At 5:40 this morning police issued the following statement to reporters:
Halifax Regional Police are currently on the scene of a stabbing the 100 block of Portland St. Dartmouth. At 0214 am we responded to a report of fight outside, an unidentified male was located, he was pronounced deceased at the scene. No one is in custody at this time. The investigation is in its initial stages and the integrated HRP/RCMP Major Crime Unit are investigating.
The area of Portland St between King St and Queen St and Wentworth St is currently blocked off while the investigation continues.
2. Veronica Park
CBC reporter Brett Ruskin is doing important work related to Veronica Park, a a 38-year-old woman who died in April while in custody at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro. Park’s family has not been told the cause of her death, reports Ruskin:
CBC News also asked for details about the Park’s death. When those questions weren’t answered, CBC News filed a request for information to learn why.
“Any comment will serve to protract the media interest,” said one email sent May 1 between two CSC media officials.
“I don’t know why he [Brett Ruskin] would want an on-camera interview,” wrote Etienne Chiasson, the CSC’s Atlantic region media spokesperson, in an email the Monday following Park’s death.
Chiasson later instructed a local representative to ignore media requests.
“One advice: if your phone rings and you suspect it’s a reporter, you don’t have to answer,” he wrote.
“It is the weekend, and this is in no way an urgent matter. For them maybe, but not for us. Take the weekend off ;-).”
This statement was in response to the CBC’s renewed calls for Correctional Service Canada to share Park’s cause of death with her family.
3. Auditor General report
Auditor General Michael Pickup released his 2015 report yesterday. It includes three performance audits, with the important takeaway points as follows:
Fisheries and Aquaculture
“The Department is providing fish health veterinary services and timely response to emergencies. Fish health monitoring is an optional service with no regulatory requirement for operators to report to the Department on fish diseases. A disease outbreak could occur without the Department being aware of it. Fish health records include details about site visits and the results of examinations and lab tests, although communication with operators is not always well documented.”
“Overall, the departments we audited followed procurement requirements related to issuing public tenders and obtaining quotes; however, improvements are needed to ensure proper approvals. We found significant weaknesses in monitoring procurement to ensure compliance with legislation and policy. We also identified significant weaknesses related to professional services contracts, including important clauses missing from many contracts which increase the province’s risk should disagreements arise. Once signed, we found professional services contracts were monitored to ensure services were received.
“Overall, the six departments examined (Health and Wellness, Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, Internal Services, Natural Resources, and Energy) complied with many aspects of provincial legislation, policy, and guidelines and procured professional services in a manner which considered economy and efficiency. However, 10% of our sample items lacked proper approval to enter into a contract. This is a significant control which needs attention.”
“The Department of Health and Wellness does not monitor gambling treatment within health authorities for compliance with treatment standards. Updated prevention standards have been under development since 2008 but have not been approved and implemented. In addition, the Department does not know whether prevention and treatment services result in reduced gambling-related harms.”
There’s been much in the news lately about government expenses. This can be a difficult issue to parse.
Clearly, government officials and elected politicians should obey the law — MLAs have recently gone to jail for illegally expensing items. And even when expenses properly fall under the regulations, there should be restraint and budget control; that becomes somewhat of a judgment call, however, unless we take the absurd view that our public servants should not travel or expense anything at all.
For example, I had no problem with city councillors attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Edmonton. The FCM does important work — it provided the seed money for Halifax’s Solar City program — and councillors can bring back information that will help the city in the long run. Ongoing professional development is a good thing. Even in simple value for money terms, the FCM conference held in Halifax in 2011 brought more financial return to this city than a decades’ worth of councillor travel to FCM conferences in other cities will cost.
