1. Update: Bassam Al-Rawi has been found and served
Monday, the Examiner reported that over a week of trying, police had not been able to locate taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi to serve documents notifying him his case would be brought before the Court of Appeal. There had been multiple, but unconfirmed reports that Al-Rawi had left the country.
However, Chris Hansen of the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service confirms taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi was located in Halifax and served by Halifax Police yesterday, notifying him his acquittal on a charge of sexual assault is being appealed.
There are now no legal barriers standing in the way of an appeal of the Judge Lenehan verdict.
This was an odd story for me. I’d been told that scuttlebutt in legal circles was that Al-Rawi had left the country, and then I was contacted directly by someone who said he saw Al-Rawi boarding a plane bound for the United States. But I couldn’t confirm those reports and so didn’t publish them. Then, independently, reporter Jennifer Henderson came to me with news that Halifax police couldn’t find Al-Rawi to serve him, so we went with that verified report. I don’t know if Al-Rawi had actually left the country and then came back, or if he had been here all along and police doubled down on their efforts to locate him.
2. That rocket thing probably won’t happen
“The province could soon be the site of a $100-million rocket spaceport that will be used to launch commercial satellites into space as early as 2020,” reported Brett Ruskin for the CBC yesterday, smartly employing the hedge word “could.”
“On Tuesday, Maritime Launch Services confirmed plans to build the facility near Canso and begin construction within one year,” continued Ruskin.
So of course Twitter and Facebook lit up with news that Nova Scotia will be launching rockets, and hundreds of people will have jobs polishing rockets and fluffing cosmonauts, and tourists will come flocking, and we’ll have prosperity forever, amen.
Well, maybe. Anything could happen. Nova Scotia could get rich selling body scans to people with body image problems. The world could suddenly decide that Cape Breton hemp is the bestest hemp anywhere. Unicorns could fly out of my ass.
Ruskin himself noted that past Nova Scotian launchsite projects have never materialized:
Nova Scotia has been considered previously as a site for rocket launches.
In 2006, a business partnership called PlanetSpace wanted to set up a launch pad for NASA in Cape Breton.
In 2010, the Canadian Space Agency was also looking at Cape Breton as a possible site to blast small satellites into orbit.
There was even a Kickstarter campaign in 2014, started by a Halifax-based company called Open Space Orbital Incorporated.
It seems every couple of years another group comes along claiming they’ll setup a spaceport in Canada with Nova Scotia being the preferred location. The latest is Maritime Launch Services (MLS), a newly registered company in Nova Scotia with roots in the U.S and the Ukraine. What sets it apart from recent previous efforts is the experienced principals involved. The principals in the company are John Isella, CEO; Stephen Matier, President, Chief Operating Officer and V.P. of Spaceport Development; Joe Hasay, CEO of United Paradyne; and Dave Walsh, Chief Technical Officer.
So these are people with experience in the industry, which perhaps makes this effort a bit more credible than past efforts. What do they need now? Money. But, alas, “MLS declined go into details on its funding,” reports SpaceQ.
If I had a gigantic newsroom, maybe I’d take one of the people off the traffic desk and have them do some research on the MLS principals and their track record with past launch companies, and maybe look at how the space industry is financed.
But since I don’t have a gigantic newsroom and since I spent last night defeating a particularly stubborn sudoku instead of learning about space industry finance, I’m just going to guess that what’s happening is a fairly typical story in the business world: A start-up company attracts an initial funder and some big industry names, then goes fishing for investors. One step in that process is to issue a gushing press release, which is then picked up by credulous local reporters, then hyped on social media… and with luck all the attention attracts, I dunno, that asshole Peter Thiel and his money, and then suddenly we’re fluffing cosmonauts in Canso.
Who knows? Maybe! Good luck!
But probably not.
3. Lantz interchange
“The federal and provincial governments will jointly spend $28 million to construct a Highway 102 interchange and connector road at Lantz in East Hants,” reports Francis Campbell for Local Xpress:
[Municipal councillor Stephen] King said an interchange that will traverse the 102 will open the huge tract of backwoods land to the northwest of the four-lane highway in the Elmsdale-to-Milford corridor.
“We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of lots. We’re not just talking a small subdivision. It opens up commercial possibilities. The other thing it does is it opens up the other side of the highway and the lands over there. You drive between Elmsdale and Milford, there is a hell of a lot of land there. There is just no access to it.”
