My Own Private Underhay

When the community gathered to remember Josh and Oliver Underhay two weeks ago, Josh’s wife Karri, and his brother and sister, Mitch and Sara, asked people to share how they met Josh:

Both Shea and the Underhay siblings urged members of the community to share with them memories of Josh and Oliver.

Everyone here has that story of the first time they met Josh. We don’t. We don’t have that. Josh was as real as gravity,” Mitch said.

I met Josh only once, on November 8, 2018. He was one of the “Old Greens” at a meeting of the Young Greens. He was already the candidate for District 9, and was there to talk to those-under-30 assembled about how they could help with the Green campaign and, more generally, what being a member of the Green Party meant.

Being old, and not-yet-even-Green myself–I was only there to support my son being there–I was loathe to do anything more than quietly sit in the back corner, biting my tongue against the urge to comport myself as a wise elder.

But Josh introduced himself to me, and we had a chat about water and electricity and open data. We made tentative plans to get together to talk in more detail.

Then, save for spotting him playing the trumpet at a Green event in Summerside the week he died, I never laid eyes on him again.

The day after Josh and Oliver died I was at Green Party headquarters on Water Street when a group returned from the Haviland Club where friends had gathered to support each other.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen sadness etched as deeply on faces, and that sadness, and the waves of sadness and remembrance, joy for two lives lived and unfathomable grief for their ending, became a proxy for me to come to understand more about Josh and Oliver. I didn’t know them but, through the eyes of others, I came to know their radiant reflections.

I have thought of Josh and Oliver many times a day in the weeks since, and I’ve been working to try to find a way to channel those feelings away from two dimensional sadness into three dimensional promise. Karri pointed the way in her words at the gathering:

Since the accident, Shea said many have asked her what they can do to help her and her three-year-old son Linden.

Here’s my answer: Please don’t let their deaths be only a senseless tragedy,” Shea said.

Let them be a call to action and a catalyst for a change that you make in your life. For Prince Edward Island, for the world. Plant a tree, donate blood, put solar on your roof, buy an electric car.

Build a bike path, Charlottetown.”

Shea also urged supporters to “love wildly and with abandon” in memory of her son Oliver.

Last week, on Saturday, I was heading to the Farmer’s Market by myself. It was slightly overcast, but not raining. Spring was in the air. So I pulled my bicycle out of the basement, pumped up the tires, and rode up University Avenue to the market, rather than taking the car.

Last Monday I stopped at MacQueen’s Bike Shop after my morning school run to talk to them about the possibilities of human-powered transport for getting myself, son, and service dog from downtown to Stars for Life this summer.

On Wednesday I joined the Green Party of Canada and resolved to help get Greens elected federally this fall.

On Friday I offered to join a provincial Green committee that’s setting out to make policy about making policy.

I’ve finally broken the habit of letting the water run while I’m brushing my teeth.

What I have started to do, in my daily life, is that when I’m faced with small forks in my road–take the car or take the bike? watch TV or join a committee? have a nap or call my mother? order pizza or learn to make pizza?–I will take the fork that, while it might be a little harder, require a little more effort, might take me out of the realm of things I’m comfortable doing, is the fork that’s best for my family, my community, and the planet.

In all such decisions, standing at those forks, there’s a little burst of energy needed to launch out of the orbit of habit and comfort.

I’ve come to call that little burst of energy an Underhay.

And that, for me, has been the way forward.

Bicycle fresh from the Farmer's Market

The Paul Connolly Affair

Speaking of the Legislative Assembly of PEI, while I cannot recall any Member of the Legislative Assembly, or member of the public at large, being imprisoned by the Assembly, during our 26 years living here, there was the affair of December 30, 1999 when Leader of the Opposition Paul Connolly was suspended from the Legislature for five days.

Mr. Connolly had proposed a motion regarding Child Maintenance Support:

BE IT RESOLVED that the matter of financial support to Island children by their non-custodial parents (child maintenance support), be REFERRED to the Standing Committee on Social Development for study and review, and that affected families be given an opportunity to present their views and concerns to the Standing Committee.

