News

1. Farm Assists raid

Yesterday, I had an exclusive interview with Sherri Reeve, one of the people arrested in the drug sweep that included the Farm Assists store on Gottingen Street. That article is with the copy editor right now, and will be published in a half hour or so.

2. Government polling over Northern Pulp Mill

Communications Nova Scotia is conducting a telephone poll around the province, asking people if the mill should be shut down or given more money, reports Michael Gorman. It’ll be interesting to see if the results of the poll are made public, and if not, why not?

3.  Africa ≠ Ebola

A sick woman had visited Africa, so Saint John went into Ebola panic. One prerequisite for losing our minds is that the sick person should maybe have actually come from a place where the Ebola outbreak is occurring, which is a relatively tiny area, and not just generally from the continent of Africa, which is a really, really big place.

4. Second person charged in Daniel Pellerine homicide

Twenty-three-year-old Trevor Hannan will face first degree murder charges in the stabbing death of Daniel Pellerine, the man killed outside Farrel Hall last week. An unnamed 15-year-old boy faces similar charges. The Chronicle Herald gives the sad and violent history of the Hannan family.

5. Elderly pedestrian dies

Saturday, an 81-year-old woman, who was walking across Williams Lake Road in a marked crosswalk with a crosswalk light, was hit “by a car driven by a 71-year-old male driver who was attempting to make a right hand turn from Williams Lake Road onto Herring Cove Road,” police say. CTV reports that the woman has died. No charges have been laid “at this time.”

6. Wild Kingdom

Hannah Taylor’s duck, Roger, doesn’t like water.

Northern Zoom, a racing horse, “fell dead on the track as it rounded into the home stretch at the Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park Thursday,” reports TC Media.


Views

1. Armageddon and journalistic ethics

Dan Leger joins the Chronicle Herald chorus in support of fracking—the editorial board and columnists Roger Taylor, Gail Lethbridge, Marilla Stephenson, and Bill Black have all crooned in support of fracking, with only columnist Ralph Surrette singing off-key. Predictably, like the others, Leger doesn’t mention climate change and focuses only on the (supposed) immediate financial returns of fracking, the next generation be damned.

It’s interesting to me that the paper most read by Nova Scotians can hold editorial views that are so discordant to those of the population at large. Sure, it’s the media’s job to sometimes stick its neck out and be a thought leader, but in this instance the Herald is simply reflecting its own Chamber of Commerce biases.

The case of Gail Lethbridge is illustrative. Saturday, Lethbridge’s column, headlined “Click of suitcases as Liberals turn back on prosperity,” castigated the Liberal government for the ban on fracking. At the end of the column came this disclaimer:

Gail Lethbridge is a founder and shareholder in Welaptega Marine, which inspects subsea offshore moorings for the oil and gas industry.

In other words, Lethbridge has skin in the game: she contracts with companies who stand to make a lot of money from fracking.

According to the Registry of Joint stocks, Welaptega Marine was incorporated in another jurisdiction in 1997, and registered in Nova Scotia in 2003. Lethbridge has been a columnist for the Chronicle Herald for a long time, and in May of this year wrote column headlined “Stab at offshore is well worth it,” in which she argued that:

Spending taxpayers’ dollars on mapping Nova Scotia’s offshore oil and gas potential is a good idea.

[…]

Shell is now reviewing the results of last year’s seismic campaign and has plans to drill up to seven exploration wells in 2015. This week, BP launched its seismic program. Both exploration companies have credited the Play Fairway Analysis with stoking their interest in our offshore.

Talk about return on investment — $15 million converts into $2 billion.

It is hardly a coincidence that Premier Stephen McNeil made this announcement on the day BP was launching one of the largest seismic programs in the world.

These companies wouldn’t be investing these sorts of dollars and resources in our offshore if they didn’t think there was something pretty juicy out there. I’ve heard more than one rumour of a “motherlode” of high-quality light oil that exists under the salt layer beneath the seabed.

[…]

By giving offshore players a little taste of the potential, Nova Scotia is putting its money where its mouth is. This makes for credible marketing of our resources.

[…]

Marketing the potential for resource exploration fertilizes the soil to make doing business attractive for potential entrepreneurs and investors.