Paul Mombourquette of Lantz, a land developer who sold much of his holdings to the Penney Group in recent years, said at a recent school review meeting that the Penney Group will begin a 10-year building phase in 2018 that will develop 200 lots for semi-detached residences, amounting to 400 separate homes.
Within that time, he said the new Highway 102 interchange planned for Lantz should finally be completed, bringing more economic development.
“It will be an explosion of population and development,” Mombourquette said.
No one mentioned sprawl or greenhouse gas emissions from people commuting from Lantz to Halifax and back every day. And certainly no one mentioned the political element. As I discussed last month:
There are three points of context.
First, Lantz is part of the East Hants electoral riding, which is represented by MLA Margaret Miller, who bested the NDP’s John MacDonell in the 2013 Liberal sweep. MacDonnell had held the seat since 1998, and had won five elections.
The McNeil government of course wants to keep the seat in a traditionally NDP riding, and so has brought Miller into cabinet as Environment Minister.
Second, the Liberals are evidently looking around for other plum spoils to bestow on East Hants and, as is typical for this government, are using new schools or the renovation of old schools as part of its electoral reward system.
At issue in Lantz is the Chignecto-Central regional school board’s decision that, due to declining enrolment, either the 18-year-old Maple Ridge Elementary School in Lantz or the 47-year old Shubenacadie District Elementary School be closed. The schools are 15 kilometres apart.
Reporting for Local Xpress, Francis Campbell explains how the School Options Committee, which was tasked with making the decision of which school to close, instead came back with a recommendation to keep both schools open.
Third, the argument for keeping both schools open is that future development in the Lantz area will bring more families to the area, and hence more students in need of schooling.
That future population growth, however, is dependent on a new interchange on the 102.
Besides being an example of political spoils, the Lantz intersection will precipitate environmentally destructive exo-suburban sprawl.
The idea is to build an expansive subdivision on the other side of the county line, where the developer is not constrained by HRM planning and zoning policies. The residents will primarily be people who work in and around Halifax, so they’ll be commuting up to 100 kilometres a day.
Besides that, now that the Lantz interchange box has been checked, I guess we’re one step closer to an election call.
Oh, and Stephen King used to be the parks director for HRM. He has lived in Elmsdale for 35 years, so was commuting back and forth from Elmsdale to Alderney Landing all that time. (He became a local councillor after retiring.) There’s nothing that says a park director has to be especially conscious of the impact of suburban development on the environment, or to be concerned about climate change or greenhouse gas emissions, or reflect on his own commuting habits. It’s just a job, I guess.
4. Bullshitter of the day: Martha Crago
Speaking of climate change, it was good to see the Divest Dal folks show up for Monday’s university Senate meeting.
What wasn’t good was the patronizing reception they received. University president Richard Florizone, for example, said that while the Board of Governors rejected the group’s proposal to divest the university from the fossil fuel industry, “we respect your right to free speech.” How kind.
Worse, though, was Martha Crago, the university’s VP for Research, who was addressing the Senate about, sigh, innovation. “We need to support those who push back, and there are some here now,” said Crago gesturing dismissively towards the Divest Dal group, never again taking up the issue of divestment or climate change.
In December, McGill University announced that Crago will become its Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation), starting in July, so I guess she’s just wrapping things up here in Halifax.
Crago prattled on for 15 minutes about innovation. As she told it, innovation can be found everywhere: in the arts, in performances, in research, in science, in education.
She actually cited the anti-Apartheid movement as an example of innovation.
Evidently, like God, innovation is everywhere, but also like God, it’s impossible to define or pin down innovation. You just gotta believe.
The question-and-answer period after Crago’s presentation was hilarious. Some senators wanted in on the innovation train. You forgot psychology! said one; oh yes, psychology is innovative, said Crago. Well, we removed land mines in Cambodia, said another senator. Yep! Innovative! agreed Crago.
Other senators were skeptical. “I hear innovation around human rights and social issues,” said Letitia Meynell, “and I’m thinking you’re saying ‘how can I monetize this?’… we shouldn’t take on these buzzwords around innovation and neglect fundamental education that’s been around for thousands of years.”
“I can’t agree more,” replied Crago, “but on the other hand, times change.”
“Have you ever met an innovation you didn’t like?” asked one senator. “I’m sure there are a few,” replied Crago, “but I can’t think of any.”
Asked to define innovation, Crago said that “innovation is just a new value added way of doing things.” And then: “entrepreneurship isn’t about making money, it’s about being enterprising.”
That’s about when I began banging my head against the wall.
