1. Big Forest
We’ve published the second part of Joan Baxter’s investigation into the gutting of the Biodiversity Act.
Among other things, we learn that Forest Nova Scotia has a lobbyist, Noel Sampson, who started working on FNS’s behalf just as the Biodiversity Act showed up before the legislature.
Sampson works for an outfit called Public Affairs Atlantic, which is a PR firm started by Sampson and sometimes Chronicle Herald columnist Jim Meek. They’ve hired on Sasha Irving, who in previous incarnations was a PR flack for the Rodney MacDonald government and then for Emera.
As Baxter writes, while Public Affairs Atlantic is lobbying for Forest Nova Scotia and the Concerned Private Landowners Coalition (the two organizations work out of the same office), it doesn’t necessarily mean that Public Affairs Atlantic orchestrated the dishonest Stop Bill 4 PR campaign — the campaign communications specialist Sarah Riley says likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and propagated “blatant lies” — but it’s a good guess. Sampson, Meek, and Irving could clear that up had they bothered to respond to our requests for comment, but they haven’t. I don’t know who else would have that sort of expertise.
That’s a hell of a way to end your prestigious career, Jim.
Baxter goes on to unpack the Who’s Who of the provincial forestry industry, and shows how a big (unnamed) player threatened ATVers with restricting access to its property if they didn’t jump on board the anti-Bill 4 bandwagon.
But perhaps the most damning part of Baxter’s reporting is her analysis of how Forest Nova Scotia is paid by the province to administer — badly, according to an auditor general’s report — a forest roads program that is only eligible to Forest Nova Scotia members. That’s right: in order to access a provincially funded program, landowners must first become dues-paying members of a politicized group that has a lobbyist working to sway provincial legislation.
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2. 15 cases
Fifteen new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Nova Scotia yesterday, the largest daily count since late November and early December.
Seven of the new cases are connected to travel and five are close contacts of previously known cases, but it’s another three in the Halifax area for which no source has yet to be determined that are the most concerning.
One of those cases is connected to St. Joseph’s-Alexander McKay School in north end Halifax, and one of the close contacts is connected to South Woodside Elementary School on the Dartmouth side of the harbour.
There have been a handful of small outbreaks since October — such as the chicken plant in the valley — but only four instances of community spread.
The first was in Truro in October, and was quickly contained.
The second was the Nov./Dec. outbreak that started in Clayton Park and moved into downtown Halifax bars. That outbreak saw the daily case count get as high as 37, but after tight restrictions were imposed (Halifax bars were closed and travel into and out of Halifax limited) and tens of thousands of people lined up for testing, it was contained and daily case counts dropped back to zero by early January.
The third instance of community spread was in February and March, concentrated in Beaver Bank and to a lesser degree in Cole Harbour. That is the one that spread through a police office building. Again, with restrictions (notably, the HRM travel restriction was reimposed) and testing, it was contained.
This fourth instance is a reflection of the large number of travellers coming into Nova Scotia with the virus. There’s simply so much of the disease out there in the wider world that a percentage of travellers will inevitably have it; so long as they self-isolate, that isn’t a problem. But either because some haven’t strictly followed the quarantine rules, or because there are some people who are entirely exempt from the rules and there’s some leeway for rotational workers, the virus can slip out into the broader community. And here we are, evidently: a couple of cases in a nursing home, two in schools, one in a hospital.
Still, three cases for which a source hasn’t been identified yet don’t necessarily mean we should panic.
There is a COVID briefing scheduled for 11:45am today. We’ll learn then just how worried Public Health is about the outbreak and whether it will mean reimposing and/or tightening restrictions or adopting other measures.
3. The federal budget and Nova Scotia
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
“Overall, it’s a positive budget that aligns with my priorities,” was Premier Iain Rankin’s comment just shortly after the federal government unveiled a 739-page document that outlined massive spending to stimulate the economy, protect the environment, and improve gender equity. “The highlight is the childcare investment, which is very substantial.”
Rankin was talking about Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s commitment to spend $30 billion over the next five years to establish a universal daycare or Early Childhood Education program modelled on a program in Quebec, where the participation rate of women in the workforce is among the highest in North America. Ottawa is prepared to spend $8.3 billion a year after that.
