1. Lord Dalhousie report
Last night, the “Scholarly Panel to Examine Lord Dalhousie’s History on Slavery and Race” issued its draft report. I wasn’t there, but you can see what went down in a social media recap of the event.
I asked for a copy of the draft report yesterday but couldn’t get it; last night it was announced that a final report will be released in six months.
2. Lobbyist registry
This has been a personal annoyance for some time, and I’m glad to see CBC reporter Michael Gorman give voice to it:
I’ll only add that by comparison, the federal lobbyist registry website is a joy to use. Besides easy-to-navigate search features, I can see monthly breakdowns of lobbying efforts and newly registered lobbyists. There’s no reason the province can’t do this.
I’ve written before about the need for a city lobbyist registry. Council has decided against it, but there’s another step that the city can easily take that would at least provide some protection against corruption: a vendor disclosure statement.
Vendor disclosure statements are now commonly required by cities, universities, school districts, and other governing bodies in the United States. They are simple forms, which are filled out under penalty of perjury by any company doing business with the government body.
For example, here’s the vendor disclosure statement Florida City, Florida requires (I just randomly picked this one through a google search; there are thousand of others). It’s as basic as they come, requiring the vendor to list its relationship with the city, and any family members that may work with the city.
The Raleigh, North Carolina school board takes it a bit further, requiring vendors to disclose the names and addresses of all owners and officers of the company.
The gold standard, however, is the vendor disclosure statement required by all governments and government agencies in the state of New York. The state requires companies doing business with the governments to list owners’ specific stock shares and other companies that they own stock in, and to answer various “responsibility” questions; here are a few of them:
At any time during the past five (5) years, has the vendor, any affiliate, or any other entity in which the principals/officers of the vendor are/were principals/officers, been subject to the following, whether pending or completed:
Debarred from entering into any government contract?
Declared in default and/or terminated for cause?
Determined to be ineligible to bid or propose on any contract?
Suspended from bidding or entering into any government contract?
Received an overall unsatisfactory performance rating from any government agency on any contract?
Are there or have there been any judgments, injunctions or liens, including but not limited to, judgments based on taxes owed, fines and penalties assessed by any government agency against the vendor, any affiliate or any other entity in which the principals/owners of the vendor are/were principals:
At any time in the past five (5) years?
That remain open, unsatisfied, or in effect today?
Have any bankruptcy proceedings been initiated by or against the vendor or its affiliates within the past seven (7) years (whether or not closed) or is any bankruptcy proceeding pending against the vendor or its affiliates regardless of date?
Is there any litigation pending or threatened, or other existing or pending condition, claim or event that may significantly affect the financial status of the vendor or any affiliate?
In the past five (5) years, has vendor or any affiliate or any individual currently or within that period serving as a principal owner, officer or managerial employee been investigated by any government agency, including any federal, state and local regulatory or law enforcement agencies?
In the past five (5) years, has vendor or any affiliate or any individual currently or within that period serving as a principal owner, officer or managerial employee been subpoenaed before a grand jury, federal, state or city department, commission or agency to testify in an investigation or produce records (including voluntary participation) concerning any transaction or contract with a government entity?
Importantly, the completed vendor disclosure forms are public record. Anyone can see them. The forms are the basis of some of the reporting on the Trump family’s business entanglements, for example.
Vendor disclosure forms are not perfect. People can lie, and fail to properly disclose. But doing so is a felony.
It is far past time for Canada to catch up with the United States on government/vendor transparency. We need both a working lobbyist registry and a vendor disclosure requirement.
Speaking of lobbying, today Halifax city council will consider the request for funding for the YMCA.
You’ll recall that the council’s Audit and Finance committee referred a request for $1 million in Y funding to the full council. That referral came despite considerable concern from committee members; I reported last week:
“I don’t support this,” [councillor Steve] Adams told the committee. “We have our own recreational facilities, and community groups could use this money.”
Adams went on to say that the Y’s promise of “access to all” was dubious. “That doesn’t guarantee access to all,” he said. “That guarantees access to a reduced fee. I don’t believe that access will be guaranteed for all, because if it was, that’d mean free access to the facility.”
Adams also questioned the Y’s financing scheme, saying first of all that the budget for the project had nearly doubled from $22 million to $40 million — apparently in part because the initial projected cost was based on the American dollar, and the loonie has lost value since then. Secondly, Adams said that the Y projects having 6,000 paying members at the new facility, when the best membership number at the old facility was 1,700. (The latter figure is found in the Y’s annual reports.)
Councillor Lorelei Nichol wasn’t as outspoken as Adams, but she did point out that when the city has in the past funded recreational facilities (she mentioned a couple of high schools), there was a joint-use agreement that gave city access to the facility.
