1. Community groups
“Several community groups, including [the Deaf Advocacy Association of Nova Scotia], Feed Nova Scotia’s Metro Food Bank and Youth Voices of Nova Scotia, won’t be receiving any money in the 2016-2017 budget,” reports the CBC. “I’m not looking at funding advocacy groups, which some of these are,” said Joanne Bernard, the community services minister.”
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, which is seeing its provincial support drop from $507,800 last year to $355,460 next year, issued a press release in response:
CNIB is dismayed by the recent comments made by Nova Scotia Community Services Minister, Joanne Bernard, regarding funding of its essential vision rehabilitation services. The Minister’s comments come on the heels of the provincial government’s recent budget announcement, in which the majority-governing Liberals made significant funding cuts for several community groups, including a 30% funding cut to CNIB.
Funds CNIB receives from the Department of Community Services are instrumental to its ability to deliver essential rehabilitation therapy services to Nova Scotians living with vision loss. These vital services help individuals who are blind and partially sighted overcome the challenges of vision loss and lead safe and independent lives. Cuts to these essential services jeopardize the fundamental rights of individuals living with vision loss in the province.
“The rehabilitation therapy that CNIB provides is a vital service for those who need it, and should be part of the publicly-funded health care continuum. Essential services like post vision-loss rehabilitation therapy should never be dependent on the ability of a charity to raise adequate funds in a competitive market place,” said Pamela Gow-Boyd, Executive Director & Regional Vice President, CNIB Atlantic Canada.
The comments made by Minister Bernard to CBC further illustrate the dire need to change the way that the Province of Nova Scotia perceives and treats individuals who are blind or partially sighted within society.
2. Community Counts
The Liberals have also cut the Community Counts website, which was basically a widget that turned federal census data into useful information. For example, I’ve used it to analyze demographic patterns in Halifax city council districts and compare it to voting turnout and election results. Charlene Gagnon, a grad student at Dal, used Community Counts to research data that informed the Claremont Report on Violence:
Finance Minister Diana Whalen said it wasn’t essential and so was cut to save money.
“Some of these are things like this — they’re useful, they’re nice, but they’re not core business to government,” she said.
Cutting Community Counts is akin to the Harper government’s axing of the long form census. It deprives people of data by which they might be able to argue against government policies, which seems to be the point.
3. Film 5
“Screen Nova Scotia has officially announced FILM 5 funding for this year is lost and the productions are on hold,” Daniel Boos tells me via email. Boos is a filmmaker with the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative, which administers the program. AFCOOP explains:
Unique to the Atlantic Provinces, FILM 5 takes a big-picture view of developing the future of Nova Scotia’s film industry by providing classroom and hands-on training for both emerging above the line writers, directors and producers as well as aspiring technical crew.
Film 5 is caught up in the transfer of the duties of Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia over to Nova Scotia Business Inc, explains Boos. Each Film 5 production receives $32,500 in provincial assistance, of which $8,000 comes in the form of cash upfront, $24,000 via in-kind contributions, and a $500 bonus upon completion for marketing. There are now four film teams in various stages of production — one was shot last weekend, a second was to shoot next weekend, and the other two over the following weeks.
Boos’ own film is “a socialrealist drama called Bound. The film tells the story of a rural shopkeeper who makes the unsettling discovery that his brother, a struggling sawyer, is harboring modern slaves.” He will have to postpone his planned shoot until someone at NSBI finally picks up the ball and decides what to do.
4. The DDI conspiracy
The botched transfer of Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia over to Nova Scotia Business Inc, where it will be rebranded as the Creative Economy Fund, is fuelling a conspiracy theory, which begins with an announcement made last May:
On May 27, the memorandum of understanding signing ceremony of DongDu International Group with Nova Scotia Business Inc. and Halifax City was held in the National Historical Museum of Canada at Pier 21 in Halifax City. Over 60 people, including Li Hailin, Chairman of DongDu International, Stephen McNeil, Premier of Nova Scotia, Bill Karsting, Vice Mayor of Halifax City, Paul Kent, CEO and President of Greater Halifax Partnership, NSBI CEO Ron Smith and other governmental officers of Canada as well as other distinguished guests from the communities of education, film and television, science, technology and business of both China and Canada, attended the signing ceremony.
Everything about this announcement is bizarre, and especially the video produced by the company to promote the venture. I don’t have the technical skills to lift the video and repost it here, so to make sense of the rest of this post, go watch the video here — I promise, it will be the strangest thing you see all day.
As DDI tells it, they’re going to build a big city up on the Eastern Shore and, in the Chinese style, build replica everythings — replica Leaning Tower of Pisa, replica Rome, replica Paris, and so forth, so that people can “feel they have traveled to different parts of the world.” It’s not explained why people would travel all the way from China to Nova Scotia to see a fake Leaning Tower of Pisa when they could go half the distance to see the real thing in better weather, but regardless, the company says the Replica Everything City, which it dubs “Crystal City,” will bring “film-themed tourism” to Nova Scotia.
