News

1. Inquiry

The public inquiry into the mass murders of April 18/19, 2020 resumes today, with lawyers for the victims’ families continuing to make the cases for individual police officers to testify.

On Friday, the lawyers made arguments for eight of 10 cops represented by the National Police Federation; arguments about the remaining two will be made this morning, followed by arguments about eight upper-level officers who are not represented by the union.

The Mass Casualty Commission will not meet publicly Tuesday, but the commissioners will reach a decision about which, if any, cops will testify, and announce that decision Wednesday morning.

The rest of the day Wednesday will be devoted to the commission’s understanding of what the killer did overnight in Debert.

Then, the inquiry will take a two-week break from public proceedings, returning March 28 with a presentation about what happened on Hunter Road.

I’ll be at the inquiry today, live-tweeting the proceedings via my Twitter account.

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2. Long-COVID

Mount Allison University researcher and biology professor Vett Lloyd has been capturing the experiences of Canadians suffering with long COVID. Photo: Mount Allison University

“As the number of people struggling with long-term COVID complications grows, a New Brunswick researcher is launching a study to better understand the experiences of Canadian patients in the pandemic’s most recent waves,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

Last year, Mount Allison University biology professor and researcher Vett Lloyd began the first phase of her national study looking at the chronic complications of COVID-19 in patients from the pandemic’s first two waves.

“We were looking at risk factors (for long-COVID), and the long-term goal was to follow up and also look at some genetic and biological correlates to really nail down what might be a risk factor,” Lloyd said in an interview.

“We’ve completed the first part, and people were wonderful. We got … a very good cross-section of the demographics, which I’m really excited about. It’s not just a handful of bored people.”

Click here to read “Researcher in NB launching study to better understand long-COVID in Canadian patients.”

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3. War

Saint Mary’s University professor Lyubov Zhyznomirska. Photo: Contributed

Yvette d’Entremont interviewed Saint Mary’s University prof Lyubov Zhyznomirska about the war against Ukraine:

The Saint Mary’s University political science professor has lived in Canada for 19 years, but has close friends and loved ones living in Ukraine. She said it is impossible to put into words how Ukrainian Canadians feel as they watch what is happening in their country.

“Ukraine is not asking for the army, Ukraine is asking for ammunition, Ukraine is asking for anti-air, anti-tank, anti-naval missiles so that they can protect themselves,” she said.

“The key point right now is to protect the sky, to shelter the sky, so that civilians are not terrorized.”

Zhyznomirska said her expertise studying Russian foreign policy and Russia’s engagement with the European Union has given her a great deal of insight, and there’s a message she wants to share with all Nova Scotians.

“Their (Russia’s) attempts to revise security architecture goes back to 2007 and the famous Putin’s Munich speech, where the war has an underlying goal to redraw the line of influence in the world and undermine the international norms,” she said.

“This has been pronounced in various writings by both (Sergey) Lavrov, foreign minister of Russia, and (Vladimir) Putin since at least 2007. There’s a statement in publication that the new world order is coming, the world order that Russia will be respected in a multipolar world, in a nutshell.”

Click here to read “‘Nova Scotians need to know that this is a war, say organizers of peace rally.”

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4. Library

Halifax Central Library. Photo: Zane Woodford

“Councillors are looking at increasing the Halifax Public Libraries budget to pay for more e-books, early literacy programming, and rural service,” reports Zane Woodford:

Halifax regional council’s budget committee debated the libraries budget from CEO and chief librarian Åsa Kachan during virtual meetings on Wednesday and Friday.

Finance staff gave each municipal department a target to hit for fiscal 2022-2023, and for the libraries, that was $23,050,000 — a reduction of $430,000 from 2021-2022. To make the cut, Kachan budgeted for “reductions to extra hours funding and [an] increase in vacancy management,” meaning leaving vacant positions unfilled.

But Kachan presented councillors with a series of options to increase the budget, and they voted to consider each of those options later on in their budget-building process.