MP Megan Leslie is being called out for a $6,000 travel bill to Edmonton. There’s no question the cost was excessive, and Leslie has offered an explanation and apology. I’d like to see more, however: as does Halifax mayor Mike Savage, I’d like to see all MPs promptly publish all their travel expenses and justifications for travel. I was also wondering why Leslie flew business class, but with a bit of googling around this morning, I found that the regulations specifically say that a small number of officials (including deputy party leaders) are permitted to fly business class for some flights over 850km. My read is that Leslie’s flight to Edmonton was allowed under this policy. But again, judgment and cost control are the issues here; just because something is allowed doesn’t mean it has to happen.
Curiously, the CBC is reporting that Leslie is criticizing Port of Halifax officials for spending over $6,000 to buy a table for 10 at an awards luncheon in London, England (travel costs are additional). Again, the issue is one of judgment and cost control. I don’t know enough about it — there might be promotional benefit from attending the luncheon that somehow results in increased port business, but probably that’s stretching it.
What clearly seems beyond debate, however, is the unreasonableness of this bit in the CBC article:
And $6,000 also happens to be the amount taxpayers paid to cover [port president Karen] Oldfield’s annual golf club membership and Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society fees.
I can see the argument for the public picking up the tab for the Barristers’ fees (although I disagree with it), but golf club membership is beyond the pale.
5. NSCC & NSCAD
1. Rural poverty
Somebody or somebodies — the author(s) doesn’t/don’t disclose his/her/ their name(s) — has a website devoted to “living in poverty in the Western Annapolis Valley.” I spent an hour last night wandering around the site. On the front page is “Elizabeth’s story,” which is introduced with this explanation:
This is the first in a series of posts about what it is like to be poor in rural Nova Scotia, most particularly in the western end of Annapolis Valley in the riding of Premier Stephen McNeil. The poverty isn’t new with his government, but neither is it being addressed in any concrete and positive manner.
The post then goes on to give a face to poverty, showing how Elizabeth struggled to heat her house in the difficult winter, how she juggles minutes on her phone, the difficulties getting to the local food bank.
On another page, the author takes aim at the Local Prosperity Conference held in Annapolis Royal:
Because I could not afford to attend (and no one that I know who did go paid their own way), I had to rely upon Facebook pictures, Twitter feed, videos by our local media and people I knew who did go (but their way was paid for by someone else.)
My first immediate observation of the videos, pictures and stories was this one which stood out: What a lot of old white men. Not a single person interviewed in these videos stood outside the Old White Male circle. No women were interviewed; no First Nations, no African Canadians were interviewed. I do know that a couple of First Nations people were there but they were not visible in the videos and only one picture that I saw on Facebook.
My second immediate observation was Gregory Heming. Oh yes, I thought, he is the municipal councilor that is well known for not showing up to meetings that he is not interested in even though he is paid to do so as a municipal councilor. Okay, that sounds mean but that is my experience and the experience of many people. If you are paid to represent people in your district, then represent them. Don’t just go with the topics you are interested in.
Well, some would argue, he couldn’t show up to everything because he was busy setting the Local Prosperity Conference up. According to the local newspaper, the Spectator, this conference was set up by Gregory Heming’s organization The Centre for Local Prosperity. So wait…..did Heming use his position as a municipal councilor to set up this organization with himself as President, to make money by putting on this conference?
And the paid staff that were hired by this new organization, The Centre for Local Prosperity with Councilor Gregory Heming as its President, includes the Treasurer Christine Sloan. Ms. Sloan happens to live with and share a bed with Councilor Heming. Is this not also a Conflict of Interest under the policies of the Municipality of Annapolis County or am I just a slack-jawed- know-nothing- working- class-local person?
This Conference was funded not only by the exorbitant and unattainable cost of the registration, it was also funded by taxpayers. Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, (ACOA) which has the reputation of being the slush fund of several former federal politicians and is funded by our tax dollars that we pay for out of our paycheques, (no matter how small they are). ACOA chipped in some money and a lot of it judging by the position of their logo on the Sponsors page. Other tax payer organizations that threw money into this conference was the County of Annapolis and a few non profits that are funded by tax payer dollars.
