1. Province House
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
Health care took up most of the oxygen in yesterday’s first Question Period during the first sitting of the Legislature in 2021.
Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston questioned Premier Iain Rankin about whether the vaccine rollout is moving as fast as possible in Nova Scotia and why Rankin hesitated before accepting 13,000 doses of AstraZeneca offered by Ottawa. Rankin repeated his earlier statement that he first wanted to consult with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang and that he knew he had a two-day window in which to respond.
Health Minister Zach Churchill was put on the defensive to explain why the number of Nova Scotians registered and waiting for a family doctor has grown from 47,000 last March to 60,000 today.
“The numbers have gone up this year and there are two key factors which have impacted that,” replied Churchill.
“One, COVID has impacted our recruitment of internationally-trained doctors. We do have doctors who are trying to get here but the pandemic has impacted our ability to get them here sooner. Also, we have had a lot more people move to Nova Scotia from other parts of Canada. We do surveys with people who are unattached to doctors and 30% indicated they are new to the area. So population growth has driven our numbers up.”
NDP Dartmouth North MLA Susan Leblanc asked Churchill how he intended to solve the problem. Churchill said the province is working to increase the number of services or “scope of practice” that pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and registered nurses can offer to help fill the gap left by the shortage of family physicians.
Leblanc asked Rankin if he was comfortable with the fact that police, rather than mental health workers, were the first responders for more than 600 emergency calls last year from people struggling with mental health issues. Here’s Rankin’s response:
“I agree we can do a lot more for mental health and addictions especially with what has been shown throughout the pandemic. I’m worried about those Nova Scotians who are experiencing mental health challenges and addictions; that’s why we created a new Office of Mental Health and Addictions within the Department of Health. We will be hiring a clinician to head the Office. We will be working to ensure we have more capacity in communities so that there is more availability for mental health supports.”
Today is a big day for adult adoptees in Nova Scotia who have been pleading with the government for decades to open up adoption records so they can search for their birth or biological parents. Nova Scotia is the last province in the country to make these changes. Community Services Minister Kelly Regan will conduct a briefing this morning before tabling the bill in the legislature.
Last but not least, a question posed by the Halifax Examiner to the Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday asking which rules will apply to approved harvests on Crown lands prior to the implementation of stricter guidelines on clearcutting expected soon is still waiting for clear answer. The spokesperson for that department, Deborah Bayer, sent this response yesterday:
“Work on implementing all of Prof. Lahey’s recommendations is well-underway. Staff are now reviewing the input from the recent public consultations on the draft Silvicultural Guide for the Ecological Matrix and the final report on High Production Forestry criteria is expected soon. We will have more details to share related to implementation of the Triad as we move forward.”
Zero new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Nova Scotia yesterday (Thursday, March 11).
There are 19 known active cases in the province. One person is in hospital with the disease, in ICU.
The active cases are distributed as follows:
• 3 in the Halifax Peninsula / Chebucto Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 1 in the Dartmouth/ Southeastern Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 7 in the Bedford/Sackville Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 2 in the Cumberland Community Health Network in the Northern Zone
• 1 in the Colchester/East Hants Community Health Network in the Northern Zone
• 4 in the Annapolis and Kings Community Health Network in the Western Zone
One case isn’t ascribed to a community health network.
Nova Scotia Health labs completed 2,625 tests Wednesday.
Pop-up testing has been scheduled for the following locations:
Friday: St. Margaret’s Centre, Upper Tantallon, noon-7:30pm
Saturday: Elmsdale Fire Department, 11:30am to 5:30pm
Sunday: Elmsdale Fire Department, 9:30am to 3:30pm
You can additionally get tested at the Nova Scotia Health labs by going here.
As of end of day Wednesday, 45,149 doses of vaccine have been administered — 29,766 first doses and 15,383 second doses. On Wednesday alone, 2,593 doses were administered, a single-day record. We’ll see the daily number of vaccinations increase dramatically in coming weeks, reaching an expected ~12,000/day by around mid- to late-April.
Here are the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average (today at 2.3) since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):
And here is the active caseload for the second wave:
Premier Iain Rankin and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang have scheduled a COVID update for 1pm today; I’ll be live-blogging it on my Twitter account.
3. Class action suit filed alleging sexual abuse in prisons
“A former federal inmate has launched a proposed class action lawsuit against Correctional Service Canada, claiming the service fails to protect inmates of prisons for women against sexual misconduct and abuse,” report Leslie Amminson and Ethan Lycan-Lang:
The suit, filed in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on Wednesday, claims Correctional Service Canada (CSC) does not take adequate measures to prevent staff-to-inmate sexual violence, and that it fails to properly investigate reports of sexual assault when they are brought forward. The suit is awaiting court approval.
A statement of claim submitted to the court outlines a number of allegations, including a failure on the part of CSC to uphold the Charter rights of inmates of prisons for women, specifically their rights to security, equality, and protection from cruel and unusual punishment.
“The stories and experiences I’ve heard described to me by current and former inmates of female correctional facilities describe a systemic problem,” said Mike Dull, the lawyer representing the class, in an interview. “Hopefully this lawsuit will shine a light on, and create an impetus for, policy and procedural changes that will better protect individuals within those institutions.”
Pieridae Energy (Canada) Limited has submitted an Environmental Assessment of the realignment of Marine Drive (Highway 316) to make room for the proposed Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) facility in Goldboro. Reads the executive summary:
Pieridae Energy (Canada) Limited (Pieridae) is the Proponent of the realignment of approximately 3.5 km of the existing Marine Drive (Highway 316) in Goldboro, Nova Scotia (the Realignment; the Project). The Realignment will convey traffic along an approximately 5.6 km new road segment around the site for the planned Goldboro LNG facility.
Initially, the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (NSTIR) had proposed the Realignment. However, for schedule and practical reasons, Pieridae has agreed to design and construct the Realignment to NSTIR standards. It was further agreed that NSTIR will review and approve the design and, once completed, will take ownership of the Realignment and its operation and maintenance.
Pieridae is also the proponent of the Goldboro LNG facility and requires the Realignment for the implementation of its proposed Goldboro LNG facility. That proposal underwent a Class II Environmental Assessment (EA) process and received approval from Nova Scotia Environment (NSE) on the 21st of March, 2014.
While the EA for the Goldboro LNG Project did mention a realignment of Marine Drive (Highway 316), it did not assess a specific route. The Realignment has now been delineated and NSE has determined that the proposed road work requires a separate Class I EA under the Nova Scotia Environment Act and the Environmental Assessment Regulations (NSE, 18 January 2021; and 27 January 2021).
The proposed Realignment of Marine Drive will redirect traffic around the north side of the Goldboro LNG Facility and temporary laydown areas. The new route will be approximately 5.6 km long, connecting the local communities of Goldboro and Drum Head, along Marine Drive. The Realignment includes the construction of three intersections including one to Sable Road (access road to the former ExxonMobil Gas Plant) and one at each end of the Realignment, connecting to the abandoned sections of the existing Marine Drive, which will be maintained up to boundaries of the LNG Facility. The Realignment will be 2-lanes with posted speed limit and signage in accordance with NSTIR requirements. In some segments a third lane (climbing lane) may be added.
But as Joan Baxter reported in her two–part series, “The Goldboro Gambit,” it’s been a decade since the LNG plant was proposed, and it’s anyone’s guess whether it will actually ever be built, as one engineering firm has dropped out of the project and the German government loan guarantees that supposedly underpin the project are not at all certain:
At the end of September, Calgary-based Pieridae Energy announced that it was signing a deal with the global engineering firm, Bechtel, to develop a detailed plan by March 31, 2021 for its LNG project — a natural gas liquefaction plant, tanker terminal, and associated marine facilities — in Goldboro, on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore.
There was no mention in the press release of why a new engineering firm was needed, namely that in July 2020, Bechtel’s predecessor, Kellogg Brown & Root, had notified Pieridae in writing that it was stepping away from the project, which Pieridae claimed was “in apparent contradiction of its obligation” under a signed service agreement.
However, the September press release did specify that Bechtel would be bringing “a high level of LNG experience & expertise” to the project, and that as part of its new agreement Bechtel would be, “conducting meaningful engagement with the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq First Nations including their participation in the construction of a large-scale work camp at the LNG site.”
Cue the media reports about how Pieridae was“pressing forward” with the Goldboro LNG project, and glowing accounts of how preparations were heating up, and how, as the Chronicle Herald’s Roger Taylor put it in the unconditional future tense, this meant:
A small town of about 5,000 will spring up virtually overnight in Goldboro, Guysborough County next summer once the LNG project gets the green light to proceed.
Taylor went on to report that the Calgary company, Black Diamond Group, would be working with its partner, “the Wskijnu’k Mtmo’taqnuow Agency Ltd., a company wholly owned by the 13 Mi’kmaq communities in Nova Scotia,” to build and operate the work camp that would house 5,000 during construction at the Goldboro LNG site.
CBC reported that there was a “German loan guarantee for the project” that “includes $3 billion targeted at construction of the plant and $1.5 billion for upstream development.”
Such media reports make it sound as if the US $4.5-billion German loan guarantees are pretty much a done deal, and all that Pieridae needs to do to get the project going is come up with another US $5.5 billion from other investors for the US $10-billion project — although there is also the outstanding issue of Alberta’s Energy Regulator denying the transfer of Shell’s gas wells in Alberta to Pieridae until the matter of their clean-up has been resolved.
Baxter contacted the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to ask about the loan guarantees and got this response:
We can hereby confirm that we do know the respective Goldboro LNG project in Nova Scotia and that a Letter of Interest (LOI) has been issued by the German Government. This LOI is legally not binding and shall only express that the project can be considered as eligible under the assumption that certain criteria are met. An LOI can be issued to support a German offtaker [buyer of the LNG] in the bidding process.
Kindly note that a final and binding decision on whether an UFK [German government untied loan guarantee] can eventually be granted or not requires the prior assessment of the economic, technical and legal aspects in detail and the compliance with internationally accepted environmental, social and human rights standards. This assessment will be performed as part of the regular application procedure once a formal application has been filed.
An application has not been filed so far and thus the respective due diligence of the respective project has not been initiated and no approval or binding decision on granting a UFK-guarantee has been made.
We have asked Pieridae Energy to avoid ambiguous wordings in this context. [emphasis added]
Have I mentioned how great it is to work with a reporter who speaks German? Commented Baxter:
In spite of the German government’s request that Pieridae “avoid ambiguous wordings,” the “Facility Overview” on Pieridae’s website states that one of the project components is “US$4.5 billion in German Government loan guarantees to build Goldboro and develop Alberta conventional gas reserves to supply the facility.”
As if there are no ifs about the loan guarantees at all.
I need to update my joke: from Halifax, you drive up to the LNG plant, turn right til you get to the spaceport, and then turn left and you’ll get to the Melford Terminal.
But if the German government won’t come through with support for the LNG plant, maybe the Canadian government will? Pieridae has hired Luka Stevanovic — presumably the Senior Consultant at the Maple Leaf Strategies lobbying firm, and not the Serbian Olympic swimmer of the same name — to knock on doors in Ottawa on behalf of the proposed LNG plant.
According to the federal lobbyist registry, on May 5, 2020, Stevanovic spoke with Paul Hershaw, a senior advisor with Infrastructure Canada to discuss “infrastructure” related to the plant.
Nine days later, on May 20, Stevanovic spoke with Sean Fraser, the MP for Central Nova.
Two days after that, Stevanovic spoke with Mike Kelloway, the MP for Cape Breton—Canso.
On July 8, Stevanovic spoke with Peter Boehm, who is a Senator for Ontario but who was the Ambassador to Germany from 2008 to 2012 and now is chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The pair discussed “Regional Development, Aboriginal Affairs, Economic Development, Industry, Energy, International Trade, International Relations, Climate,” so I’m reading that as Stevanovic wanting Boehm to lean on the Germans on Pieridae’s behalf, using some bullshit climate change argument.
On August 15, Stevanovic had a joint conversation with MPs Geoff Regan, Mike Kelloway, and Sean Casey. The four discussed “Regional Development, Aboriginal Affairs, Economic Development, Industry, Energy, International Trade, Infrastructure, Employment and Training, Internal Trade, International Relations, Climate, Environment, Taxation and Finance,” and I’m guessing the chat was heavy on the “taxation and finance” part.
Stevanovic again spoke with Fraser on August 19 and December 1.
On December 10, Stevanovic spoke with Deliah Bernard, the regional assistant, Atlantic and Quebec for Indigenous Services Canada, and with Jordano Nudo, a policy advisor with Indigenous Services Canada, discussing “Aboriginal Affairs, Economic Development, Industry, Energy, Employment and Training.”
On December 17, it was back to Kelloway’s door.
Lobbying reports haven’t yet been filed for the first quarter of 2021, but it’s clear that with German financing uncertain, Pieridae is looking for a little love from the Canadian government.
Somebody — it should’ve been me, but it wasn’t — made a Freedom of Information request for “all briefing notes and analysis regarding the $5 million contribution made to Sandpiper Ventures announced on February 5th, 2021.”
The result came back from Laure Lee Langley, the deputy minister to the premier:
After a file search, we have located no record responsive to your application. Therefore, it is my understanding that pursuant to clause 7(2)(b) of the Act, that the Office of the Premier does not have custody or control of (a) record(s) which would respond to your application.
So $5 million in public money was simply handed over to a venture capital firm, no strings attached, with no analysis of how the money would be used or if it would actually benefit anyone at all in Nova Scotia; moreover, there wasn’t even a PR spin sheet sent to Stephen McNeil from communications staff.
That there was no analysis of the “contribution” underscores my view that it was just a gift to a bunch of connected rich women.
Remember: $5 million could have funded 1,500 child care spaces.
In other FOIPOP and COVID news, the provincial government gave $100,000 to the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia for “a pilot project for an app that dine-in restaurants and licensed establishments can use to collect patrons’ contact information for contact tracing. This will help standardize collection practices, ensure privacy of information, and reduce the burden on businesses. It will also improve public health’s ability to contact patrons as needed.”
I’ve used the app a couple of times — you text 11011 and say where you are, and I guess if some COVID-infected person was there at the same time, you’ll be told to self-isolate and get a test (or conversely, if you’re the COVID-infected person, all the other patrons will be alerted).
I have no idea if that’s $100,000 well spent. I wonder who got the contract, tho.
7. Dumb meters
A fellow named Randy Linzel has filed a complaint with the Utility and Review Board (UARB) about the new smart meters Nova Scotia Power is installing on houses and businesses.
Linzel has an Electrical Thermal Storage (ETS) unit in his house, which is probably something all of us should have. An ETS is a ceramic block that can be charged with cheap energy — by a solar panel or windmill, or (as in Linzel’s case) with power from the grid when rates are low at night. The ETS can hold the charge for as long as a week, and so it can serve as a replacement for or adjunct to a traditional furnace. It’s simple technology over 100 years old, and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions while saving money.
Anyway, in one of the better written citizen complaints to the UARB I’ve seen, Linzel lays out his problem with the smart meters:
NS Power is moving to Smart electrical meters. For homeowners with an ETS (Electrical Thermal Storage) unit, the present electrical meter is programmed with the times the rate changes. It also is programmed to handle the rate change times for weekends, daylight savings, and holidays and store the energy usage for each of the appropriate rates. The new meter will have the same functionality. In order for a homeowner to effectively harness the lower rates, the ETS unit needs to charge up via drawing electrical energy during the lowest rate period only. During the high rate periods, the stored thermal energy is released from the ETS unit. Since the ETS units were introduced by NS Power, the electrical meter has been the key interface to communicate to the ETS. There is a 2 wire, 24 volt AC connection between the meter and the ETS unit. When the rate changes from high to low the NS Power electrical meter signals the ETS unit and it charges up and likewise when the rate changes from low to high, the ETS unit stops charging. This has worked perfectly and the ETS unit functions as designed for all rate changes during the week, weekends, daylight savings and holidays.
No manual interaction is required by the homeowner. With the smart meter, the interface between the meter and ETS is no longer in place. As per the pamphlet sent to homeowners, NS Power will have someone install a timer at or near the ETS to replace some of the lost functionality. The timer is an Omron H5F. It is simply a timer that can be programmed to switch a contact each day at specific times with manual overrides. The timer does not have the ability to be programmed with holidays for the year or the dates for daylight savings. As well, its internal clock is not synchronized with the NS Power meter or the internet. For a homeowner to have their ETS charge during the daytime on a holiday, they must manually initiate an override either on the ETS unit or on the timer. As well, twice a year they must remember to put the timer in and out of daylight savings. Not SMART.
How do they want the complaint resolved?
Two options: 1) Install a smart meter that has the same connectivity to the ETS unit as presently exists. 2) If option 1 is not provided and the homeowner opts out of the smart meter and chooses to keep the existing meter, provide a discount as the homeowner will not have the smart features other homeowners have for reading energy usage. However, they will have an ETS that is perfectly in sync with the utility billing meter with zero manual intervention required.
There’s weather today. Everyone’s going to be talking about it.
No public meetings.
PIE Day (Friday, 3pm) — PIE = Public, Intentional, Explicit support for a just and inclusive community. Slices of damn fine pie (cherry, pumpkin, lemon, blueberry, etc.) will be available for donations to the DalOUT & South House Student Bursary Funds. Supplies are limited. Pre-order here, then pick up your slices of pie at the Loaded Ladle, SUB. More info here.
In the harbour
06:00: Fouma, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
15:00: Fundy Rose, ferry, sails from Pier 9 for Digby
16:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
16:30: Fouma sails for Kingston, Jamaica