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Disappearing minister 

Lezlie Lowe probably could’ve tracked down Ernie Fage.

To err is human. To really screw up you need a computer. Well, at least that’s what it says on this particleboard coaster sitting beside my laptop.

Nineteenth century designer William Morris would have approved of my little green desk protector, which Santa stuffed in my stocking in 2005.

Morris once said: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” This thing’s a blight on office style. But it’s just the thing for keeping away those icky white circles wet glasses and coffee cups leave on my desk.

The value of its message? I’m still investigating that one as it relates to the cringe-inducing state of Tory MLA Ernie Fage.

In the case of Fage’s recent bout with good taste and proper decorum—not to mention the law—in leaving the scene of a car accident November 24, the final day of the legislature’s autumn sitting, a computer, or more precisely working software, could have solved a lot of problems.

Let us consider the facts.

Fage has admitted to rear-ending a car and fleeing without bothering to scribble down his name, license and insurance info. Fage only called to report the accident to police a week later; he reported it to premier Rodney MacDonald later yet. Halifax Regional Police received two calls about the hit-and-run the night it happened (one from a witness saying he had photo and video evidence of the crime); even with that third call from Fage, they still didn’t sleuth it out so well.

Let us consider two allegations:

Fage had been drinking and driving. The police dragged their feet in investigating the crime because Fage was a cabinet minister.

Chief Beazley says that’s downright absurd. In a press conference Monday, he told reporters it takes six, but often closer to eight, weeks to investigate a fender-bender hit and run because it’s a minor crime.


In September 2005 my car was involved in a hit-and-run. It was parked—unoccupied—on Quinpool Road in the residential district. A car heading toward the rotary swiped the front end, smashing off the mirror.

Another driver saw what happened, wrote down the offending driver’s model and license plate number as she sped away and, in an effort of unqualified saintliness, knocked on doors looking for the driver of the damaged car, my husband. He called the cops.

Two hours later a constable called back with the hit-and-run driver’s name, date of birth, address, phone number, license number, insurance info and her car’s make, year and model. They’d already visited the wrongdoer to find out what happened.

But listen to this: according to the witness, a Honda Accord hit our car; it was really a Hyundai Elantra. Yet the cops managed to piece it together. Fascinatingly, Chief Beazley placed predominant blame for the force’s mishandling of the Fage accident on similar minor confusion: non-matching witness descriptions of the intersection where the MLA hit and ran, which their computer couldn’t interpret.

In other words, the computer did it.

That supposedly faulty software has been in use two years, so it obviously worked for my hit-and-run. Maybe a little quick thinking by a constable helped that day too. Maybe September 2005 was an easy month for the force. Maybe my dangling mirror and scratched bumper were classified as “extreme property damage,” which Chief Beazley says, in the case of a hit-and-run, gets investigated more quickly. But my damage cost less than $450 to fix. Doesn’t seem extreme to me.

Chief Beazley says a patrol officer went to Ernie Fage’s residence the night of the accident to administer a breathalyzer test, after witnesses reported smelling alcohol on Fage. Fage didn’t answer the door. So the officer left. Beazley says the officer tried for two-and-a-half hours to get in. Really? No luck? I’m curious to know what the patrol officer tried for so long before he or she slunk away defeated by another industrious door buzzer-ignorer.

You know, I think my little green coaster isn’t just ugly. It’s wrong too. To err is human, for sure, but to really screw up you don’t need a computer at all.

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