1. Nova Scotia Power
“When Chris Huskilson retires as president and CEO of Emera at the end of this month, there is nothing to prevent his successor Scott Balfour from assuming Huskilson’s executive position and continuing in his current role as the Chair of the Board at Emera-owned Nova Scotia Power,” reports Jennifer Henderson:
A decision Friday from the Province’s Utility and Review Board says it does not have legal authority under the Public Utilities Act to “order” that Nova Scotia Power be run by a separate leader to prevent conflicts of interest where ratepayers’ interests may not be the same as shareholders.’
Henderson is following up on her previous reporting on a UARB hearing about alleged conflicts of interest between Nova Scotia Power and Emera:
The purpose of the proceeding is for the UARB to determine if NS Power is complying with the Affiliate Code of Conduct. Its rules are designed to avoid cross-subsidization: to keep the business activities and the governance of NS Power separate and apart from the activities of its parent company (Emera) and Emera-owned sister companies.
An audit carried out by NorthStar Consulting between October 2015 and December 2016 found what it described as “management indifference” to rules that require NS Power to be the only provider of electricity services and for its management team to come from within the company.
Those rules were broken. NS Power argues they are a matter of interpretation at odds with a well-established practice at Emera and its subsidiaries to cross-appoint executives to hold key positions in more than one company.
That interpretation extends to leadership as well — the current chair of the NS Power Board is Scott Balfour, who is also the Chief Operating Officer of Emera Inc. During the audit period, Balfour also chaired the Board of Directors of several Emera affiliates, including Emera Brunswick Pipeline (a natural gas transmission company in New Brunswick), Emera Utility Services, and Emera Maine.
The NorthStar audit found four cases totalling $11 million in value involving NS Power and Emera Utility Services where the rules around hiring an affiliate weren’t respected.
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2. John Lohr
“Making free speech the raw-meat main dish for the Conservative party’s right-wing base worked well enough for current federal leader Andrew Scheer,” writes Stephen Kimber. “Will it do the same for wannabe Nova Scotia Tory leader John Lohr?”
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3. White Eye for the Black Guy
Three years ago, when I was on vacation, El Jones agreed to guest write that week’s Morning File. It was a Saturday. Later, she said she enjoyed having a platform and asked if she could continue writing on Saturdays. I readily agreed, and since then she has marked out the spot as distinctively hers.
I’m beyond happy to publish Jones, but the “Morning File” label on Saturdays increasingly didn’t reflect what she was actually doing. And because it was labelled “Morning File,” it felt redundant to link to it again on the next Morning File, the one I write on Monday.
Having mulled this over a bit, I’ve decided to remove the “Morning File” label from her Saturday piece, to punch up my boring (and too long) headlines for the rest of the Morning Files, and to link to Jones on Mondays.
This week, Jones discusses the reporting on Abdoul Abdi’s court proceedings, in which the CBC noted that “he wore a red toque and a black sweatshirt with a giant gold Mercedes Benz emblem on it.” Writes Jones:
The reporter is working from files submitted by reporters at the hearing in Toronto. The intent here is probably to provide some description to break up the “dry” reporting on the ins and outs of immigration law. Set the scene, journalists are taught. Let the audience get a picture in their minds. I’m sure there was no viciousness in the intent. I want to be clear on that. I don’t believe this reporter intended any harm. But the intent is not the effect.
And the effect is jarring. Abdi’s clothes have no relevance to the proceedings. The only possible relevance they have is in highlighting him as a young, Black man. The reporter may have intended to provide “human detail,” but we live in a society where Blackness is never seen as human.
We do not hear what the lawyers are wearing. The effect of describing Abdi’s outfit, with no other context about him as a human being, is to introduce into the story imagery that signifies a particular Blackness to the audience. Not just a sweatshirt, but a sweatshirt with a “giant gold Mercedes Benz emblem,” like those rappers, like those thugs, like those cocky, arrogant Black men who need to be disciplined, controlled, and contained.
As Idil, an advocate for Abdoul, asked on Twitter, “how giant could the logo have been to distract from the real issues?”
I would add my own contrary observation that adds to Jones’ position: I don’t recall ever seeing a white person’s dress described negatively in such articles (sometimes positively, but not negatively). White dudes come into court looking like slobs all the time, but no one reports on that.
4. Seafood exports and social welfare utility
Premier Stephen McNeil keeps going on about seafood exports:
Today through March 13, we're participating in the largest seafood show on the continent, taking place in Boston. We want to continue building on our success of growing the value of our fishery exports to nearly $2 billion in 2017: https://t.co/WGF6tOzuwa pic.twitter.com/CBhpOcOT6C
— Stephen McNeil (@StephenMcNeil) March 11, 2018
But is it a given that rising exports are necessarily a good thing?
I’ll take McNeil’s numbers at face value. There are 18,000 people working in the industry, so we may think that more exports means more money for them… but does it? Many of those jobs are minimum wage jobs in processing plants; maybe more exports means more hours, or maybe it means more people are hired on, also at minimum wage. I can hardly begrudge someone looking for more hours the extra work, or someone looking for work the opportunity to get a job, at whatever pay, but we should look at the money spent on increasing exports and ask ourselves: is this the best bang for the buck?
I put it this way when discussing the “benefits” of the new convention centre in January:
What would happen if the money that was spent on a new convention centre was spent instead on, say, reducing university tuition? What would be the economic impact of that, and if you compare the two, which is the better investment? That’s not a question asked of the [economic impact consulting] firms.
Likewise, the economic impact calculations don’t analyze values. We can argue about the initial assumptions and resulting projections, but there’s no doubt the new convention centre will have real economic impact… but for whom? Some people will benefit a lot, others not so much. Now let’s say we spent the same dollar amount on poverty reduction — increasing social assistance payouts and forgiving debts of the very poor. This too would have real economic impact, but (largely) benefiting a different group of people. Why is the first expenditure acceptable and the second not? The reports don’t get into such questions, which in the end aren’t so much economic as they are philosophical and political.
American blogger and economist Duncan Black points me to the economic term for my search for values: social welfare function:
My new rule is that everyone who comments on their believed effects of economic policy should present their social welfare function. Good or bad for whom, roughly? Every prediction about something being “good” or “bad” for “the economy” implicitly has a social welfare function. Most elite commentary has at its core, even though nobody admits it, the idea that Jeff Bezos earning $1 trillion more this year is a better outcome than Jeff Bezos earning the same amount of money and $999.99 billion being split between the rest of us equally. Again, nobody actually admits that, but when distributional concerns are dismissed as requiring value judgments, and “higher GDP is always better than lower GDP no matter what the other effects” is considered to be some sort of value-neutral assertion, that’s what they’re saying.
It’s not necessarily the case that an increase in the GDP or an increase in exports is good for me, or for you. My joke is “where are you going to spend your Chinese export money?” To the extent that that’s funny, it’s because we both know that neither you nor I will see one red cent of that export money.
Who will? Well, John Risley will see a lot of it. According to McNeil’s figures, $947 million in seafood exports are for lobster, and much of the proceeds from those sales will end up in Risley’s hands, and he will then park much of that money in the Cayman Islands. How does this benefit the rest of us?
Now, if the push for increasing seafood exports was coupled with a strategy for breaking Risley’s near-monopoly on Nova Scotia lobster, with supports for cooperatively owned and operating processing plants, and redistribution of tax receipts away from the ultrarich and to the working poor, well, that would be something. But for the most part, the push for increasing seafood exports is mostly just intended to help line the pockets of the already rich.
5. The Icarus Report
“An electrical fire on board a Porter flight led to an unexpected landing at the Fredericton airport Saturday morning, and more delays for some 70 passengers eager to start their March Break,” reports Emma Smith for the CBC:
The 8:50 a.m. flight was headed from Halifax to Montreal when passengers noticed sparks and smoke in the cabin.
Porter confirmed in an email to CBC News that the crew reported “a small electrical fire that was extinguished prior to landing.”
Weekend flight incidents aren’t posted to Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System (CADORS) website until the following Monday.
6. Bad teachers
Tristan Cleveland says that when he was a kid, he had a bad teacher:
When I was in school I had a teacher who periodically hit students. It was an open secret, but the easiest solution to a problem like that is to ignore it, so students like me were stuck with her.
I arrived at school one morning and was unpacking my bag when I said to the student next to me, “Something’s wrong, my locker is changing size.” For the next half hour, I sat crying unable to move. My hands were clenched and I couldn’t pry them open. My limbs were shredded with the sharp sense of pins or needles — “paresthesia,” caused by a lack of oxygen to the nerves.
I now realize that what I was experiencing was a panic attack, the result of months of anxiety in a child not prone to anxiety, caused by the bullying of my homeroom teacher.
And yet, I wasn’t moved from her class. It was only later, when she hurt a mentally challenged student, that she was disciplined — by being put on temporary leave.
Therefore, concludes Cleveland, the entire system of disciplining teachers in Nova Scotia should be changed and handed to the proposed College of Educators.
You wanna talk about bad teachers? I went to a Catholic parochial school, staffed almost entirely by nuns with zero education training.
I had some good nuns — Sister Claire, bless her, was a guitar-strumming nun who both taught me to read in First Grade and took me to my first R-rated movie, Billy Jack, in Eighth Grade. She died a couple of years ago, and the world is a far worse place without her.
But between those bookend spells of sanity, there were any number of horror nuns. Sister Mildred — she called herself “Mild Red” but we all knew the emphasis was on “Dred” — was a masochist somehow allowed to oversee 60 prepubescent boys, relying mostly on the backside of her hand. Sister Teresa was the yardstick-weilding English teacher who was very possibly the inspiration for “The Penguin” in The Blues Brothers. Sister David would on occasion lift a misbehaving boy up by his nose or earlobe and toss him up against whatever surface was nearby — I’d guess that my classmate Todd still has a doorknob mark in his back. Worse, we knew that if we ever went home to complain about such antics, our fathers would say we no doubt deserved it, and beat us up again.
This was, of course, wrong. There was a culture of violence — and even sexual abuse, although I did not witness that — that prevailed in Catholic schools. However, from the present-day accounts of people I know who send their kids to the same schools, such behaviour is now completely and thankfully unacceptable.
But let’s be clear: the kind of teacher behaviour Cleveland is talking about is not an issue with teaching standards or pedagogical strategies, but rather with the law: it’s child abuse. If a teacher is actually hitting students, then the cops should be called. And if people aren’t calling the cops, then the cops should be called on those people too.
To upend an entire system of teacher oversight because of clearly illegal behaviour makes no sense at all.
No public meetings.
Strings Recital (Monday, 11:45am, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — students of Mark Lee, Susan Sayle, and Shimon Walt perform.
Representations of Epitrochoids and Hypotrochoids (Monday, 2:30pm, Room 227, Chase Building) — Michelle Bouthillier will speak. His abstract:
Representations of a given curve may consist of implicit or parametric equations, along with any envelopes that produce that curve. We will describe the different methods of passing from one of these representations to another, then apply these methods with regards to epitrochoids and hypotrochoids. These are the families of curves that are produced by tracing the path of a point affixed to a circle as it rolls around the inside or outside of a stationary circle. When the point affixed to the moving circle is on the circumference, epicycloids and hypocycloids are produced. We will provide several conjectures and results on the representations of epitrochoids and hypotrochoids, with emphasis on epicycloids and hypocycloids, including their implicit representations and their construction as envelopes.
Senate (Monday, 3pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — more discussion of divestment.
I Smile Back (Monday, 6pm, Lindsay Room, Halifax Central Library) — screening of Adam Salky’s 2015 film. Followed by a panel discussion on mental health issues.
Thesis Defence, Pathology (Tuesday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Krysta Coyle will defend her thesis, “Profiling Retinoid Signaling in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Towards Precision Applications.”
Security-Performance Trade-offs (Tuesday, 11:30am, Computer Science Auditorium, Goldberg Building) — Stefanie Roos from the University of Waterloo will speak on “Mediating Tugs of War: Security-Performance Trade-offs in Embedding-based Routing Protocols.”
Long Colimits of Topological Algebras (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Gabor Lukacs will speak.
Fair Pricing for Journals: Public Consultation (Tuesday, 4:15pm, Room B229, B Building, Sexton Campus) — from the event listing:
The “big deal” as a model for purchasing scholarly journals is no longer sustainable for mid-sized universities like Dalhousie. The five largest bundles we subscribe to have increased in cost by 78% since 2010. One bundle costs $850,000. In another bundle, fewer than 40% of the titles are being used by Dalhousie researchers, scholars and students. We subscribe to dozens of bundles. This year, we are examining over 7,000 titles in six bundles that are up for renewal. We want your input. Attend a public consultation and select which journals are important to you at: https://fairprice.library.dal.ca
Portrait of Jason (Tuesday, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — screening of Shirley Clarke’s 1967 film.
Catalonia’s Cinema (Tuesday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) — Jerry White will talk about “Homage to Catalonia’s Cinema: Understanding Spain’s Most Restless Region.”
In the harbour
Midnight: Spiegelgracht, cargo ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Philadelphia
2:30am: CMA CGM Pellas, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
6am: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
7am: Hollandia, general cargo, arrives at Pier 31 from Puerto Tarafa, Cuba
9am: Stellaprima, heavy load lifter, arrives at Pier 9 from New York
10am: Spiegelgracht, cargo ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
10am: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Sydney
11am: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
3:30pm: Columbia Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4pm: Adriatic Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
5:30pm: Atlantic Sun, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
6pm: Dalian Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
11pm: Silver Millie, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Rotterdam
I don’t care where they put the time, but I wish they’d keep it at one place and just leave it there.