(ACOA has not yet revealed how much money it contributed to the conference; the Centre for Local Prosperity does not provide budget information on its website.)
2. Fire Randy Bachman
The CBC should fire Randy Bachman, says Aaron Hartling:
I think I (and most of your readers) are aware of the musical stylings of one Mr. Bachman. A legend in his own mind. A man who hosts a music-themed show which has viciously ripped off Bob Dylan’s “Theme Time Radio Hour” program. A man who will tell anyone within earshot that his former band (who shall not be named here) sold more records than The Beatles (in a one-year period). A man whose radio theme song is an earworm and a song from his own catalogue (I have been told by a fellow musician it’s called “double-dipping” when you play your own songs on your own show repeatedly). Did you know BBC6 Radio has a rule for radio hosts that they can’t play their own songs on their shows?
Randy Bachman is a man who actively talks above his own noodling on the guitar. A man who fired his own brother from his band. A man who has “nicked” a riff from guitarist Lenny Breau and claims it as his own. A man whose jazz stylings are akin to water running off a cliff and, hopefully (crosses fingers), never making a sound. Are these the ideals of CBC hosts? I actively (as Mr. Bachman states) “do something green” and save electricity by turning off CBC radio during his time slot. (You should thank me NS Pow…er, Emera.) With the recent cuts to CBC, why not make a simple accounting ledger change and move the money from Randy’s salary to Radio Three?
3. Garden Party
Stephen Archibald went to the Lieutenant Governor’s garden party.
4. Who’s that knocking at my door?
5. Cranky letter of the day
My wife and I went for a walk this past Sunday on the grounds of Sullivan Pond. I remember that when Dartmouth was its own city, it took pride keeping the grass neat and the borders tidy (even when it was raining). Now that Halifax runs everything, my wife and I walked in ankle-deep grass and the borders were not so tidy.
Coun. Gloria McCluskey, please run for mayor of Dartmouth again. You would obtain lots of votes. The movement should go forward as we in Dartmouth are being left behind.
Frank Doyle, Dartmouth (not HRM or Halifax)
Community Planning and Economic Development (10am, City Hall)—the committee is looking at a proposal for a transit bus to be provided once a week for a “Mobile Food Market Pilot Project“:
The purpose of a mobile food market would be to bring fresh and affordable vegetables and fruit to neighbourhoods that have limited access to healthy food…
Public Health has identified the communities of Spryfield, Fairview, North Preston, East Preston, Halifax North and Dartmouth North as potential pilot sites based on indicators and data related to health and food insecurity on communities throughout Halifax from the 2013 Population Health Status Report and the related Community Profiles. Over the winter, Public Health, with the support of the Mayor’s Office, secured funding from the Department of Health and Wellness through Thrive! A Plan for a Healthier Nova Scotia to build connections with community partners and to develop a governance and delivery model to pilot a mobile healthy food market. This led to extensive consultation with each of these communities, including a meeting in April with over 40 stakeholders. Regional Councillors representing the proposed pilot communities were invited to this meeting, and the meeting was attended by Councillor Watts. A smaller meeting, with representatives of the pilot communities, took place in early June. The Mobile Market Project Team continues to work with each of these communities to identify specific sites for the mobile market.
Standing Committee on Resources (9am, Room 233A, Johnston Building) — David McMillan, president of the Nova Scotia Silviculture Contractors’ Association, will speak.
In the harbour
Paganella, car carrier, arrived at Auotport this morning, sails to Baltimore this afternoon
Halifax Express, container ship, Rotterdam to Fairview Cove West
Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, Norfolk to Fairview Cove
Reykjafos, cargo ship, arrived at Pier 41 this morning, sails to Portland this afternoon
The cruise ship Maasdam is in port today.
You’re invited! The Halifax Examiner turns one year old!
Who: anyone who wants to celebrate the Halifax Examiner
When: Wednesday, June 24, 5–10pm
Where: The Company House, 2202 Gottingen Street