News

1. COVID really sucks, says person suffering from it

Photo by Georg Eiermann on Unsplash

The COVID outbreak in Antigonish now numbers 59 cases, and given that there are dozens of potential exposure sites in Antigonish, the outbreak will undoubtedly grow larger still.

Yesterday, I quoted a provincial press release:

There are 38 new cases being reported today, and 59 in total so far, related to the outbreak at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish. So far, those infected are experiencing very mild symptoms because the cases are mostly young people who are fully vaccinated. More new cases are expected in the coming days. The university reports that about 98 per cent of the student body is vaccinated.

For that, I was rebuked by one of the people suffering from the disease:

Being one of the confirmed positive cases in Antigonish along with 5 other friends, our symptoms are most definitely not mild. It is offensive this article and the school are downplaying this serious illness. I have never been this sick in my entire life, it’s awful and certainly not mild. I think you should correct the article.

This shows how the disease is assessed by health professionals versus how it is experienced by the people who are home sick with it. The health professionals say, “well, they’re not on a ventilator, so they have mild symptoms.” The people home sick say, “I feel fucking awful!”

Public Health has the goal of maintaining a functioning hospital system, so views everything through that lens. If people aren’t in hospital, they have “mild” symptoms. And even when they are in hospital, once they’re not contagious, they’re considered “recovered,” even when they might still be on a ventilator; as I write every day, “[x number of people] are considered newly recovered, which means they are no longer contagious and not necessarily that they aren’t sick.” I believe that some people deemed “recovered” have actually subsequently died as consequence of contracting COVID.

An additional problem with the “mild” and “recovered” language is that it completely ignores the long-term effects of long COVID. Many people are experiencing a wide range of symptoms months and now years after they have been deemed “recovered,” but the language acts as a barrier for the broader public to fully understand the seriousness of the disease.

The takeaway here is that getting COVID sucks. Get vaccinated.

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2. Kirk Johnson

Kirk Johnson speaks at an Equitywatch webinar about his former lawsuit against the halifax Regional Police for racial profiling. Photo: Equitywatch / Vimeo.com.

“Mike Sanford of the Halifax Regional Police was caught in a lie when he said pro boxer, North Preston’s Kirk Johnson, had no proof of car insurance in that now-infamous traffic stop on April 12, 1998 outside of a Smitty’s restaurant in Dartmouth,” reports Matthew Byard:

Johnson recently recounted the events the night of the traffic stop — and the five-year legal battle that followed — in a webinar hosted by the advocacy group Equity Watch. The webinar was moderated by steering committee member Judy Haiven.

Click here to read “Kirk Johnson recounts legal battle with Mike Sanford and Halifax Regional Police.”

Importantly, Byard connects Johnson’s experience with ongoing racial profiling by Halifax police.

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3. Court smacks down Gordonstoun deal

The queen and our future king at Gordonstoun School, in Scotland, 1967.

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

 A court decision yesterday may have dealt a fatal blow to a controversial $62 million private school development on the site of the former Upper Clements theme park. 

Gordonstoun Nova Scotia was modelled on the famous Scottish boarding school (as seen in the Netflix series The Crown) attended by the late Prince Philip and Prince Charles. The Nova Scotia franchise was proposed nearly four years ago by Ed Farren, a retired manager from the City of Saint John, and supported by John Ferguson, a former Saint John city councillor who was employed as the Chief Administrative Officer for Annapolis County in 2017. 

Both Ferguson and the lawyer for the municipal council were fired by the current Annapolis County council following municipal elections in October 2020. 

The secrecy surrounding the private school project was one of the reasons citizens did not re-elect former warden Tim Habinski and five other municipal councillors on election day, October 17, 2020. 

After the newly elected 11-person council took office November 10, it discovered that the previous municipal government had called two special meetings following the 10-day official recount period, to transact a key bit of business. The business involved approving the sale and transfer of two lots of land to developer Ed Farren on which he intended to build the Gordonstoun campus. 

The site was the mothballed Upper Clements Theme park purchased for $600,000 by the municipal council from the province. 

