Baddeck Courthouse Vital

Baddeck Courthouse Vital

As published in the Cape Breton Post: September 27, 2015 and the Victoria Standard: October 12, 2015.

Regarding the planned closure of the Baddeck courthouse I will say that bad news feels worse when delivered by smirking politicians who will never be personally affected by their decisions. It is obvious to me that community and history are irrelevant to a Nova Scotia government that cries poverty when challenged to renovate the 126 year-old Victoria County courthouse.

As it’s been since colonial days, Halifax and the mainland receives superior treatment while Cape Breton is left to its own devices. For example, the exported profits from Cape Breton coal spawned a 19th century separatist movement that still enjoys a certain amount of sympathy on the Island.

Perhaps Minister Diana Whalen is hoping the cost and inconvenience of travelling to Port Hawksbury or Sydney will encourage Victoria County residents to behave in a lawful manner. This application of classical economics to the situation would define residents as self-interested actors who will automatically make rational decisions of enlightened self-interest. Call it the “invisible hand of the criminal justice system.”

The courthouse was a focal point of village life in the Baddeck of my youth. We would skip school to attend the bi-weekly proceedings and enjoy the dry wit of jurists like Judge Levatt who suffered no fools while dispensing justice to a parade of accused whose crimes were rarely serious. It is more important than ever that criminal justice be administered locally given the current incidence of serious crime in Victoria County.

The closing of the Baddeck courthouse benefits only a myopic Nova Scotia government eager to cut costs and improve its re-election prospects in vote-rich areas like Halifax, Truro and even Sydney.The local services closure formula has been in place for a long time: download responsibility to municipalities while both cutting funding and reducing their ability to raise funds. The burden and expense of court travel to Port Hawkesbury and Sydney by accused, lawyers, friends, family and RCMP will create future problems for Victoria County residents and the Nova Scotia government. I guess that will be someone else’s problem.

Morgan Duchesney - Ottawa