1. Paper Excellence promises, er, something
“On the morning of July 15, Iris Communications’ Sean Lewis sent out a press release on behalf of Paper Excellence,” reports Joan Baxter:
It was chockablock with carefully calibrated and curated PR, informing us that Northern Pulp’s 54-year-old pulp mill in Pictou County was set to become “a “best-in-class operation” and “one of the world’s cleanest, most environmentally focused, and community-based pulp mills.”
And oh, by the way, in just two hours Northern Pulp would be holding a virtual “technical briefing” on the “transformation concept,” which media could access online, and if they wanted to ask questions they could dial in on a special number.
The media briefing consisted of two men speaking for more than an hour, and then taking a handful of submitted questions.
The timing of the sudden press conference tells us something, I think. Consider the political dynamic; continues Baxter:
According to CBC reporter Michael Gorman, Northern Pulp submitted its most recent proposal for a “transformed mill” and a new effluent treatment and disposal facility to Nova Scotia Environment earlier this spring.
At the time of the Northern Pulp media briefing on July 15, the department had not yet announced whether the project would require a Class I, or a more rigorous Class II environmental assessment.
Then, coincidentally (or not), just a few hours after the media briefing, Nova Scotia Environment issued its own press release saying that Northern Pulp’s effluent treatment plant project would be subject to a Class II assessment, as it “involves changes to the pulp mill itself, as well as the design and construction of a new effluent treatment plant.”
The company now has to register its new project, and an environmental assessment panel will be appointed to review the project and report to the minister, a process that typically takes 275 calendar days to complete, said the press release.
Still, if Kissack is to be believed when he said during the media briefing that Paper Excellence had a “tentative green light from government leadership,” for the project, that would suggest the company had already gone over the heads or behind the backs of regulators in Nova Scotia Environment to speak with and get tacit support from higher-ups in the Liberal government.
Which is, well, worrisome. But also par for the course when it come to the Pictou County pulp mill that has had an over-size influence on politics and forestry policies in this province since even before it opened in 1967.
It can’t be lost on anyone that Premier Iain Rankin will almost certainly call an election in coming days. Is Northern Pulp simply trying to reposition itself in order to become an election issue, hoping that the parties will try to out-do each other with promises of (supposed) rural forestry jobs related to feeding the mill? Or is there a more sinister secret agreement between the company and the Rankin government?
2. Money storm continues
Speaking of the almost-certain upcoming election call…
With files from Jennifer Henderson.
And now we’re at $300,982,000. That’s how much the Rankin government has promised in new expenditures since June 7. You can zoom in on the above map and click on the money bags to see details of all the spending.
3. Zero new cases
For the second day in a row, yesterday the province announced no new cases of COVID-19, and even the seven-day rolling average is at just 1.1 cases.
Last night, Nova Scotia Health announced six walk-in, no-appointment-necessary vaccination clinics will be opened, at the following sites and times:
• Cape Breton University Community Vaccine Clinic, Canada Games Complex
1250 Grand Lake Rd., Sydney
Saturday, July 17 and Sunday, July 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• St. Francis Xavier University
MacKay Room, Bloomfield Centre, 5555 Union Pl. 3rd Floor, Antigonish
Saturday, July 17 and Sunday, July 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Rath Eastlink Community Centre (Drive-thru)
East side parking lot
625 Abenaki Rd., Truro
Beginning Monday, July 19 and running week days from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
• Bayers Lake Community Vaccine Clinic
41 Washmill Lake Rd., Halifax
(Located in the former Brick building next to Old Navy)
Daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Tuesday, July 20
• Dartmouth Community Vaccine Clinic
39 Mic Mac Blvd., Dartmouth
(Next to Chapters in the Mic Mac Mall parking lot)
Daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Sunday, July 18
• Berwick Fire Hall
300 Commercial St., Berwick
Monday to Friday starting July 16 and ending July 23 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The drop-in option (no appointment necessary) is for the Moderna vaccine only, due to increased supply.
Moderna is interchangeable with Pfizer – they are both mRNA vaccines. Regardless of which vaccine an adult has had for their first dose, they can take Pfizer or Moderna for their second dose. It must be 28 days since your first dose to receive your second dose.
Currently, Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for children aged 12-17, and is not available through these drop-in clinics.
I don’t think any Moderna suddenly dropped into the province yesterday; rather, I think the release is cryptically signalling that people are vaccine shopping, delaying getting a second dose of Moderna in hopes of getting Pfizer down the road.
If so, this is problematic on a couple of fronts: it’s delaying the vaccination of children (who can only get Pfizer) and it’s pushing back the timeline for the province reaching the 75% double-vaccinated mark, when all or nearly all restrictions will be lifted and we can get back to living life with something like normalcy.
Related to vaccination, Yvette d’Entremont reports this morning:
How well do COVID-19 vaccines work in people with cancer, inherited and medication-related immune deficiencies, and other vulnerable populations like long haulers?
No one’s certain, but four studies led by researchers at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa are aiming to find the answers to those questions.
On Thursday, the federal government announced $8 million in funding for the studies through its COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) and Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group (VSRG). One study will investigate vaccine efficacy in cancer patients, and another will look at blood cancer patients specifically.
4. Doctor shortage
“With an election on the doorstep and 69,000 Nova Scotians now without a family doctor, how to encourage more family practitioners to set up shop in rural Nova Scotia is a hot-button issue,” reports Jennifer Henderson:
Back in 2013, Liberal leader Stephen McNeil promised a family doctor for every Nova Scotian but that turned out to be a promise he couldn’t keep and no one else will try to make this time. Ongoing efforts by Nova Scotia Health, the Dalhousie Medical School, and Department of Health and Wellness to recruit and retain more family doctors were the topic before the Health Committee of the legislature yesterday. And while a great deal of time and money is being put into the issue, the province is only treading water.
