1. Outsourcing Service Nova Scotia
“The Nova Scotia government is looking at off-loading the costs of upgrading its registry services for motor vehicles, land and businesses by partnering with the private sector,” reports the CBC. “A call will be put out later this summer for input from companies interested in running the public registries and modernizing the associated technology.”
That’s right: they’re going to privatize the DMV.
This is horrible policy, an attack on good-paying jobs, the Liberals playing lick-spittle for corporations, and an affront to democracy.
Public information should be public. Providing that information is one of the primary jobs of government. It is the basis for commerce, for education, for research, for journalism, for voters. It’s as important as roads, or the fire department.
Today, I’ll talk about just one aspect of the proposal that affects me directly: the Registry of Joint Stock Companies. This is a resource I use multiple times a day, to better understand companies and registered non-profits, so I can better report on various issues. It’s not even 7:30am, and I’ve already used the Registry today, to quickly look up an organization I thought I’d write about this morning (turns out to be a bigger issue than I have time to devote to, but I’ll get to it later). While reading reports written by consultants for city council, I typically run the consulting companies through the registry to look for potential conflicts of interest. When Nova Scotia Business Inc drops some dough to some corporation, I check to see who the directors of the company are. And so on. The Registry of Joint Stock Companies is my #1 government resource. It’s invaluable. It’s fundamental to my work. Almost all of my reporting uses it in some capacity.
And now the government wants to lock it behind a paywall.
In the United States, all the states I worked in as a reporter make similar registries (they go by a variety of names) completely free to the public, so I was surprised to find the registries are behind paywalls in some Canadian provinces.
I first encountered the paywalls when I was doing some broad background research on a company connected to Trade Centre Limited. The president and owner of the company had previously owned a company in British Columbia, so I wanted to track that work, see if there had been complaints or lawsuits related to it, etc. But the corporate information was locked behind a paywall, and so it cost me something like $25 to perform just one search, as I recall. The cost was prohibitively high for me to do the multiple searches I wanted to do — I suspected the person in question was connected with other companies, and wanted to pull the records on those companies to see if she was listed as a director or officer.
More recently, in April, I discussed Gus Reed’s review of companies that had received money from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and I wondered about the Atlantic Wallboard Limited Partnership, which has received a whopping $42,405,000 in ACOA grants. A little internet research showed that Atlantic Wallboard is in Saint John, so I went to the New Brunswick Registry of Joint Stock Companies and looked it up. It required two searches, and cost me about 15 bucks. As far as records in the registry go, the partnership has skillfully hidden its ownership behind two shell corporations, so the search was futile, but I did eventually find a document presented to the Saint John city council that was signed by J.D. Irving, the president of the partnership.
This is just the normal kind of research I do. Like I said, I use the registry every day, often many times a day, sometimes many dozens of times a day. But a fee of $25 a search, or $15, or even $5 puts it off limits except for the most compelling investigations, and I don’t really know what those are until after I do the search. Moreover, it’d be irresponsible for me to not run a search on a company or non-profit before writing about them.
I don’t know exactly how many times I use the registry, but my guess is that were I to be charged $5 for each search I’ve run since I started the Examiner a year ago, I’d be out something like $10,000 now. A $25 fee would cost me $50,000. I don’t have $50,000.
So, effectively, privatizing the Registry of Joint Stock Companies and putting it behind a paywall makes my job impossible. And not just mine, but every other reporter’s job in Nova Scotia. It’s an attack on journalism, and because it limits the information available to the public, privatization is an attack on the public’s right to know, and therefore on an informed citizenry. It’s an attack on democracy itself.
2. Charges dropped
“The Crown has struck a deal with a Halifax man in exchange for his co-operation in the investigation into the February 2009 killing of Terry Marriott Jr.,” the Chronicle Herald’s Dan Arsenault and Steve Bruce report:
On Monday in Halifax provincial court, the Crown withdrew all charges against MacPhee, 34, in connection with a break-in in Bedford on April 15 and a violent home invasion in Upper Sackville on June 8.
MacPhee was released from custody after appearing in court.
The details at the link are an interesting, albeit disturbing, read.
Arsenault is the last true crime beat reporter in Halifax, and he’s doing a fine job.
3. City council
Later today, I’ll try to write something intelligent about yesterday’s city council meeting.
1. St. Pat’s
Stephen Archibald takes a last look at St. Pat’s High School before it is demolished.
2. Canadian Geographic
“Former employees say the nature magazine became a paid mouthpiece for oil companies and others,” reports Jesse Brown at Canadaland in a two-part (so far) series about Canadian Geographic. Read Part 1 and Part 2.
2. Cranky letter of the day
Many thanks to the Cape Breton residents who took the time to give us directions every time we got lost. The tourism map is so minuscule that neither us nor the residents could read it. However, the residents knew where we wanted to go and gave exact directions. A special thanks to the following who said, “Just follow me and I’ll take you there.”
1. The woman in the grey car with her daughter and a Rottweiler in the back seat, who guided us to church.
2. The couple in the silver Volkswagen convertible who led us from church to the shopping mall.
3. The woman we met in Glace Bay, who led us out to Dominion Beach and gave directions back to Sydney.
Without the assistance of all these wonderful people, we would have packed up and left for home early and missed some of the most beautiful landscapes in Canada.
Shame on the Tourism department for its pitiful maps. Also, the municipalities seriously need to improve the street signage so people can see the cross streets, not just the street they are on. Some signs were even hidden behind electrical poles or omitted. Surely there must be an ambitious cartographer or imaging professional who can improve the deplorable maps (perhaps even apply for a government grant to remedy the situation).
Barbara, Antoine Hagge, Whitby, Ont.
Investment Policy Advisory Committee (noon, City Hall)—yes, this committee’s name sounds like a yawner, but it’s the one city committee that actually has an interesting reading list. I typically read the recommended articles.
No public meetings.
In the harbour
Atlantic Companion, container ship, arrived at Fairview Cove East this morning, sails to sea this afternoon
Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, Saint-Pierre to Pier 36
ZIM New York, container ship, New York to Pier 41, then sails to sea
ZIM Qingdao, Valencia, Spain to Pier 42, then sails to sea
NS Stream, oil tanker, Paldiski, Estonia to Imperial Oil
Berlin Express sails to New York
It’s annoying how little there is to write about this morning. I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 4pm, with a bunch of dead air, I guess.