1. Nova Scotia’s “world class” gold
Joan Baxter spent the last four days attending the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention in Toronto, (see her mid-convention report here) and concludes her visit with a look at Nova Scotia’s claim that it has “world class” gold, and I have to include this photo of Dave Duncan because don’t we all know that guy?
Gold was also the focus of the PDAC exhibits of exploration and mining companies working in Nova Scotia.
There was Northern Shield Resources, exploring for gold near Barney’s River in Pictou County on a property the company calls “Shot Rock”; MegumaGold that is exploring widely for gold along the Eastern Shore; Transition Metals that is exploring for gold in the highlands of Cape Breton; Anaconda Mining that is planning to open a gold mine at Goldboro on the Eastern Shore; and also Atlantic Gold, which was acquired for $722 million last year by Australia’s St. Barbara, and is now a fully owned subsidiary that operates the Touquoy gold mine at Moose River.
Atlantic Canada had its day at PDAC on Tuesday this week, at a session called “Canada’s Atlantic Edge,” to showcase “mineral sector investment and trade opportunities” in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick. It was also heavy on gold exploration and mining, which featured in seven of the twelve presentations.
The event was funded by Atlantic Canada Development Opportunities (ACOA) and the provincial governments, and hosted by the “Atlantic Canada Mining Alliance,” an entity that isn’t defined in any of the handouts or the documents on the “Atlantic Edge” thumb drive handed out to attendees.
Boiled down, it seemed there were two main messages being conveyed to potential investors. First is that the Atlantic provinces have “world class” deposits of minerals and metals for the taking by investors, and second, that the provincial governments in Atlantic Canada provide mining companies with lots of support, although no details were provided.
As for Nova Scotia specifically, were all the gold exploration and discoveries to lead to mining, it looked as if Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore and southwest tip could one day be covered with open pit gold mines.
And as far as I could tell, no one in the audience of more than 100 people was interested in asking whether this was a good thing.
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Oh, and if you’re new to these parts, you can go here to read about Nova Scotia’s hilarious obsession with being “world class.”
2. Covid-19 and hockey
Some 82,000 people from around the world were predicted to attend the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Women’s Championship games to be held across Nova Scotia next month. But what happens if the coronavirus emerges during the tournament?
That’s the question I asked Jennifer Henderson to look into, and she came back with this response:
“Fingers crossed.” That’s how Garreth MacDonald, communications director for Hockey Nova Scotia, described how fans and players are feeling these days as the spread of the COVID-19 virus threatens to derail the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Women’s Championship planned for Truro and Halifax at the end of this month.
Years of planning and $650,000 in public money spent to secure an event which had promised to deliver thousands of fans and what Tourism department officials estimated to be $2.4 million dollars in revenue now appears left up to Fate.
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3. Northern Pulp
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
Northern Pulp’s challenge to Environment Minister Gordon Wilson’s decision requiring the company to do more investigation on the environmental impacts of a proposed replacement for the Boat Harbour wastewater facility got slightly more complicated yesterday.
The pulp company’s request for a judicial review is supported by Unifor Local 440 (representing 260 unionized mill workers) as well as by eight trucking and forestry contractors dependent on the mill for much of their income. The mill, the union, and the contractors are all named as parties bringing forward the case in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.
Sean Foreman is the lawyer defending the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment. Yesterday he gained some reinforcements for his side of the court battle. The Maritime Fishermen’s Union, the PEI Fishermen’s Association, and Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board are requesting intervenor status in the upcoming hearing on the grounds their livelihood could be at stake and they financed studies that became part of the original environmental assessment process. The non-profit Friends of the Northumberland Strait is also requesting intervenor status.
Lawyer Brian Hebert represents the Pictou Landing First Nation, which has lived with the pollution from the Boat Harbour facility for more than 50 years. Hebert is also on-side with the province and will ask the Court to include the First Nation as a party who can respond to Northern Pulp’s action. Hebert will argue the First Nation was involved and consulted during the environmental assessment process and has an obvious stake in the outcome of the review by the court.
Lawyer Hebert will make that argument only if Northern Pulp objects. If Hebert loses, he will pursue intervenor status similar to the fishing groups.
The matter will come back to court on May 14 to set a date for scheduling. By that time the lawyer for the province has promised to make available electronic copies of the thousands of pages underpinning the decision of the Environment Minister. Lawyer Christopher Robinson for Northern Pulp must flag any concerns he has with the documents assembled by the province or with potential intervenors seeking the opportunity to ask questions during the court challenge.
