Denise Peterson-Rafuse, the NDP candidate in the Chester–St. Margaret’s riding, has filed for a recount, I reported yesterday:
Peterson-Rafuse, the incumbent, lost to Liberal challenger Hugh MacKay by just 90 votes, 3,112 to 3,022 total votes. PC candidate Julie Chiasson received 2,229 votes, and Green candidate Harry Ward received 413 votes. Thirty-four ballots were rejected.
Chester–St. Margaret’s was one of the closest ridings in the election. At the end of the evening, precinct vote counts gave Peterson-Rafuse the edge by 46 votes, 2,800 to 2,754. But then the votes cast out of district gave MacKay the victory.
About nine percent of all votes in the Chester–St. Margaret’s election were cast out of district.
Justice James Chipman will oversee the recount on Monday, June 12, at 9:30am.
Later in the day, Paul Withers reported that Dan McNaughton, the PC candidate who lost to Liberal Bill Horne in Waverley-Fall River-Beaverbank by 66 votes, and Rob Wolf, the PC candidate who lost to Liberal Lloyd Hines by 71 votes, had also filed for recounts. (Those petitions hadn’t been filed when I checked at 2pm; yesterday at 5pm was the deadline for asking for a recount.)
Meanwhile, Liberal candidate Michel Samson says he will not seek a recount in his 21-vote loss to PC MLA-elect Alana Paon in Cape Breton-Richmond. His press release:
On election night I accepted the fact that the PC candidate had secured more votes than we had and called to congratulate her. After the Official Addition on June 1st, the margin of victory remains at 21 votes. I met with my campaign team Sunday night and they unanimously supported my decision not to seek a judicial recount.
I want to thank the residents of Cape Breton-Richmond for an amazing 19 years as your MLA. It was my honour to have served you and worked with you to grow our communities and families. I am looking forward to some personal time with my family and friends and the new opportunities that lie ahead for me.
I also want to extend my congratulations to our new MLA Alana Poan (sic) and NDP candidate Larry Keating, along with their families, friends and campaign teams for an exciting campaign. I will be forever grateful to my family and amazing campaign team, several of whom have been with me since my first election in 1998. I also want to thank Premier Stephen McNeil for his friendship and the faith he placed in me, along with the wonderful colleagues I have served with in cabinet and in the Liberal caucus over the years.
I am grateful for the many colleagues from both the NDP and PC caucuses I have worked with during my time as MLA. I always respected and admired their efforts on behalf of their constituents with the goal of making our province stronger.
While I realize many will be disappointed in my decision not to seek a judicial recount, I ask that they accept the results and allow our new MLA to represent our riding.
I think any candidate, no matter what party, who loses by fewer than 200 votes or so should file for a recount. Besides the chance they might win — which is important enough — it’s good to periodically test the integrity of our elections system, and recounts are a good way to do that.
In this election in particular, some serious questions are being raised about how elections are structured. Canadians take it for granted that there are public servants overseeing elections fairly and without partisan goals. I think that’s right, and moreover, counting paper ballots by hand with scrutineers from all parties present preserves the integrity of the balloting itself. But as we’ve seen south of the border, when there are ways to game the system, people will. It’s quite unapologetically blatant in the States: gerrymandering coupled with various forms of voter suppression are conducted openly. Those abuses aren’t likely to happen here, or at least not to the same degree. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to take a hard look at how we in Nova Scotia decide where polling precincts are established and where they’re not, and how out-of-district voting is handled. Questioning and testing voting integrity is essential.
2. Internet voting
Speaking of voting integrity, yesterday The Intercept published a classified report about Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Publication of the report has all sorts of legal and ethical ramifications I won’t go into here, and resulted in the arrest of someone with the odd name of Reality Winner.
The nut of the report is that Russian hackers may have not just hacked into Clinton campaign emails but also into the computers of election officials:
The NSA has now learned, however, that Russian government hackers, part of a team with a “cyber espionage mandate specifically directed at U.S. and foreign elections,” focused on parts of the system directly connected to the voter registration process, including a private sector manufacturer of devices that maintain and verify the voter rolls. Some of the company’s devices are advertised as having wireless internet and Bluetooth connectivity, which could have provided an ideal staging point for further malicious actions.
