1. Clearing the IT office
“Three people appear to have lost their jobs in the wake of an auditor general’s report in information technology security at Halifax Regional Police,” reports Zane Woodford:
As the Halifax Examiner reported last week, the report found that HRP has not only been slow to fix known gaps in its IT security, it also lied to the Board of Police Commissioners about it.
The person hired to fix the issues back in 2018, Chief Information Security Officer Andrew Kozma, is out of the job at HRP, and two now-former HRM IT employees — Sarah Teal and Jody Hubert — are no longer employed with the municipality.
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Two new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Nova Scotia yesterday (Thursday, Feb. 18).
One of the new cases is in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone — it is the case that was announced Wednesday night that is connected to Beaver Bank-Monarch Drive Elementary School and is a close contact of a previously announced case. The second case is in the Western Zone and is under investigation.
There are now 13 known active cases in the province. One person remains in hospital with the disease, and that person is in ICU.
The active cases are distributed as follows:
• 3 in the Halifax Peninsula / Chebucto Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 2 in the Dartmouth/ Southeastern Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 3 in the Bedford/Sackville Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 1 in the Colchester/ East Hants Community Health Network in the Northern Zone
• 1 in the Inverness, Victoria, and Richmond Community Health Network in the Eastern Zone
• 2 in the Annapolis and Kings Community Health Network in the Western Zone
• 1 in the Yarmouth, Shelburne, and Digby Community Health Network in the Western Zone
Nova Scotia Health labs conducted 1,547 tests Wednesday.
So far, 25,032 doses of vaccine have been administered — 15,520 first doses and 9,782 second doses.
Here are the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average (today at 1.7) since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):
And here is the active caseload for the second wave:
There is a COVID briefing scheduled for 1pm today; Yvette d’Entremont will be covering it for the Examiner.
The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free. Please help us continue this coverage by subscribing.
“A study by two researchers at Dalhousie University looks at the positives and negatives new parents faced during the COVID-19 pandemic,” reports Suzanne Rent:
Dr. Megan Aston, a professor at the School of Nursing at Dalhousie, and Sheri Price, an affiliate scientist at the IWK Health Centre, are the lead researchers and authors of Blessings and Curses: Exploring the Experiences of New Mothers during the COVID-19 Pandemic, which was published in December 2020. The pair have been researching the experiences of new parents for the past 30 years.
“What we found over the years is parenting can become very isolating and it’s a very difficult time in just non-COVID times,” says Aston “When COVID-19 hit, we thought this is extreme isolation, so we were able to go out and ask parents what their experiences were.”
I was tempted to headline that story “Little shits and little angels: Parenthood in the pandemic,” but I decided against it. I am not a parent.
4. Atlantic Gold and Nova Scotia’s joke lobbyist registry
“Craig Jetson, CEO and Managing Director of St Barbara — the Australian company that owns Atlantic Gold that in turn owns the Touquoy open pit gold mine in Moose River and plans to open three more gold mines along Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore — says that he has lined up ‘quite a few meetings over the next two weeks with the government people’ in Nova Scotia,” reports Joan Baxter:
In an earnings call with investors on February 17, Jetson suggested that complexity of arranging such meetings at the moment is because of the departure of Premier Stephen McNeil who is handing over to Premier-designate Iain Rankin.
“So it’s been problematic to get into the halls of government in recent times,” Jetson said during the conference call. “But that will disappear.”
Atlantic Gold has no lobbyist on the Nova Scotia government’s registry, so who is it planning to send into the “halls of government” and how and to do what, exactly?
As I’ve said repeatedly, Nova Scotia’s Lobbyist Registry is a complete joke: no one takes it seriously, many lobbyists routinely ignore the registration requirement completely, government officials simply lie about being lobbied, and why shouldn’t they, as there is no enforcement or penalties levied for non-compliance with the Lobbyist’s Registration Act — which theoretically carries a fine of $25,000.
The non-existence of true regulation of lobbyists and those they are lobbying gets to the very heart of the failure of democracy in Nova Scotia. The public can have no assurance that any act of government is being done transparently or in the public interest, as it’s readily apparent — as Atlantic Gold’s flouting of registration rules demonstrates — that private interests have a secret and inside route to advancing their goals with no consideration whatsoever by public officials for the common good.