Meanwhile, the mill is being mothballed and Northern Pulp has issued statements saying the company would like to reopen it in the future if it can convince the provincial Environment Department its proposed effluent treatment plant can coexist with the fishery in the Strait, the watershed area for the Town of Pictou, and the First Nation neighbours next door.
4. Tech start-ups will make us all rich
— Membertou (@MembertouCorp) March 4, 2020
Writes Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator:
I had been thinking that I had not heard anything lately about Orenda Software Solutions, the Membertou-based tech company founded by Tanya Seajay (formerly Tanya Collier-MacDonald) when suddenly, there it was in my inbox: Sydney-Victoria MP Jaime Battiste would be in town on Wednesday to announce federal funding worth $1,447,169 million for two “emerging” Cape Breton tech companies, Orenda Software Solutions and Swarmio.
This week, Campbell focuses on Orenda:
Orenda received “up to” $418,000 from the National Research Council of Canada and $440,000 (in the form of an conditionally repayable contribution) from ACOA, which brings its total federal and provincial funding to date (as best I can tell) to $1.3 million.
Defining the stages of a tech startup is not an exact science, but five years in, from what I understand, a firm should probably have attracted some private sector investment and some customers.
If Orenda has either of those things, it’s not making a big deal about it on its website. There are no client testimonials and no press releases announcing successful fundraising rounds.
In 2016, when Orenda received $141,000 from ACOA, Seajay told the CBC the money would help take the project “from beta to commercialization.”
“There is still no revenue coming in but you still need a really good skilled team,” she said. “So you need to be able to pay their salaries.”
In 2018, when Orenda received $200,000 from ACOA, Seajay told the Post that the company had six employees and planned to expand to 20.
Today, the press release announcing the latest round of (public) funding said the company had recently hired five people and hoped, with the new money, to hire seven more.
As for its current stage of development, the press release quotes her as saying:
We are extremely proud to continue our work at Orenda here in Membertou. We have seen this company grow significantly over the last five years and anticipate that this growth will continue with the help of the investments received here today.
Which tells me…well, nothing.
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5. “It’s got a cop motor…”
On January 3, a couple and their 10-year-old son were driving down Lucasville Road, going the speed limit and otherwise minding their own business, when they were passed on a solid yellow line by a Ford Crown Victoria. The car was distinctive: it was white, but had a black hood and black trunk.
After they were passed, the driver of the Crown Vic held started waving an assault-style rifle out the window, apparently in an attempt to scare the family.
That, anyway, is the allegation made by RCMP Corporal Andy Bezanson in court documents obtained by the Halifax Examiner.
The Crown Victoria “continued driving erratically, passing cars on the solid line, swerving into the opposing lane and drove into the left hand lane as it approached to turn right on Sackville Drive,” explained Bezanson.
The couple jotted down the licence plate number and called police. But when Bezanson ran the plate, he found it wasn’t assigned to any vehicle. However, the plate had previously belonged to a guy living in Pockwock, and Bezanson drove out to talk to the guy. The guy said he’s never owned a Crown Vic, but the plate was once on a truck that he traded in some time ago at O’Regan’s.
Is it dumb to be waving a rifle out the window of such a distinctive looking car? I’ll let you decide. But you know what’s even dumber? Driving the next day to The Dome in the same car and leaving at 3:45am, just when all the Halifax cops are patrolling the streets and among other things looking for such a car. In fact, Halifax Constable Malcolm Joseph saw the car, but it sped up Prince Street and he lost it.
Bezanson sent out an email to all the cops saying, hey, look out for the white Crown Vic with black hood and trunk, and if you see it, detain the driver. RCMP Constable Dustyn Durette emailed back to say that back in December, he tried to stop the same car while it was going “150-200 km/hr” on Hammonds Plains Road. Durette smartly decided it’d be too much of a danger to chase the car.
The day after Bezanson sent the email, Constable Adam Melo, who works in a plain clothes unit, happened to see a white Crown Vic with a black hood parked in the parking lot of Alexandra’s Pizza on Hammonds Plains Road “as if it was conducting speed radar.” But alas, Melo hadn’t yet read Bezanson’s email, so didn’t know to interrogate the driver.
The “as if conducting speed radar” is interesting because Crown Vics are very often used as police cars, and are often painted white with black hoods and trunks, like this 2005 Crown Vic, which is being sold as surplus in Alabama for just $4,850:
A retired Reno cop explains:
Police sedans need to be large cars. They need interior room for cops wearing lots of equipment, radios, video systems, and all sorts of other electronic gear, and so as to accommodate a prisoner cage and possibly special seating that is resistant to hiding contraband. They need heavy-duty suspensions, brakes, cooling, and electrical systems. They need to have largish trunks for carrying all the other field gear cops use on patrol.
Because there were (and still are) a lot of CVPIs (Crown Victoria Police Interceptors) in police service, aftermarket vendors made a lot of accessories for them. Agencies had many consoles, shotgun/rifle racks, emergency lights, computer mounts, and other items to choose from. For cars offered by other manufacturers, the selection was far more limited.
Crown Vics were refined over the years, and they got better with each iteration. Before long, they were what people recognized as a police car, and they held up well. Several agencies stocked up on CVPIs before Ford stopped selling them, and have a lot full of them, ready to be deployed as the cars currently in service wear out.
I first thought that the owner of the Crown Vic harassing people on Lucasville Road probably bought the car at a police auction. But later in Bezanson’s narrative, I read that the 2008 Crown Vic was painted white, but the hood and the trunk of the car were “painted in a messy black thick paint,” as if the owner splashed house paint or some such on it to make it look like a police car.
In any event, two days later, on Jan. 17, a super at an apartment building on Inglis Street called Halifax cops to complain that a car had been left in the parking lot and was getting in the way of the snow plow trying to clear the lot. Constable Justin McCormick showed up and found, yep, a white Crown Vic with a black hood and trunk, but it had a completely different licence plate — not the registered plate nor the bogus plate registered to the truck of the guy in Pockwock. McCormick ran this third plate and found that the plate had been reported stolen back in December. There was a piece of paper blocking view of the VIN on the dash, but McCormick got a towing company to unlock the doors and he was able to read the number.
The car was registered to Kelsey Marster and Travis Laing of Hammonds Plains (I half expected it to be registered to 1060 West Addison, but no such luck), and was not reported stolen. It was impounded. Later that day, Laing showed up at the downtown police station to claim the car. Laing was given the usual police caution about incriminating himself, but according to the court document, Laing talked anyway, saying:
i. He did not steal the licence plate;
ii. He found the plate in the Tantallon Rona parking lot and noted it had a valid sticker on it;
iii. He put the plate on his vehicle while parking downtown Halifax to avoid him getting any parking tickets;
iv. Laing claimed to not know he was doing anything wrong or that the plate had been reported stolen.
Laing was arrested for possession of stolen property (the plate) and given a court date.
Now the story takes an even a darker turn. It turns out that Laing’s name is like a rash all over the computer, a real menace.
According to the court document, Laing had been convicted once before (in 2013) of licence plate swapping, but that’s the least of it. Bezanson checked the various record systems that police use, and found these incidents that involved Laing:
• In 2010, Laing was drinking with “a group of people.” Two men got in a fight, and one of them was stabbed 12 times. Laing “left with the person believed to have committed the stabbing,” but was not charged.
• Also in 2010, Laing threatened people with a knife. He resisted arrest and fled, and was subsequently convicted of all three offences.
• In 2011, while he was drunk, Laing shot a friend’s vehicle with a shotgun, but got the friend to make a false report to the RCMP to cover up the circumstances. Police figured it out, however, and executed a search warrant, seizing a shotgun. He was charged with and convicted of Possessing a Weapon for a Dangerous Purpose.
• In 2012, Laing was suspected of throwing a Molotov cocktail at a house, but police couldn’t collect enough evidence to charge him.
• Later that year, Laing was “suspected of walking around wearing a mask and carrying a machete,” but no charges were laid.
• In 2013, Laing got drunk at a bar in Halifax and was kicked out. He punched the bouncer. He was charged with assault, but the charge was dismissed.
• In September 2014, Laing fled the scene of an accident and was later convicted on charges related to the incident.
• In December 2014, Laing was accused of slashing tires after being kicked out of a Halifax bar, but no charges arose from the accusations.
• In 2019, Laing was said to be involved in a couple of road rage incidents, but no charges were laid.
Bezanson obtained a photo of the Crown Vic and ran that by the couple who had been passed on Lucasville Road, and they said it was one and the same. That identification, combined with the rest of Bezanson’s investigation and Laing’s long history of involvement with the criminal justice system, was enough for a JP to approve a search warrant of Laing’s Hammonds Plains house and the car.
Bezanson told the JP that Laing did not have a firearms permit. His housemate, Marster, did, but she had no registered weapons. The search warrant was to look for firearms, including the one that was allegedly waved at the family driving down Lucasville Road.
The search warrant was executed on either January 30 or 31, and here’s what was seized:
That’s right, Laing had 16 firearms on his property. None of them registered. And he allegedly likes to get drunk in downtown bars.