The motion was defeated, Mr. Connolly was incensed, tipped over his desk, and the Speaker “named” him, instructing the Sergeant-at-Arms to remove him:

Speaker: Please leave the floor immediately. Sergeant-at-Arms remove the Honourable Member.

Leader of the Opposition: I’m doing everything I can to contain myself.

Speaker: I ….. wait until he leaves. Remove the Honourable Member please, immediately.

An Honourable Member: Get out.

Speaker: Honourable Members, I have named the Honourable Member. I’m asking for a Motion that the Honourable Member be suspended for a period of time from the Legislature.

Several Honourable Members: Agreed

Once Connolly was removed, Pat Mella, at the time Minister of Finance, rose on a point of order, and described what had happened:

Hon. Pat Mella (PC): Eventually he did, that’s true. But in the…in going from the House he tipped over another chair. He obviously… I know he was very upset, but we have to have some decorum in the Legislative Assembly. This is a serious….what if he had thrown something. Like I don’t think this a verbal outburst, I know that there are…. I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be harder penalties perhaps for verbal outbursts as well, but I don’t see this as the same thing. And I think that we should…I think I’ll let the Premier speak to this but I think that we should ask for the penalty for the member, and I don’t think we should try to argue that there are similar things. I’ve been in the House since 1993, apart from the bombing, I have never seen physical… such a physical action with inside the Legislative Assembly. I think it’s a serious offense. And with all due respect to the member, I think that we have to do something about it.

Ms. Mella subsequently moved that Connolly be suspended for 5 days, and that motion was carried.

Paul Connolly was, by almost every report, a skilled and effective legislator, and his outburst seems to have been completely out of character. The following day the CBC reported that he had formally apologized:

As an MLA for 17 years, I have enormous respect for the Legislature. Again, I regret my actions of Tuesday evening. I should not have allowed by anger at the Government’s lack of responsiveness to overwhelm the decorum which must govern our activities as Members of the Legislative Assembly,” he said.

The Prison of the Legislative Assembly

There has been much talk in the U.S. media of late about the possibility that the House of Representatives might vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of congress, leading to speculation about whether Barr could be jailed as a result.

This made me curious about what powers legislators here in Prince Edward Island have along the same vein, and the answer can be found in Section 10 of the Legislative Assembly Act:

11. Common jail
The common jail of the County of Queens is the prison of the Legislative Assembly. R.S.P.E.I. 1974, Cap. L-11, s.11.

12. Committal to prison, who may be
The Legislative Assembly may commit to prison any person adjudged, by resolution of the Legislative Assembly, guilty of any contempt or breach of its privileges, and the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Legislative Assembly shall carry out any order of the Legislative Assembly under this section. R.S.P.E.I. 1974, Cap. L-11, s.12.

13. Receiving persons into custody and confinement
The keeper of the common jail of the County of Queens shall receive into his custody and confine in the jail all such persons as shall be committed to the jail, under and by virtue of any warrant signed by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. R.S.P.E.I. 1974, Cap. L-11, s.13.

The “common jail of the County of Queens” is, apparently, the Provincial Correctional Centre in Charlottetown, otherwise known as “Sleepy Hollow.” Brian Weldon currently holds the office of Sergeant-at-Arms.

Members of the Legislative Assembly allege that one of their peers is in contempt of the House surprisingly often, although a casual review of Hansard suggests, these allegations rarely result in imprisonment.

The language in the Legislative Assembly Act can be found, in almost the same wording, in the earlier An Act respecting the Legislature from 1893, which reads, on the topic:

8. The common jail of the County of Queen’s shall be the prison of the Legislature.

9. The Assembly shall have full power to commit to prison any person who shall, by resolution of the said Assembly, be adjudged guilty of any contempt or breach of its privileges, and the Sergeant-at- Arms of the said Assembly shall be the officer to carry out any order of said Assembly, made under this section.