Incoming premier Iain Rankin has a lot on his plate, but among his very first acts should be to reform and put teeth in the Lobbyist Registration Act. If he doesn’t, the public will have no more confidence in Rankin’s government that it had with his predecessor’s government. And losing public confidence isn’t a side show — we’re getting dangerously close to the point where government loses legitimacy, and hitting that tipping point can have disastrous consequences for all of us, including those nominally in power.
This item is written by Joan Baxter.
People concerned about the health of Nova Scotia’s remaining forests have been responding to the letter that a forest industry group sent to premier-designate Iain Rankin to express support for the implementation of the Lahey Report, which recommended a more sustainable approach to forest management in the province.
Some of the responses are not exactly polite.
Naturalist Bev Wigney, who administers the Annapolis Royal & Area – Environment and Ecology Facebook page, calls the letter “bullsh*t” from the forestry industry.
Another comment on the page was even more strident, calling it “BULLSHIT.”
On Wednesday this week, in an article headlined “Forestry industry vows to help carry out Lahey Report as N.S. awaits new premier,” CBC’s Michael Gorman reported that the Wood Product Manufacturers Association of Nova Scotia (WPMANS) sent a letter to Rankin, in which they declared “their support for implementing the recommendations of the Lahey report on forestry practices,” and voiced “concerns about potential changes to how private land is managed.”
The WPMANS letter comes at an interesting — or should we just say a convenient and suspicious — time.
As Gorman writes, the Wood Product Manufacturers Association sent the letter less than a week “after the NDP released a document showing half the members of an advisory committee to the minister of lands and forestry called for a moratorium on clear cutting last November until the Lahey report could be put into action.”
It also comes just days before the new premier will be sworn in, along with a new cabinet and coterie of new advisors in the premier’s office.
Gorman reports that:
Casse Turple, a director with the Wood Product Manufacturers Association, said the group saw reaching out to Rankin now as a chance for a new start with government while also formally voicing public support for the Lahey report.
“We just wanted to make sure that we told the story from our side in the sense that we do support where forestry is going and we do support the Lahey report and the triad approach that they are suggesting,” said Turple, who also works at Ledwidge Lumber in Enfield.
“We are fully behind going forward with that on Crown land to see how it works out.”
Marcus Zwicker, general manager of the mill consortium WestFor, said putting the report into action would give industry certainty about the future while also addressing concerns some people have about how Crown land is being managed.
That Marcus Zwicker of WestFor would echo the views expressed by the Wood Product Manufacturers Association of Nova Scotia is hardly a surprise given the overlap between the two industry groups.
WestFor was established in 2016 by the provincial government to “increase the efficiency of forest management on Crown land in Nova Scotia,” whatever that means.
WestFor also claims to “assist 13 mills in their day to day [sic] operations while also assisting the government, the people, and the forests,” whatever that means. However, its website shows only 12 members and partners, including Ledwidge Lumber, Freeman Lumber, and Northern Pulp.
So WestFor and those speaking for the Wood Product Manufacturers Association of Nova Scotia are not exactly two distinct sets of interests and individuals.
The Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stocks shows that the Wood Product Manufacturers Association of Nova Scotia was established in 1981. The Board of the Association is made up entirely of people whose companies are members of WestFor. In addition to director Cassie Turple of Ledwidge, the Association’s Board also includes Kim Fuller also of Ledwidge Lumber, Richard Freeman of Freeman Lumber, Earl Miller of Great Northern Timber, and Stephen Thompson of Elmsdale Lumber.
WPMANS does not appear to have a website.
However, an online search did turn up the WPMANS 2011 submission to the Natural Resources Strategy consultation process undertaken by the NDP government of Darrell Dexter and summarily ditched by the Liberal government of Stephen McNeil, something Linda Pannozzo described in a 2018 article for the Examiner as one of the “worst public policy failures in this province’s recent history.”
The WPMANS submission offers a much more detailed and perhaps clearer picture of what the Association is all about, and how it thinks forests and land should be managed in Nova Scotia than does the letter this week to Iain Rankin.
WPMANS comes out swinging against protected wilderness areas, saying it is “naïve and dangerous” to “let nature run its course” in Protected Areas. And, said its submission, “The current ‘do nothing’ Protected Areas management philosophy must be rejected.”
The WPMANS submission also contained this diatribe against protected areas:
Lack of certainty as to the boundless limits of future Protected Areas ties up considerable Crown lands sorely in need of forest management that will ultimately never be “protected”. WPMANS has always maintained that too much Crown land has been tied up in unmanaged Protected Areas. This has had a significant negative economic impact on rural communities and will in the near term threaten the environment. There is no unadulterated nature in the Province, and intensive active remediation may be required to improve habitat and address complex threats such acidification of streams, climate change and introduced species. The general public’s romantic attraction to “protection” through abject unmanagement must be resisted. Education is required. We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand.
WPANS urged the province to instead identify and protect lands for industrial forestry.
“Scurrilous” and “spectacularly outdated”
Ray Plourde, Senior Wilderness Area Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, responds to these WPMANS comments as “scurrilous” and “spectacularly outdated.”
“It would seem that any forest areas on Crown land, in their opinion, should be harvested on an aggressive basis or a short rotation basis, or it will go to rack and ruin,” Plourde said in a phone interview. “That is ridiculously outdated, an incorrect perspective that has been soundly rejected by science.”
Plourde says that while he strongly disagrees with the WPMANS views on protected areas, in the letter the association sent to Rankin this week, there is one thing he can agree on. “The government needs to fully implement all 45 recommendations in the Lahey Report,” he says, and not be allowed to pick and choose the ones that appeal to industry.
Rather than respond directly to the WPMANS letter, Mike Lancaster, coordinator of the Healthy Forest Coalition, emailed the Examiner with some of his thoughts on what the incoming government of Iain Rankin should do:
The recommendations of the “Lahey Report” call for a balance in public forestry by implementing a triad approach – Protected Areas, High Production Forestry, and the Ecological Matrix Lands. With this system, the balance is entirely dependent upon true ecologically-based forestry occurring within the Ecological Matrix Lands. The current iteration of the Silvicultural Guides for the Ecological Matrix (SGEM) – the document that will be used to determine on-the-ground forestry – does not meet this goal. Essentially, the current proposed SGEM would perpetuate the management of our public forests through a lens that is still dominated by industrial, not ecological, values. Examples of this can be seen in how a number of forest types would be subject to having 80% of the volume removed or how there is still no suspension of practices during the peak of migratory bird-nesting season – unavoidably killing, or disrupting birds and breaking the international Migratory Birds Convention Act.
It is essential for the next draft to meet these goals or the actual implementation of Lahey’s recommendations will not be reflected in policy and practice. If this does not occur it will be leaving us very close to where we started before this exhaustive, publicly-funded review took place. Everyone wants clarity and to move forward with defined timelines and parameters but we owe to future generations to improve our forests and get this right.
Premier-designate Iain Rankin committed to a review of the Crown Lands Act in his platform and the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, and Nova Scotians, elected him on this promise. The Crown Lands Act, as it is currently structured, perpetuates an approach of “forestry first” when it comes to the management of our public forests. If we want to see lasting change we need to ensure that this outdated piece of legislation is brought into the 21st century where values such as climate change, Indigenous values, ecosystem services, eco-tourism, biodiversity collapse are all balanced.
Not everyone is as diplomatic as Lancaster.
On the Annapolis Royal & Area Facebook page she administers, Bev Wigney posted Gorman’s CBC article about the WPANS letter, with this comment:
Anyone else catch the latest pile of bullsh*t out of the forest industry? Oh, yeah, they couldn’t let the Lahey report be implemented until they managed to screw with it so much that it’s now a weapon instead of a tool. Typical.
6. Living wage
“Following an anti-living wage presentation last month, a council committee heard the alternative view on Thursday,” reports Zane Woodford:
Halifax regional council’s Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee heard a presentation from Build Right Nova Scotia — a coalition of unionized worker and contractor organizations — on the municipality’s new living wage policy during its virtual meeting.
The living wage requirement comes into effect for all new contracts on April 1. It means some contractors working with the municipality will have to pay their employees at least $21.80 — the current living wage as defined by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
The requirement won’t include construction work, but as the Halifax Examiner reported last month, the committee heard from three construction industry associations warning of a “substantial burden from an administrative, staffing, and human resources perspective” for contractors in the snow-clearing and waste collection businesses.
Thursday’s presentation from Build Right took the opposite position.
7. Port fantasies
Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator continues her dive into the documents she only recently received as a result of a Freedom of Information request filed in 2015. The documents relate to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality’s (supposed) planning for an international shipping terminal (and it turns out, much more). Thanks to Campbell, we now have a detailed account of how this absurdity played out.
This week, Campbell has written two articles about the documents.
The first article looks at the municipality’s contemplation of a feasibility study of the project:
The feasibility of developing a terminal for the world’s largest container ships in Sydney harbor is something you’d think the proponents would probably want to determine relatively early on in the process and yet, by 2014 — after the $38 million dredging of the harbor — the port team had yet to produce a feasibility study.
Following this meeting, Sheehy penned a Port of Sydney “value proposition” for Dundee Capital. He first wrote:
Moffatt & Nichol Engineering has been tasked with completing a feasibility study, business case and economic model. The analysis, available shortly, will validate the case for the Port of Sydney outlined in this brief summary.
Before you go searching for that feasibility study, business case and economic model produced by Moffatt & Nichol, let me save you some time: in a subsequent draft, Sheehy scratched out “Moffatt & Nichol” and replaced it with “A leading firm with extensive experience in transportation infrastructure and harbor development.” He lets the part about the analysis being available shortly stand, although that doesn’t jibe with the discussions the “port team” were having at this time — it doesn’t even jibe with what Sheehy himself wrote to Dundee and the port team at this time, after Dundee sent the CBRM the draft Letter of Engagement I’ve discussed elsewhere this week:
Now that the Letter of Engagement is in hand and we can confirm a number of investment funds are keen on the project, what’s next? There’s no point pursuing more funds until the feasibility study is completed. That is why it is urgent that the study be commissioned as soon as possible.
(My working theory, by the way, is that Sheehy has such faith in the power of his pen he actually believes that if he writes it, it is so. How else to explain the claim, elsewhere in this document, that the Port of Sydney has access to double-stack rail?)
Campbell’s second article looks at a non-disclosure agreement signed between the various partners and the above-mentioned Dundee Capital:
Sheehy, in one of the “narratives” it seems to have been his job to produce, says the harbor plan encompasses “container terminals, dry docks, expanded break bulk capabilities, coal gasification and other oil and gas infrastructure,” elsewhere he references a potential oil refinery and “petrochemical” infrastructure. (He also notes, repeatedly, that given “increasingly stiff environmental regulation and general hostility by coastal communities to large scale development, Sydport will likely be the last major harbor to be developed on the east coast of North Americain our lifetime.”)
Dundee’s role would be to raise money for this CBRM company from a select group of investors, which is what is meant by a “private placement.”
It’s clear from the emails that Sheehy and Barbusci were hoping to raise money from pension and investment funds — the kind of “accredited” investors permitted to invest in private placements. (If you’re thinking “accredited” means investors who have passed some sort of test proving they can make smart investment decisions, think again. It means “rich,” just ask any Bernie Madoff client.)
Campbell gets into the murky legal details of the proposed arrangement, which never materialized — probably because it was so sketchy to begin with.
But back up a bit and consider that there was secret talk of building a coal gasification and oil refinery in Sydney. As Campbell comments:
The argument used by those who elevate the “financial or economic interests” of private companies over the public’s right to know (an argument trotted out as recently as Tuesday by the outgoing premier of this province) is that companies told their dealings with government must be conducted transparently will refuse to deal with government. But does anybody in this province actually believe that?
Government is the driving force behind so much economic development in this province — just look at the much-vaunted construction “boom” in CBRM — it is perfectly placed to demand more transparency in its dealings with the private sector.
It just doesn’t want to, because secrecy is as useful to government as it is to private corporations.
As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so these articles are behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
8. Remove the Canso Causeway
Speaking of the Cape Breton Spectator, this week’s edition includes Paul Strome’s well-argued case for removing the Canso Causeway and replacing it with a bridge:
From environmental, financial and safety perspectives ,the Canso Causeway needs to be replaced with a modern, multi-lane structure that will allow sea-going ships to pass unrestricted through the Strait, as does the Confederation Bridge. Ships and marine life of all sizes can travel between the mainland and P.E.I. and that should be possible in the Canso Strait as well. Intelligent design should always take into account environmental considerations but that was not done in the case of the Canso Causeway.
Replacing the Causeway with a bridge would allow the return of marine life within the Gulf of St. Lawrence as well as the waters on either side of the Strait of Canso. This would reduce the temperature in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and allow the returning flow of water to flush out the sediments that have built up since the 1950s.