Ed Farren, promoter of the Gordonstoun School

On November 4, the previous Annapolis County council headed by Warden Habinski held an in camera meeting to sell Ed Farren one parcel of land for the nominal fee of $1.00 and lease the second parcel for a $1.00 a year for 99 years. The transaction involved no appraisal for market value. During the court case, the lawyer for Ed Farren (Barry Mason) described the decision as merely a continuation of business that would have been completed earlier if not for a delay associated with the pandemic.

Yesterday, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Scott Norton quashed the decision of the previous Annapolis County Council to sell and transfer the land to the Gordonstoun developer. The land will revert back to the municipality and Farren is left without a site for his campus. 

The judge supported a request from the current county council led by Warden Alan Parish (a retired Halifax lawyer) to declare the land transaction null and void because the old Council did not have the authority to make that decision three weeks after new councillors had been elected. In a written decision, Justice Norton sided with the new council based on his interpretation of both the Municipal Elections Act (MEA) and the Municipal Governance Act (MGA):

 Read together, the MGA and MEA require that the declaration of the newly elected councillors, administration of the oaths, and election of the new Warden and Deputy take place at the first meeting after the recount period. The Former Council contravened these requirements by continuing to meet and transact business when, according to the plain wording of the provisions and the clear intention of the legislative scheme, swearing-in the newly elected Councillors should have been the first order of business.

I find that the Former Council’s unreasonable disregard for these statutory requirements renders any decision made during that violation illegal pursuant to s. 189 of the MGA. The resolutions providing for the land transfers are quashed and the resulting conveyances are void.

In his argument before the court, the lawyer for the current Annapolis County council put it more colourfully. “In an affront to democracy, the old council continued to act,” said Kevin Latimer, “and most alarming of all, continued to make contentious decisions about the future of the Municipality. We say that come November 4, the old council was not a lame duck — it was a dead duck.”

Loose ends

Annapolis County council meets this Monday and the Examiner expects Warden Parish will provide some comment later today. One of the outstanding issues is what happens to a contract between Ed Farren and the municipality dated August 5, 2020 “incorporating a Document of Guarantee, whereby EAF would invoice Annapolis from time to time to a maximum of $7.2 million for payment for the development of the land. The money was to be used for the sole purpose of developing the school campus.”

That issue may be off the table now that the court has returned the land to the municipality. It’s unclear. 

Meanwhile, the decision to challenge in court the decision made by the previous council may have saved the municipality $7.2 million. That amount will have to be balanced against what it cost the public in legal fees and court costs, which Justice Norton has placed on the municipality. 

Those costs will be in addition to the $1.7 million the municipality said it had spent on Gordonstoun as of last May. 

There’s also the messy and expensive business of defending against unfair dismissal claims launched by the county’s former solicitor Bruce Gillis and CAO John Ferguson. 

The whole saga is not as compelling as an episode of The Crown but the secrecy and palace intrigue appear to have cost money that could have been spent more wisely.

Tim Bousquet comments:

In a Twitter thread this morning, reader John McCracken pretty much says what I was going to say about the Gordonstoun mess. McCracken points to the mostly credulous and uncritical reporting on the school proposal, but then cites my December 2018 comments about the Scottish school:

“The school,” continues Renton, “was notorious not just for being tough, but for bullying. The novelist William Boyd, who started boarding there aged nine, described his nine-and-a-half years at Gordonstoun’s junior and senior schools as ‘a type of penal servitude.’”

At $67,000 annual tuition, it’s about as costly as sending a kid to prison.

One former girl student, Kate, related her experience of sexual abuse at the school to Renton, and that led to many others coming forward and to an inquiry not just of Gordonstoun, but of boarding schools across Scotland.

“I started looking at this in 2014,” writes Renton, “after writing a personal account for the Observer of my own preparatory boarding school (that means a residential school for children aged 7 to 13), Ashdown House. Several allegations have been made about Ashdown, detailing abuse, psychological and physical, by staff there over two decades. (Sussex police are still investigating…) Subsequently the many stories I was sent by other ex-boarders and their families gave rise to a series of investigative pieces for the paper, including one into rapes at Gordonstoun.”

No children, not even the children of the elite, are immune from child predation.

Why would we want such an institution in Nova Scotia? Prosperity forever, amen, of course.

From caddying for tax evaders to washing the shit stains off spoiled kids’ sheets, servicing the rich seems to be Nova Scotia’s strategy for economic development. But as I’ve said many times before, whenever you hear some local mucky muck going on about “economic multipliers,” know that you’re being bullshitted.

They made a pretty picture of a rocket in space, so everyone in Nova Scotia thought it must be real.

Last week, a reader took me to task for suggesting that the proposed Canso spaceport probably will never materialize. “Does no one here [at the Examiner] want to see Canso become a place of success?” asked the reader. “Come on folks, how about something positive for this area, just once!”

I responded to that comment, and that response was meant as my reaction to pretty much all these types of proposals, including Gordonstoun:

I am existentially exhausted, but I feel I need to respond to this.

First, what I think or what the Examiner reports has ZERO impact on the success or lack thereof of the proposed spaceport. The spaceport will succeed or not based on its own merits and how the international financial markets and stock exchanges value it, and I can assure you that they don’t give two shits what some asshole reporter in Halifax says.

But more to the point: I’ve been writing the same god damned thing for my entire career, and I’ll be writing it until the day I drop dead. And that’s simply this: the powers that be, the wealthy and entrenched in Nova Scotia, have framed a false proposition: if you want jobs and prosperity, you MUST support *this* project, and if you don’t support *this* project you’re an asshole who hates jobs and prosperity.

The thing is, they — the wealthy and entrenched — are the ones who stand to (perhaps) profit a tiny bit from *this* project, and nobody else the fuck will. It certainly won’t help the average person, and even when inevitably it fails, the wealthy and entrenched will make a bit of cash on it, so fuck the rest of you.

As I say, I’ve written about this repeatedly. The most succinct encapsulation of it is in this piece I wrote for The Coast: Two decades of world-class delusion.

The argument is that if you don’t support this probably bogus scheme to draw money from away to enrich us all forever, amen, you want everyone in Nova Scotia to live in poverty forever.

But it’s a false dichotomy. There’s a counter strategy in Nova Scotia for improving the lot of the average person, and it’s been vilified, demeaned, and ignored for decades. That strategy was laid out by the Antigonish Movement, but the principles still stand. It’s self-reliance, mutual support, cooperatively owned housing and business enterprises, and a government that works for the common person and not the rich and entrenched.

The choice is not “you support the spaceport or you’re an asshole.” Rather, it’s “you support people where they are, help them improve their lot on their own terms, keep their own money in their own communities, or you think that some American businessman is going to altruistically save you.”

In that Coast piece, I wrote about “the bizarrely over-reaching schemes that will bring rich people’s money to us, keep us employed forever and ‘put us on the map,’” and built a running list of them:

In the 1960s, semi-feudal Nova Scotia was going to enter the nuclear age, and so hundreds of millions of dollars were dumped into a subsidized heavy water plant in Glace Bay, with the hope it could make sales to nuclear plants around the world. But the heavy water plant was mis-engineered and poorly managed, and within a decade seawater had entered its pipes, rusting them out. The entire factory was torn down, then rebuilt, at a cost of $130 million. Even then, however, it failed to turn a profit, and was shut down in the 1980s. Last year the feds funded an environmental clean-up of the monument to wasteful wishful thinking.

In 1969, desperate for jobs that are the eternal promise of Money From Away, then-premier Robert Stanfield gave subsidies to the Clairtone Sound Corporation, a cutting-edge builder of stereos, to set up shop in Nova Scotia. The company instantly flopped. “Its main mistake,” explain Paul Matthews, Alexander Herman and Andrew Feindel in a blog promoting their book Kickstart, was “it went after easy regional development funding in Nova Scotia, setting up factories for the manufacture of radios and TV in rural Stellarton and allowing politicians and local business people onto its board in lieu of industry experts. Then it tried to get into the automobile industry and one day found itself controlled by the provincial government of Nova Scotia. A significant whoops to be sure.” The province lost $20 million.

In his tell-all book Bagman, former PC insider Don Ripley details many failed mega-projects from the 1970s. One was “the idea of having a cruise ship, like the Love Boat of TV fame, sail out of Halifax to various southward points on the eastern Seaboard and to the Caribbean Islands…to promote tourism, employment, and all the other motherhood ideas politicians adore,” wrote Ripley. A German ship, the Regina Maris, was purchased and renamed the Mercator One, after a Dartmouth company, but the boat was a piece of junk and — shocker! — the scheme inspired by a TV sitcom proved unworkable. The province ended up losing millions of dollars.

There were also two attempts to get Money From Away to build oil refineries in the province — one at Canso, another at Pittson — with similar “we’ll give you millions of dollars if you come here and employ us” thinking behind them. Thankfully, they both failed to get off the ground.

My favourite mega-project idea is from the 1970s, just after the Three Mile Island incident. As US states were strengthening regulation of nuclear power plants, an American huckser, using a false identity, saw his opportunity. He managed to sucker the provincial government into believing he could build 10 nuclear reactors, Fukushima-style, on Stoddart Island in Shag Harbour, and then sell all the power to New York City via a deep sea cable. I’ve tried to find government documents related to the scam, but apparently they’ve all been destroyed. No doubt the scamster made off with millions of dollars, courtesy of the Nova Scotian taxpayer. On the plus side, this was one of a series of environmental issues that led to the creation of the Ecology Action Centre.

All these mega-projects had one thing in common: Nova Scotia was going to get rich thanks to rich people from away bringing their money here. For that, ironically, we paid dearly, losing hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars.

I have written the same thing a thousand times. I wrote it about the Commonwealth Games, about the convention centre, about golf courses, about the LNG terminal, about the spaceport, about Gordonstoun. I’m certain I’ll be writing it a thousand times more about whatever the next thousand schemes are.

It seems the rich and entrenched want us focused on the shiny ball of money from away so that we don’t get fixated on more boring but more realistic approaches to wealth generation:

We dream that wealth will come not from communities investing back into themselves, but rather through the benevolence of Money From Away, a true sucker’s game.

But imagine if the money squandered on pie-in-the-sky world-class delusions was instead used to support cooperative enterprises and small start-ups. Imagine a significant annual provincial investment to build an off-market housing stock owned cooperatively by residents…

Imagine the entire provincial budget being deposited in credit unions to give a solid financing base for economic development projects decided democratically by members, rather than by scamsters in suits. Better yet, imagine a provincially owned bank.

We should enjoy the things that work, fix the things that are fixable, come together in face of the woes that are inescapable. Let’s rediscover and make live our history of mutual support, and forget about our world-class delusions.

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Noticed

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about an academic study that lays out the evidence that the Bronze Age city of Tall el-Hammam was likely destroyed by a meteor or comet strike, and perhaps was the basis for the story of the destruction of Sodom in the Bible.

I ended on a dour note reflective of my recent mood:

In astronomical terms, the destruction of Tall el-Hammam around the year 1,600 BCE was a blink of an eye ago. There is no appreciable difference between the risk of meteorite impact on Earth then than there is today.

It could happen again.

Have a nice day.

This morning, I was delighted to learn that a dark comedy about a “planet-killing” comet about to strike the Earth is coming to Netflix on Christmas Eve. Don’t Look Up, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, and Meryl Streep, is an allegory for humanity’s inaction on the climate change front.

Writes New York Times science writer Dennis Overbye:

It doesn’t go well. The president of the United States, played by Meryl Streep, is more concerned with her poll numbers. Television talk show hosts ridicule the scientists. Rich oligarchs want to exploit the comet’s minerals.

Overbye goes on to recount his own role in 1998 in breaking the news that asteroid tracker Brian Marsden had calculated that a minor planet dubbed 1997 XF11 (now asteroid 35396) was on a possible collision course with the Earth. Thankfully, it was a false alarm:

The next morning it was already all over. Pictures of the asteroid from several years earlier had turned up overnight, and Dr. Marsden had recalculated the orbit and found that 1997 XF11 would miss the Earth by 600,000 miles. That was still close by cosmic standards, but safe for civilization.

“Dr. Marsden apologized for generating such a scare, but noted that he had helped raise awareness on the danger of asteroid strikes and extinction,” continues Overbye:

But the incident was indeed a kind of turning point, according to Amy Mainzer, an asteroid expert at the University of Arizona who served as a scientific consultant on “Don’t Look Up.”

