1. The Halifax Examiner
Ever since I started the Examiner in 2014 (June 18 is our seventh birthday), well-wishers and other curious folk have continuously asked, “how many subscribers do you have?”
There was nothing untoward about these questions, but I demurred. My joke answer was always “it’s either so few that you think we’re about to fold and so you won’t subscribe, or so many that you feel we’re doing fine so you don’t need to subscribe.” Privately, I wondered, “do people ask restaurant owners how much they’ve done in sales?”
But over the past year or so, as the Examiner has grown, my silence on the issue has increasingly bothered me. The Examiner asks readers for their financial support, and in return I promise a worthy journalistic project; I should be open with them about what that means, exactly. And, recently my GNI Startup Labs coach has encouraged me to become more transparent with readers.
So here we are: last night, I wrote a note to readers, spelling out the Examiner’s finances, what I get paid, and what our next big project is. And oh yeah, the number of subscribers: just over 3,500.
I should’ve said that most readers aren’t subscribers. Depending on the day, anywhere from 90 to 99% of Morning File readers aren’t subscribers. (We also have one-off articles that go viral and hundreds of thousands of non-subscribers read them.)
If I were Jesse Brown, I’d castigate those readers for being freeloaders and such, but I recognize people have their own reasons for subscribing or not, and we’ve made the paywall very loose — anything COVID-related, or mass murder-related, or in the interests of social justice is made free for all the world to read, whether they’re subscribers or not. I understand that people may not have the money to subscribe (although we have a low-income subscription) or the deep interest in subscribing. That’s fine. I hope to win you over with our continued reporting. You really do pay for this work.
2. LNG & Gold
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
Premier Iain Rankin says his government will not change policy around carbon pricing to accommodate a proposed $13-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant at Goldboro in Guysborough County.
The question arose during yesterday’s session with reporters after cabinet ministers met for the first time in a month. Time is getting short for Pieridae Energy of Calgary, which has repeatedly said it must make a decision by the end of this month about whether to proceed. The Goldboro LNG megaproject is estimated to add about 18% to the amount of GHG emissions produced in Nova Scotia, making a mockery of net-zero targets announced for 2050.
Rankin said the fact Ottawa is increasing the price on carbon means negotiations have begun with the federal government about revising Nova Scotia’s cap-and-trade emissions plan expiring in 2022 or introducing a new carbon pricing regime.
“I’m prepared to be flexible on cap-and-trade and carbon pricing,” said Rankin, who was the Environment minister when that policy was introduced.“ But we are not going to shift our plan to price carbon based on what is good for one company, but the province as a whole.”
Rankin said that to his knowledge, Pieridae Energy has not secured financing for the LNG project (the company has requested nearly a $1 billion loan or loan guarantee under Ottawa’s COVID Response program).
Pieridae has floated the idea it could store or sequester carbon dioxide emissions from a project in Alberta to offset the GHG emissions being produced at the proposed LNG facility here. Nova Scotia Environment Minister Keith Irving was asked what he thought about such a swap.
“We don’t have any official proposal from the company,” replied Irving. “When we get a proposal, we will examine that in light of cap-and-trade and carbon pricing.”
Irving was also questioned about why it has taken the government more than a year to declare wilderness around Archibald Lake a protected area. It’s also in Guysborough county. It is one of more than 60 properties on a list for consideration. It is also a hot button issue because the St Barbara mining company in Australia wants to develop a gold mine at Cochrane Hill in the same vicinity as Archibald Lake. St Barbara’s subsidiary, Atlantic Mining, proposes drawing water from the lake to use in its mine development. Reporters challenged Irving as to whether he had “hit the brakes” due to lobbying efforts by the gold mining company, which currently operates a mine at Moose River.
“We have not hit them (the brakes) in any way,” replied Irving. “There’s a lot going and there are a lot of properties under consideration and we continue on our march to 14 percent.”
Irving is referring to the province’s new target, which aims to set aside or protect from development 14% of all land in Nova Scotia. “I am not aware of any communication from the Environment Department to St Barbara saying Archibald Lake is on hold,” said Irving in response to a question from a reporter noting a statement made in that company’s second quarter report to its shareholders.
“The Nova Scotia government recently advised the deferral of a decision to designate Archibald Lake as a protected wilderness area,” said a line in that Q2 report.
Bousquet here again…
What are we to make of that quarterly report? Here’s the section on Atlantic Gold:
Atlantic Gold growth projects
• COVID-19 restrictions have slowed some stakeholder engagement related to permitting of the Atlantic growth projects. The Federal permitting agencies have reopened and are accepting submissions, however, the legislated requirement for public consultations has been interrupted due to COVID-19. Engagement with First Nations groups has largely recommenced with good progress at Fifteen Mile Stream. Impacts from COVID-19 on the progression of the Atlantic projects are being closely monitored with a mitigation action plan developed to minimise these impacts. Organisation changes have been made at Atlantic Gold with the appointment of a General Manager Community Engagement and Permitting focussing on First Nations Engagement, Government Engagement and driving permitting.
• Beaver Dam: It is anticipated that the updated Federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), responding to the second round of information requests, will be submitted in Q3 Mar FY21 with approval of the EIS anticipated in Q2 Dec FY22. The Feasibility Studies relating to mining, plant design, and haul road along with the associated site investigations remain on schedule for completion in Q4 FY21. This includes the execution planning for subsequent project phases.
• Fifteen Mile Stream: Site investigative studies and First Nations engagement are advancing sufficiently to allow for the EIS submission in Q3 Mar FY21. Various Building Brilliance initiatives are being reviewed and developed for incorporation into the project with the Feasibility Study on track for completion in Q4 Jun FY21.
• Cochrane Hill: The Nova Scotia Government recently advised the deferral of a decision to designate Archibald Lake as a protected wilderness area. Whilst awaiting further clarification around this decision, work continued during the period with respect to several trade-off studies along with further environmental investigations in support of the planned EIS and Feasibility Study for this project.
How can St Barbara simply state outright that the Nova Scotia government says it has deferred its decision on Archibald Lake when the environment minister says that’s not so? The same way that Pieridae says it has secured financing from the German government when that government says the supposed financing is still being assessed, and the same way Aurelius Mineral says it has active permitting for its Aureus East property on the Eastern Shore when the Department of Environment tells us that is categorically false.
There is, I think, a spectrum of bullshit that stretches from “we think we can line this up so let’s say we already have” to “I had drinks with the assistant to the deputy minister, and he assured me this was the way it will go” that underlies these companies’ statements that appear counter to reality. Or, they’re outright lying.
Companies do what companies do, but what should citizens and their government do about it?
Back in 2018, Barbara Markovits of Eastern Shore Forest Watch told Joan Baxter that she worried that the entire Eastern Shore was becoming Nova Scotia’s “sacrifice zone,” and ever since, I’ve viewed most every policy decision by government through that lens. The machinery of government seems hellbent on logging the shit out the place, denuding the soil and poisoning the rivers and lakes through gold mining, and placing every cockamamie scheme imaginable — space port, LNG plant, mega shipping terminal, biomass energy, whatever — in this sacrificed sector of the province, as no one much who lives there objects and those who do object hold exactly zero political power, so screw ’em.
And once you’ve given up basically any pretence of regulatory oversight, what’s left but to play along with the corporate raiders? You’ll at least get some unreported lobbying cocktails out of the deal, and if you rubberstamp enough, you’ll maybe get hired outright by the companies.
I don’t think some secret cabal ever sat down in a smokey backroom and rubbed their hands together Mr. Burns-style over the prospect of turning the Eastern Shore into a sacrifice zone.
Rather, it was death by a thousand cuts. A bunch of decisions, some more momentous than others, made by a bunch of bureaucrats, some more conniving than others, overseen by a bunch of governments, some more clueless than others, has led us to this point such that the Eastern Shore may soon become the Nova Scotian equivalent of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, a place visited only by disaster tourists and academic researchers with an interest in ecological apocalypse.
“Council’s environmental committee is recommending the municipality start testing lake water quality, implementing a monitoring program for the first time since 2011,” reports Zane Woodford:
Under a plan submitted to council’s Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee during its virtual meeting on Thursday, based on a report from consultants AECOM, 74 of the more than 1,000 lakes across Halifax Regional Municipality would be tested.
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A man in his 30s has died from COVID-19. He lived in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone. He is the 88th person to die from the disease in Nova Scotia, and the 22nd since April 1.
Additionally, Nova Scotia has announced 25 new cases of COVID-19 today (Thursday, June 3).
Premier Iain Rankin and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang have scheduled a COVID briefing for 2pm today. I probably won’t ask about any mountain climbing adventures, but who knows?; you can follow along on my Twitter account.
“Dexter Construction is in line to get the contract for the Cogswell Interchange project, submitting the lowest bid for the work at more than $95 million,” reports Zane Woodford.
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6. Brunswick Street
“A development approved for Brunswick Street is not too tall for the area, Nova Scotia’s highest court ruled on Thursday,” reports Zane Woodford:
It’s likely the end of the line for the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia’s fight against the proposal from developer Adam Barrett’s Brunswick Street Developments Ltd. for a 42-unit, eight-storey residential building at 2267 Brunswick St. — behind the old rectory building next to St. Patrick’s Church.
Halifax and West Community Council approved the development in July 2019, and the Heritage Trust appealed that decision to the provincial Utility and Review Board (UARB), arguing the council’s decision failed to protect the heritage of the area. The UARB dismissed the appeal in June 2020, as the Halifax Examiner reported at the time.
In March, the Heritage Trust appealed the UARB decision to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, and a panel of three judges — Justices Michael Wood, Cindy Bourgeois, and Joel Fichaud — heard arguments from lawyers representing the Heritage Trust, the developer, and the municipality.
In a written decision released Thursday, Fichaud, with Wood and Bourgeois concurring, dismissed the appeal.
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1. The Codfathers
Back in the Before Times, I had it in my head that I might one day write a book about the Maritimes’ billionaires, a sort of chronicle of dystopia, a retrospective how-to for the looting of an entire geographic area and its people. Imagine my surprise, then, when Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator alerted me Wednesday that a Bizarro World equivalent of my billionaire book already exists.
“Had I read Gordon Pitts’ The Codfathers: Lessons from the Atlantic Business Elite when it first came out in 2005, I think it would have annoyed me — it’s just a collection of fawning portraits of wealthy Atlantic Canadian business types,” writes Campbell:
But in 2021, post-financial crisis, mid-plague, as the world is finally starting to awaken from its neolib nightmare, it reads like top-drawer satire and I enjoyed every cringey page of it.
Campbell details a chapter about Annette Verschuren that is the very definition of cringe, then continues:
Pitts’ thesis, which he apparently first took for a trial run in the Globe and Mail where he is a business reporter, is that people like Verschuren and [former New Brunswick Premier Frank] McKenna are part of a “tightly knit, loyal network of owners and professionals,” a non-criminal “mafia” of Maritimers who exert an outsized influence on the country from positions on Bay Street, in government and at the heads of Canada’s “leading” companies. (There’s a also a “Newfoundland mafia” but it’s “different” and merits only a chapter near the end of the book.)
The “godfathers” or “more appropriately,” the “Codfathers” of this mafia are people like Wallace McCain, Arthur and James Irving, Ron Joyce (the half of the Tim Hortons coffee chain who wasn’t Tim Horton), Richard Currie (former CEO of Loblaw’s grocery chain) and Donald and David Sobey. (The book came out in 2005, McCain, Joyce and Donald Sobey have since died.)
It cannot be overstated how much Pitts loves these people.
He loves their looks — Kenneth Irving is “tall” and “coolly handsome” while Wallace McCain and his sons are “tall and rangy, like Gary Cooper, striding in from central casting for some Western movie.” (I don’t think Pitts knows much about movies — central casting is for background actors, not stars, and “some Western movie” makes it sound like he’s never heard of High Noon.)
He loves their disdain for “pretty” or “fancy” degrees — unless they’ve earned one or been granted an honorary one, in which case, he’s all for pretty, fancy degrees.
He loves their “salty” language, because while swearing every time you open your mouth is frowned upon for us plebs, it’s delightful when you’re rich.
He loves their modesty and lack of pretense — unless they’re into conspicuous consumption and multiple residences and 40-foot yachts, in which case, that’s fine too.
He loves their “hardscrabble” childhoods and rags-to-riches origin stories, but if they’re a fourth generation Sobey walking into a senior management position on the strength of their last name, that is also (somehow) admirable.
He loves both the “classic Maritime approach” to business where “friendship is considered more important than an extra buck or two” and the “Maritime way” which “is all about making money first.”
He loves the family dynasties like the Sobeys, the Irvings, the McCains, the Ganongs, the Braggs and the Olands, with room left over in his heart for a few arrivistes and politicians, like George Armoyan, John Risley and McKenna.
He loves all these “impressive, affluent” people we first meet as they are arriving at McKenna’s fourth annual Maritime business summit at donut tycoon Ron Joyce’s Fox Harb’r golf course to hear former US President Bill Clinton who, according to blueberry and cable “tycoon” John Bragg, addressed them like they were “doctoral students.”
Campbell has a lot to say in this piece, all of it worthy, and most of it drop-dead funny, so do read the whole thing. But I especially liked the part about these Maritime billionaires living supposed modest lives, and this aside:
There is nothing particularly admirable about living like you’re the last Viceroy of India either, although it will make for good television when this book is adapted. My favorite example has to be that of Craig Dobbin, the Newfoundland helicopter magnate, who, in the mid-’90s, found himself in need of a lung. Lungs being in “short supply and heavy demand” and “not all hospitals” being “willing to would perform the procedure for someone in his early 60s,” Dobbin and his wife Elaine hatched a plan:
He would set himself up in a geographically central place, from which he could easily reach as many of the U.S. transplant hospitals as possible. He chose Birmingham, Alabama, and put himself on the waiting list in 16 hospitals, all of which he could reach by air within two hours — the minimum for status as a preferred “local patient.” Equipped with a leased Gulfstream Jet and a team of pilots, he rented two little houses near the Bessemer airfield in Birmingham, one for himself (at $3,500 a month) and one for his rotation of four pilots.
Then he and his wife sat and waited. Well, not exactly — he actually, at one point, flew to his vacation house in Florida, where he got a false alarm about a potential lung, which made him sad, so he got drunk to drown his sorrows, then he got an actual call about a lung in Philadelphia, and so flew off, half-cut, for his transplant.
A terrible reflection on the American medical system, but great television. I’d spend a good part of the episode telling the stories of all the other people in Philadelphia on that waiting list for a lung.
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We all make typos, but this one was especially funny:
It reminded me of this classic:
10th Anniversary Hockey Conference (Friday – Sunday) — “A biennial event held at various locations throughout North America. It has instrumentally advanced scholarship on ice hockey and it attracts scholars and community members who take any kind of interest in the sport.” Free virtual event, register here.
In the harbour
06:00: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
07:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
07:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
08:00: Atlantic Marlin, cargo barge, moves from Halifax Shipyard to IEL
11:00: lios, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
13:00: Siem Commander, offshore supply ship, moves from Old Coast Guard Base to Bedford Basin for trials
16:00″ Nolhanava sails for Saint-Pierre
16:30: Atlantic Sun sails for New York
16:30: ZIM Tarragona sails for New York
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
No arrivals or departures
I will be on a patio this weekend, almost certainly.