As described by the classified NSA report, the Russian plan was simple: pose as an e-voting vendor and trick local government employees into opening Microsoft Word documents invisibly tainted with potent malware that could give hackers full control over the infected computers.
But in order to dupe the local officials, the hackers needed access to an election software vendor’s internal systems to put together a convincing disguise. So on August 24, 2016, the Russian hackers sent spoofed emails purporting to be from Google to employees of an unnamed U.S. election software company, according to the NSA report. Although the document does not directly identify the company in question, it contains references to a product made by VR Systems, a Florida-based vendor of electronic voting services and equipment whose products are used in eight states.
The spear-phishing email contained a link directing the employees to a malicious, faux-Google website that would request their login credentials and then hand them over to the hackers. The NSA identified seven “potential victims” at the company. While malicious emails targeting three of the potential victims were rejected by an email server, at least one of the employee accounts was likely compromised, the agency concluded. The NSA notes in its report that it is “unknown whether the aforementioned spear-phishing deployment successfully compromised all the intended victims, and what potential data from the victim could have been exfiltrated.”
Canada and the U.S. have different election systems, and voter registration data is different from electronic votes cast. But this report should worry anyone who advocates for electronic or internet voting. There are people out there in the world who are trying to hack elections, and behind even the most sophisticated electronic voting system are fallible humans, vulnerable to phishing and other social engineering schemes. It’s not a matter of if electronic voting will be hacked, but rather of when. And yet, Halifax city council just voted to make the next byelection entirely electronic.
3. Sandeson trial
Since I was at the courthouse anyway, I decided to stop by and catch the afternoon proceedings of the William Sandeson trial. I can’t expect to drop in during Week 6 of a complex murder trial and report on it sensibly, but the testimony of the first defence witness was captivating.
Jordan MacEwan told the jury how he was a drug dealer. One night he was waiting around for Taylor Samson to come to MacEwan’s Victoria Street apartment and pay him $1,500 he was owed on a drug deal. While waiting, MacEwan smoked “weed” all night. (In case any of the jurors had been living on the moon, MacEwan explained that weed is marijuana.) Eventually, tired and stoned, he went to bed. Some time later, three men barged into his apartment and started beating him with their fists and police batons, demanding weed. They were able to make off with either a pound of weed and a half pound of mushrooms, or a half pound of weed and a pound of mushrooms — MacEwan wasn’t sure which — but not the $10,000 in cash he had hidden away. MacEwan gave a riveting account of being knocked on the head with fists and batons and of blood spewing everywhere, and yet of somehow summoning the strength to push two men off him, and charge towards the third, who was blocking the balcony door of his apartment. MacEwan, completely naked and covered in blood, tumbled down 15 feet of the balcony stairs, only to miraculously land on his feet. He ran one way in the parking lot, his attackers ran the other.
It’s fairly obvious that the defence will argue that MacEwan’s testimony shows that three other men may have been looking for Taylor Samson, and so these three men may have been responsible for his disappearance. I can’t judge the strength of that argument because I haven’t been present for the entire five weeks of the Crown’s case.
4. Annie Leibovitz
“It’s been four years since a Toronto family announced the donation of 2,000 works by famed American photographer Annie Leibovitz to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax,” reports Pam Berman for the CBC:
Since then a few pieces of the collection have been put on public display, but no major exhibition of the work has been mounted and it looks like it will be at least another year before that happens.
Last year, I filed a Freedom of Information request related to the Leibovitz collection, and my $500 got me a three-inch thick packet of mostly redacted papers.