In 2005, Congress ordered NASA to find and begin tracking at least 90 percent of all asteroids larger than 500 feet wide or so that come near Earth. (They neglected to provide much money to pay for the search until years later.) The word was out that we live in a cosmic shooting gallery.

NASA now spends some $150 million a year on the endeavor. “We’ve come a long way since 1997 XF11,” said Donald Yeomans, a comet expert at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena who criticized Dr. Marsden back in 1998.

These days, computers do the work of sorting asteroids and comets, automatically calculating orbits from new observations, comparing them with known objects, scoring them for how dangerous they are and sending out the results to astronomers. Anything that comes within five million miles of Earth is considered a Potentially Hazardous Object, or PHO.

It’s great that people are looking for these potentially planet-killing rocks, but it’s anyone’s guess what we would do about it should one be detected coming our way — Don’t Look Up’s plot line would play out in real life, I’m guessing.

Besides, some big asteroids elude the detectors, as do smaller but still potentially city-destroying asteroids.

In 2013, the 20-metre Chelyabinsk meteor blew up over Russia in 2013, and 1,500 people were injured while over 7,000 buildings were damaged.

Shit happens.

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Government

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

CRSSCA – 6th Annual Supply Chain &Logistics Management Workshop (Friday, 10am) — info and registration here

The Human Side of Sustainable Supply Chains

The whole world runs on supply chains. And massive disruptions like pandemics and uncertainties around them once more proved the life-saving role of supply chain and logistics management (SC&LM). Amid emerging technologies to support efficiencies and under the pressing environmental, social, economic, and cultural imperatives, where and how do we stand for humans that make the “wheels of business” move? Are people at the right place and well-equipped to tackle the big problems we currently face and waiting ahead? Which qualifications are essential for an employer or an employee in successfully managing sustainable supply chains (SSCs)? How do SSCs relate to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals? It is time we revisit the human side of SSCs.


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Autoport from St. John’s
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 41
16:00: MSC Texas, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Sines, Portugal
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre

Cape Breton
10:00: Algoma Vision, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Belledune, New Brunswick
12:00: Nunavut Spirit, barge, and Lois M, tug, arrive at Sydport from Quebec City


Footnotes

I swore allegiance to the queen, and I truly wish her an even longer life. I’ll have to research if my oath is transferable to her children, however.


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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Re: Gordonstoun

    Minor point: the judge did not award costs. That issue is TBD.
    Q: how often do defeated councils continue meeting after voters and the law have made them defunct? Why would they even try to make deals with public land while defunct? Did they get legal advice? If so, who provided it and who paid for it? I mean,
    It’s not like the judge thought he was adjudicating a fine point of law. Is anybody upset about this or is it just the way things are done outside HRM?

    1. Coming from that area of the Valley, I can tell you people were PUMPED at the prospect of this school coming and raining gobs of money down them, forever, and ever, amen.
      It was ridiculously delusional.
      Folks down there (councils included) would do just about anything for economic infusion.

  2. RE: Gordonstoun deal.
    First, thanks for Tim’s recap of the Coast article and the commentary about the ongoing victimization of Nova Scotians thanks to the gullibility and incompetence of our politicians.
    I have a very personal reason for enjoying the Gordonstoun story. Many years ago, when I was a representative on the Dalhousie University student union, I put forward a motion to impeach and remove the president of the student union. I don’t recall why I wanted the president gone, but I wasn’t alone in my desire to cleanse the body of this objectionable person. Thinking I was being a smart politician, I spoke with a number of fellow reps and was assured of their votes for my resolution, so I went into the meeting feeling very confident that I had the votes to get rid of the president. Well, after the requisite speeches, the vote was called and my motion was soundly defeated. The folks I was counting on for support all jumped ship and voted against my motion. That was my first and only experience with holding office as an elected official.
    Turns out, I was years ahead of my time. The president in question was one Bruce Gillis. They were warned.

  3. “Two decades of world-class delusion” published in the Coast remains essential reading for understanding Nova Scotia.