1. Province blames Joe Ramia for budget shortfall
Yesterday, Finance Minister Randy Delorey issued the year-end fiscal update, noting that:
Relative to Budget 2016-17, the forecasted net position is projected to decline slightly. The Province of Nova Scotia is forecasting a surplus and net position of $12.1 million for 2016-17, a decrease of $5.0 million from the budgeted net position of $17.1 million.
The forecast reflects $17.5 million in unexpected costs necessary to respond to October storm damage in Cape Breton.
The surplus has declined by $115.3 million, with $110.3 million resulting from the delay in completion of the new Halifax Convention Centre, which will push the Contribution to Fiscal Capacity to the next fiscal year. The balance comes from other changes to the fiscal plan identified in this update.
Nova Scotia’s path to sustainable finances gives it some capacity to respond to unexpected costs, fluctuations and opportunities without falling into deficit.
Revenue is down overall by $72.9 million; however, a $110.3 [million] decrease in funding for the new convention centre is partially offset by gains in other areas. [emphasis added]
I’m not an accountant, but I can usually wrap my head around a budget. Not this time, tho. This made no sense to me.
See, for its share of the convention centre capital costs, the province is on the line for $56 million amortized over 25 years, and additionally for half the $2.9 million in annual operating expenses. That is a future expense, a liability.
So how does the delay in opening the convention centre — which also delays the expense — translate into a reduction in provincial revenue?
I had to ask around about that, but now I understand that the federal government’s share of the project — $51.4 million, deliverable when the project is complete — is considered a revenue. And because the convention centre opening has been pushed back a (second) year, that expected payment won’t come in this budget year.
Where the other $58.9 million ($110.3 minus $51.4 million) comes from, I don’t know. As I understand it, the city’s side of the arrangement matches the province’s commitments — it too has a $56 million capital obligation amortized over 25 years, and half the $2.9 million in operating costs. I’ve asked the Treasury Department for clarification.
Again, I’m no accountant, but I can’t see this as anything but a budgetary sleight of hand. Shouldn’t the convention centre be viewed as a single capital project, with revenues and expenditures considered as a whole? How does receiving a payment from the feds against a future obligation for the province translate into a revenue line item?
And what gets ignored here is the risk. If we’re going to be categorizing capital payments as operating revenues, then let’s consider the whole ball of wax: What happens if construction of the convention centre isn’t completed until 2020? What happens if it’s never completed? What happens if it is completed, but then is an utter failure financially and the government’s capital payments aren’t covered by an increase in revenue (those celebrated “economic spinoffs”)?
Anyway, I note that we’ve gone from celebrating Joe Ramia as the saviour of Nova Scotia to blaming him for budgetary shortfalls. We could make a game of this: from now on, everything that goes wrong is Joe Ramia’s fault.
2. Triangle leaves NS with fracking cleanup bill
“Ten years after Nova Scotia enticed Triangle Petroleum to experiment with hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in Kennetcook, Hants County, it’s the province that is cleaning up the mess it left behind,” reports Robert Devet:
In 2007 Energy Department Petroleum Division staff began carefully shepherding Triangle’s approval applications along to make sure the company cleared the regulatory requirements of multiple departments. Ever since the department has taken a casual approach to whether Triangle met its regulatory commitments.
This summer the oil company filed for bankruptcy in the US. Triangle Petroleum is still operating, but the government of Nova Scotia is left taking care of cleanup at the six well sites around Hants County. This includes finishing the extensive cleanup of two fracking waste holding ponds, a project now managed by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.
3. Richmond County job opportunity
“The financial director of scandal-plagued Richmond County has stepped back from filling in as the chief administrative officer, the county’s warden says,” reports Holly Conners for the CBC:
Jason Martell had been serving as interim CAO on top of his regular job since late October. The former CAO, Warren Olsen, resigned amid a forensic audit and an ombudsman’s report, which singled out and heavily criticized his travel and expense claims.
Martell announced Monday he wanted to concentrate fully on his finance duties.
Warden Brian Marchand said having Martell split his time between both positions may have contributed to the municipality not yet completing its annual year-end audit.
There’s a CAO position open? Let me play matchmaker…
4. Dalhousie bike lane
“A local cycling group said it’s shocked after an announcement Thursday that a protected bike lane on Dalhousie University campus would no longer be completely protected,” reports Zane Woodford for Metro:
In a “neighbourhood notice” from the university sent by email Thursday morning, the university announced it had removed the bollards – plastic posts that separate bicycle traffic from vehicular traffic – in front of the Dalhousie Arts Centre, the building that houses the Rebecca Cohn Theatre, “to alleviate traffic congestion associated with large frequent events.”
“It took a long time to get the bicycle lane in on University Avenue … and it is a pilot project so that leaves a little bit of room for tweaking it, but removing the barriers from the bicycle lane is not a tweak,” said Halifax Cycling Coaltion executive director Kelsey Lane. “In fact, that’s a huge change, and it completely changes the nature of the bicycle lane itself.”
1. View 902 Podcast
Paul Andrew Kimball, of the blog View 902, has a new podcast, cleverly named the View 902 Podcast. He describes his first episode:
I chat with my good friend Aaron John Gulyas. We cover an eclectic range of subjects, including the strange life and times of Albert K. Bender and his role in creating the Men In Blackmythos (the subject of Aaron’s great presentation at the 2016 East Coast Paraconference in Liverpool, Nova Scotia back in early August), why people gravitate towards the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis as the go-to explanation for UFOs, Ornette Coleman as a metaphor for consciousness, and some 19th century American history, including a debate over who really won the War of 1812. We also field a couple of questions from a message forum on The Paracast radio show, and we conclude with a shocking revelation about President-elect Donald J. Trump.
