gers lurk within.

It’s es­ti­mated that fed­eral pay eq­uity changes will raise wages about $80-$100 mil­lion in the At­lantic re­gion. At­lantic Canada is home to an es­ti­mated 130,000 Indige­nous Peo­ples, al­most eight per cent of Canada’s to­tal. The $4.7 bil­lion com­mit­ted dur­ing the next five years will be a sig­nif­i­cant boost for them and for our re­gional econ­omy. Mr. Morneau prom­ises more money to low-in­come work­ers — the work­ing poor. It holds out hope for many in this re­gion.

The bud­get, how­ever, is prov­ing to be an evolv­ing doc­u­ment. The sudden back­track­ing on a na­tional phar­ma­care plan is a good ex­am­ple. It leaves At­lantic Cana­di­ans won­der­ing what other sur­prises are forth­com­ing.

As de­tails roll out, it’s ap­par­ent that bil­lions from the fed­eral in­fra­struc­ture pro­gram won’t be spent un­til af­ter the next fed­eral elec­tion. The slow pace of in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing is be­com­ing a ma­jor headache for cash-strapped prov­inces.

The minister is sim­ply hop­ing for the best with NAFTA talks while ig­nor­ing any con­tin­gency plans for the worst. He sug­gests that a strong econ­omy is al­low­ing Cana­dian of­fi­cials to push for a bet­ter NAFTA deal when he might want to make con­ces­sions to the U.S. since we seem­ingly can af­ford them. To sug­gest that a col­lapse of NAFTA wouldn’t have a ma­jor im­pact on At­lantic Canada is ridicu­lous. This re­gion de­pends heav­ily on ex­ports to the U.S. and we risk be­ing se­verely ex­posed and im­per­iled.

There are other is­sues in the bud­get that failed to get much at­ten­tion but present sig­nif­i­cant im­pacts here in At­lantic Canada. For ex­am­ple, there are no planned changes to the level of fed­eral trans­fers to the prov­inces — bad news for this re­gion. The At­lantic Canada Op­por­tu­ni­ties Agency will re­ceive an ad­di­tional $28 mil­lion dur­ing the next five years, which is some good news.

The At­lantic re­gion will ben­e­fit from in­creased fed­eral govern­ment in­vest­ment in small craft har­bours, which in­cludes fund­ing to build ad­di­tional berthing space to re­duce over­crowd­ing in Char­lot­te­town and South­ern Labrador. Chang­ing the Work­ing In­come Tax Ben­e­fit will im­prove ac­cess for many At­lantic Cana­di­ans who had some of the low­est pro­gram takeup rates. The bud­get pro­poses changes to em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance which will ben­e­fit At­lantic Cana­di­ans on EI, by us­ing re­gional un­em­ploy­ment rates which can pos­i­tively af­fect sea­sonal work­ers’ ac­cess.

The big­gest criticism for the bud­get is its reliance on ques­tion­ably op­ti­mistic eco­nomic fore­casts. If the econ­omy is flour­ish­ing, why do we con­tinue to spend more money than we take in? The govern­ment has adopted dan­ger­ous deficits and red ink as rou­tine poli­cies, while bal­anc­ing the bud­get is ig­nored.

The fed­eral govern­ment’s overly op­ti­mistic bud­get seems more like a po­lit­i­cal tool for the next elec­tion rather than a re­al­is­tic fi­nan­cial blue­print for the fu­ture.

Crime rates in Canada have been on a down­ward trend since the late 1990s. A slight in­crease re­cently was sus­pected to have been fu­elled by a notable growth in crime re­ported by Al­berta. I guess that comes with eco­nomic un­cer­tainly.

While bank rob­beries are among the top 10 of com­mon crimes, ac­cord­ing to Fred­er­ick Desroches, a so­ci­ol­ogy and le­gal stud­ies prof at St. Jerome’s Univer­sity in Water­loo, Ont., this kind of rob­bery in Canada is down con­sid­er­ably.

The drop in rob­beries is due to sev­eral fac­tors, in­clud­ing an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, mod­ern polic­ing and se­cu­rity prac­tices that make it more dif­fi­cult now to get away with crimes.

“Bank rob­bery has al­ways been a high risk crime with se­vere penal­ties,” Desroches wrote in a pa­per pub­lished in the RCMP Gazette.

Pa­trick Keat­ing was never Canada’s most no­to­ri­ous bank rob­ber. That ti­tle ap­par­ently goes to Jef­frey Shul­man, who hid out in France for a time. He was sen­tenced to 15 years in jail last year af­ter a string of 21 heists stretch­ing from Cal­gary to Ot­tawa.

This com­ing week­end, we’ll have an op­por­tu­nity to see Keat­ing on stage in Wolfville, where he’ll per­form Inside/Out. His prison me­moir is in­formed by his own life ex­pe­ri­ence. A number of years ago, I saw Keat­ing act, and I’d never in a mil­lion years have pegged him for a bank rob­ber, but he was.

Soft-spo­ken and sin­cere, this Van­cou­ver-based per­former will tell his real-life story of time spent in and out of Canada’s pen­i­ten­tiary sys­tem. Keat­ing spent 12 years be­hind bars serv­ing three sen­tences for fraud and armed rob­bery. His crimes were fu­elled by a drug ad­dic­tion.

He ac­tu­ally got keen on the­atre while in prison, when a direc­tor named Richard Payne came to Mat­squi Prison and taught a group of in­mates about act­ing and stage­craft. When Keat­ing was re­leased in 1991, he went to Si­mon Fraser Univer­sity to study the­atre. Keat­ing has made it a ca­reer ever since, ap­pear­ing in TV shows like The X Files, Da Vinci’s In­quest, High­lander, Star­gate SG-1, and Smal­lville.

Hon­ing the abil­ity to step into an­other char­ac­ter, he says, was one of the at­trac­tions of the stage. Keat­ing also found an open and ac­cept­ing com­mu­nity in the the­atre.

About 20 years af­ter he grad­u­ated, he de­cided to write a play about his past. It took a while be­cause he wasn’t sure how peo­ple would re­act. Inside/Out is a se­ries of sto­ries about where Keat­ing was in his life and what it felt like.

“I try and make the point that for the most part, peo­ple in there are just try­ing to live their lives, and every­body in there is some­body’s fa­ther or brother or son,” he says.

While be­hind bars, he learned to avoid con­fronta­tions and to wear a mask. In prison, he said, “You’re ex­tremely guarded. You have a façade that’s like steel. You can’t show weak­ness and you very rarely show emo­tion. And if there’s any emo­tion, it’s anger.”

Since he cre­ated the show over two years with Steven Mol­loy, a the­atre prof at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia, Keat­ing has per­formed it across Canada and even re­turned to prison to present it.

Now in his early 60s, Keat­ing takes his au­di­ences along while he makes some wrong choices. By do­ing so, he helps us bet­ter un­der­stand how lan­guage, race and class play a very real part in Cana­dian so­ci­ety.

Inside/Out, the prison me­moir, will take place at Fes­ti­val The­atre in Wolfville on March 17, at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Aca­dia Per­form­ing Arts Se­ries.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF THE WEST HANTS HIS­TOR­I­CAL SO­CI­ETY

Dated July 5, 1920, this post­card was sent to a resident liv­ing in Hants County and fea­tured the Si­las L. Gates Cooper­age in Port Wil­liams. Do you have a his­toric photo or post­card you’d like to share? Please email ed­i­tor@hantsjournal.ca.

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