Click here to read “Bigger Halifax libraries budget would add e-books, post-COVID programming, and rural service.”

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5. Racist bullying

Admiral Westphal Elementary. Photo: Google Maps.

“A Black mother of students at Admiral Westphal Elementary in Dartmouth is raising concerns about the school’s handling of ongoing instances of racist bullying at the school that resulted in one of her children being called the N-word by a white classmate,” reports Matthew Byard:

She said she repeatedly tried to address the issue with the school. When those attempts failed, she said she finally met with the school’s principal and guidance counsellor when she showed up at the school unannounced last week.

The mother, who asked to remain anonymous, said she was confused when one of her children asked her last Thursday what the N-word meant. It was then she learned that the same student who’d been bullying her children with racist taunts since the start of the school year had been sent home Thursday for calling them the N-word.

“They were both called monkey and the N-word, like, the little boy continuously said to them, ‘No monkey games’, ‘No monkeys over here,’” she said. “[The student] just always said the N-word, like all the time.”

“This hasn’t been the first time. This has been going on since probably the beginning of the school year.”

Click here to read “Black mother dissatisfied with school’s response to racist bullying of her children by white classmate.”

6. Liberals

“Now that it’s out of power, the Liberal party is imploding. As usual,” writes Stephen Kimber. “Those hoping to lead the party today might take a moment to remember how the Liberals fared the last time they lost an election. Anyone remember Francis MacKenzie?”

Click here to read “A cautionary tale for Nova Scotia’s Liberal leadership hopefuls.”

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7. Felicity Ace, electric vehicles, and ultra-large ships

The Felicity Ace on fire in the mid-Atlantic. Photo: Ron Aaron/ Facebook

On February 18, I wrote about the Felicity Ace, a car-carrying ship that often stopped at the Dartmouth Autoport to drop off a few luxury vehicles, en route to its main North American destination, the giant car-handling port at Davisville, Rhode Island. The ship had caught fire in the mid-Atlantic. It has since sank, bringing its cargo to the bottom of the ocean.

“The story caught my eye,” writes Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator, “because, as you may recall, last October I went down a marine insurance rabbit hole that led me to an Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) webinar on ‘Maritime trends to watch in 2022.’”

One of those “trends” was the threat presented by fires on large vessels and sure enough, one of the presenters — Captain Rahul Khanna, AGCS global head of marine risk — turned up on the Skytek software company site talking about the Felicity Ace:

“RoRo and car carrier vessels, in particular, are more vulnerable to fire and stability issues than other vessels, necessitating a greater emphasis on risk management.” The internal spaces are not divided into separate sections to facilitate the carriage of automobiles, as is the case with other cargo ships. The absence of internal bulkheads can have a negative impact on fire safety, as a small fire on one vehicle or battery can quickly spread out of control. Once loading is complete, vehicles are not easily accessible.

“In the event of a fire, the large volume of air inside the open cargo decks provides a ready supply of oxygen.” “At AGCS, we take a close look at operator risk management and have collaborated with a number of companies operating ro-ro vessels to develop a robust risk management program,” he added.

Khanna’s reference to batteries is important, because some of the vehicles on the Felicity Ace (it has yet to be established how many) were electric and as the vessel was burning, its captain, Joao Mendes Cabecas, told Reuters that their lithium-ion batteries were “keeping the fire alive.”

Campbell goes on to discuss the literature around the risk of electric vehicles catching fare — turns out that electric vehicles catch fire at a lower rate than do gas-powered vehicles — and notes that there have been other car carrier fires that involved no electric vehicles at all.

She continues:

I find these days I view all incidents involving super-large ships as evidence their era may be coming to an end. In this case, Volkswagen has said insurance will cover the cost of the lost cars, which the risk solutions company Russell has estimated at “at least” $155 million. But judging by that marine insurance webinar, insurers are getting nervous about the size of the potential losses associated with the largest vessels (the presentation included a hypothetical $4 billion loss resulting from the collision of an ultra-large container ship with a cruise ship) and when insurers get nervous, rates go up.

Last June, I wrote about my skepticism that “ultra-large” container ships would overtake the shipping industry:

Speaking of “ultra-large vessels,” the CMA CGM Brazil is scheduled to arrive in port tomorrow morning at 4am. This is a really big ship — it can carry just over 15,000 containers; in comparison, most of the container ships that call in Halifax can carry 4-5,000 containers. When the CMA CGM Brazil first visited Halifax and the US east coast ports of New York, Norfolk, and Savannah last September, it was the largest ship to ever call at those ports.

Last month, however, its sister ship, the CMA CGM Marco Polo, eclipsed the “biggest ship” record at all those east coast ports (including Halifax). The Marco Polo can carry just over 16,000 containers.

But I wonder what the future of these giant ships is. Most of the container ships that call in Halifax have a turnaround of between six and 12 hours from the time they arrive until the time they leave; when the Marco Polo was here, the turnaround time was just over 24 hours. I don’t think that was because it was unloading or loading any more containers than other ships do in Halifax — the bulk of the goods on all the ships travel on to US ports — but rather because it’s logistically complicated to move the containers around on the supersized ships…

The Marco Polo was berthed at the Pier 41/42 jetty next to Point Pleasant Park. Usually, that pier can handle two or even three ships, but when the Marco Polo was here, it consumed the entire pier, such that no other ships could be processed there.

All of which is to say, economies of scale work, until they don’t. Big isn’t always better.

The port of Halifax now receives an ultra-large ship about once every 10 days or so. I indicate them in the “In the harbour” section at the end of Morning File by noting their size — my shorthand is that any ship over 140,000 tonnes is ultra-large, or super-large, which are interchangeable terms. In fact, there’s one in harbour right now — the CMA CGM J. Madison arrived yesterday at noon and is scheduled to depart today at about 8am.

Such ships continue to complicate port operations, sometimes causing other ships to anchor and wait for the ultra-large ship to get processed before they can proceed to the terminal.

Campbell shares my skepticism about the future economy of ultra-large ships, and obliquely suggests that Sydney is probably wasting its time and money by trying to get a container terminal built in that harbour.

Click here to read Campbell’s analysis.

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
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8. Homicide

A Halifax police release from Friday:

The suspicious death that occurred on March 4, 2022 at a residence on Elmwood Ave in Dartmouth has been ruled a homicide.

The Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Service conducted an autopsy today and has ruled the manner of death to be a homicide. The victim has been identified as 32-year-old Ryan Charles Patrick Lindsay from Dartmouth. Our thoughts are with the victim’s family and loved ones during this difficult time.

Police currently have a suspect in custody and do not believe this was a random incident

If the person in custody is charged, they’ll likely show in court this morning and their name will be released.

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9. Space, the final frontier (for Ceres)

They made a pretty picture of a rocket in space, so everyone in Nova Scotia thought it must be real.

A press release from Ceres Acquisition:

Ceres Acquisition Corp. (CERAF) (“Ceres” or the “Corporation”) announced today that it has extended the permitted timeline to complete a qualifying transaction to June 30, 2022 (the “Extension”). The Extension was previously approved at a special meeting of the holders (the “Class A Restricted Voting Shareholders”) of Class A Restricted Voting Shares of Ceres (the “Class A Restricted Voting Shares”) held on February 23, 2022. Ceres’ board of directors have also approved the Extension, which is effective as of March 3, 2022.

In connection with the Extension, Class A Restricted Voting Shareholders were provided with the option to redeem all or a portion of their Class A Restricted Voting Shares and an aggregate of 10,677,201 Class A Restricted Voting Shares were deposited and not withdrawn and will accordingly be redeemed. A payment of US$10.00 per redeemed Class A Restricted Voting Share is being made, before taking withholding taxes into account, which includes an aggregate amount of US $30,333.99 (or approximately US$0.0028 per redeemed Class A Restricted Voting Share) being paid to redeeming Class A Restricted Voting Shareholders by Ceres’ sponsor, Ceres Group Acquisition Sponsor, LLC (the “Sponsor”), pursuant to the terms of the Make Whole Agreement and Undertaking entered into by the Sponsor with the Corporation on March 3, 2020.

In English… as I explained last month, Ceres is a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). SPACs are investment shell companies that accept investors’ money and then hunt around for real companies to buy. Generally, the SPAC has two years to buy a company, and if no purchase is made, the SPAC has to return the money to investors, with some penalties.

Ceres proposed buying cannabis producer Parallel last year, but its investors rejected that deal, and so Ceres had until February to find a different company to buy; it landed on Maritime Launch Services, the company that has a sketchy plan to launch rockets from Canso using Ukrainian rockets.

You may have noticed that Ukraine is in the news lately.

Who knows how the war will proceed, but I doubt the Russians want to destroy the rocket factory in Dnipro, if only because if they successfully conquer Ukraine they could re-start the factory to produce their own rockets — weirdly, even through the previous conflicts, the largest customer for the Ukrainian rocket factory has been Russia.

But would western sanctions on Russia allow a Canadian company to buy rockets from a Russia puppet regime in Ukraine? Seems unlikely.

And if the war doesn’t go well for Russia, the rocket factory may become a target.

Ceres seems to be hoping that the rocket factory somehow navigates through the war unscathed and ready to sell to Canadians, and so it’s kicking the proposed acquisition of Maritime Launch Services three months down the road, to June. But under the SPAC rules, Ceres’ investors are now given the opportunity to back out of the deal and redeem their initial investment, plus in this instance, $10 per share.

We’ll see, but I doubt many investors will want their money chasing the Canso dream.

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10. Cruises

Cruise ships are returning to Halifax, starting April 26. Everyone should prepare to look quaint.


Noticed

The above is the Google Ngram for “self-driving.” Basically the phrase hardly existed before 2010, but started its rise in with this New York Times article.

In 2012, Computerworld just accepted Google’s word for it: “Self-driving cars a reality for ‘ordinary people’ within 5 years, says Google’s Sergey Brin.”

Wired was more skeptical:

Sven Beiker, co-director, Center for Automotive Research, Stanford University: Are we talking about a car where the driver can sit back and doesn’t have to do anything? I’d be very, very surprised if we see anything like that in this decade, maybe even next decade.

By 2014, The Guardian told us that:

Current expectations are that these self-driving cars are at least five years away from being mature enough to create a real, non-prototype product, but it may be far longer until you can buy or hire one for personal use.

So always five years off. Well, until Elon Musk made the pronouncement in 2016 that “I really consider autonomous driving a solved problem. I think we are probably less than two years away.” Then five years suddenly became two.

“Volvo Promises Uber Fleet of Self-Driving Taxis by 2019,” reported the Wall Street Journal in, yep, 2017. That, of course, never happened.

Also in 2017, The Verge “GM and Cruise on track to field a self-driving ride-hailing service by 2019.” Alas.

I fully expect that I’ll today be bombarded with comments about how self-driving cars are already here! In San Francisco, etc. But I continue to maintain, it’s not really a self-driving car until I can drunkenly put my toddler in the back seat alone and the car will drive across snow-covered dirt roads to deliver the kid to the ex-wife’s trailer in Squalor Holler. Until then, it’s just glorified cruise control.

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Government

City

Monday

Investment Policy Advisory Committee (Monday, 12pm) — virtual meeting

North West Community Council (Monday, 6pm) — virtual meeting

Tuesday

Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting

Province

Monday

No meetings

Tuesday

Health (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) — Office of Health Care Professionals Recruitment, with Kevin Orrell and Suzanne Ley


On campus

Dalhousie

Provenance in Place: A Symposium (Monday, 1pm) — virtual symposium, with keynote speaker JJ Ghaddar from Dalhousie University, and a roundtable discussion:

Globally, the archival legacies of colonialism look much the same today as they did sixty years ago. Records displaced to Europe have rarely been repatriated, and in still colonised countries, the record-making and -keeping practices of the colonizer continue to attempt to inscribe settler power over Indigenous sovereignty. How to imagine a future in which the archival legacies of colonialism are redressed?

Modelling COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador (Monday, 3:30pm) — more info here

Saint Mary’s

Monday

Speaker Series on Women in Sport & Health (to March 18) — student-organized speaker series with videos posted online

Community Research Event: Hosted by CLARI (Monday, 1pm) — learn more about two exciting community research projects: LifeSchoolHouse Cooperative Ltd.; and Mental Health and Covid-19: Bridging The Gap

Tuesday

Gender and Conflict: Towards Change and Resolution (Tuesday, 9am) — Zoom seminar with participants from several times zones, speaking on topics ranging from queer refugees in the city to the surveillance of women’s bodies in religious landscapes

Mount Saint Vincent

Tuesday

MSVU Business & Tourism fireside chat (Tuesday, 7pm) — Zoom chat with Premier Tim Houston


In the harbour

Halifax
05:30: Siem Confucius, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
08:00: CMA CGM J. Madison, container ship (140,872 tonnes), sails from Pier 42 for New York
08:30: Humen Bridge, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
08:30: ZIM Constanza, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
10:00: Horizon Enabler, offshore supply ship, arrives at Dartmouth Cove from Stephenville, Newfoundland
15:00: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland
16:00: IT Integrity, supply vessel, arrives at Pier 9 from Rose Blanche – Harbour le Cou, Newfoundland
16:30: ZIM Constanza, container ship  sails for New York
17:00: Siem Confucius sails for Davisville, Rhode Island
17:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Charlottetown
18:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 41 for Palm Beach, Florida
18:00: CLI Pride, cargo ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Stanlow, England
22:00: Vivienne Sheri D sails for Reykjavik, Iceland

Cape Breton
12:00: Garibaldi Spirit, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Ras Lanuf, Libya


Footnotes

The news, it never ends.


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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Unfortunately, the major container lines are convinced that bigger ships are better and their order books for new ships reflect this. The useful life for container ships is about 20 years. These ships are not just used for transport, but are effectively floating warehouses. Also, from a fuel and operations standpoint, it may be cheaper to operate fewer larger ships than many smaller ships due to economies of scale. As long as we consume goods from all parts of the world, liner companies’ business is both warehousing and transportation….and their calculation of what is most cost effective may indeed be correct.

    That being said, the calculation of Halifax and Sydney’s port authorities that they need to invest in infrastructure for larger ships may be foolhardy. Port infrastructure is extremely expensive, takes years to build and is vulnerable to climate change since it is located at sea level. Climate change is well underway and affecting the oceans. Sea level rise and massive storms can easily damage port infrastructure and the necessary networking and communications networks that are critical to modern port operations. Perhaps the monies would be better spent to build more local resilience to climate change.

  2. The days of libraries simply being a repository from which books are borrowed are long, long passed. One thing the pandemic has taught us is that our libraries are an essential part of our social and community support systems. Funding for libraries needs to be increased and enhanced for many of the same arguments put forth for defunding police.

  3. To draw out the implications for Maritime Launch a bit more…. investors in a SPAc are the most gullible lot that snake oil promoters could hope for.

    Harder to find a fool to put up their own money.

  4. Well, even world war 3 has a silver lining – that stupid launch pad isn’t getting built.

    Self driving cars are a terrible idea, even if the technical problems were solved, which, uh, they aren’t. They would eliminate a whole lot of jobs, and enable toxic behaviors like having your car circle the block while you do rich people stuff somewhere with no parking. They’re very much part of the 1%’s fantasy of total automation – if your workers and cops are entirely replaced by robots, they aren’t going to be able to turn on you, and there’s no more interacting with the help.