10. It shall be the duty of the keeper of the common jail of the said County of Queens to receive into his custody, and confine in such jail, all such persons as shall at any time be committed to such jail under and by virtue of any warrant signed by the Speaker of the Assembly. All justices of the Peace, Sheriffs, Deputy Sheriffs, jailers, Constables and other officers, shall aid and assist the said Assembly whenever required so to do.

The federal Minister of Justice, John S. D. Thompson, took exception to these powers in his review of the Act:

It has been established by many decisions that a local or colonial Legislature does not, in the absence of express grant from the Imperial Parliament, possess punitive powers, and it is, in the opinion of the undersigned, not competent for such a Legislature to confer upon itself or one of its constituent bodies powers such as those in question.

That that language of the Act has persevered to this day suggests that the Minister’s cautions were not heeded, perhaps because Thompson, who was also Prime Minister, died eight months later (at Windsor Castle, while visiting Queen Victoria).

Who built the buildings on Prince Edward Island?

Continuing my exploration of OpenStreetMap as a database, I was curious to know how many buildings are on the map on Prince Edward Island, and how many OpenStreetMap users are responsible for having created them.

To extract the buildings I used this Overpass Turbo query:

{{geocodeArea:Prince Edward Island}}->.searchArea;
out meta;
out skel qt;

I saved the resulting JSON output as buildings-on-pei.json; here’s what a single building looks like in that file:

  "type": "way",
  "id": 28325849,
  "timestamp": "2019-04-20T02:57:13Z",
  "version": 22,
  "changeset": 69393585,
  "user": "ParagonPrime",
  "uid": 1378289,
  "nodes": [
  "tags": {
    "addr:city": "Charlottetown",
    "addr:housename": "Confederation Centre of the Arts",
    "addr:housenumber": "145",
    "addr:postcode": "C1A 1J1",
    "addr:street": "Richmond Street",
    "building": "yes",
    "building:levels": "0",
    "building:levels:underground": "1",
    "level": "-1",
    "name": "Confederation Centre of the Arts",
    "roof:colour": "gray",
    "roof:material": "stone",
    "tourism": "attraction",
    "website": "",
    "wheelchair": "yes",
    "wikidata": "Q5159778",
    "wikipedia": "en:Confederation Centre of the Arts"

Note that there is a “user” element; I can use that to identify who created–or, to be more accurate, who last updated–each of the buildings.

First, I get a count of the number of buildings in the file:

# grep '"user"' buildings-on-pei.json  | wc -l

Next, I get a count of the number of buildings attributed to each user:

# grep '"user"' buildings-on-pei.json  | sort | uniq -c | sort -rn
5069   "user": "MaestroGlanz",
2841   "user": "Peter Rukavina",
2816   "user": "Alecs01",
 996   "user": "Alan Bragg",
 684   "user": "mariadalton",
 534   "user": "the506",
 335   "user": "506imports",
 159   "user": "Matthew Darwin",
 143   "user": "dankpoet",
 129   "user": "kalebmcneil",
  72   "user": "lokejul",
  69   "user": "Rps333",
  57   "user": "TristanA",
  57   "user": "ParagonPrime",
  57   "user": "Gamer Gig",
  53   "user": "PurpleMustang",
  34   "user": "maTH5M2b",
  31   "user": "Bennard",
  28   "user": "Zeflind",
  20   "user": "allain_2",
  18   "user": "b-jazz-bot",
  12   "user": "Himké",
  10   "user": "dkunce",
  10   "user": "Michel G Arsenault",
  10   "user": "Kenfee3",
   8   "user": "CanuckGeographer",
   7   "user": "andrewpmk",
   6   "user": "binhex",
   6   "user": "Timothy Smith",
   6   "user": "StealthNinja51",
   5   "user": "november3000",
   5   "user": "fixedbusiness",
   5   "user": "RobJN",
   5   "user": "NoahUCD",
   5   "user": "Neeko",
   4   "user": "timdine",
   4   "user": "PelleB",
   3   "user": "xybot",
   3   "user": "wheelmap_visitor",
   3   "user": "smb1001",
   3   "user": "ionutr_telenav",
   3   "user": "hhcfw",
   3   "user": "fx99",
   3   "user": "Super-Map",
   3   "user": "Little Brother",
   3   "user": "DannyMcD",
   3   "user": "Bryson",
   2   "user": "petersfreeman",
   2   "user": "ngillis",
   2   "user": "mjf87nl",
   2   "user": "kartler175",
   2   "user": "huoju",
   2   "user": "boute002",
   2   "user": "Todd Gallant",
   2   "user": "PipoCanaja",
   2   "user": "Narcissus",
   2   "user": "JamieeR",
   2   "user": "FvGordon",
   2   "user": "Cynthia King",
   2   "user": "Bootprint",
   2   "user": "Be A Mapper",
   2   "user": "AndyJBlack",
   1   "user": "yumoon",
   1   "user": "vbertola",
   1   "user": "ti-lo",
   1   "user": "thetornado76",
   1   "user": "sjharper",
   1   "user": "shang 289",
   1   "user": "scruss",
   1   "user": "safirat",
   1   "user": "pingoo",
   1   "user": "ldgallant14",
   1   "user": "landblend",
   1   "user": "have moicy",
   1   "user": "carlb",
   1   "user": "b-jazz",
   1   "user": "ansis",
   1   "user": "Sammyhawkrad",
   1   "user": "RRW",
   1   "user": "Oliver Rukavina",
   1   "user": "Kelly Rayner",
   1   "user": "HitFilmMan",
   1   "user": "Gabe Groner",
   1   "user": "EzekielT",
   1   "user": "Cranberry",
   1   "user": "CanvecImports",
   1   "user": "Ashenzari",

There are 87 OpenStreetMap users responsible for adding those 14,395 buildings to the map, with the busiest contributor being MaestroGlanz.

25 Plasma Donations

I made my 25th blood plasma donation at Canadian Blood Services today and received this pin from my nurse:

Pin received from Canadian Blood Services for 25 donations

It takes me less than 90 minutes a month to donate plasma; in part it’s how I mark the passage of time. If you’re able to donate, I encourage you to do so: call 1 888 2 DONATE and they’ll hook you up.

Why don’t some shops and restaurants have accessible doors?

As someone who often walks around town with a son with service dog in tow or with a partner using a walker, I notice, a lot more than I used to, when shops and restaurants don’t have accessible power-operated doors. I asked the City of Charlottetown Planning Department about this, and the Building Inspector helpfully replied with a reference to the 2010 National Building Code, Section 3.8 Barrier Free Design:

Except as provided in Sentences (6) and (12), every door that provides a barrier-free path of travel through an entrance referred to in Article, including the interior doors of a vestibule where provided, shall be equipped with a power door operator that allows persons to activate the opening of the door from either side if the entrance serves:
   a) a hotel,
   b) a building of Group B, Division 2 major occupancy, or
   c) a building of Group A, Group B, Division 3, Group D or E major occupancy more than 500 m2 in building area.
(See Appendix A.)

Pulling this apart, power doors are required for:

  • Hotels;
  • Buildings “of Group B, Division 2 major occupancy”: these are hospitals, nursing homes, and similar facilities;
  • Buildings “Group A, Group B, Division 3, Group D or E major occupancy more than 500 m2 in building area”: this includes everything from cinemas to libraries to banks to shops and restaurants.

The places I’m concerned about most often fall in the third item–shops, restaurants, etc.–and the reason that the examples I cited to the Planning Department as lacking accessible doors are, it seems, exempt under the “more than 500 m2” provision.

Five hundred square meters, or 5381 square feet, is a pretty large space (our house is 2400 square feet over two floors). This means that most shops and restaurants would fall under the amount of space, and not be required to have an accessible door.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that such spaces can’t install a power door, and I encourage everyone, in their comings and goings, to encourage shops they patronize to improve accessibility in all ways, including this one.

(The City of Charlottetown is migrating from the 2010 National Building Code to the 2015 National Building Code; the Building Inspector confirmed with me that nothing has changed with regards to the 500 m2 cut-off in this regard).