Laing has not yet been tried on any charges related to the possession of those firearms, or for the Lucasville Road incident.
6. Houston v McNeil
Jennifer Henderson also draws my attention to an exchange between PC Leader Tim Houston and Premier Stephen McNeil on the floor of the legislature yesterday, during Question Period. This is during a discussion over the Hugh MacKay drunk driving allegations:
TIM HOUSTON: Mr. Speaker, one of the Premier’s many versions of events is that his chief of staff spoke with only two individuals who had a personal stake in these allegations. We do know that the allegation was sent to a caucus outreach worker. We do know that that caucus outreach worker, and at least the Premier’s chief of staff, had an unredacted version of that email, and we know they had it for almost a year.
Are we to expect that an outreach worker had a direct line to the chief of staff who was travelling with the Premier while they were Europe? Is it not more likely that the outreach worker went to her direct supervisor who then took it to their supervisor and so on? Is it not reasonable to assume that the caucus chair was aware?
Can the Premier confirm who the person is who actually realized that this information was important enough to call the chief of staff and advise her of the allegations?
THE PREMIER: Again, I want to thank the member for the question. As he knows, it’s been well-talked about here and beyond. The fact of the matter is, since it happened in November of 2018, the allegations that are out there are before the court of law. We weren’t notified until May, six months after. He’s right that there are other issues associated with this incident – personal, private information associated with people who are involved, some of whom do not sit in this House.
One of the things that we did very quickly when we learned in October – the Thanksgiving weekend of 2019 – for the very first time that one of our colleagues had an addiction to alcohol, we put him in treatment. That’s exactly what you should be doing with anyone you know – the very first thing you should do is giving them treatment associated.
Let me be clear: no one knew the member from Chester-St. Margaret’s had an addiction to alcohol – myself or my chief of staff – until that October weekend. We did the right thing by having him in treatment, and now there are allegations and evidence that will be before the court. The court will deal with that.
TIM HOUSTON: We have a situation where you have two people who are both alleged to be part of a conspiracy, and then you have the chief of staff going to those two people and saying, hey, are you guys conspiring to do something? And they say, no, we’re not conspiring. The chief of staff says good enough for me, case closed.
Is that the extent of the investigation? That’s what we’re being asked to believe the extent of the investigation was – to ask the conspirators if they were conspiring. Based on these facts, as they have been described by the Premier, I have serious concerns about the calibre of the investigation.
I’d like to ask the Premier: Would the Premier confirm that is in fact what he would have this House believe is the accurate description of the chief of staff’s investigation?
THE PREMIER: I would have this House believe exactly what we’ve told them. There are other parts to this situation, personal and private information of individuals. That information is theirs, personal and private. Unlike the honourable member, I am not going to stand in this House and reveal information about individuals for cheap political points.
The honourable member standing in this House is taking advantage of someone who is suffering from an addiction. That’s exactly what he’s doing. Someone who has gone into treatment. There’s an allegation that is before the courts, and I’m going to let the court of law determine the innocence and guilt of everyone who stands before it. I’m not going to try to do it on the floor of this House.
Let me be very clear: my chief of staff did not, nor did anyone in my office, have any idea that Mr. MacKay had an addiction before Thanksgiving weekend of 2019. We will continue to ensure that he stays in treatment, whatever his political future may be. I can tell you for certain, no one in this caucus, under my leadership, will try to gain political points on someone else’s suffering. That is just a reality. It’s what is called being a good human being. (Applause)
TIM HOUSTON: Yet, that’s exactly what they did. The accusation clearly indicated that there was more evidence to support the claim – perhaps text messages, pictures, videos. Evidence that would either clearly support the accusation or would possibly quickly clear the member’s name of any wrongdoing. The evidence was a simple phone call away, Mr. Speaker, but all indications are that that phone call was never made.
The evidence could have shown possibly what the Premier didn’t want to know because he put his Party before a person and the rest of Nova Scotians. Can the Premier confirm if his chief of staff even bothered to ask for that additional evidence?
THE PREMIER: Again, Mr. Speaker, we have been through this many times. There was no evidence presented that weekend, nor has there been any evidence presented on the floor of the Legislature by the honourable member, who has used up almost a week on this very topic.
He can’t attack our government on policy, Mr. Speaker. He can’t attack us on the things that are happening in Nova Scotia – the building of an economy, more young people staying here. He can’t take us on, so what does he do? He attacks the reputation of someone who has an addiction.
