Joan Baxter here again, filling in for Tim who is in Toronto for Wrongful Conviction Day, and being recognized by Innocence Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to identifying, advocating for, and exonerating individuals convicted of a crime that they did not commit. He is being awarded the the Tracey Tyler Award for his reporting on the Glen Assoun case. Congratulations, Tim!


News

1. Cannabis

Tiffany Walsh (l) and Paul Pedersen. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

“’During a gold rush, there’s a lot of money to be made supplying the picks and shovels,’ said Paul Pedersen,” reports Jennifer Henderson who goes on to discuss how Pedersen and his partner Tiffany Walsh plan to profit of the Cannabis gold rush.

Click here to read “How to profit in cannabis gold rush: sell picks and shovels.”

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

2. Uber inevitable for Halifax?

Writing in The Coast, Jacob Boon says it’s inevitable that the ride-sharing company, Uber, will come to Halifax, but that Halifax shouldn’t be so excited about it. As Tim was when he wrote about Uber in Morning File earlier this week, Boon is critical of Uber’s business model:

Uber is not outlawed in Halifax. There is nothing stopping the gigantic Silicon Valley company from setting up shop here and operating under the same rules as every other cab company; employing drivers with taxi licenses and acting as dispatcher.

But obeying the rules is not Uber’s business model. Our laws will need to change instead, it seems.

There is a palpable lust in Halifax to amend our taxi regulations to favour a massive foreign corporation that will abuse labour practices, shift money out of our economy and maybe, if we’re lucky, make us look cool.

The fight is packaged as a backwards 
government holding down innovation through red tape, to the benefit of greedy taxi cab cartels.

Boon lists some of the standard arguments for embracing Uber:

Nobody doubts that Halifax’s taxi industry needs improvement. The waits are too long. The cars are too few. But why do we think Uber is the answer? Well, because anyone can drive an Uber car. Because Uber is convenient. It’s cheap. It’s inevitable.

But all of that, according to Hubert Horan, an aviation specialist with four decades of experience in the deregulation of transportation companies whom Boon consulted by phone from Arizona, is “100 per cent bullshit.”

Horan goes on to explain his problems with Uber, and Boon follows that up with the views of Uber Canada’s policy manager, Chris Schafer, who (no surprise) “focuses on deregulating bylaws across Canada to benefit ride-sharing.”

It’s an interesting and well-researched article that looks at the much-touted pros of Uber, and at a litany of cons, some very big and lesser-known ones, which should make any city think long and hard before it starts rewriting its bylaws to accommodate the Silicon Valley behemoth.

3. A new Traffic Safety Act for Nova Scotia

CBC’s Jean Laroche reports on yesterday’s announcement that Nova Scotia is getting a brand new set of rules of the road, the first since 1932:

The Traffic Safety Act will replace the Motor Vehicle Act which recognizes highways, roads and sidewalks as shared spaces and that pedestrians, cyclists and those who respond to roadside emergencies deserve extra protection from motor vehicles.

The proposed law introduces the concept of “vulnerable road users” which includes people who walk, cycle or emergency crews who work alongside roads and highways.

Motorists who injure or kill a vulnerable road user will see their fines double and their licences automatically suspended for up to six months after a conviction.

The new Act comes down hard on distracted drivers, and bans the use of handheld devices in any “manner, shape or form.” It has struck a welcome chord with Insurance Bureau of Canada, as well as with the Ecology Action Centre:

Kelsey Lane of the Ecology Action Centre said changing the name of the act sends the right signal.

“This is a public space,” said Lane. “Everybody, whether you’re driving a car, whether you’re walking, whether you’re riding a bike, you have the right to use the public right of way.”

Lane is also supportive of doubling the fines for drivers who hit a vulnerable road user.

The new Act, with its focus on traffic safety seems timely given that, as Ian Fairclough reports in the Chronicle Herald, traffic deaths in the province seem to be on the rise again:

More than a dozen fatal crashes on Nova Scotia highways in the past month and a half have pushed highway death statistics toward levels not seen in the past five years.

Crashes since mid-August have killed 17 people on the province’s highways, bringing the total so far this year to 57 deaths in 52 collisions. That’s the most in a year since 80 people died in 2013.

There were 48 deaths in both 2016 and 2017.