I wrote about the collection in May 2016:
“The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS) Board of Directors is very pleased to announce the appointment of Nancy Noble as the new Director & CEO for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, effective September 12, 2016,” reads a press release sent out by the AGNS yesterday. Oddly, the release has not been posted on the provincial government’s news release page, nor was it sent to me. I appreciate the readers who forwarded it to me. The release continues:
Noble brings over 20 years of experience in marketing, exhibition and collections, and leadership roles within leading cultural institutions in Canada. Most recently, she was the Chief Executive Officer of the Museum of Vancouver, where she has held this senior leadership position for over 11 years. During her tenure with the Museum of Vancouver, she transformed the organization’s marketing and community engagement strategy and led two five-year strategic and business plans, which have collectively transformed the 115-year-old museum into a cultural beacon and center attraction for the City of Vancouver.
There is no doubt that Noble’s hiring (and before it, former CEO Roy Cronin’s abrupt forced resignation) is all about the Annie Leibovitz collection, which supposedly was donated by the Mintz family of Toronto to the AGNS, but has been stored away for over three years. (Background here.)
Noble oversaw the donation of a valuable collection to the Museum of Vancouver. As the Victoria Times-Colonist reported in 2013:
VANCOUVER – In 1998 and 2006, two groups of investors quietly acquired and donated to the Museum of Vancouver 18 sculptures that some authorities believed were created by Michelangelo.
The sculptures — details of legs, arms, shoulders and torsos — are made of clay and stand only 10 to 27 centimetres high. Some were identified as working models for Michelangelo’s larger creations, which suggested they were created by the master himself.
According to financial returns filed with Canada Revenue Agency, the museum issued a total of $31.4 million in tax receipts for non-cash gifts during 1998 and 2006.
The Vancouver Sun has learned that about $30 million of this amount was on account of the sculptures, based on their appraised values.
Initially, the donation looked like a win-win situation. The museum was the beneficiary of about $30 million worth of rare sculptures, and investor-donors received tax receipts for that amount.
Those receipts would have generated tax credits equal to the top marginal combined federal and provincial tax rate (currently 43.7 per cent). That means approximately $13 million flowed into the pockets of the investor-donors, courtesy of Canadian taxpayers.
Also, because the federal government certified the sculptures as Canadian cultural property, the investor-donors did not have to pay any capital gains on the difference between their purchase price and the donated value.
Unfortunately, that win-win calculus has been severely compromised.
Earlier this month, Postmedia correspondent Randy Boswell learned that the Vancouver museum had commissioned Sotheby’s auction house in New York to sell half of the collection.
Sotheby’s advised the museum that the sculptures were not, after all, the work of Michelangelo, but rather a minor Dutch artist from the same period.
“For decades, the unsigned terracottas were attributed to Michelangelo,” Sotheby’s stated in a Jan. 7 press release.
“However, extensive research and stylistic comparisons led scholars to determine that these Renaissance models were executed by Northern sculptor Johan Gregor van der Schardt who worked extensively in terracotta and was a follower of Michelangelo.”
Sotheby’s estimated that, when the first half of the collection goes to auction on Jan. 31, it will fetch only $200,000 to $300,000. That implies that the entire collection is worth only about $500,000.
That’s bad news for the museum. It means it will receive only a fraction of the amount it anticipated. But it’s worse news for Canadian taxpayers. It means they received little value for the approximately $13 million in tax credits they provided the investor-donors.
“Obviously the appraisers initially attributed the sculptures in some way to Michelangelo or his studio. Otherwise, I don’t think they would have come up with such enormous valuations,” Nancy Noble, the museum’s chief executive officer, told The Vancouver Sun.
I find all this very curious. The Leibovitz collection is supposedly valued at $20 million, but tax receipts issued for the collection are not currently available on Canada Revenue Agency’s website. Still, it looks to me that the donation has more to do with high finance than high art.
Since the museum isn’t explaining, we’re left to speculation, so here’s mine: I’m told the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board has repeatedly (up to three times) rejected an application by the museum to give the Mintz family a tax credit for the donation because the Leibovitz collection is not Canadian art. Moreover, it’s been suggested to me that Leibovitz maintains ownership of the intellectual property rights to the collection, meaning that without her permission (presumably dependent upon payment to her), the AGNS will not be able to advertise the collection with images of the photos, and will not be able to sell museum souvenirs with photos of John and Yoko and the like. Leibovitz is famously low on cash, so that might be a deal-breaker.