TIM HOUSTON: Actually, I’m not sure if the Premier noticed, but it’s his reputation that is being questioned. The Premier’s constant response to many of my questions has been that it’s before the courts, that there’s no evidence, that it’s up to someone else to take it to the police. This is the Premier’s stance because he doesn’t want to know what he didn’t want to know. It speaks to a culture that I have referenced many times, that this Premier concerns himself with behaviour only once it has been caught. Once they have been caught, that is when the Premier is concerned.
Is it the Premier’s stance that it is only a court conviction or a guilty plea that is the standard for ethical behaviour among his team?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, finally the honourable member has verbally identified his strategy – to attack people personally. He is talking about attacking me personally. He has not presented one single policy idea on the floor of the Legislature, not one. Yesterday, the Leader of the New Democratic Party put two on the floor.
He has not brought one idea to the floor of the Legislature about improving the lives of Nova Scotians. What he has attempted to do is try to tear down the reputations of others, people sitting on this side of the House or people who have challenging things in their lives. Imagine your motive. What goes through an individual’s mind when you’re going to build your own reputation on the backs of those who are suffering?
“Do you know bollards?” asks Stephen Archibald:
When I’ve pointed them out on walking tours, people are often not familiar with the name, but for some reason, are amused and enjoy saying “bollards.” There are many examples around Halifax, so let the hilarity begin.
And so, he has an entire post about bollards, and a good joke about bollocks besides.
Now, just as I do with boot scrapers, I’m going to forever be noting bollards all over town.
No public meetings.
SHIFT EQUITY (Friday, 8:30am, Alderney Landing) — day 1 of a free public conference dedicated to advancing conversations about themes on (in)equity and accessibility. Speakers include Houssam Elokda and Lezlie Lowe; there’s a youth panel and a panel on accessibility, and a free showing of There’s Something in the Water. More info and registration here.
Woodwinds Recital (Friday, 11:45am, MacAloney Room, Dal Arts Centre)
Science and the Sacred (Friday, 12pm, Chase Gallery, Nova Scotia Archives) — More info here.
Black Feminist Health Studies | Dalhousie Feminist Seminar Series (Friday, 12pm, Room 2021, Marion McCain Building) — OmiSoore Dryden will talk. More info here.
Structure, Properties, and Biomedical Opportunities for Borophosphate Glasses(Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Richard K. Brow from Missouri University of Science and Technology will talk.
An Introduction to Vocal Pedagogy (Friday, 3pm, Room 121, Dal Arts Centre) — with Glen Nowell.
The Gift of Erasmus (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — William Barker will talk.
IDEA Speaker Series (Friday, 4:30pm, in the auditorium named for a fossil fuel company, Richard Murray Design Building) — the listing babbles on something crazy; attend at your own risk! All the buzzwordy info here.
Birth of a Family (Friday, 5:30pm, Room 1108, Mona Campbell Building) — free screening of documentary and conversation with the director, Tasha Hubbard, and Raven Sinclair. More info here.
The Impossible Museum ‑ Curator’s Tour (Friday, 6pm, Thomas McCulloch Museum, Life Sciences Centre) — artists D’Arcy Wilson and Amy Malbeuf “reimagined” the museum. More info here.
SHIFT EQUITY (Saturday, 9am, Halifax North Memorial Public Library) — day 2 of a free public conference. Ted Rutland, David Wachsmith, Ingrid Waldron, Irvine Carvery, Claudia Jahn, and others will talk about Inequity and Exclusion, Airbnb Effects on Affordable Housing, and Housing Affordability. Registration and schedule here.
4th Annual NS Open Data Contest (Saturday 8:30am, Room 1020, Rowe management Building) — data will save civilization. More info here.
Research Expo (Friday, 1pm, Loyola Conference Hall) — three-minute Research Presentations and over 35 displays from Faculties in Science, Business, and Arts. Register here.
“Why do you write in Irish?” (Friday, 7pm, Room 260 in the building named after a grocery store) — Biddy Jenkinson, an Irish-language writer, explains why she prefers not to translate her work into English, in the D’Arcy McGee Lecture in Irish Studies.
Media Ecology: Television and Animation (Friday, 5:35pm, KTS Lecture Hall) — Thomas Lamarr from McGill University will talk.
Will You Taste Our Blood? (Friday, 8pm, The Pit) — Katie Clark’s play explores themes of violence, consent and hook-up culture while re-imagining the Dionysus-worshipping Maenads. Continues to Saturday. More info and tickets here.
In the harbour
06:00: ZIM Qingdao, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Barcelona
07:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, moves from anchorage to Fairview Cove
16:30: ZIM Qingdao sails for New York
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
18:30: CSL Tarantau, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Jacksonville, Florida
I spent two hours yesterday finding 54 seconds of audio tape.