The proposed terms of the funding agreement are spelled out in this table:
The footnote reads:
Southwest Properties is constructing the facility and upon completion the YMCA will assume ownership through a condominium interest. As such, funds cannot be awarded to the YMCA for construction. Hence, funding is directed towards the acquisition of title (a capital purchase).
I think this is a bad idea all around. First, there’s a bait-and-switch going on: the Y got double the height of the building now under construction, in part by promising that it would cost the city nothing. Second, as Adams pointed out, the financing of the complex still seems extremely problematic. Third, why should the city fund a project that directly competes with its own rec programs?
But honestly, what annoys me most about this is the entitlement of the Y backers. I remember sitting through a public hearing about the proposed development back in 2012, as one connected business person after another told council that the Y was the best thing ever, and council would be sinning against the sky dog and motherhood if it didn’t approve the super-height of the building.
I was a member of the Y when I lived in Oregon. And now, when I travel, I often stop by the local Y to work out. I’m usually impressed with their operations. The West End Y in Toronto, for example, has made service to its neighbourhood its prime focus, and I enjoy talking with the diverse crowd while I’m there. I’ve had much the same experience in cities across the continent. So this isn’t some anti-Y thing; rather, it was how the testimony at the public hearing seemed so contrary to the Y’s mission that struck me the most. I kept thinking, what about that Y over on Gottingen Street; does that shoestring operation benefit at all from the shiny new Y? Why can’t you build the new facility to the north of Citadel Hill and serve an underserved neighbourhood at the same time? It felt like a bunch of rich business people wanted a semi-private health club they could duck into on their lunch breaks from their Spring Garden Road area offices.
Some of that entitlement was brought to my attention yesterday, via this letter from Y president Brian Posavad:
There’s nothing wrong with showing up at a council meeting, but note that Posavad still thinks council will provide $1.5 million to the Y — a half a million dollars more than city staff is entertaining.
Relatedly, Judy Haiven asks “Why is it that in Halifax developers always come out on top?”
4. Dispensary raid
A police release from yesterday:
Police charge nine people for selling cannabis
Police have charged nine people with selling cannabis after a search of an illegal cannabis dispensary in Dartmouth last Friday.
Shortly after 10 a.m. on December 7 members of the Drug Unit of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division conducted a search warrant at the Atlantic Compassion Club Society, located at 141 Main Street in Dartmouth. Investigators seized in excess of 10,000 grams of cannabis, 1,000 pre-rolled cannabis cigarettes, 350 packages of cannabis resin as well as other cannabis products.
A man from Halifax, a man from Chester and three men and four women from Dartmouth were all charged with section 9(2) of the Cannabis Act – Possession for the purpose of distributing and section 10(2) of the Cannabis Act- Possessing Cannabis for the purpose of selling.
The president of the Atlantic Compassion Club Society is William Matovu, who has a Vancouver address.
City Council (Tuesday, 10am, Acadia Ballroom, Marriott Harbourfront Hotel) — I’ll be late, but when I get there I’ll be live-blogging via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer.
Joint HWCC, NWCC, and HEMDCC Special Meeting (Tuesday, 6pm, Acadia Ballroom, Marriott Harbourfront Hotel) — a “housekeeping item” about coastal area requirements.
Heritage Advisory Committee Special Meeting (Wednesday, 1:30pm, City Hall) — rescheduled from Dec. 6.
Halifax and West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
Port Wallace PPC- Meeting (Wednesday, 6:30pm, HEMDCC Large Meeting Room 1, Alderney Gate) — no agenda posted.
Human Resources (Tuesday, 1:30pm, One Government Place) — “Succession Planning in the Public Service.” They do this with elected officials and government managers in the US — who takes over after the nuclear bombs drop?
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Auditor General Michael Pickup will appear before the committee.
No public events that we’re aware of.
Genomics: Biology and Medicine in the 21st Century (Wednesday, 3:30pm, Theatre B, Tupper Medical Building) — John Archibald will speak.
Science Photo Contest Winners (Wednesday, 12:30pm, Atrium 101) — Cake! Coffee! Calendars!
Student Newfangledness, Discovery and Entrepreneurship Showcase (Wednesday, 1pm, in the lobby of the building named after a grocery store) — from the listing: “Ellen Farrell and her students invite you to: Student Newfangledness, Discovery-entrepreneurship Showcase. CoFounder’s Pitches – MTEI Newfangled Projects – Mini Ventures Kiosks – Our Venture Grade.”
In the harbour
07:45: AlgoNorth, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Quebec City
09:00: APL Columbus, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
12:00: Patriot, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
13:00: Augusta Sun, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea
14:00: USCG Abbie Burgess, buoy laying vessel, sails from the old Coast Guard base for sea
16:30: Radcliffe R. Latimer, bulker, arrives at Pier 25 from Montreal
20:30: Patriot sails for sea
I dislike Tuesdays.
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