Over the past three months, Nova Scotia has welcomed 19 new doctors (eight of whom are family physicians), while 20 have left to either retire or relocate.
Dr. Nicole Boutilier, vice-president of Medicine with Nova Scotia Health, was unable to provide an estimate for how many will retire over the next three years. She said some family physicians close their practices but continue to work in other areas, such as COVID vaccination clinics or as consultants to companies developing medical products.
5. Blue Mountain–Birch Cove Lakes
“The provincial government is looking for feedback on the addition of 15 hectares of land to the Blue Mountain–Birch Cove Lake Wilderness Area,” reports Zane Woodford.
Zane hiked the area with Chris Miller yesterday, and I’m totally jealous, as while they were climbing over boulders and jumping streams I was stuck inside reading dreary court filings. In any event, Woodford reports:
Chris Miller, executive director of the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, has been working for years to create a proper trailhead in the area. Back in 2015, he worked with Maskwa and the Halifax Northwest Trails Association to create a trails plan for the area to protect the land from the unofficial trails created over the years.
“The trails that are there were done sort of informally. It’s not the best design and it’s leading to problems with hikers getting hurt or damages to the environment through erosion and trails going into wetlands and other significant ecosystems,” Miller told the Examiner earlier this year.
“It’s a real mess in there that needs to be fixed.”
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6. Bridging Finance
Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator continues her analysis of the Bridging Finance–Membertou First Nation–Sydney container terminal (two of which exist, one which doesn’t) arrangement.
After a good visual joke about Warren Buffet and Warren Zevon, Campbell gets to brass tacks:
Do Sheehy and Barbusci [principals of Novaporte, the company supposedly developing the non-existent Sydney container terminal] actually own 85% of nothing very much? I’m leaning toward that conclusion, especially in light of the details we now know about another project in Bridging’s portfolio: Sean McCoshen’s Alaska-Alberta Railway Development Corporation, or A2A.
McCoshen and A2A are at the center of the OSC’s investigation into Bridging Finance Inc and let me be clear from the beginning: McCoshen stands accused of serious irregularities associated with his loans from BFI and I’m not suggesting there is anything similar happening with Novaporte. My point is simply that while A2A attracted publicity, received a presidential permit and was permitted by BFI to use its “assets” as security for millions of dollars in loans, the company really doesn’t seem to have had much in the way of assets at all.
McCoshen’s ambitious plan was to construct a 2,570 km rail line from Delta Junction, Alaska to Fort McKay, Alberta and to convince the world that shipping bitumen by rail across the Canadian Arctic is a good idea. The price tag on his dream — $22 billion — makes Barbusci’s $1 billion terminal look like a bargain.
Between 2015 and 2021, BFI advanced $146 million in principal payments to McCoshen’s railway company, A2A, and as of 8 June 2021, according to PwC, A2A owed BFI $212,891,590, including “capitalized interest, fees, and other costs.” (See how private lenders make their money?) The loan was guaranteed by A2A, McCoshen and a handful of companies registered to McCoshen.
Both the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) and the receiver have “significant concerns” about the A2A loan, including the fact that $82.5 million of it was diverted to yet another company under McCoshen’s control, this one with no identified “commercial relationship” to A2A. None of the allegations has yet been tested in court.
Also on 8 June 2021, the receiver demanded payment of the loan and McCoshen promptly disappeared from public sight. (PwC has been informed he is “under medical care” and unable to respond to its inquiries.)
The bottom line here is, first, that if you think Bridging’s willingness to invest in — and fund Membertou’s investment in — Novaporte is a sign of the project’s viability, you really need to read more about the A2A railway project.
And second, if you think Novaporte is worth $55 million, you should also, probably, read more about the A2A railway project.
Campbell is doing great work here; it’s a really smart analysis.
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1. Vaccine acuity
“At the beginning of July my second dose of vaccine was administered at the IWK,” writes Stephen Archibald. “The appointment was at 8:10 in the morning, and I made sure to be there plenty early. Turns out that the hospital has a beautiful rose garden I could stroll in and contemplate the future.”
Having received his shot, Archibald roamed around the south end, observing visual delights at every turn — architectural gems I’ve walked by a thousand times without noticing; something contemplative to be found in a big mud puddle; a profound sense of time, if not loss, as the city shifts and evolves.
What I love about Archibald’s posts is that they inspire me to better see the world around me. I of course will never rise anywhere close to Archibald-level of awareness, which leaves me with an understanding of my own lack of connectedness. I don’t know anything about Zen approaches to living in the moment — if I thought about it much, I’d likely make a dumb joke [I hear reincarnation is making a comeback] to mask my own insecurity — but I’d guess this is what they’re getting at.
In the harbour
05:00: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
05:50: Augusta Unity, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Moa, Cuba
06:00: ZIM Shekou, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
07:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Portsmouth, New Hampshire
15:30: Atlantic Sea sails for New York
16:30: ZIM Shekou sails for New York
06:15: Zeynep, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
06:45: NS Laguna, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from New York
17:00: Algoma Vision, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove Quarry for sea
1. We’re about to embark on a complete revamp of the Halifax Examiner website. I hope we can complete the migration to the new site and make it live in two weeks; it’ll probably take twice that. You’ll love it, I promise.
2. Not that I have the time for anything much, but I’ve been obsessed with a couple of stories that have somehow come together in my life — something I was quite interested in when I lived in California, and something that has found its way to me here in Atlantic Canada — which have surprising parallels and even a person in common. I’ll poke along with reading lots of books at night, and maybe one day this will emerge as a sort of extended personal and historical essay.
3. I’ve planned a four-day weekend trip to the United States to visit family in the fall. I’m both excited and a little worried.