1. Northern Pulp
“Nova Scotia’s Environment Department has begun an investigation into Northern Pulp operations after the Pictou County mill exceeded air contaminant emissions limits by nearly 50 per cent in June,” reports Paul Withers for the CBC:
This is the third year in a row emissions from the power boiler at the Northern Pulp mill exceeded the limits set down by the Environment Department.
In June, tests recorded particulate emissions of 224 milligrams per reference cubic metre. The boiler permit allows 150 mg/Rm3.
The results were disclosed by Northern Pulp earlier this month in letters to local members of the Nova Scotia legislature and confirmed by the company.
2. Peter Moreira’s continued conflict of interest and Creative Destruction Lab–Atlantic
Peter Moreira is paid by publicly funded economic development agencies to promote the businesses the agencies support financially. Moreira does this in part by writing his “Entrevestor” column, which is published in the Chronicle Herald.
I don’t know if Moreira is additionally paid by the Chronicle Herald, but even if he’s not, there’s a clear conflict of interest for Moreira. He’s not about to write critically (in both senses of the word) about a company in his newspaper column if he’s getting paid to promote the same company by the agencies. And he’s certainly not going to cast a discerning eye on those agencies by, say, providing an independent assessment of their success or lack thereof (or pointing out that there is no metric available to measure success), or by looking at the potential for corruption.
Moreira’s column is government-financed propaganda. When it shows up in the Herald, it is advertorial.
I raised this issue immediately after I started the Examiner, writing in August 2014:
The Chronicle Herald does label the column “Entrevestor,” and its author’s note for Moreira explains that “Peter Moreira is a principal of www.entrevestor.com, a news and data website for Atlantic Canadian startups.” What the Chronicle Herald does not do, however, is clearly and explicitly tell its readers that Moreira benefits financially by promoting the companies he is writing about.
By not clearly declaring the payments Moreira receives from the agencies, the Chronicle Herald is violating basic and long-standing journalistic conflict of interest policies.
The New York Time’s conflict of interest statement, for example, says that:
The goal of The New York Times is to cover the news as impartially as possible — “without fear or favor,” in the words of Adolph Ochs, our patriarch — and to treat readers, news sources, advertisers and others fairly and openly, and to be seen to be doing so. The reputation of The Times rests upon such perceptions, and so do the professional reputations of its staff members. Thus The Times and members of its news department and editorial page staff share an interest in avoiding conflicts of interest or an appearance of a conflict.
The Times’ “Ethical Journalism” handbook makes plain that:
Staff members may not accept anything that could be construed as a payment for favorable coverage or as an inducement to alter or forgo unfavorable coverage.
In its “Statement of Principles,” Newspapers Canada, the industry group that represents daily and community newspapers in Canada, directly addresses conflicts of interest:
The newspaper’s primary obligation is fidelity to the public good. It should pay the costs of gathering the news. Conflicts of interest, real or apparent, should be declared. The newspaper should guard its independence from government, commercial and other interests seeking to subvert content for their own purposes.
[Newspapers Canada has since morphed into News Media Canada, but maintains the same “Statement of Principles.” Chronicle Herald president Mark Lever is on the board of directors at News Media Canada, so by running Moreira’s columns in the Herald is violating his own organization’s Statement of Principles.]
In response, Ian Thompson, who was then the associate publisher at the Herald, wrote to me:
We like Peter`s columns. The start-ups he writes about would otherwise receive little or no attention. That said, you raise a legitimate point. As of today, we`ve added a new line to the end of the columns provided by Entrevestor:
“Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.”
Better than nothing! This was at least a gesture to acknowledging Moreira’s conflict of interest, so I accepted it. The disclosure began to regularly appear on the column.
But then, a year later, I wrote:
Since then, however, two things have happened.
First, Carol Moreira [has] taken over writing some of the Entrevestor columns. Carol is the cofounder and owner of Entrevestor, and so she shares the same conflict that Peter has…
Second, that disclaimer? It has mostly disappeared, and when it does appear, it has been changed to the following:
Entrevestor.com produces daily news reports on the Atlantic Canadian startup community. It is financed through the sale of advertising and analytic reports to clients in the private and public sectors. This support is specified whenever the name of a client appears.
Well, except there’s last Thursday’s Entrevestor column. Written by Carol Moreira, it is an uncritical, brown-nosing, boot-licking “profile” of Innovacorp president and CEO Stephen Duff. The column has no disclaimer.
Entrevestor is directly in the employ of Innovacorp, and yet Entrevestor’s profile of Inovacorp’s president and CEO doesn’t mention that fact.
Since then, the disclosure has disappeared completely.
The column appears in today’s Chronicle Herald. Written by Peter Moreira, it is about the appointment of Jesse Rodgers, the chief executive of Volta Labs, to the position of associate director (Moreira doesn’t name the position) at Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic, which has been created at Dalhousie University. Moreira doesn’t explain who funds CDL-Atlantic, the organization’s website compounds the mystery, and the university’s press release is likewise of no help, but no doubt this involves a lot of public money.
There’s no disclosure at all on the column. The average reader has no idea that Moreira is in the pay of the publicly funded economic development agencies he writes about, that he regularly gets paid by Innovacorp to plug Volta, that he’s written favourably about Rodgers many times (always favourably, because that’s what he’s paid to do). There is no “advertorial” or “sponsored content” tag on the column.
Save me your emails: This isn’t about whether Rodgers is doing a great job, Volta does good work, or CDL-Atlantic is the best thing since sliced bread. I happen to believe the tech hype — especially when splashed with an “innovation” label — is mostly nonsense, but another independent observer could be totally in the opposite camp, supportive of innovation labs and the like.
The problem is Moreira isn’t an independent voice — he’s a paid propagandist. There should be no place for him in the business section of an independent press. Sure, name his job, who pays him, and toss the column in the op-ed section properly labelled as advertorial. But that’s not what the Herald is doing.
Why does this matter? For a couple of reasons. First, I’m no lawyer, but in the case of Unique Solutions, Moreira’s commentary (and then non-commentary) on the company looks to me like investor fraud:
In December, 2012, Chronicle Herald columnist Peter Moreira reported favourably on Unique Solutions’ then-ongoing roll-out “body scan” kiosks in shopping malls across the US.
With Moreira’s December 2012 column promoting Unique Solutions, however, he got it right. At the end of the column, he wrote: “Full disclosure: The principals of Entrevestor have a small investment in Unique Solutions.” This is good, but it is precisely that investment that becomes problematic in the Chronicle Herald’s subsequent coverage of Unique Solutions.
I’ve learned that all investors — both investors in the CEDIF and directly into Unique Solutions — have been kept abreast of the devaluation of their investment. That means that Moreira — who plugged the company as a worthy investment in 2012, and who has a personal investment in the company — has been fully aware of the tanking performance of Unique Solutions, but has not kept his readers up to date on the story.
As Moreira is an investor with direct knowledge of the company’s financial position, his failure to convey that knowledge to Chronicle Herald readers is at best a disservice to those readers, and at worst dishonesty in order to protect his own investment. The failure to tell readers of the company’s falling financial position also underscores Moreira’s continued conflict of interest as a paid promoter for start-ups while writing about the same companies for the Chronicle Herald.
The second reason why this matters is that Moreira is simply missing the story. For example, in today’s column he lists the fellows and associates of CDL-Atlantic. First, the fellows:
• John Risley, president, Clearwater Fine Foods, serial entrepreneur
• Kenneth Rowe, founder and executive chairman, IMP Group International Inc.
• Rob Steele, president and CEO, Newcap Broadcasting Ltd.
• Rob Sobey, former CEO and president, Lawton’s Drug Stores Ltd.
• Jevon MacDonald, co-founder and CEO, Manifold & GoInstant
• Wade Dawe, CEO, Numus Financial Inc.
• Mark Dobbin, president, Killick Capital Inc.
• George Armoyan, executive chairman, Clarke Inc.
• Chris Huskilson, president and CEO, Emera Inc.
• Tom Hickey, former president and CEO, HSE Integrated Ltd.
Notice anything about that list? Yes, many of them are working the government to make their fortunes, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Rather, they are all men.
Hey, maybe it’s good that billionaire men are lending their efforts to help non-billionaire men who are starting companies. (I think not, but that’s a story for another day.) What matters is how that happens. Here are the associates:
• Henry Demone, president, Demone Capital Inc.
• Mike Durland, CEO, Melancthon Capital
• Jeff Grammar, partner, Rho
• Patrick Hankinson, co-founder and past-CEO, Compilr
• Jim Hanlon, CEO, Institute for Ocean Research
• Andrew Harrison, strategic business development lead, Verily Life Sciences at Google
• Patrick Keefe, general partner, Build Ventures
• Justin Manley, managing director, Just Innovation
• Robert Orr, CEO and managing director, Cuna del Mar
• Brice Scheschuk, co-founder and past CEO, Wind Mobile, CEO Globalive Capital Inc.
• Annette Verschuren, chair and CEO, NRStor Inc.
• Mark Wallace, president and CEO, MedGate
• Julia Dexter, co-founder and chief marketing officer, Squiggle Park
•Amy Regan, CEO, Skinfix Inc.
Three women out 14. A start, I guess, and when you have a paucity of women in the tech industry to begin with, the numbers are going to be lopsided as you attempt to address the disparity.