To put things in perspective, there haven’t been more than 100 traffic deaths in a year since 1997, and even then the numbers were still better than they were in the 1970s. In 1973, Fairclough reports, there were 277 fatalities on Nova Scotia’s roads.

I remember those days … no seatbelts or breathalyzers, two-lane highways, and joy-riding on summer nights with friends behind the wheels of their parents’ cars, skidding around sharp corners on winding roads on our way to the beach. Those really weren’t the good old days at all, they were darn dangerous, and I count myself as very lucky to still be alive.

Especially after plying the roads of West Africa for so many years.

4. Halifax councillor is prepared to start a war … against drive-thrus

Global News’ Alexander Quon reports that Richard Zurawski, councillor for Timberlea-Beechville-Clayton Park-Wedgewood, is “prepared to start a war against drive-thrus in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).” According to Quon, Zuwarski is going to:

…bring a motion before the municipality’s Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee on Thursday that would ask for a staff report examining drive-thrus and the “feasibility of their elimination.”

The reason why? Zurawski says drive-thrus create traffic as well as excess pollution.

It’s a unique idea but the councillor, who was first elected in 2016, has long campaigned for environmental issues in the Halifax.

While it is sure that many people will find Zurawski’s proposal preposterous, there are probably a fair number of others who will quietly applaud it as a motion that is long overdue, given the environmental and health problems that drive-thrus exacerbate.

Zuwawski will be speaking about his proposal at 1pm today at City Hall, before the Environment & Sustainability Standing Committee.

5. NDP proposes alternative to payday loans

Mary Campbell writes in the Cape Breton Spectator that the NDP MLA for Dartmouth North, Susan Leblanc, has introduced a bill that would see the provincial government guarantee personal, short-term, “micro-loans” for amounts up to $2,000 from credit unions:

I spoke to Leblanc briefly, by phone, on Friday and she told me the guarantee would be similar to the one the province now provides for small business loans from credit unions. The idea, she said, is to provide an alternative to payday loans — the short-term loans provided by payday lenders (like Money Mart and EasyFinancial and Money Direct and The Cash Store) at usurious rates in this province. (Both payday lenders and credit unions are regulated by the province, unlike banks which are under federal regulation.)

According to Leblanc, there is nothing in the Act that would stop the province’s credit unions from providing such loans now (and Mike Toomey, lending manager at the Sydney Credit Union, told me back in 2016 that credit unions do provide “lending options for smaller amounts”) but competing with the payday lenders is a “risky endeavor,” which is why the NDP is proposing the government guarantee.

This isn’t the first time that Campbell has written about payday loans and alternatives to them (see previous articles here and here), but she sees this new bill as a good reason to do an update on them:

The first thing to be said about payday lenders is that they do meet a societal need — they just do it in a really crappy, self-serving way.

Payday lenders will lend to the “credit-challenged,” a cohort that may not be able to borrow from banks or credit unions (although, as you will see a bit later, payday loans are also used by people with good credit). Payday lenders allow you to apply online or via a phone app. They’ll get you your cash in “10 minutes or less.” And if you prefer to arrange your loan in person, they have lots of bricks and mortar outlets. (John Oliver on Last Week Tonight said there were more payday loan outlets in the United States than McDonald’s and Starbucks outlets combined. I decided to compare payday loan outlets in Cape Breton to Tim Hortons and — if Google Maps is to be trusted — they are practically tied, with 20 Tim Hortons to 19 payday lending outlets.)

Campbell’s piece is, as usual, a  great read and thoroughly researched, with analysis from both Nova Scotia and British Columbia. Leblanc told her that in drafting Bill No. 57, which is an amendment to the Credit Union Act, the NDP looked across the country at alternatives to payday loans.

When Campbell asked LeBlanc about the chances of the bill’s passing, “she actually laughed,” given the NDP’s third party status in the legislature. But Campbell ends on a positive note:

Everything I’ve read about predatory lending leads me to the conclusion that regulating payday lenders is not the answer — providing viable alternatives to payday loans is the answer.

If you agree, why not tell your MLA?

Why not, indeed?

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, so this article is 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.

6. Looking to Ottawa to take over the environmental assessment for the pulp pipe

Pictou Landing Chief Andrea Paul addresses hundreds of fishermen and protesters at July 2018 “No Pipe” rally in Pictou. Photo courtesy Gerard J. Halfyard

In yesterday’s Morning File, Erica Butler highlighted the CBC story by Norma Jean MacPhee, in which activist Mary Gorman of Merigomish was “criticizing House of Commons speaker Geoff Regan for not allowing an emergency discussion on an alarming scientific report showing that oxygen levels in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are rapidly decreasing. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May had made the request for the discussion.”