To that end, the company plans to host film festivals and such, and:
DDI Group has plans to purchase two cruise ships which will be docked at the Halifax Harbour. These ships have close to 1,000 rooms that are specially fitted for film crews, combining the comfort of a luxurious beachfront hotel, the beautiful natural scenery, friendly staff, and a film production centre that is in the pipeline.
At this point you have to wonder what kind of Asian dope those Chinese are smoking. But Premier Stephen McNeil went to Shanghai last year to meet with DDI officials, and the Financial Post reports:
A Shanghai-based company says it is planning to invest up to $3-billion in Nova Scotia in real estate, technology and tourism over the next decade, hoping to compete with Canada’s West Coast as a tourist centre for Chinese visitors.
“There are some 100 million Chinese tourists now travelling the world and so this is an opportunity to start taking advantage of that cohort,” said Stephen Dempsey, Canadian advisor to Dongdu International Group (DDI).
If the name Stephen Dempsey sounds familiar to you, it should. Dempsey is the head of the Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia, and formerly the CEO of the Greater Halifax Partnership. I don’t know exactly how this plays out, but this DDI thing smells like the sort of economic development scam we’ve become accustomed to. A handful of insiders will make out like the bandits they are, grifting their riches from the public treasury, but it won’t do any of the rest of us any good.
Still, the conspiracy theory goes like this: the Liberals have killed Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia with the fig leaf of rebranding it as the Creative Economy Fund, so that all the money previously dedicated to the film tax credit — $24 million annually — will instead go to DDI. That’s why Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia is placed under Nova Scotia Business Inc, which will pick which players get the money, instead of the old system where all comers got the tax credit if they qualified.
I don’t believe there’s anything to this conspiracy theory, but what exactly did the Liberals think would happen?
Maybe we’ll at least get some of that good Asian dope.
Unique Solutions is looking for a controller:
Reporting to the Director of Finance, you will be providing financial statements on a monthly basis to the leadership team. Experienced in accounting software, you will capture all data related to the financial and inventory aspects of the business. You are hands on in managing receivables and payables and understand the nuances of maintaining positive relationships. You are detailed in how you think and how you present your work. You think independently but understand the value of asking questions when you need clarification.
You have a minimum of 5 years of financial reporting experience and a natural talent of critical thinking, common sense, and a positive attitude.
No doubt just a bit more positivity will turn that company around, but I don’t think I could both maintain positive relationships and have a positive attitude, so I’ll pass. But it’s a perfect job for a more positive person, I’m positive.
Peter Ziobrowski gives the history of the All Saints Cathedral.
2. Energy efficiency
Rachel Brighton points out that Nova Scotia Power has asked the Utility and Review Board to scale back an energy conservation plan presented by EfficiencyOne. EfficiencyOne is the non-profit corporation created by the Liberal government to replace the former government-run Efficiency Nova Scotia.
Like its predecessor organization, EfficiencyOne has the mission to increase efficiency. It’s a tradeoff: we ratepayers pay for increased efficiency now so that we don’t have to pay more later to build more power plants. (The Liberals played a shell game with funding for EfficiencyOne, but ultimately the ratepayer pays, no matter which cup the pea is under.)
Now Nova Scotia Power is saying it has no use for these programs in the next three to four years.
In preliminary evidence filed with the board this month, the utility states it “has no requirement” for demand-side management measures in the three-year time frame covered by the pending supply contract, from January 2016 to December 2018.
The utility acknowledges such measures would bring savings for some customers, who directly benefit from targeted efficiency programs.
But the utility argues new spending on conservation measures “will add to rate pressure” because power rates will tend to rise if it has to spend money on programs that ultimately reduce its electricity sales.
Nova Scotia Power would prefer to enter into a contract for scaled-down services at about half the quoted price — closer to $20 million a year than $40 million.
This is a self-serving position for the utility to adopt because it earns money for its shareholder, Emera Inc., through electricity sales, so less conservation may be good business.
Remarkably, however, Brighton sides with the power company.
What we’re watching unfold is exactly what critics of the Liberals’ shell game said would happen: Nova Scotia Power was given more power over the agency, and so would water down efficiency measures.
Besides the future capital costs sure to be borne by ratepayers, what gets missed in this discussion is the fate of the planet.
3. Cranky letter of the day
The saga of the MV Miner, abandoned by its owners and the federal government on the shores of Scatarie Island, appears to be reaching its final chapter, but not without first reaching deep into the pockets of hard-pressed Nova Scotian taxpayers.
The cost to our economically challenged province appears to be a minimum of $15 million and rising. In November 2011, shortly after the beaching of the Miner on this scenic and protected island, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities passed an emergency resolution at its annual conference in Halifax calling on the province to press Ottawa to take immediate steps to remove this hulking marine menace from the Scatarie shores without cost to our provincial treasury.
The matter of marine shipping through and within Canadian waters should clearly be the responsibility of the federal government. If existing legislation does not cover occurrences such as the Miner wreck, then immediate steps must be taken to amend or create pertinent federal legislation to ensure that similar disasters will be diligently dealt with and responsible parties held accountable for related costs. This is a major concern for all coastal provinces and should be made an issue for the upcoming federal election.
Frank X. Fraser, Canso
In the harbour
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