1. Sawmills hurting, international trade agreements mean province can’t help
“Everything we do must be seen through the lens of international trade and we can’t risk jeopardizing Nova Scotia’s exemption from U.S. duties on softwood lumber,” said Kelliann Dean, the deputy minister of Intergovernmental Trade, who leads the Forestry Transition Team appointed by the premier…
PC Forestry critic Tory Rushton questioned the deputy ministers about the immediate need for sawmills to find replacement markets for 600-700,000 tonnes of wood chips Northern Pulp used to buy. Why, Rushton wanted to know, wouldn’t the Transition Team urge the government to order NS Power to buy more chips to supply the large-scale biomass boilers in Brooklyn and Point Tupper to provide “temporary short-term relief”?
“That could create trade risk for Nova Scotia,” said deputy minister Kelliann Dean, again mentioning the forestry sector fought hard for an exemption from U.S. softwood lumber duties on the basis the industry here is less subsidized. (We’re not sure how that squares with the tens of millions of dollars taxpayers have contributed to Northern Pulp and Port Hawkesbury Paper, but that’s another story.)
This is the aspect of the story that caught my eye, but there’s a whole lot more. You should read the whole thing.
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2. Ms. Jones goes to council
Believe it or not, El Jones made me laugh out loud in her report on yesterday’s council meeting, where an increase to the police budget was passed. I remember Jones saying people who meet her are often surprised to find she can be funny, and she is. I mean, she’s also biting and and critical as hell.
Calls to freeze the police budget in response to the Halifax Regional Police’s ongoing racial profiling and acts of brutality were never going to be acted on by council. Still, the lack of interest showed by council members in even pretending to address the serious violations of rights by the police — demonstrated in the Wortley report and in the Macdonald/Taylor legal opinion — made it clear that the problems with the police are embedded in systemic racism beyond the force. All levels of government are complicit in this neglect and there is a shameful abdication of responsibility by all our public officials…
Carole McDougall, the spokesperson for the Board of Police Commissioners, argued that the increase in the police budget was in part necessary because of the findings of the Wortley report. In other words, a force that had to apologize to the African Nova Scotian community for generations of racial profiling and that has been found to be violating the rights of Black people through the street check regime is now arguing that they should be rewarded for this behaviour.
In fact, as one question from a councillor who expressed his concerns about “punishing the police for their shortcomings” made evident, when the police not only fail to do their jobs, but actively harm and brutalize Black people, it is incomprehensible to our public officials that they should be stopped from doing so or sanctioned in any way.
In what other profession can you be found guilty of illegal acts and be given more money immediately after?
Read “City councillors approve increased police budget despite ongoing racial profiling” here. Your subscription allows the Examiner to keep bringing you essential critical voices like Jones.
3. Hamm quits Northern Pulp boards
Joan Baxter notes that former PC premier John Hamm has quietly left the boards of directors of five companies connected to Northern Pulp.
His membership on the boards has always been controversial, given that it was his government that in 2002 extended the pulp mill’s lease for the use of Boat Harbour for its effluent until 2030, something he told the Halifax Examiner he doesn’t regret. Northern Pulp’s manager, Bruce Chapman, has already said that the company will be expecting compensation for the loss of the use of Boat Harbour for its effluent because of the Boat Harbour Act.
Read “John Hamm has left the Northern Pulp ship” here. This story is available to both subscribers and non-subscribers. But, you know — subscribe.
4. Settlement in East Coast Forensic strip-searching case
CBC news reports there is a settlement in a lawsuit filed in 2012 over strip-searches at the East Coast Forensic Hospital.
In 2012, 33 psychiatry patients at the hospital were strip-searched over concerns about drugs at the institution. A 2015 CBC story, which appeared after the inmates’ class-action lawsuit was certified, says:
The events culminated after those in charge began looking for any contraband — including illegal substances — after a number of patients were “acting oddly” on Oct.15, 2012.
In the written decision Justice Denise Boudreau said there is no doubt administrators in facilities such as the forensic hospital need to be able to control their operations, but that strip searches are highly intrusive. “A court ruling in this particular case would likely be helpful in finding the appropriate line between those two realities.”
In his affidavit to the court, lead plaintiff Mark Murray said they strip searched him with the door open. He says other patients could have seen the search and his claim says he may have also been in view of a video camera.
Now CBC says,
According to a press release from Valent Legal, the firm representing the class members, “it is alleged that the decision to strip search all patients was done without reasonable grounds and thereby in breach of their Charter rights.”
The firm says that under the proposed settlement each plaintiff will be entitled to $5,000.
This is good. Nobody’s rights should be so flagrantly violated with impunity..
5. Interim privacy commissioner blasts provincial government
Interim provincial privacy commissioner Carmen Stuart has blasted the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture over its flouting request for information rules, Michael Gorman reports for CBC.
Stuart writes that the department ignored repeated follow-ups by staff at Information Access and Privacy Services trying to move things along and has never provided an explanation for the delay…
Stuart noted the situation is not an anomaly and that delays due to sign off procedures “have been the subject of a growing number of review requests.”
In her review report, Stuart writes:
There is no question that this is a concerning situation. The Department failed to respond to the applicant and continues to be in violation of the law two months after the decision was due because it is waiting for the Deputy Minister to sign off on the decision. The actions of the Department in this case suggest that officials have failed to appreciate the importance of the access rights granted under FOIPOP. Access delayed is access denied. The timeliness of granting access to information is often very important to applicants and their ability to hold government accountable. Ensuring that public bodies are fully accountable to the public goes to the heart of the purpose of this Act.3 That is why FOIPOP places a deadline on public bodies. In its submission, the Department states, “The department is reviewing the records and does intend to provide a decision to the applicant.” No commitment date was provided and no explanation for the delay was provided. The Department knows the law and has chosen to disregard it. It is not open to government to arbitrarily choose its own timeline to respond to an access to information request.
Yesterday, on the “Municipal Matters” segment of the Sheldon MacLeod show, Global’s Sarah Ritchie mentioned a freedom of information request she’s waiting on from 2016.
6. At this point, maybe Knowledge House should get a heritage moment
Holy hell, who knew the Knowledge House case wasn’t totally dead and buried yet? This thing has been going on for nearly as long as I’ve been living in Nova Scotia.
The case is back in the news because yesterday the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal rejected appeals by Daniel Potter and Blois Colpitts, who were convicted in the case. In July 2018, they were sentenced to five years and four-and-a-half years in prison, respectively, for their role in defrauding shareholders of some $86 million.
At the time, Tim went on a righteous rant here in the virtual pages of the Examiner:
I particularly like this detail [from Jean Laroche’s story]:
“Knowledge House had once been the darling of Nova Scotia’s tech sector. Not long before the company’s 2001 implosion, the provincial government named Potter the chair of Crown corporation Nova Scotia Business Inc. and said he had some of the best private-sector expertise in the province. Potter resigned just months later.”
I’m sure that could never happen again because now the Powers That Be don’t get starry-eyed about tech start-ups and everyone is totally aware that a lot of these operations are warmed-over scams. And Nova Scotia Business Inc. execs are always chosen for their hard work and political neutrality, and never, ever for baldly partisan reasons…
We’ll see if the judge grants bail. On bail, the pair can probably bounce appeal procedures along for so long that they may yet get to their graves before seeing any substantial jail time.
One odd thing about Coady’s decision is in his findings for mitigating factors with regard to sentencing; one of those mitigating factors is “Publicity and stigma”:
“The names of both defendants have appeared in the media in relation to the collapse of KHI and to the resulting legal proceedings. There has been limited coverage on the CBC website and in the Chronicle Herald. Coverage on the paid subscription business news website AllNovaScotia.com, has been much more extensive. It must be noted, however, that Mr. Potter generated some of his own attention by creating a website where he expressed his views on, among other things, National Bank Financial, Mr. Colpitts, and Stewart McKelvey.”
So I guess simply reporting on an ongoing court case is reason to knock a few years off defendants’ sentences… Criminals take note! I’ll be sure to use that logic when requesting interviews from people charged with drug dealing and such: “hey man, if you talk to me, the judge will call it a mitigating factor and cut time off your sentence.”…
At CBC, Jack Julian writes that Colpitts and Potter argued the trial judge
had demonstrated bias, misunderstood their defences and given unduly harsh sentences.
The justices rejected all of the men’s objections, often in stark terms.
They confirmed that Potter and Colpitts used “manipulative techniques” to inflate Knowledge House’s stock price.
“Mr. Potter and Mr. Colpitts accomplished this by not disclosing material information that would have been important for investors to know (deceit), directly lying to investors (falsehood), and utilizing manipulative strategies in a highly regulated industry (other fraudulent means),” they wrote.
Imagine perpetrating a fraud estimated at $86 million, having 120 people lose their jobs because of your criminal activity, and then complaining you got five years (when prosecutors were arguing for 10- to- 12-year sentences). This mindset is completely inconceivable to me, which is, I guess, why I’m up early writing the Morning File instead of falsifying expense accounts or something.
7. “Chirping with racial slurs” seems like an overly polite way to describe racist taunting, but this is hockey
At CTV, Natasha Pace writes about Hockey Nova Scotia’s response to an upswing in “reports of verbal abuse.”
A memo from Hockey Nova Scotia risk management committee says:
“Unfortunately, we have been receiving reports of on-ice insults involving race, religion and sexual orientation. Over the last several months, the Hockey Nova Scotia risk management committee has been dealing with serious allegations of verbal abuse including specific incidents that have involved racial slurs.”
Dalhousie sociology professor Howard Ramos says since the Don Cherry incident last year — there’s been more awareness around chirping.
“There’s nothing new about chirping and there’s nothing new about using racial slurs in the chirping,” Ramos said. “Some of the research that I’ve done in talking to people in hockey and multiculturalism in Halifax and across Canada has shown people who are visible minorities often do experience this when they’re playing unfortunately.”
Accessibility matters: Lessons from the Montreal super-hospital
As details of the QEII redevelopment roll out, it seems to have all the makings of a disaster playing out in slow motion — from the provincial government’s decision to use a P3 model (the fact that they consider this innovative tells you something) to all the secrecy. I’m sure there is much more fuckery to come.
If only there was a recent multi-billion hospital re-development project we could look at and see if we can learn anything. Oh wait, there is! In Montreal, where the McGill University Health Centre (aka superhospital) opened in 2015.
I may come back and write about the disastrous P3 part of the project another time, but for now I want to look at accessibility.
Accessibility advocate Paul Vienneau is one of the people raising concerns about the proposed location of the parkade — on Summer Street, across from the hospital complex. I quoted Vienneau in Monday’s Morning File:
It almost feels like they are trying to push this through without consulting the public… The premier’s defence was the consultants OK’d it. The parking garage will be barrier-free and accessible, and the hospital will be barrier-free and accessible, but there’s a 100-metre hole between them.
Parking is needed and the location of that parking lot is really important to me. All this work is not just for us right now but for people over the next 30, 40, 50 years. Let’s not have to go back and spend a billion dollars later to fix it.
Montreal’s MUHC is in NDG, in the west end of town. Its site was chosen in part because of access to transit. (It also has a parkade built by SNC-Lavalin which is classified as being underground, even though it is eight storeys high.)
You would think that if you’re putting a hospital near transit for easy access you would ensure, well, access. Think again. Back in 2002, there was a proposal to ensure the hospitable could be reached through an accessible tunnel. It didn’t get built at the same time as the hospital.
Did the Montreal hospital project have the same consultants we’ve got? Here is Montreal Gazette reporter Jason Magder with a May 29, 2015 story:
From where Douglas Burns is sitting on the side of the Vendôme métro station, he can see the new MUHC superhospital, but he can’t get to it.
Although it looks like the hospital is built on top of the station, it’s actually a 700-metre walk to get there on sidewalks with steep slopes and through part of a construction zone.
Burns, 81, goes to the hospital weekly for doctor appointments and for meetings as the treasurer of the hospital’s patients committee. He drives because he walks slowly and with a cane, and as a hospital volunteer, he gets preferred parking.
However, he’s concerned about all those patients who don’t have a car.
“Access was first and foremost when they picked the site for the hospital, and they blew it,” Burns said, referring to the nearby highways, métro, train and bus stops. “I tried walking it, but I couldn’t do it.”
Burns said mobility was the selling point for deciding on the Glen site back in 1990s, but now that it’s built, those with mobility issues have great difficulty getting there.
The city’s transit authority put on a new bus to go to the hospital from a nearby Metro station that has elevators.
In June 2015, a tunnel opened linking the Vendôme station with the hospital. Sort of. Reporting for Global, Tim Sargeant describes the tunnel:
The 34 metre tunnel brings people to the MUHC property, but not its front doors.
People will have to walk outside for the remaining 200 metres.
There are also no elevators from the metro, which makes it impossible for people in wheelchairs to access the tunnel, not to mention the numerous stairs make it very hard for those with reduced mobility.
There actually is a door to the hospital from inside the tunnel, but it’s permanently locked.
On December 19, 2015, Magder wrote what a wheelchair user at the Vendôme station would have to do to get to the hospital across the street:
If you’re in a wheelchair at the Vendôme métro station and want to get to the superhospital next door, for the next four years you’ll have to travel for about a half-hour or more – by bus – to get there.
You would have to head two stops east on the Orange Line to the Lionel-Groulx station. From there, you could take an elevator to street level and wait for a bus that comes twice an hour, and takes 15 minutes – without traffic – to get to the front door of the hospital in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
Later in the story, Magder quotes Quebec Transport Minister Robert Poëti’s reaction to why there was no accessible tunnel built for when the hospital opened. His quote sounds like something you can imagine his Nova Scotia counterpart saying:
“If you want to talk about the past, you can do it, but I won’t talk about it. I can’t change the past.”
In 2017, the transit authority in Montreal announced it would start work on a new tunnel, accessible by elevator. In the Montreal Gazette, reporter Andy Riga wrote:
The new infrastructure will include five elevators…
The new entrance will be built just east of the current station, and will be integrated into 5100 de Maisonneuve Blvd. The entrance and tunnel will include “universal access equipment such as motorized doors and wider gateways,” the STM said…
If it is completed on time, the new facility will welcome users in the fall of 2019, more than four years after the hospital opened. In 2013, an MUHC official said the MUHC had initially planned to include a second tunnel during construction of the hospital, but it was cut for budget reasons.
The tunnel was supposed to cost $76.5 million and open in 2019. The cost has risen to $110 million, and the opening date pushed to spring 2020. Hospital users will finally get a fully accessible path to the complex five years after it opened.
So, to sum up: years before a new hospital is built, an accessible tunnel is part of the plans. The tunnel gets cut to save money. When the hospital opens, reaching it by transit (and in some cases by car) is nightmarish. A cheap tunnel is built as a quick fix, but it’s not accessible. So then a new tunnel is announced, costing far more than it would have if it had been incorporated into the original design, and opening a full five years after the hospital’s completion.
Can you say cautionary tale?
Members of our provincial government would do well to listen to accessibility advocates and get this right the first time.
Note: Veteran Gazette reporter Andy Riga is an old friend, and I’m grateful to him for his help with this piece.
The Nova Scotia Archives have launched a virtual exhibit called African Nova Scotians in the Age of Slavery and Abolition.
From the exhibit home page:
Approximately 10,000 black people came to Nova Scotia between 1749 and 1816. This virtual exhibit celebrates the lives of Barbary (Barbara) Cuffy, Rose Fortune, Lydia Jackson, Richard Preston, Gabriel Hall, William Hall VC, and the many other African Nova Scotians who arrived during that time. It showcases more than 100 documents reflecting the early African Nova Scotian experience. The exhibit focuses on the period between 1749 and 1834, dates which mark the founding of Halifax and the coming into effect of legislation abolishing slavery in the British colonies, respectively. The year 1749 is also the beginning of the period for which Nova Scotia Archives holds adequate documentary sources; and the exhibit relies largely on material at Nova Scotia Archives.
However, the founding of Halifax does not mark either the beginning of African Nova Scotian history or the introduction of slavery into Nova Scotia. African Nova Scotian history dates back to the Acadian period, 1604-1755. Black people accompanied the early French explorers to Acadia. During the 1606 voyage of Poutrincourt and Lescarbot from France to Port Royal, an unknown black man aboard their ship, Jonah, died of scurvy. The name of Mathieu da Costa, a man of African descent, is associated with the early French exploration of Acadia. While at Amsterdam in 1608, he signed a contract with Pierre du Gua de Monts (de Mons), founder of Port Royal, to provide services as an interpreter in Canada and Acadia from 1609 to 1612. Whether or how da Costa fulfilled the terms of the contract is not known. The first identified black resident of Acadia, “La Liberté, Le Neigre,” appears at Cape Sable in the census of 1686. Slaveholding was common at Louisbourg (1713-58). It also dates back to the Acadian period in what is now mainland Nova Scotia, although its extent is not adequately documented.
The exhibit is broken down into categories, each filled with pictures, documents, and historical context.
Although I have not explored the whole exhibit, I was particularly taken with the “descendants and settlements” section, with its portraits and photos of everyday life in communities including Guysborough, Halifax, Preston, North Preston, and Upper Hammonds Plains.
I am a huge fan of the Archives and the people who work there. Make some time for this exhibit.
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — agenda here.
Budget Committee – Contingency (Friday, 9:30am, City Hall) — agenda here.
No public meetings today or Friday.
Dalhousie Reading Circle Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (Thursday, 9:30am, Indigenous Student Centre Community Room, 1321 Edward Street) — the second of 10 reading sessions in which participants explore the final report and make a plan of action on the Calls for Justice for Dalhousie University. More info here and here.
Using data to drive impact across the cancer prevention continuum (Thursday, 12pm, Theatre C, Tupper Link) — Darren Brenner from the University of Calgary will talk.
Data is changing the way we live our lives – and so should it impact how we prevent, screen for and treat cancer. Our team has been working to use big data to advance cancer prevention, screening and treatment in Alberta, Canada and beyond. Recent examples in primary, secondary and tertiary prevention will be discussed. Our research framework has been focused on using data to inform evidence, and evidence to drive impact through enhanced communication, partnerships, translation and technology. This framework will be discussed and highlighted.
Munro Eve Karaoke (Thursday,4:30pm, University Club Pub) — in support of United Way Halifax. More info here.
How Far is It From Rome to Lisbon? Eu Trade Policy and Bargaining Power From 1958 Until Today (Thursday, 5:30pm, Room 1130, Marion McCain Building) — Dirk De Bievre from the University of Antwerp, Belgium, will talk.
Encouraging Signs of Atlantic Salmon Recovery: Acid Rain Mitigation and Complementary Initiatives (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — Edmund Halfyard will talk.
Along Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coast, a legacy of acid rain persists, impacting soils, forests, and the health of the aquatic ecosystem. The Atlantic Salmon is a species which has been particularly negatively impacted — at least two-thirds of known populations are suspected to have been wiped out.
Beginning in 2005 and expanded in 2016, the not-for-profit Nova Scotia Salmon Association initiated a demonstration acid rain mitigation project on a small coastal river 80 km northeast of Halifax. The integrated approach has shown early results of positive impacts on water and soil quality, terrestrial vegetation and an increase in the freshwater production of Atlantic salmon and other acid-sensitive aquatic species.
Third‑Year Devised Theatre Project (Thursday, 7:30pm, David Mack Murray Studio, Dal Arts Centre) — directed by Matthew Thomas Walker. Evenings until Saturday, with a sensory-friendly Saturday matinee at 2pm. $15/$10, more info here.
Dido and Aeneas (Thursday, 7:30pm, Dunn theatre, Dal Arts Centre) — dance performance directed by Mary Lou Martin. Until Sunday, $15/$10, more info here.
Catherine Hernandez Decolonized Theatre Creation (Friday, 1pm, Studio Two, Dal Arts Centre) — free performance. From the listing:
Catherine Hernandez is a proud queer woman of colour, radical mother, activist, theatre practitioner, award-winning author, and the Artistic Director of b current performing arts. Her novel Scarborough won the 2015 Jim Wong-Chu Award, was long-listed for Canada Reads 2018, and is now being adapted into a full-length film by Compy Films, Telefilm, and Reel Asian Film Festival.
Third‑Year Devised Theatre Project (Friday, 7:30pm, David Mack Murray Studio, Dal Arts Centre) — directed by Matthew Thomas Walker. Until Saturday, with a sensory-friendly Saturday matinee at 2pm. $15/$10, more info here.
Dido and Aeneas (Friday, 7:30pm, Dunn theatre, Dal Arts Centre) — dance performance directed by Mary Lou Martin. Until Sunday, $15/$10, more info here.
One Winter Afternoon (Thursday, 9am, Art Gallery) — view the new exhibit, with free coffee and snacks.
AquaHacking 2020 Challenge Info Session (Thursday, 2pm, Room L298, Loyola) — from the listing:
This year, Atlantic Water Network is proud to be bringing the AquaHacking Challenge to Atlantic Canada for the first time!
The AquaHacking Challenge is a tech competition where young innovators team up to tackle urgent water issues.
Through this competition, we’re launching an ambitious search for the most innovative solutions needed to tackle urgent water issues on the east coast. The competition is OPEN, meaning anyone is invited to participate. Whether you’re a student, young professional or researcher – or just interested in starting a business while making the world a better place – we invite you to join a growing movement of emerging water leaders working to improve the health of our waters.
Up for grabs: $50K in cash prizes to jump start the winning team; 360° mentorship & skill-building workshops; secured spot in a local start-up incubator.
Sustainability Social (Thursday, 7pm, 4th Floor Lounge in the building named after a grocery store) — more info here.
TEDxSaintMarysU (Friday, 10am, LA290) — $20, register here.
In the harbour
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
08:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
08:30: Algoma Verity, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from New York
16:30: Hansa Meersburg, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Kingston, Jamaica
18:00: HMCS Harry DeWolf, Arctic patrol ship, arrives at Pier 6 from sea trials
20:00: Sluisgracht, cargo ship, sails from pier 36 for sea
Every time I hear “weather event” I think of George Carlin.