It was senator Francoise Bayliss who noted that while Dalhousie was patting the Divest Dal folks on the head and accepting pallets full of money from Shell Oil, Laval University actually did something truly innovative and adopted a divestment policy, the first among Canadian universities. No one had a good response to that.
As I tweeted during the meeting, I’m either too dumb to understand it, or “innovation” is a load of bullshit meant to enrich the in-group.
1. Transit priority corridors
“The city has set in motion an ambitious timeline to study and come up with functional design options for 2.5 to 6.5km of ‘transit priority corridors’ on Halifax streets,” writes Erica Butler. “That’s good news for transit riders, and ultimately for anyone who is getting stuck in vehicle traffic on the peninsula.”
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2. Cranky letter of the day
I had a beautifully illustrated book, ‘Rivers of Canada,’ which in a single paragraph dismisses Prince Edward Island as having no significant rivers.
My watershed friends might take issue with that.
When I call my American friends, their caller I.D. says Nova Scotia.
All my mail goes to Nova Scotia for processing.
Prime Minister Trudeau only made a brief airport visit to our province on his cross Canada tour.
New Brunswick claims to be the birthplace of Confederation.
And now both the Hudson’s Bay Company and CAA don’t even acknowledge our very existence.
I proudly tell my American friends that I live in Prince Edward Island, laughingly saying that unlike Rhode Island, we really are an island. And that we are the most beautiful and smallest province in Canada.
Was I wrong?
Brenda Gallant-Graves, North Tryon
Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary Advisory Committee (Thursday, 3pm, Room B239, NSCC Campus) — here’s the agenda.
No public meetings this week.
Forest Management (Wednesday, 11:30am, MA 310, Eco Efficiency Centre) — Andrew B. Martin, founder of Eco Modelling Ltd., will speak on “Aligning Forest Management with Industrial Demand Using LP.” The Examiner will attempt to cover this.
GMOs (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Lisbeth Witthoefft Nielsen will speak on, “Natural or Unnatural? Values in Public Discourse on GMO’s.”
My American Cousin (Wednesday, 8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — a screening of Sandy Wilson’s 1985 film.
Precarious Employment (Thursday, 4:30pm, Room 105, Weldon Law Building) — Michael Mitchell and John C. Murray, who were Special Advisors to the Ontario “Changing Workplaces Review,” will speak on,“Coping with the Fissured Workplace and Precarious Employment.”
Police Street Checks (Thursday, 6pm, North Branch Library) — Archie Kaiser will moderate a community discussion regarding the disproportionate street checking of African Nova Scotians. Speakers include Chief Jean-Michel Blais, Lana McLean, and Rickola Brinton.
Minimalism (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — A screening of the 2016 film, “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things,” in which a bunch of financially secure people tell us they don’t need to own a bunch of stuff to be happy, and won’t you buy their movie/ book/ lifestyle advice/ tiny house kit? Director/producer Matt D’Avella will be
present linked via Skype to sell you stuff you don’t need be wise and not try to sell you anything, promise.
McKay Lecture in History (Thursday, 7pm, Room 1009, Rowe Building) — Daniel Lord Smail will speak on “Containers and Humans in Deep Time: An Environmental History.” Here’s the event description:
Daniel Lord Smail is a pioneer of what is called Deep History — someone who identifies and develops new narratives for binding human history together over the very long duration. History is not a brand of political science to explain the present, but an anthropological science designed to help us understand humanity. Historians must reach back into time before written documents, with the help of neurobiology, neurophysiology and genetics in order to understand global environmental change. His book “Deep History and the Brain” examines how cultural structures shape patterns of the brain-body system. Simultaneously Smail examines the role of universal emotions as they are expressed in the specific context of late medieval Provence and Tuscany. A gifted archival historian with considerable expertise in judicial and notarial papers in Marseille and Lucca, Smail’s new book “Legal Plunder” examines material culture seen through the lens of material accumulation and debt recovery.
Smoke and Progress (Thursday, 4pm, Burke 207) — Robert Summerby-Murray will speak on “Good Times and Warm Smoke Stacks in the Busy East: Images of Smoke and Progress in Maritime Canada, 1910 to 1966.”
In the harbour
6am: East Coast, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Irving Oil
8am: Alpine Venture, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Imperial Oil
11am: ZIM Constanza, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Barcelona
Noon: MSC Immacolata, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Sagunto, Spain
1pm: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
3:30pm: MSC Immacolata, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.