Rankin said the “rough math” should provide Nova Scotia with about $100 million a year in federal money, and he has asked the Department of Education for options on the best way to establish a program, perhaps beginning with three-year-olds.
“There may be money to create more spaces or pay childcare workers more,” suggested Rankin. The federal budget documents expect provinces to sign five-year bilateral agreements to pay a share of the operating costs. It’s unclear how the new funding will change the mix of privately owned and non-profit childcare centres across the province.
The stated aim of the federal government is to provide families with $10-a-day child care by 2025-26. Rankin was asked if he thinks that can be achieved in Nova Scotia, given that families are currently paying in the vicinity of $825 a month per child.
“That’s a lofty goal,” admitted Rankin. “But if we can sign an agreement and make that happen, I’d be very pleased to do that. I expect this budget will pass and we will be able to leverage this opportunity and we will finally have universal childcare. That’s been a goal with our pre-primary program and we want to continue moving forward in that direction.”
Rankin said he’s also pleased to see the federal government extend until September pandemic-related assistance programs, such as the CERB for workers and rent relief for businesses. And he likes the $17.6 billion in the federal budget for the green economy, which includes interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to assist homeowners with energy retrofits.
The federal budget includes a staggering a $354 billion deficit for last year and a promise to bring that down to $30.7 billion in four years.
Rankin said one disappointment was the failure of Ottawa to listen to the premiers, who have collectively been urging the federal government to increase transfer payments to the provinces to cover a larger percentage of health spending. Rankin noted that back in the 1970s Ottawa picked up about 35% of health care expenditures compared to just over 20% today. He said the federal government has indicated it won’t reopen that debate until the pandemic is over.
Ottawa has made “targeted” funding available to provinces to improve long-term care, which Rankin said Nova Scotia will put to work once he is clearer on the amount and the details. The federal budget also commits $3 billion to Health Canada over five years, starting in 2022-23, “to support provinces and territories in ensuring standards for long-term care are applied and permanent changes are made.”
Hopefully that signals that this year, 2021-22, will see standards for long-term care get hammered out that will apply across the country.
Asked if there was anything in the federal budget that could establish a new interprovincial transmission line (dubbed the Atlantic Loop) that would flow more electricity from HydroQuebec into the Maritimes and help Nova Scotia close coal plants earlier, Rankin said if that project gets off the drawing board, a funding request would most likely be submitted to the Canadian Infrastructure Bank. That idea is in the discussion stage.
And while the federal budget was being introduced yesterday, the provincial budget introduced by Rankin received approval from a majority of the MLAs. The document will likely provide the basis for a provincial election that could come as early as June, depending on what happens in the next week or so with COVID-19.
4. Board of police commissioners’ lawyers
“The city’s board of police commissioners won’t be getting its own permanent lawyers, but following advice from staff, it will now be able to seek an outside legal opinion when needed,” reports Zane Woodford:
At its virtual meeting on Monday, the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners discussed a report on whether the city’s legal team is in a conflict of interest when it advises the board.
Click here to read “Halifax police board to seek independent legal advice on an ‘occasional ad hoc’ basis.”
1. Old Album Number 10
Stephen Archibald continues his series showcasing his old photos. I was most interested in the photo above, from 1976. Writes Archibald: “A big house at the end of Prince Albert Road in Dartmouth, perhaps where the Superstore is now? It may have been a funeral home at this point. Wonderful that the unusual gingerbread along the roofline had survived. Some sort of verandah appears to have been removed.”
I think of the Superstore site as home to the former Dartmouth Inn, but all of that was long before my arrival in Nova Scotia. Readers?
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am) — virtual meeting, with captioning on a text-only site.
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting, with captioning on a text-only site.
Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm)
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting, with captioning on a text-only site.