Around the time I was reading that, a press release landed in my Inbox from the Friends of the Northumberland Strait (FONS), a group that formed in late 2017 when the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County announced that it was proposing a project to pipe treated effluent directly into the Strait, which is in the southern part of the already environmentally-compromised Gulf of St. Lawrence.

FONS has been critical of the province’s decision to fast-track the environmental assessment process for the project by opting for the three-month Class I rather than a longer Class II assessment (there is lots more on this in Linda Pannozzo’s “Dirty Dealing” series for the Halifax Examiner available here, here, and here, and in a piece I wrote, here.)

Since it formed, FONS has been trying to draw government and public attention to the risks of the proposed pipe into the Northumberland Strait, with its rich fishery and spawning grounds.

Now, the group has gone a step further, writing directly to provincial minister of environment Margaret Miller. According to their press release:

“Our organization asked the Minister of Environment to acknowledge that there are conflicts of interest which compromise the provincial government’s neutrality in conducting an environmental assessment of Northern Pulp’s new effluent treatment facility, and we asked her to hand responsibility for the environmental assessment to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency,” said Jill Graham-Scanlan, President of FONS.

The group also submitted an eight-page document, detailing the reasons it feels the government is in a conflict position, including:

• The province has acknowledged the significant possibility that it may become the owner/operator of the new facility and has invested heavily ($6 million) in the current design of the effluent treatment facility (ETF).

• The mill’s Indemnity Agreement, Lease Agreement and related documents impose a direct financial interest on the Province in decisions relating to the new ETF, both the cost of a new ETF and a potential claim for lost profits if the new ETF is not in operation in time to meet the deadline for closing Boat Harbour.

• The 1995 Memorandum of Understanding, to which it appears that Northern Pulp and the Province are now parties, requires the Province to, among other things, at clause 4.01.(1), “use its best efforts to assist Scott [now Northern Pulp] obtain [sic] all necessary permits, consents, and approvals to permit the construction and operation of a replacement treatment facility to replace the [Boat Harbour] Facility at the expiration of the term of the Lease.”

• In addition, the group points to the fact that Mr. Bernie Miller, former lawyer and lobbyist for Northern Pulp, now holds senior positions in the provincial government, serving both as Deputy Minister of the Office of Strategy Management, reporting directly to the Premier, and as Deputy Minister for the Department of Business.

FONS reports that it has submitted the same document to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), and is appealing to the federal agency to take over the environmental assessment for the project. It says that more than 5,000 citizens have written to CEAA to request the same thing.


Views

1. Trying to get straight answers from the provincial government is an exercise in frustration and futility

In 2017, protesters gathered in Halifax for a “Forest Funeral” to demand government change its forest policies. To date, it has not done so. Photo: Joan Baxter

A couple of times in recent years when I wanted information quickly about something the provincial government was doing, I went directly to relevant government employees, either emailing or calling them.

Each time, I received emails afterwards reminding me that this is a no-no in Nova Scotia and that, in the words of government spokesperson Bruce Nunn, “government has an understanding with media outlets that it coordinates media inquiries via its communications offices for each department.”

As a freelance journalist and author, I don’t think I qualify as a “media outlet,” and I don’t recall ever coming to any “understanding” with the government to make inquiries only to communications offices.

Nevertheless, I do comply with the “understanding.”

The provincial communications people are polite professionals and prompt in getting back to me, even if the replies are sometimes vague “statements” full of unhelpful platitudes, buzz words and doublespeak that answer few – or none – of my questions.

Sometimes, as I am struggling to figure out what it is that they are trying to say – or not say – in these replies, I wonder if any of the authors is old enough to have picked up the Dark Art Of Baffle-gab from the 1980s BBC comedy show, Yes Prime Minister, which brought us lines like this from fictional Permanent Under Secretary of State, Sir Humphrey Appleby:

Well Minister, if you ask me for a straight answer, then I shall say that, as far as we can see, looking at it by and large, taking one thing with another in terms of the average of departments, then in the final analysis it is probably true to say, that at the end of the day, in general terms, you would probably find that, not to put too fine a point on it, there probably wasn’t very much in it one way or the other. As far as one can see, at this stage.

Nigel Hawthorne playing Sir Humphrey Appleby in the BBC comedy, “Yes Prime Minister”

Non-journalists still have the liberty that reporters in this province apparently don’t have, and are allowed to communicate directly with government officials.

But that doesn’t mean they get any more straight answers than journalists do.

The patience and persistence of one concerned citizen

Take the example of the correspondence between Peter Ritchie, an energy analyst in Antigonish County, and Jason Hollet, executive director, climate change, Nova Scotia Environment (a department spokesperson told me this is the exact title).

Frustrated with his efforts to get answers, this week Ritchie forwarded me that correspondence. While it says a lot about the lack of accountability in this province, it says precious little about the concerns Ritchie raises in his letters.

Those relate to the large biomass burner at Point Tupper, which reportedly consumes 750,000 tonnes of biomass annually (50 to 60 truckloads a day) to generate electricity, and very inefficiently at that. The wood chips it burns come largely from clearcutting, and sometimes  from trees harvested in old growth forests on Crown land.

To be clear, the concern here is not about the efficient burning of biomass for heating, which is being proposed as a sustainable option and solution for Nova Scotia; it is with the very large and inefficient biomass plant that generates electricity in Point Tupper.

While the government claims that the biomass burner is helping Nova Scotia reach its target of using “renewables” to produce 40 percent of its electricity by 2020, Ritchie argues that the wood that is fueling the plant should not qualify as a “renewable” because of the time frame required for trees to grow, renew the energy resource, and recapture carbon.

According to Ritchie’s calculations, the use of wet wood chips to produce electricity at the Point Tupper biomass burner cannot be considered “green” and actually results in higher carbon dioxide emissions than would the burning of coal.

(Linda Pannozzo has written extensively for the Halifax Examiner about the biomass delusion that so concerns Ritchie, and about her difficulties getting straight answers from government, in a series of must-read articles available here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

Ritchie’s views also echo those of a growing number of international organizations and scientists, many of whom appear in a recent film, Burned: are trees the new coal?, which is now being screened in Nova Scotia.

Letter number one

On February 25 this year, Ritchie wrote his first letter about the Point Tupper plant to Jason Hollet, executive director, climate change. Ritchie copied the letter to Premier Stephen McNeil, three ministers and three deputy ministers (of the departments of Environment, of Energy, and of Natural Resources), and two officials at Nova Scotia Power. He also provided the reference materials he was using to make his argument.

Ritchie’s letter challenges the notion that the wood being burned to create energy in the biomass boiler in Point Tupper, owned and operated by Nova Scotia Power Incorporated and “intimately affiliated with the adjacent Port Hawkesbury Paper mill,” is a carbon neutral “renewable” source of energy that should be considered a valid means of reducing carbon emissions that cause climate change. He writes:

A renewable energy source is one which, when expended, does not create a net increase in the concentration of atmospheric GHGs [greenhouse gases] over the next 30+/- years.

it can be easily demonstrated that biomass combustion, as it is practiced at the Point Tupper generating station, is more CO2 [carbon dioxide]-intensive, per kWh (Kilowatt hour) of energy produced, than the combustion of coal at a comparably-sized coal-fired facility.

To back up his claims, Ritchie provides his government and industry correspondents with a 2014 study by Mary Booth of the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PPI) in the US, entitled Trees, trash, and toxics: How biomass energy has become the new coal.

(Tim wrote about Booth’s work and the “biomass delusion,” quoting a press release from PPI, in the Morning File of February 23 this year.)

In his letter, Ritchie describes Dr. Booth as “one of the foremost experts in her discipline” who has researched and published extensively on carbon emissions and biomass burning, and he quotes from her 2014 study:

Biomass power plants are also a danger to the climate, emitting nearly 50 percent more CO2 per megawatt generated than the next biggest carbon polluter, coal. Emissions of CO2 from biomass burning can theoretically be offset over time, but such offsets typically take decades to fully compensate for the CO2 rapidly injected into the atmosphere during plant operation.

Ritchie cites another peer-reviewed study, this one from 2018, which shows that burning biomass to generate energy is a bad idea, leading to net increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for up to 50 years. He writes:

As such, I am left with some very important questions for you and everyone else addressed herein:

How can the government of Nova Scotia be justified in sanctioning the Point Tupper biomass facility, or any other such biomass facility, as producing ‘renewable’ energy?

What are you and your colleagues going to do to rectify the erroneous decision to grant NSPI credit, under renewable energies legislation, for the energy produced by the biomass boiler at Point Tupper?

What steps are you going to take to include the findings of the crucial research, presented here, in your drafting of Nova Scotia’s pending cap and trade carbon accounting system?

I very much look forward to your feedback and considered responses to these questions; this applies to all parties addressed herein.

Ritchie received only one response. It came from Jason Hollet, who began by saying how much he appreciated the “amount of research and work” that Ritchie did in “drafting and supporting the arguments” he presented.

Then Hollet proceeded to ignore those arguments completely, and to answer exactly none of Ritchie’s questions. Instead, he wrote:

Transitioning Nova Scotia to a sustainable energy future is something we take very seriously. This is reflected in the legislative and regulatory framework in place now that has resulted in Nova Scotia being a national leader in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions. This includes our hard caps on GHG emissions from the electricity sector, renewable energy requirements and energy efficiency programing. We are also committed to go further with the development of a cap and trade program in the province.

With respect to emissions from the combustion of biomass, Nova Scotia follows nationally and internationally accepted accounting standards for GHG emissions measurement as well as for the classification of biomass as a renewable energy source. The department of Energy’s Renewable Energy regulations also includes requirements for biomass that has been harvested in a sustainable manner.

A petition started in 2016 to ask Premier McNeil to stop the use of forest biomass to generate electricity at the Point Tupper plant garnered 30,827 signatures.

Letter number two

Two and a half months later, Ritchie tried again. On May 7, he sent a detailed letter to the same list of recipients, reiterating his concerns about the Point Tupper plant and questioning Hollet’s claim that Nova Scotia follows nationally and internationally accepted accounting standards for measuring greenhouse gas emissions, as it does for the classification of biomass as a renewable energy source:

This is, indeed, an interesting (though unsubstantiated) claim. Given this assertion, I invite you all to visit the website for Natural Resources Canada’s Bioenergy GHG Calculator.  This is a fairly straightforward calculator which allows one to determine the time required for a ‘renewable’ energy source to become ‘carbon neutral’. To be clear, this is a federal government-endorsed mechanism, supported by rigorous modelling by federal scientists working for NRCan [Natural Resources Canada].

Remember, also, that as I pointed out in my original letter, carbon emissions reduction must take place in the next 20-30 years to have any chance at meeting Canada’s Paris Agreement commitment, much less actually averting climatic catastrophe.

Again, I seek and welcome any and all considered thoughts anyone addressed herein might have.

Ritchie waited in vain for a response from anyone.

Letter number three

Then, on July 17, Ritchie wrote again to Jason Hollet, the premier, three ministers (new ones, as there had recently been a cabinet shuffle), three deputy ministers, and two officials with Nova Scotia Power.

To this letter, he attached a recent briefing from the European Academies Science Advisory Council, and pointed out that this was:

…  yet another significant and unequivocal statement of fact, made by a respected body of world-class scientists, that biomass-derived electricity, as produced by facilities like the Point Tupper biomass boiler, is NOT an improvement in mitigating carbon emissions when compared with coal-derived electricity.

Government support and endorsement of the kind of biomass energy produced by the Point Tupper biomass boiler needs to come to an end, now.  The government of this province does not have the social license to actively support and defend the increased carbon emissions arising from biomass-derived energy generators, especially when there is no price being levied on said energy.

Ritchie wrote that he would welcome “any considered thoughts and feedback from anyone addressed herein.”

Three days later, he received the following reply from Jason Hollet:

Thank you for getting in touch again. Apologies for not responding to your second correspondence — my interpretation of it was that you were re-enforcing your original statements and sharing the NRCan GHG calculator with us, but did not include any specific inquiries.

As stated in our first reply, Nova Scotia follows international and national standards for greenhouse gas accounting and we have no immediate plans to review those standards. Past actions have resulted in our provincial greenhouse gas emissions declining by 30% below 2005 levels, making us one of the national leaders in that respect. This is something all Nova Scotians can be proud of.

We are happy to continue to receive any reports and studies you find on the topic.

I hope you are enjoying this great summer weather.

Letter number four

At first, Peter Ritchie didn’t respond to Hollet. It wasn’t until September 27 that he sat down again to write to the same list of people to repeat his concerns and bemoan the fact that he was not getting any straight or genuine answers to his questions from anyone to whom he had been writing.

Once again, Ritchie referred Hollet, McNeil et al. to some new scientific thinking in a publication from the US National Academy of Sciences on industrial scale bioenergy, and how damaging it could be if the biomass comes from an existing carbon sink (like a forest, for example). He wrote:

Again, I implore you to explain how the overwhelming body of evidence, of which this document is now a part, is informing your efforts to deliver a carbon accounting mechanism that identifies, documents, and appropriately monetizes, the ongoing emissions released by facilities like the Point Tupper biomass boiler. Can you please indicate to me how this evidence will be reflected in Nova Scotia’s pending carbon accounting mechanisms?

In a postscript, he took Hollet to task for the comment he made on the “great summer weather” in his July email, suggesting it did not reflect well on his position, given the unprecedented weather patterns of the summer and their “direct correlation to the ongoing disaster of climate change on this planet …”

Hollet’s July email was written at the peak of the summer of 2018, which was a call to action on climate change because it brought record-breaking heat waves and extreme weather events around the globe, causing many deaths not just in Canada but around the world.

Two days after Ritchie’s email, Hollet replied:

Thank you for sending along the new publication. In terms of a reply, I can only refer you to the original reply to your initial inquiry.

Hope you have a good weekend.

No more letters?

After he forwarded me this email thread, I asked Ritchie if he intended to keep writing and trying to get straight answers to his questions. This is his answer:

I don’t see much utility in continued attempts to engage Mr. Hollett, or his political masters, on these critical issues; their abject denial, or ignorance, or whatever it is, seems pretty immutable.  I have a young daughter, who will soon need to take over where my generation, and those before mine, failed to act; I need to focus on helping her prepare for her future.

What’s a public servant to do in the age of corporate capture?

Reflecting on this, and on my own experience trying to get clear answers out of the provincial government, I imagine it’s not easy being a provincial public servant these days. It can’t be pleasant trying to explain or justify to concerned citizens or journalists government policies that have been made to benefit large corporations, often at the expense of the environment, citizens and future generations.

It certainly doesn’t look as if there is any reward for provincial employees who stick their necks out and take initiatives that might annoy the industrial powers that be. Rather, the contrary seems true.

Look at what happened when Allan Smith, director of resource management in the Department of Lands and Forestry, sent out an email to major mills in the province advising them that, following the publication of the Lahey Report on forestry practices, they should prepare to reduce their clearcutting.

Shortly after CBC got hold of and reported on the email, Premier Stephen McNeil distanced himself and his government from Smith, describing him — the director of resource management in the Department of Natural Resources and Forestry — as just “someone in the department.”

I can’t imagine that such public repudiations do anything to discourage the culture of secrecy and sycophancy that the Stephen McNeil’s government seems bent on instilling, by eroding government transparency and accountability (Tim says lots about that here).


Noticed

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy is a registered charity but it doesn’t look very charitable … so why did NS pro-frackers bring someone from there to here to promote fracking?

Calgary billboard from the inaptly named group, Friends of Science

When pro-fracking people, particularly Douglas Leahey, formerly head of Friends of Science, an inaptly named group that denies anthropogenic climate change, decided to organize a debate on fracking in his native Pugwash earlier this month, they turned to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP) to find someone to defend the practice of hydraulic fracturing to extract fossil fuels from deep underground.

As I wrote in an article on the debate for the Halifax Examiner, the person they chose, Gerard Lucyshyn, is a lecturer in economics at Mount Royal University in Calgary and vice president of research at the FCPP.

The Frontier Centre is a “think tank” in western Canada that claims it does not “subscribe to any political ideology.”

Despite its claim to have no political ideology, its economic leanings are strongly to the right – demonizing taxes on rich people and crown corporations. The Centre also publishes notorious climate change deniers, such as Tim Ball, who claimed in a recent commentary that increasing levels of carbon dioxide are bringing “huge benefits across the terrestrial biosphere” and that we should not be trying to reduce this “plant food.”

Given that it’s a registered charity with the Canadian Revenue Agency, the FCPP doesn’t seem to be particularly charitable.

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy’s “culture wars” commentaries regularly defend “Western civilization,” used these days as a euphemism for colonialism and sometimes white supremacy, and are so full of dog-whistle messages – against multiculturalism, First Nations treaty rights, Islam, homosexuality, they could deafen your dog.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that the Frontier Center would produce a radio advertisement that tried to defend the indefensible, namely residential schools. The ad, which CBC reports was aired on multiple radio stations in Saskatchewan, claims to debunk the “myths” of residential school trauma. It caused so many angry reactions that even the Centre took it off its own Soundcloud account.

Not the kind of thing that lends the Frontier Centre credibility, or instill confidence in much of anything that its staff have much to say.

So here’s my question. Given that several men with extensive experience in the oil and gas industry came from Truro and Halifax to Pugwash for the debate to defend fracking, why did the debate organizers turn to someone from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and fly him here from Calgary to argue for fracking in Cumberland County?

I sure hope it isn’t because they share a lot of those extreme world views that the Frontier Centre tries to defend.

It may be relevant that Pugwash’s Douglas Leahey worked in the oil and gas sector in Calgary for years, denies that climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and told me that the vast majority of scientists who have shown it is are “wrong,” informing me that carbon dioxide has nothing to do with atmospheric temperature … all of which might be construed as fairly extreme.

But if Leahey’s aim in organizing the debate and flying in Gerard Lucyshyn was to spark new interest in fracking in the province and to seek political support for the practice four years after Premier McNeil’s government brought in legislation that put an indefinite moratorium on the practice, it looks as if he succeeded.

Steve Ferguson, director of community development for the the Cumberland County Council, told me in an email that the council has now decided to spend the next six to eight months studying the Wheeler report of the Nova Scotia Independent Review Panel on hydraulic fracturing because they believe the issue is “not going to go away.”


Government

City

Thursday

Environment & Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — Richard Zurawski wants to outlaw drive-thrus.

Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — here’s the agenda.

Friday

No public meetings.

Province

Thursday

Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)

Friday

Legislature sits (Friday, 9am, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

The Mental Health Implication of Offending in Childhood or Adolescence: Results from a Large JurisdictionWide Cohort (Thursday, 9am, Cineplex OE Smith theatre, IWK Health Centre) — Steve Kisely from the University of Queensland and Dalhousie will speak.

Mathematics in the Fine Arts (Thursday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Larry Ericksen will speak.

How to Engineer a Beer (Thursday, 6pm, Dalhousie T-Room, Sexton Campus) — go hang out with the Ladies Bear League.

Governing Ocean Plastics: Between Action and Anarchy (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — Jan-Stefan Fritz from the University of Bremen and the German Marine Research Consortium, Brussels, will talk about how best to address governance issues concerning the proliferation of plastics in our oceans.

Friday

Galois Irreducible Polynomials (Friday, 3pm, Room 227, Chase Building) — Abdullah Al-Shaghay will speak. His abstract:

We will introduce the definition of the Galois Irreducible Polynomials and discuss some of their interesting properties. No prior knowledge is required.

The Pradyumnābhyudaya of Ravivarman: Krishna’s Son Pradyumna on the Sanskrit Stage (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Chris Austin will speak.

Saint Mary’s

Friday

SMU Indigenous Blanket Exercise (Friday, 10am, Saint Mary’s Art Gallery) — sign up here: raymond.sewell@smu.ca

Mount Saint Vincent

Friday

Spiritualism, Telegraphs, and Other Victorian Obsessions (Friday, 2pm, Keshen Goodman Library) — Karen MacFarlane will speak.


In the harbour

06:00: Star Pride, cruise ship with 254 passengers, arrives at Pier 31 from Bar Harbor; the Star Pride is on a 12-day cruise from Boston to Montreal
07:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
07:00: Rotterdam, cruise ship, with up to 1,685 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney; the Rotterdam is on a seven-day cruise from Montreal to Boston
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 41
07:45: Regal Princess, cruise ship with up to 4,271 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John; the Regal Princess is on seven-day round-trip cruise out of New York
07:50: Algoma Dartmouth, oil tanker, moves from Pier 34 to McAsphalt
08:00: USS Hue City, a U.S. Ticonderoga class-guided-missile cruiser, arrives at Dockyard
11:30: Ef Ava, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
12:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
15:30: Catharina Schulte, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
15:30: Rotterdam sails for Bar Harbor
17:45: Regal Princess sails for New York
18:00: Delhi Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
22:00: Star Pride sails for Charlottetown
23:00: Augusta Sun, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Mariel, Cuba


Footnotes

The last words go to Tim, who tweeted out the notes for his acceptance speech for the Tracey Tyler Award.


