1. The mass murderer’s connection to a drug dealer
A Parole Board of Canada decision from last month details the connection between Peter Alan Griffon, a convicted drug dealer with suspected links to the Mexican drug cartel La Familia, and GW, the gunman who murdered 22 people in Nova Scotia on April 18 and 19. It reads in part:
[I]n April 2020, you were interviewed as a part of a police investigation connected to the Nova Scotia mass shootings. At that time, you shared with your parole officer that you knew nothing of relevance to the case. Apparently, you were a rural neighbour to the accused. You would later advise CSC [Correction Services Canada] that another police interview was to be anticipated. Asked outright by your parole officer, you unequivocally stated that you did not make police decals that would be installed on the car utilized by the shooter. The interview resulted in police securing a search warrant for your workplace, discovering that you had in fact produced the decals, although you had been told not to. A photo of the completed work was found on your phone. You would later advise your parole officer that you had misled police and lied outright to your parole officer when first contacted and queried about knowledge of the shooting suspect. The workplace theft occurred in 2019. Charges are being contemplated, be they theft and or obstruction of a police investigation.
[Y]ou acknowledged that you knew the individual responsible for the many murders, as he had a summer residence near your family home. In the course of that relationship, you routinely did odd jobs around his property for cash. Apparently, he asked you about making decals, as have been referenced on the file, for a car he was putting together. You referred to him as a hobbyist; someone who if told he could not do something would set out to prove you wrong. Hence, putting together a police car because no one else had. It never crossed your mind that his intent was to act as he did.
The decision to make the decals represented a significant lack of judgement. You knew that you were using materials for purposes unknown to your employer. Arguably, your behaviour consisted of theft. Because of that decision, you have been laid off. You disputed that you have not been fired.
To the core of the suspension, you were not transparent with your parole officer and the police. In hindsight, you state that you simply panicked. As someone convicted of drug and weapons charges, and on parole, you felt incredible pressure (self-imposed) to distance yourself from the mayhem that ensued. Social media was all-consuming, and your life in the small community most affected by the mass murders was becoming unbearable. You and your family lost close friends and family.
You had developed a significant cocaine addiction that drew you into the company of other users and traffickers. In turn, you became a trafficker and you were ultimately convicted of several serious charges. The amount of drugs trafficked and the cash seized clearly suggests that you were a central player in the operation police brought down. When you were arrested and your residence was searched, police seized multiple phones and cash.
The Parole Board revoked Griffon’s parole.
A reminder that GW obtained about a half-million dollars in cash just weeks before the mass murder.
2. Post-secondary students
“Nova Scotia will require university and community college students arriving from outside Atlantic Canada to get three tests for COVID-19 during their 14-day self-isolation period,” reports Jennifer Henderson:
The additional testing strategy was announced by Premier Stephen McNeil earlier [Thursday] afternoon. It’s a measure that should help Public Health respond more quickly to potential outbreaks and hopefully contain them through improved contact tracing.
The money for the testing is being provided by the federal government and McNeil is hopeful the measure will reassure citizens in towns like Wolfville and Antigonish, where students from outside the Atlantic region make up 30 to 40% of the student body. Halifax will also see an influx of thousands of young adults.
The problem with this is that university students have already been arriving for weeks, and anecdotal reports say many of them have not been self-isolating.
I went for a walk yesterday evening and passed two different sports fields with far more than 10 people gathering without physically distancing. It’s dispiriting, in that I have been religiously following the Public Health guidelines, and yet I see that large
swarths swaths of the public have basically tossed them.
“Nova Scotia’s Education Department is fielding dozens of questions from parents, teachers, and opposition politicians about the Back-to-School plan unveiled July 22,” reports Jennifer Henderson:
Some changes are being made, said Education Minister Zach Churchill after cabinet met yesterday, and principals and vice-principals are headed back to school next week to work with the department to provide answers before classes begin Sept. 8.
“In Nova Scotia, we currently are in an enviable position from an epidemiological perspective,” noted Churchill. “If we continue to follow Public Health advice and follow the science around COVID-19, I believe we can get to a better state of normal, where we can get our kids back to school and where we aren’t leaving a generation behind because of this pandemic and do so in a way that creates a high level of safety for everybody.”
One of the biggest concerns raised by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and other labour groups is that the two metre physical distancing standard required by Public Health in other workplaces cannot be met in most classrooms, where 25-30 students gather. The teachers want smaller classes or in the case of teenagers, students attending school on alternate days. But that appears to be a non-starter for the Education minister when the Examiner asked if reducing class sizes is an option for September.
On Monday, the Halifax Examiner asked Public Health about potential COVID exposure at Murphy’s Fish & Chips in Truro. We were told Public Health looked into it and there was no “need to issue a public exposure notification.” Now, three days later, Public Health has issued that notification. What changed? And why should we continue to trust Public Health?
Late yesterday, after we published the article, we received this statement from Public Health:
The decision to issue public health alerts is a decision made by Public Health based on science, best practices and experience with COVID-19.
Details about locations and circumstances of identified cases are only provided publicly if it improves contact identification. As investigations unfold and new information comes to light, our approach may change, too. Changes are to be expected in a pandemic environment. In this case, new information came forward and Public Health decided it was necessary to issue an exposure notification.
Nova Scotians put their trust in the public health team because they have the expertise to lead us through it.
Trust us because we’re trust-worthy, I guess.
But the statement provides no useful information. Has one of the new active cases been traced back to the restaurant? If so, Public Health should simply say so.
5. Provincial budget
“The province has closed the books on the 2019-20 fiscal year, which ended March 31,” I reported yesterday:
The major takeaways:
• Expenses exceeded revenues by $105,700 ($11,486,100 compared to $11,380,400), but the budget is considered “balanced” thanks to $108,000 in “Consolidation Adjustments” — which as I understand it, relate mostly to prior year adjustments for project budgets, and in particular the Boat Harbour remediation project. In any event, the 2019-20 surplus is $2.3 million.
• The provincial debt increased by $249.4 million from March 31, 2019, bringing the total provincial debt to $15.24 billion, the first time it has passed the $15 billion mark. The cost of debt servicing last year was $818.2 million, and debt as a percentage of the province’s GDP has declined from 33.8% to 33.1%.
• About $120 million was incurred in COVID-19-related expenses, the bulk of which is $100 million allocated to Dalhousie University to administer. $50 million has already been transferred to the university, and the second $50 million will be moved over soon, but all of it is accounted for in the 2019/20 budget. The exact expenditures from that fund will depend on the applications for relief submitted by businesses. See the entire allocation of the $120 million here. A much larger fiscal hit related to COVID will occur in the current fiscal year, at a cost now estimated to exceed $800 million.
• The total costs of the Boat Harbour remediation project is now projected to be $291.9 million, and about $31.9 million has already been spent on it, leaving a balance of $260 million.
• Even though Northern Pulp Mill is now seeking creditor protection in bankruptcy court, finance staff said the status of the outstanding $85 million in loans to Northern Pulp has not changed.
• Bay Ferries was paid $22,028,828 in 2019-20. That amount covers both the management fee collected by the company for (not) operating the ferry, and the costs of upgrading the Bar Harbor ferry terminal, but neither of those costs are detailed. Making public the amount of the management fee is the subject of a court action initiated by the Progressive Conservative party.
• Events East, the crown corporation that operates the Halifax Convention Centre, reported an annual deficit of $5,472,968, to be split between the city and province.
6. City Hall’s sunshine list
“A former Halifax Transit mechanic who faced discrimination on the job and a high-ranking city staffer who was apparently fired earlier this year top the municipality’s 2020 sunshine list,” reports Zane Woodford:
Last fiscal year, April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, 999 Halifax Regional Municipality employees made more than $100,000. Of those 999 employees, nearly half — 458, or 46% — are police employees.
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7. Convention centre
“The municipality is on the hook for an extra $40,000 for last year’s Halifax Convention Centre deficit, and we still don’t know exactly what to expect for the current fiscal year,” reports Zane Woodford:
The provincial and municipal governments share the cost of the convention centre, and split its deficits.
The municipality’s share of the deficit for 2019-2020 was budgeted at $2,695,000. The new financial statements indicate the municipality will pay $2,736,484 — a difference of $41,484.
The province will pay $2,592,694, an increase of $12,694 from the budgeted amount of $2,580,000. (The municipal and provincial amounts differ “due to their different approaches to capital funding,” but they end up paying the same amount “over the years,” according to last year’s business plan.)
As the Halifax Examiner reported in June, Halifax’s share of the deficit for this year is budgeted higher, at $2,804,000, and that doesn’t even include the impact of COVID-19.
One of the political parties filed a public records request for the following:
Request for all documents and correspondence at the Director level and above regarding gender-based analysis of any spending or additional appropriations related to COVID-19 for the period from March 1, 2020 to present.
After a file search, we have located no records responsive to your application.
In the harbour
05:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to anchorage
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
08:00: Augusta Unity, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Mariel, Cuba
08:00: Taipei Trader, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
11:00: Baltic Mariner I, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
14:30: ZIM Qingdao, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
15:00: Ortolan Gamma, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool
15:30: Atlantic Sail sails for Liverpool, England
17:00: Em Kea, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Antwerp
23:00: Nolhanava sails for Saint-Pierre
I’m behind on editing three long investigative pieces. Hope to get one or two of them published today, and all three by the end of the weekend.