Training for Today’s Construction Professionals (Tuesday, 11:30am) — Zoom webinar:
Understanding the concepts of structural design and systematic design procedures helps architects, construction professionals and builders select appropriate structural systems and building materials for their projects. Learning drafting using AutoCAD through separate program would help complete the structural design and prepare the set of design drawings that will be taken to the job-site where the project becomes reality, through a step by step procedure of construction management program, including: planning, cost analysis, procurement, contract administration, quality control and quality assurance, risk assessment and dispute resolution.
This webinar will give an overview on three programs, Structural Engineering, AutoCAD, and, Construction Management, and explain the link between them to complete the life cycle of a project. Bonus / Take-away: You will receive a diagram explaining the procurement process in a project.
Primary Health Care Learning Series (Wednesday, 12:30pm) — Zoom webinar; Maureen Coady will present “Informal professional learning in a community-based health education program: The transformative learning of one interprofessional team,” followed by Nicole MacKenzie: “Shared Decision Making: A Missing Link in Pediatric Pain Management?”
Untangling the atomic through nanoscale features that allow the outstanding mechanics of spider silks (Wednesday, 4pm) — Jan K Rainey will talk; Iris hopes there are no pictures of spiders.
Oral Health Is Health (Wednesday, 6:30pm) — Livestreamed via Facebook, this Open Dialogue Live episode features Dr. Tracy Doyle, Dr. Carolyn Mitchell, Dr. Brandon Doucette, and Dr. Mary McNally.
There is a direct association between oral disease and the social determinants of health, such as education, income, and geographic location. Disparities in access to care need to be investigated in all aspects of oral health care, including the allocation of resources, oral health care services usage, and the quality of services.
This Open Dialogue Live episode will explore current issues in oral health care faced by Canadians across the lifespan, from children under care of the government to aging populations in long-term care facilities.
Dr. Rebecca Affoo, Faculty of Health, and Shauna Hachey, Faculty of Dentistry, the co-leads of Dalhousie’s Healthy Populations Institute Flagship Project Putting ‘Oral Health is Health’ into Action, will moderate this session.
Black Business Initiatives: 25 Years and Beyond (Tuesday, 1pm) — the first in a series of webinars, featuring Rustum Southwell, CEO of the Black Business Initiative – BBI; Harvi Millar, Sobey School of Business; and Cynthia Dorrington, President of Vale & Associates Human Resource Management and Consulting Inc. From the listing:
Black Business Community has been an integral part of Nova Scotia’s economic and social fabric for over 200 years.
Despite enormous struggles and challenges over the years, many successful Black-owned businesses in the region only demonstrate the resilience and tenacity of Black Nova Scotians. Over the years, Saint Mary’s University and the Sobey School of Business have contributed to the progress of the Black Community by graduating hundreds of Black students from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Black Nova Scotian community who went on to establish successful businesses. To strengthen this partnership and to celebrate the contribution of Black Businesses in Nova Scotia, the Sobey School of Business is launching a series of conversations with the Black Business Community, first, to highlight and celebrate the contribution of Black Businesses in our region’s economy and, second, to identify gaps, challenges, and opportunities to foster resiliency of Black Businesses in the post-COVID economic landscape.
The conversation will focus on lessons learned from 25 years of Black Business advocacy, including many challenges inherent to Black Canadians that constitute an impediment to business startups and continued growth and scaling. Furthermore, the conversation will touch on how we can mobilize support programs and initiatives for Black Businesses so that the community can emerge stronger and more prosperous in the post-COVID environment.
On Levity (Wednesday, 8pm) — 2021 Alumni FYP Lecture, with Elizabeth Edwards.
In the harbour
05:00: One Marvel, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
06:00: Pictor, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
08:00: CSL Spirit, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Sydney
11:30: Elektra, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
15:00: Energy Progress, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
16:00: Pictor sails for Portland
17:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Bedford Basin anchorage from Sydney
21:30: One Marvel sails for New York
06:10: Lambert Spirit, barge, and Tim McKeil, tug, arrive at Aulds Cove quarry from Belledune, New Brunswick
16:00: MIA Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Quebec City
Short Morning File today; I’ve got a lot on the go. We’ll see what happens at the COVID briefing, but I also have pieces from Linda Pannozzo, Jennifer Henderson, and Yvette d’Entremont lined up, and Zane Woodford is at council today.