I only just learned of it this morning, so haven’t had time to listen. Assuming it’s available through the various podcast aggregators, I’ll give it a whirl today.
2. Adaptive reuse
Stephen Archibald surveys how historic buildings have been re-purposed time and again in Halifax. Above is Archibald’s 1970s-era photo of the Henry House.
No public meetings.
Thesis Defence, Computer Science (9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Ghada Amoudi will defend her thesis, “A Study of the Relationship Between the Geographic Locations of the User and Participation in Twitter During Different Types of News Events.”
New company & society filings
Twenty-five years ago, when I was a young reporter in California, one of my regular weekly chores was to park myself at the county clerk’s office for the day and go through the various registries — birth, death, and marriage licenses, and the fictitious name registries for new businesses. That basic research translated into dozens of news articles.
Here in Nova Scotia, the birth, death, and marriage registries are not public record — I think they should be, but that’s a story for another day. However, our equivalent of California’s fictitious name statements, the Registry of Joint Stock Companies, is public. But I’ve noticed that no one — no reporter, business or otherwise, and no one else, that I’m aware of — follows the registration of new businesses.
Which is too bad, because there are little nuggets of potential news stories all through the registry. I know, because I missed a big one a few months ago that I would’ve discovered had I been paying attention to the registry. And so…
There are too many new businesses and society for me to report them all — that might be a chore for an intern in the near future — but I think there’s value in at least looking at them, and reporting the more interesting ones back to readers. I’ll now make this a regular Friday feature.
This week’s new registrations of note:
Nursing History Nova Scotia Society
President: Gloria Stephens
The organization has been operating informally since 2007 but appears only now to be establishing itself as a registered non-profit. There’s more here. It’s amazing how much thought went into their logo (above): “The Nursing History logo is symbolized by: Florence Nightingale Lamp with blue background for nursing; Waves, in green, under the motto for the Atlantic ocean; Colours of Nova Scotia — blue, yellow, white and green.”
Lily Pond Child Care
30 Barque Court
President: Melissa MacDonald
Halifax Neighborhood Welcome Society
5850 College Street
President; Kabilan Thanapaalasingham. Vice President: David Forner.
Thanapaalasingham and Forner are associated with the Dal Medical School. “The HNWS remains in its infancy at this time, with many details still to be worked out before the program may get up and running,” Forner responds to my question via email. “Please contact us again in the future, once things start to get rolling, and we would be pleased to share more information. We appreciate the interest in an initiative that we believe will be very helpful to patients and their families.”
King’s Aviation Society
President: Doug Kaizer (Kentville). Vice-president: Ronald Testroete (Port Williams)
Exponential Genetics Inc.
21 Bayview Drive
President: Ralph Flemming (Lower Truro); Vice-President: Randy Flemming (Amherst)
Nature of business: “To apply to Health Canada to become a legal producer under the ACMPR regulations.”
Randy Flemming goes by the Twitter handle @PotWhisperer; for the past year he has been an agent for American Cannabis, which has been working to supply Canadian growers hoping to tap into the new legal market for marijuana.
President: Catherine Moreira
Catherine Moreira is apparently “Cat Adalay,” the daughter of Peter and Carol Moreira who was profiled in their “Entrevestor” column in November. (Her parents fully disclosed the family relationship in the profile.) According to her parents, Cat’s business “is dedicated to producing modular, low-maintenance wind turbines that can be integrated into buildings.”
Kaye Artistic Reflections & Designs
President: Janice Kaye
Kaye is big into colours, as in the above piece.
2909 Highway 202
Nature of business: Production of vegetable and salad greens.
Registered Agent: Tina Morgan
The Inverness Pantry
15933 Central Avenue
Nature of business: convenience store
Registered by Cabot Links Enterprises
The 420 Friendly Company
104 – 299 Innovation Drive
Director: Greg Pitkanen
Pitkanen gets extra points for calling himself an “Inventrapreneur.” Pass the bong, dude.
Black Vision Media
Nature of business: Journalism and media services
President: Sabrina Lorenz
Weirdly, I can find nothing on either Black Vision or Sabrina Lorenz. You’d think someone in the journalism and media services biz would have more of a profile.
It hasn’t registered as a business in Nova Scotia, but a company calling itself Express Weed Canada says it offers “safe, discreet, legally-compliant medical Cannabis delivery, offering the finest strains of Indica and Sativa. We offer same day delivery In Vancouver and Express shipping to Halifax Nova Scotia.”
In the harbour
6am: Oceanic Crimson, chemical tanker, arrives at Pier 9 from Saint John
8am: Silia T, oil tanker, arrives at Anchorage from Saint John for bunkers
9am: Reykjafoss, general cargo, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
11:30am: Reykjafoss, general cargo, sails from Pier 42 for New York
2pm: NYK Romulus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
4:20pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre
6pm: Atlantic Project II, general cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp
6:30pm: Atlantic Project II, general cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
11:30pm: NYK Romulus, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
Cal at Strange Adventures (Prince & Water Streets, across from the Maritime Museum) tweets:
— Strange Adventures (@strangeadventrz) December 15, 2016