In short, the Causeway is a man-made structure that should be replaced now that mankind is more environmentally aware of our errors.
1. Part six of the Archibald collection
Stephen Archibald continues his (six-part, so far) romp through his photo collection.
Copspeak has infiltrated our language to an alarming degree.
It seems the words “person” and “people” have been relegated to some vulgar form of English, replaced with the High Police “individual” and “individuals.” But to my ear, with the exception of some very specific uses, “individual” is de-humanizing. Individuals is used to other people who have unique hopes and dreams, who love certain people in certain ways, have distinct identities in their community, and live and die in particular circumstances — reducing them instead to some non- or indistinct form of quasi-human who we don’t really need to consider in all their wonderful fullness.
So the Examiner stylebook banishes “individual” from these pages, with a handful of exceptions, including when writing about how we hate the word.
I have much the same reaction to the High Police “male” and “female.” These uses can also be dehumanizing — “man” and “woman” would usually suffice, while acknowledging the people’s humanity. I’m concentrating today on the use of “female,” so consider that all sorts of creatures can be female — female dogs are bitches, female foxes are vixens, female deer are d’ohs:
Female people, however, are just female, defined only by their body parts, I suppose, and not by their hopes and dreams, their loves, and the rest of their full humanity.
Consider two documents from yesterday. The first is a press release from the Serious Incident Response Team:
The province’s independent Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT) has commenced an investigation into an allegation of assault committed by a Cape Breton Regional Police Officer.
On February 13th, SiRT received a call from a third-party alleging the officer had assaulted two females. Both females are known to the officer.
As a result, SiRT has begun an investigation.
It’s interesting that the allegedly assaulting officer is completely sexless, while the alleged victims’ sex is important enough to put in the press release.
OK, maybe one or both alleged victims are under 18 years old, in which case they’d be girls, not women, and maybe the cops and/or SIRT aren’t sure about the age of the victims and so the all-encompassing “female” works. Except does it? How are they confident that the alleged victims are female? Did they inspect genitals, and then question their preferred gender self-identity? And if they could make such an inquisition, surely they could find out how old the alleged victims are.
The second document is an unbylined article in the Chronicle Herald article from yesterday, “CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall calls out councillor for remark“:
A veteran male councillor in Cape Breton’s largest municipality was given a stern rebuke Thursday by Mayor Amanda McDougall who took exception to a remark referencing her holding her infant son.
McDougall, who is the first female to hold the position of mayor…
I don’t have a problem with the article as a whole — it gets into important issues about gender dynamics in politics, childcare by professionals, and more — but I find the “male” and especially the “female” are intrusive and annoying. McDougall is Cape Breton’s first woman mayor.
W-O-M-A-N. Sing it:
I know I’m of a small minority here, but I don’t think people should be going to Mars, or anywhere else much past the moon, for that matter.
There’s this weird fantasy that humans are going to set up shop on the red planet and terraform the place such to have a sustainable ecosystem that humans can live in. But we can’t even do that with our own planet — something like modern humans have been around for 300,000 years or so, but agriculture wasn’t invented until about 8,000 years ago (as the last ice age was retreating) and the industrialized pumping of carbon into the atmosphere started just 200 years ago, and look at the fine mess we’re in. To think that we could take a completely foreign planetary ecosystem and mold it into something predictably stable and human-life sustaining for the longterm is simply absurd. We’ll fail. We fail at everything — that’s what humans do.
And more than a little of the absurd fantasy of setting up shop on Mars has to do with escaping — not fixing — the mess we’ve created here on Earth.
Besides that, I think that other worlds have inherent value that can’t be defined in human terms. I can’t really spell that out in greater detail, but I stand by it — Mars doesn’t need a bunch of asshole humans mucking it up.
Still and all, I think it’s really cool — and really worthwhile — that we send robots to Mars to wander around and explore. It’s good we learn about other worlds, and maybe, just maybe, that knowledge will make us a little more humble.
Budget Committee (Friday, 9:30am) — contingency date if needed
No public meetings.
Let me tell you a story: Black women’s motherwork as educational leadership (Friday, 12pm) — captioned event with Stephanie Fearon, part of the Dalhousie Feminist Seminar Series
In the harbour
05:30: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
16:30: Atlantic Star sails for Hamburg, Germany
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
17:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
New information about the mass murder investigation is coming out at 11am. Stay tuned.