We’ll see if the newly hired Noble can work through the difficulties… but isn’t someone supposed be curating Nova Scotian art?
1. Why Nova Scotia wasn’t the 14th state
Yesterday, the Smithsonian published an article by John Hanc exploring “When Nova Scotia Almost Joined the American Revolution.” Hanc reviews the close ties between Nova Scotia and New England, notes the sympathies for the revolution, chronicles the various attempts by wannabe rebels to connect with their southern brethren, and concludes:
Still, perhaps the biggest reason that Nova Scotians didn’t join the Americans may have been the Americans themselves. At the time, American privateers operating out of New England ports were ravaging Nova Scotia’s coast. “The privateers come early on in the conflict,” says [Margaret Conrad, professor emeritus at the University of New Brunswick]. While they couldn’t stand up to the British fleet, “they could do a lot of damage in hit-and-run raids.”
They didn’t discriminate against loyalists, neutrals or those inclined to support the patriot cause, either. Nor did Congress, Washington or anyone else seem able to control them. “Numerous settlements received nocturnal visits from the heartless New Englanders,” wrote historian John Dewar Faibisy. “They entered harbors, rivers and coves, committing various depredations on land, burning vessels in port and at sea seizing valuable prizes.”
The behavior of these raiders, Conrad says, “took away a lot of the sympathy for the rebellion.” As one Nova Scotian wrote at the time: “Robbing poor innocent ones has bin a grate means to Coule [cool] the Affection of many well wishers to the Just proceedings of America.”
Appeals Standing Committee (Tuesday, 10am, city Hall) — this is a special meeting called so the Halifax Regional Police Department can explain what victim services it provides when taxi drivers denied permits appeal to the committee.
Transportation Standing Committee (Wednesday, 1pm, City Hall) — lots of important things on the agenda.
Halifax Green Network | Final Phase Development (Wednesday, 6pm, Musquodoboit Valley Bicentennial Theatre and Cultural Centre, Middle Musquodoboit) — info here.
Public Meeting – Campaign Finance Accountability (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Harbour East Community Council Meeting Room, Alderney Gate) — info here.
Public Open House – Case 20719 (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Maritime Hall, Halifax Forum) — W.M. Fares Architects wants to build an eight-storey building at 5516 Bilby Street.
North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm, the four-pad arena in Bedford with the name of a fucking bank plastered on it) — Armco wants to build stuff in Sackville.
Nothing this week.
Thesis Defence, Engineering, Mathematics, and Internetworking (Tuesday 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Yue “Edward” Yao will defend his thesis, “Asymptotic Multiple-Scales Analysis of Hydraulic Transients in Elastic and Viscoelastic Pressure Conduits.”
No public events.
The Icarus Report
I’m going to start this up again because it annoys all the right people. My plan is to update it weekly, on Fridays, unless there’s something particularly remarkable through the week, like this RCMP release from yesterday:
June 5, 2017, Greenfield, Queens County, Nova Scotia . . . Queens District RCMP is on the scene of a plane crash. At 12:02 p.m. today, an ultralight plane crashed into some trees shortly after taking off from Greenfield Airport.
The plane came to rest in a tree and the pilot, who was the sole occupant of the plane, was able to climb down the tree to safety. The pilot was alone in the plane and was not hurt. The cause of the crash is being investigated with the assistance of the Transportation Safety Board and Transport Canada.
In the harbour
3am: AHS Hamburg, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 42 from San Juan, Puerto Rico
11:15am: NYK Artemis, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
11:30am: Hollandia, general cargo, sails from Pier 31 for Rotterdam
Neither here nor there, but I was wandering around the Dartmouth waterfront and found a nice new (to me) angle for the Tufts Cove power plant: