In the harbour
1. Lockdown ended
The week-long lockdown at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility was ended before a judge could consider habeas corpus applications filed by 13 prisoners at the jail. Because the lockdown was ended, the court matter was discontinued.
It appears that the prisoners have found a strategy for ending overly long lockdowns. I don’t know, however, if that means the jail can impose a new lockdown today or have serial lockdowns, ending each when the paperwork gets to a judge.
2. Real time bus info
“Halifax Transit has announced its new Departures line, going live on Monday May 16th with real-time bus information available to callers,” reports Erica Butler for the Examiner:
Only three-quarters of our buses are fully equipped with the new GPS equipment right now, so the system will be”‘mostly” real-time until the remaining buses are outfitted sometime this summer.
Regardless, starting Monday transit riders can call 480-8000 for departure times. All existing GoTime numbers will redirect to the new system. After punching in the stop number printed on bus stop signs, riders will hear which buses are departing from that stop and when. You can check out the full how-to here. Until all buses are equipped, you’ll just have to pay attention to whether your bus is “estimated to arrive” at a certain time (using real-time data) or “scheduled to arrive.”
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
Halifax council yesterday rejected a proposal to remove Edward Cornwallis’s name from the park and the street.
4. Underwater drone
The provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture has issued a tender for a Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV) — an underwater drone. The ROV will be used to monitor fish farms:
The Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture (NSDFA) is mandated with the development and regulation of Aquaculture in Nova Scotia. The cornerstone of development and stability for Nova Scotia’s aquaculture industry is farming responsibly. Quality environmental monitoring, containment management, fish health monitoring and the exploration and identification of new areas to expand the aquaculture industry are important to ensure the aquaculture industry expands in an environmentally acceptable and economically sustainable manner.
The aquaculture sector is anticipated to grow significantly and account for an increased proportion of the Province’s fisheries output and export dollars. The Province’s Aquaculture Strategy and new Aquaculture Management Regulations call for increased monitoring, development and sustained sector growth. Environmental monitoring, Fish Health monitoring and the exploration and identification of new marine aquaculture areas are important components in the management and development of the aquaculture industry. In order to increase and improve various aspects of environmental monitoring, fish health monitoring and the identification of new aquaculture areas, the purchase of new technology, such as a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) is required. The ROV will be used to expand our monitoring capabilities in and around sites, which have been identified as lacking in the past, and enable us to identify any issues in and around farms as well as new areas with relative ease. An ROV will minimize costs that would be associated with hiring divers in lieu of an ROV and minimize the number of staff needed to conduct various operations.
Some might take exception to the notion that “the aquaculture sector is anticipated to grow significantly.”
In any event, like their airborne counterparts, underwater drones have come down significantly in price. No doubt Fisheries and Aquaculture wants something more substantial, but geek types with a bit of technical know-how can get an underwater drone kit for under a thousand dollars US, and off-the-shelf models will be for sale soon, probably this year. I expect that very soon we’ll see YouTube videos taken by a drone exploring the various shipwrecks, chemical weapon dumps, and other features around Halifax Harbour.
5. Dirty water
Some people are very, very enthusiastic about drinking warm water polluted with twigs and leaves:
1. Minimum wage
Hooray for Shelby Lendrum:
Shelby Lendrum, owner of the eco-friendly P’lovers store, said she’s always paid her staff at least 50 cents above minimum wage, and has some employees at $14 and $15 an hour because the current $10.70 an hour doesn’t cut it.
“If you can’t afford staff then work it yourself. If you can’t afford to work it, then it’s not a viable business and shut your doors,” Lendrum said Monday when asked about the NDP’s proposed $15 an hour minimum wage bill.
“But starving your staff with the backing of your government doesn’t seem like the right answer.”
2. Cranky letter of the day
With the wildfires of Fort McMurray hitting so close to home this month, it was very frightening to see Dave MacDonald lighting massive grassfires along the interval in Fordview, Margaree early last week. With weather conditions being extremely dry and wind conditions being relatively high, these intentional grassfires were not only upsetting to local residents, but they were also viewed by many as dangerous, selfish, and taxing on our community.
As I drove along East Margaree Road on the evening of May 2nd, I was alarmed to witness the massive expanse of said “controlled domestic brush burning”. At least 15 acres of the interval was ablaze with some flames reaching the shoulder of the pavement. After a number of phone calls to municipal councillors, DNR, RCMP, and our local fire department, we were told the same thing: Dave MacDonald was apparently following all of the province’s burn regulations and that there was nothing they could do. Perhaps so… but I’d be curious to know when respect for fellow residents, safety of a community, and plain common sense fall in to play? After speaking with many community members, it was clear that there were dozens of other people upset by these three consecutive nights of intentional grassfires in East Margaree.
Some of these community members were concerned for their health and safety. I know of at least one case where smoke inhalation was severe enough that an individual went to outpatients due to a bad asthma attack (it should be noted that this resident didn’t live right next to the fires either…). The air pollution from these grassfires was so intense that residents living many miles away and in other parts of the Margarees were adversely impacted by it. Other residents were concerned about their livestock and neighbouring farmland, while some expressed concern for nesting wildlife (Canadian geese, fox, beavers, muskrats, voles, and small field birds). Not surprisingly, the majority of residents were just plain scared of how this large scale grassfire could easily become something of a living nightmare should anything go wrong (and with suête wind warnings in effect most of last week, we can definitely count our blessings that nothing did go wrong!)
I want to pass out a sincere thank you to our local fire department who did investigate these fires, but I wonder what fairness was there for them either? Being called out to deal with the hazardous antics of one person for three nights in a row seems rather unjust and taxing on a volunteer-driven organization. And what justice would there have been if the safety of another emergency situation would have been jeopardized because all attention was focussed on the intentional, yet in my opinion, unreasonable, actions of one community member?
If you too feel concerned about this matter, I strongly encourage you to contact your municipal and provincial government leaders, so that no future grassfires result in this extent of anxiety, fear, and health issues for our community.
Adèle LeBlanc, Fordview, Margaree
Newspapers are publishing all sorts of crap nowadays.
First, in the Globe & Mail, writers Tonya Surman and Victoria Lennox have “contributed” a stream-of-consciousness masterpiece, spinning out a never-ending flow of meaningless drivel:
Imagine a Canada teeming with vibrant entrepreneurs, creating meaningful work, new innovations and building the economy of the future. Imagine leveraging our rich connections through our diaspora and sharing the very essence of what it is to be Canadian — caring — to the rest of the world. Imagine moving past a resource-based economy to one based on knowledge, creativity, sustainability and social responsibility. Imagine a policy environment that actually incentivizes the Canada that we want — the Canada of the 21st century, not the 19th.
It reflects the sad state of our economy — and frankly, our democracy — that somebody (I’m guessing government) pays Surman and Lennox to produce this nonsense. (h/t Philip Moscovitch)
And then there’s a long-winded essay that Chronicle Herald president Mark Lever published on his LinkedIn page (someone should give Lever a fewer/less lesson). It’s too long to reprint all of it, but you can read the whole thing here.
I agree with Lever’s analysis of the problems facing traditional newspapers, and I said much the same thing when I was invited to present at a forum on the Chronicle Herald strike a couple of weeks ago (Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I used to guide my part of the conversation.)
Interestingly, Lever admits the company made a fatal mistake:
In the midst of rapid change and fluctuating market demands, what you most need is the flexibility to respond and adjust. The riskiest thing you can do is tie your hands, and yet, that’s precisely what we did.
At the same time as the world was evolving beyond print, we invested in it even more, purchasing a $25 million press that had us heavily leveraged and married us to the print business for the foreseeable future.
Buying a $25 million printing press just as the newspaper business model was collapsing probably condemned the paper. (I wonder if that was Sarah Dennis’s decision.) What Lever and Dennis should have done instead is recognize that advertising revenue will collapse, cut its losses, jump exclusively or mainly to the internet, and put its top-rate reporters behind a paywall.
So, continues Lever:
What became immediately obvious was the need for diversification. If we continued to do only one thing — deliver the daily newspaper — a company that had lasted 190 years could come to an unceremonious end in less than a year.
When you need to diversify, the easiest way to do that is begin with what you know. For us, that was printing and telling the stories of communities across Nova Scotia.
But the Chronicle Herald isn’t telling the stories of communities across Nova Scotia. It’s printing advertorial — fake stories written by slick PR people trying to hawk bullshit — and glib pronouncements by Lever himself about innovation and the like.
As I pointed out in my presentation, there’s noting at all “innovative” about Lever’s approach to the business — this is old school attack-the-unions, cheapen-the-product mentality right out of the Reagan/Thatcher 1980s’ playbook.
And the diversification? Lever explains:
Our future growth, particularly growth outside Nova Scotia, must be focused on platforms that allow us (and others) to both aggregate audiences of interest and to connect them together. That requires the development of audience-driven, intelligent technology platforms supported by physical products.
It’s why we are actively invested in several technology companies and growing our own digital development team. The most significant of these investments has been in Mindsea, an award-winning mobile software development company that creates custom app solutions for companies throughout Canada and the United States. In 2013 Mindsea helped The Chronicle Herald launch its app that, at the time, was recognized as one of the top three new digital media platforms on the planet.
Through efforts over the past several years, The Chronicle Herald has transitioned from a three-product newspaper company to a diversified media company with a portfolio of more than 50 products and services that provide more than 2.5 million reader engagement opportunities weekly.
I have one question: Why?
I wish more people would ask themselves that question: Why am I doing what I’m doing? One answer, probably the answer that most people have, is “I’m continuing to work this shitty job, and I’ll pretend it’s not a shitty job, so I can get through it without going postal because I’ve got to put food on the table and care for my family and loved ones.” That’s a really great answer, one I completely understand.
But what’s the point of transitioning the Chronicle Herald into a “diversified media company” if you give up the reporting that created the brand?
Sure, we in the news business have got to flow with the times and find ways to reach audiences where they are and how they access information. But if we’re creating “diversified platforms” simply to deliver meaningless drivel and feel-good sloganeering, we’re doing it wrong. We live in The Age of Bullshit — as we’ve seen above, the Tonya Surmans and Victoria Lennoxes of the world will provide meaningless drivel for free in order to promote whatever the hell it is they’re getting paid to promote. And Lever can get Nova Scotia Business Inc to pay for self-congratulatory pieces written by PR people. And the Chronicle Herald can fill its pages with government-produced propaganda without telling its readers the source. But — and it doesn’t matter if you’re using apps or whatever the latest technology is — that ain’t reporting. That’s not challenging readers. That’s not even telling stories about communities. It’s just bullshit.
So again, why bother? When I talk to j-school classes of young people thinking about getting into journalism, I tell them that if all news media were to disappear tomorrow — if the TV news was taken off the air, if all the newspapers evaporated, if no one was ever again hired to be a reporter — corporations and governments would have no problem getting their messages out. They don’t need reporters to get their messages out; they’ve got giant PR departments devoted to getting their messages out. So it’s beyond ridiculous for reporters to be working on their behalf. Your job, I tell the students, isn’t to rewrite press releases or chase the latest press release issued by corporation X. If you want to do that, I say, you should get a job directly in PR — it pays more, you have better hours, and you won’t have to worry about ethical issues. No, I continue, your job is to honestly report, put things in context, and challenge the bullshit that’s swirling around this society. That is what you get paid for. That is why reporting is needed.
Which is to say, if the Chronicle Herald disappeared as an independent and honest news voice, that’d be a real loss. But if it continues on merely as a “diversified media company” delivering only drivel and bullshit, who cares? Any number of corporations can deliver drivel and bullshit, and probably more successfully — both in terms of the quality of the drivel and bullshit and in terms of the bottom line financially.
Do we really need yet another drivel and bullshit factory? To what end?
Mark, if you can’t be in the honest news biz, maybe you should retire. You’ve got a big house, a nice family, presumably enough money in the bank to live out your days comfortably. You don’t need to keep going to the office to manage a drivel and bullshit factory in order to provide for your loved ones. You’ve still got your health. Maybe spend some more time at the tennis club. Maybe travel, see Europe. I hear Taiwan is fascinating.
Or, if you’re looking for a worthwhile project that is socially useful, you could try to get the Chronicle Herald back in the honest news biz. There are worse things than failing at that. It’s worth a try, I think.
Audit & Finance (10am, City Hall) — the committee will be discussing the Cogswell Interchange rebuild project.
Public Accounts (9am, Province House) — all about school boards:
Regional School Board Governance and Oversight
(November 2015 Report of the Auditor General, Chapter 2)
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
Ms. Sandra McKenzie – Deputy Minister
Chignecto-Central Regional School Board
Ms. Trudy Thompson – Chair
Halifax Regional School Board
Ms. Melinda Daye – Chair
Strait Regional School Board
Ms. Francine Boudreau – Chair
Legislature sits (1-5:30pm, Province House)
In the harbour
7am: Dolphin II, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
8:15am: Alcgoma Dartmouth, oil tanker, moves from Pier 34 to Pier 22
11am: Balmoral, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Saint John. There’s been a norovirus outbreak on the ship.
11:30am: Thalatta, car carrier, sails from Autoport to sea
3pm: Berlin Express, contianer ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy
4:30pm: Balmoral, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 to sea
6pm: Dolphin II, container ship, sails from Pier 41 to sea
I’ll be on the Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7 FM, with Lezlie Lowe, today at 1pm. Tweet me with your best Lezlie Lowe snark @Tim_Bousquet.
Great piece on the Herald. For me the saddest part is that citizens don’t recognize how important honest journalism actually is in a democratic society, and that maybe, the people that own/run the newspaper shouldn’t be in the inner circle of the people who run the government. When that happens in Russia or China, we call it crony capitalism, here it’s just the price of doing business. An independent paper should be ashamed to print paid PR for the government.
One nice thing about the Internet is that there doesn’t have to be as much money in journalism for it to work – although I hope Tim and his staff are able to earn a decent living from their work, it is probably best (no offence Tim!) that they aren’t getting rich from it…
Worry not… I have no desire (or means, really) to be rich.
It feels like we are in the age of Dragons Den and Shark Tank reality politics.
Whenever Cornwallis statue is mentioned, I always think of the Simpsons espisode with their founder, Jebediah Springfield. The one where the head is cut off his town statue. Hmmm…
“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”
He was too polite to say “bullshit and drivel.” Well said, Tim.
While I appreciate the sentiment of the quote, it’s incorrectly attributed to Orwell:
Well damn. Thanks for that. The sentiment stands.
If you have access to Netflix, or other means to view it, you really should check out the Australian political satire series Dreamland (a.k.a. Utopia). It’s set in the country’s department of infrastructure, and focuses on a bureaucrat who just wants to build bridges, tunnels, roads etc. while constantly battling a flow of PR, political and social media bullshit. It’s been a while since I’ve watched anything so easily tagged with the “it’s funny because it’s true” label. From the same minds behind the terrific comedy feature The Castle.
Morning file is always a highlight of my day. Ending it with a casual suggestion that Mark Lever move to Taiwan only makes it better.
When it comes to rats like Mark Lever can we please step away from rationalizations and explanations. The Steeles as well.
It is all about money.
Journalism? Does it make me money?
Good neighbourhoods? Does it make me money?
Why not bulldoze a neighbourhood for a parking lot as long as it makes me money? Why not keep journalists on the picket lines for 100 days when scabs will do just as well for 1/2 the cost?
Rats don’t deal in ethics. Their brains haven’t evolved to that level of sophistication and empathy.
Has HTU considered monetizing its very good web page, if not through paywall subscriptions then at least through Patreon donations? At the least, it would gather some money for their cause.
Did the Herald buy a new or used press for the $25 million? I can see wanting to make money on the paper product including flyers as long as they could — after all people were making money producing buggies long after cars became common — but it seems to me that in the current situation there must be a lot of pretty decent used printing presses for sale at bargain prices.
You are wrong about tea, but you are probably thinking of the weak, lukewarm bathwater sold under that name in American restaurants, so I forgive you.
The printing industry is still alive and well, though certainly no longer a growing sector or dominant player in the media delivery mix. It may have been shortsighted of the CH to have invested millions in a printing press if their mandate was to affordably deliver daily news, but the sweeping printing press = horse and buggy comparison is a bit off. Web and print are not equivalent tools. They are only superficially similar and one is not a simple replacement for or straight improvement on the other. Ephemeral consumables like newspapers and things like phone directories will happily transition to web, but many other things are still best expressed and engaged in the physical format of print and paper. Unless we figure out how to utterly disentangle ourselves from the physical world (not a desirable objective in my opinion) print is not going anywhere anytime soon.
The CH’s ill fate is less about shifts in technology (real as they may be) and more about management and values (or lack thereof).
And yeah, better to buy used. Preferably German presses. They tend to hold their value.
Great comment on the Herald. When oh when will Mark and Sarah come to their senses and set their sights on doing good reporting and re-open negotiations with their newsroom staff to jointly figure out a way to make it work financially?