CDL-Atlantic also unveiled members of its team. These include entrepreneur Gillian McCrae, who has joined as venture manager. She and Melody Pardoe, chief operating officer of Volta, are collaborating to ensure the inclusion of mentorship and investment from successful women entrepreneurs.
“Gender diversity amongst investors and entrepreneurs is a core value of CDL-Atlantic,” said McCrae in a statement. “We are looking forward to creating additional support for female entrepreneurs across Atlantic Canada.”
That sounds like a throw-away line to me. I’d be happy to be proven wrong, but Moreira gives no indication of what specific “additional support” for women will be created, or how that support will actually translate into more successful women entrepreneurs in the tech industry. A critical, independent commentator might look at the past failure of economic development agencies to help women in tech, and discuss how that could be improved. But again: Moreira isn’t an independent commentator. He’s getting paid specifically to not look at those issues.
Maybe it’s silly to care anymore. Maybe readers and those in the journalism business don’t give a shit — maybe they expect their newspapers to be propaganda wings for the government.
But with Sarah Dennis and Mark Lever’s purchase of nearly every daily newspaper in Atlantic Canada, maybe we ought start caring about the traditional ethical standards in journalism they’re ignoring.
3. Peter Kelly
In late August, the Albertan government published the municipal review of Westlock County, which included a look at Peter Kelly’s tenure as CAO of the county. As I wrote the next day:
I’m glad the full story of Kelly’s tenure at Westlock has been documented, but the municipal review disappoints me in that it doesn’t get to the liability issue. As I reported in August 2016, a lawyer hired by the county suggested that Kelly should be personally liable for $194,000 related to the Horizon North deal, and the review sidesteps that issue entirely. Neither does it discuss Kelly’s relationship with Horizon after he left the CAO position, when he was allegedly still conducting county business and covering his own tracks without authority. I think at the very least the review should have said those matters should be referred to the RCMP.
Still, consider this: in just 18 months on the job, Kelly managed to:
• screw up union relations and get a Labour Standards Board judgment against the county
• hire two people from Nova Scotia without employment contracts and without clearly defined duties
• piss off county staff with unreasonable policies like a “draconian” dress code
• muck up the county’s policies by not running proposed changes past staff and by having duplicate written policies that also duplicated numbers of existing policies
• cost the county $200,000 in a botched development deal
• improperly insert himself onto a county planning board
• nearly get the county sued for pilfering engineering drawings
And yet, other media seem focused only on the Horizon North deal, ignoring the rest of it.
For instance, this sing-song editorial in the Saltwire-owned Charlottetown Guardian, manages to criticize the Charlottetown city council for hiring Kelly, but doesn’t get into anything at Westlock beyond the property deal.
However, today, three weeks after the municipal review was published, the local Westlock paper, the Westlock News, finally looks at the attempted theft of engineering plans.
Special Audit & Finance Standing Committee (Tuesday, 11:30pm, City Hall) — St. Paul’s Church wants a quarter of a million dollars from the city to do some historic preservation work on the property. Sure, the committee should approve the expenditure, with one condition: that the church stop parking on Grand Parade.
City Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
Audit & Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
Mumford Terminal Replacement – Open House (Wednesday, 2pm, 6pm, St. Agnes Parish Hall, Halifax) — tell ’em to get rid of the cigarette butts and build a shelter already.
Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, NSCC IT Campus) — I keep thinking about the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. But that’s silly… we’ve got trinkets to sell to tourists.
Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Wednesday, 5pm, Alderney Library) — the board wants to talk about daylighting Sawmill River.
Public Information Meeting – Case 20756 (Wednesday, 7pm, École du Carrefour, Dartmouth) — Anthony Chedrawy, who is presumably kin to Danny Chedrawe, has a company called G2J Residential Holdings, and wants to build a five-storey, 56-unit apartment building at the southeast corner of Waverley and Montebello Roads.
No public meetings.
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — just the organizational meeting for the next term of the legislature.
The Ivany Report Drinking Game! (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 1009, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — deets here.
Thesis Defence, Electrical and Computer Engineering (Tuesday, 1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Franklin Che will defend his thesis, “Nonlinear Plasmonics with Applications to Sensing.”
Genetic conflicts shape meiosis, centromeres and speciation (Wednesday, 2pm, Collaborative Health Education Building, c-140) — Harmit S. Malik, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, will speak.
DNA methylation (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Daniel de Carvalho, from the University of Toronto, will speak on “Translational aspects of DNA methylation in cancer: therapeutic target and circulating biomarker.”
In the harbour
6am: Tongala, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England
10:15am: Tongala, car carrier, moves from Pier 31 to Autoport
8pm: Nave Pulsar, oil tanker, moves from Imperial Oil to anchorage for bunkers
I’m still on the road. I watched Fox News in a hotel room in Maine last night. That was something.