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Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is an award-winning Nova Scotian journalist and author of seven books, including "The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest." Website: www.joanbaxter.ca;...

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7 Comments

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  1. A reckoning is coming for ALL the large tech companies. In the meantime Uber will fatten it’s trough with benighted burgs like Halifax that are desperately enamoured with “innovation”.

    As usual though we won’t realize it until 5 years down the road.

    See also Stephen MacTurd’s decision to P3 the new hospitals. Neoliberalism is over now but won’t end in Nova Scotia until 2023 or when the Liberals get tossed from office.

  2. No matter how you frame it with techno babble or philosophical rants, Uber is a taxi service. The model for Uber is to deftly undermine traditional taxi operations and skirt regulations through gray areas and loopholes. Sure the current taxi business needs an overhaul, but Uber is not the way to go.

    1. Couldn’t agree more with “Oldie”. If Uber wants to be a taxi business, then it should abide by the rules that apply to taxi businesses. Seems pretty common sense to me.

      Great Examiner today. Lots of meaty issues. Especially the piece about the futility of trying to get straight answers from government, even when questions are well-researched AND well-posed.

  3. I’m still for Uber and letting me decide who drives me. I am confident it will win in the end in spite of the efforts of those who prefer cartels that favour the few over the many, causing bad consumer experience and delays.Self-serve gas stations won, ATMs won, online shopping won, and self-serve check-outs at stores are now winning. If not Uber itself, then a form of it will win.

    I do agree with with banning or at least severely limiting drive-thrus as they are a traffic nuisance. If the stores contained the cars entirely on their own property, I’d have less of a problem with them, but they back up into the streets. These offenders are rarely punished with tickets by the police. If you go inside the establishment to order rather than sit idling in line listening to a podcast, you are not served as fast as the people in the drive-thru because the staff is concentrating on moving the line faster.

    Then again, I think that fast-food places like Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s (although not real restaurants) would operate far better for both the consumer and the shareholders if they were staffed entirely by robots. I’m probably not the one to listen to here.

  4. Regarding the taxi thing – I’m not a fan of Uber and don’t want it to come to Halifax – although I will point out that the one time I did use it, in Montreal, I downloaded the app for the first time, set it up and got a ride far faster than I would in Halifax in a car that was made this decade. It is a much higher quality service than traditional taxis – I took some normal cabs in Montreal while I was there too and the experience was much like Halifax.

    But that being said, is it really unfair to describe the taxi companies in HRM as a cartel?

    Taxi driving, if it were a well-compensated or otherwise desirable job would not almost exclusively be done by recent immigrants. The cars are often old, and yet the service they provide is expensive and is only dependable in certain parts of HRM. I get it that with a taxi, the passenger is actually paying for the maintenance and replacement of the car in addition to the driver’s time – but I don’t know if that makes up the difference or not.

  5. Re Drive-Thrus: Culling them can’t happen soon enough. Timmies drive-thrus especially, which are ludicrous to the nth degree.

    Without knowing this was going to be a news item today, I noticed a familiar Timmies situation this morning: cars were backed up and queuing in the city street while the parking lot was empty. Not the first time I’ve seen it, and not just at this particular location. All these idling cars, about 1/4 taking up a public road, when it would take all of them half the time to simply park their asses, exit their cars, and walk into the friggin building.

    “It’s convenient though!” No it’s not, neither from a speed nor financial perspective from the consumer end if you put three seconds of thought into it, and probably not speedy from the business end either.

    Brick up the drive through windows, convert the lane to extra parking, take the staff operating the window and put them on a register. Everyone gets their coffee and everyone keeps their job.

    1. There is important truth in this comment, and I don’t disagree with any of it as it pertains to single-occupant vehicles driven by people without impaired mobility. I do feel differently about people travelling with kids or pets in the car, or people who physically can’t leap out of a vehicle and dash into a store, or various other circumstances that would represent hardship.

      Perhaps one of the McDonalds models, of placing an order on an app and then parking your car in a numbered spot and waiting, would address these issues.

      One thing I’d love to see is a mandate that anyone offering a drive-thru must also offer trash/recycling/compost receptacles reachable from cars passing through. The confidence that you’d have a good place to stash your waste at the next drive-through might help mitigate the littering problem.