[emphasis added]

It could (weakly and lamely) be argued that Lethbridge has no conflict in the on-shore fracking issues because even though she profits from the oil and gas industry, she only profits from the off-shore wing of it and not from on-shore fracking operations. But her May column dealt entirely with a subject in which Lethbridge has a direct financial interest. It’s as plain as day: her company contracts out to the offshore industry, and she’s advocating for more offshore drilling.

Yet nowhere in the May column did Lethrbidge reveal that she had a direct financial interest in the offshore. She did not tell us that she herself is one of the “entrepreneurs and investors” who stand to benefit from offshore exploration, and no note of potential conflict was appended to the May column, as was the case with Saturday’s column. And now, with knowledge of her direct interest in offshore exploration, Lethbridge’s May claim that she’s “heard more than one rumour of a ‘motherlode’ of high-quality light oil that exists under the salt layer beneath the seabed” looks a hell of a lot like the kind of bullshit rumours investors place on Yahoo Finance message boards to pump their own stocks.

I don’t know why the conflict note didn’t appear on Lethbridge’s columns until this week, but it comes in the wake of me calling out the Chronicle Herald for its failure to place a similar disclaimer on Peter Moreira’s business column, in which he failed to disclose that he is paid by government economic development agencies to promote the companies he writes about in his column. After my criticism, the Chronicle Herald started to put a disclaimer on Moreira’s column, and now a similar note appears on Lethbridge’s column.

Good, I guess, but going back and reading that May column makes me sick to my stomach. It’s as unethical as a columnist can behave.

I’ve given this issue a lot of thought lately. Of course people out in the community should be able to advocate for their particular companies and industries, and the Chronicle Herald has been good about providing op-ed space for people with clear self-interests—either direct financial interest or advocate interests, such as for environmentalists at the Ecology Action Centre. These op-ed pieces are clearly marked so that readers know where the writer is coming from and what his or her interests are. There’s nothing wrong with this, and publishing self-interested views marked as such is arguably a service to the community.

But regular columnists are another matter entirely. For one, they are paid by the paper. Secondly, the paper is lending its journalistic reputation to the columnist, and so has the obligation to check for potential conflicts.

The stakes are simply too high for readers. Gail Lethbridge should not write at all about oil and gas issues—there are plenty of industry PR hacks who can write op-ed pieces for the paper, without Lethbridge blurring that line. Similarly, Peter Moreira should not write at all about start-up companies.

And at the very least, the Chronicle Herald should go back and append a note to all of Lethbridge’s and Moreira’s past columns dealing respectively with the oil and gas industry and start-ups, noting that the paper failed to disclose the columnists’ conflicts.

2. Christians have corn maze battles

The Rev. Marian Lucas-Jefferies hooked up with a fellow Anglican environmentalist from Dartmouth, and bonded over a corn maze in Truro, only to discover, “with dismay, that the maze had a conflicted history of corporate interests and genetically engineered corn.” For some unfathomable reason, the Anglican environmentalists piss off this dude, who thinks the Anglicans should be more concerned about the “mass beheadings of Christians in Iraq and Syria.” The dude isn’t, ya know, going to fight the infidels himself, and doesn’t say exactly what he wants the environmentalists to do about the Middle East, but I’m guessing he wants to drop freedom bombs.


Government

City

Board of police commissioners (12:30, City Hall)—Nothing much on the agenda.

Province

No public meetings.


On Campus

Dalhousie

Thesis defence, Oceanography (9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building)—PhD candidate Jorge Urrego-Blanco will defend his thesis, “Subtidal Circulation, Hydrography, Sea Ice and Associated Variability over the Eastern Canadian Shelf using a Coupled Ocean-ice model,” which puts him on Stephen Harper’s enemy list.


Noticed

This is great fun: “Prohibition and the Social Gospel in Nova Scotia,” a 1971 paper by E.R. Forbes in Acadiensis, a journal of the history of the Atlantic region.


In the harbour

(click on vessel names for pictures and more information about the ships)

Arrivals

Heroic Leader, vehicle carrier, Bremerhaven, Germany to Autoport
Veendam, cruise ship, Boston to Pier 22
Atlantic Companion, con-ro, New York to Fairview Cove
SCL Bern, general cargo, Moa, Cuba to Pier 31

Departures

Heroic Leader to New York
Mainport Pine to BP Exploration Area
Veendam to sea


Footnotes

I was crazy busy this weekend and couldn’t get to the council preview. It’ll be up today, promise.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. The Global Warming debate must take place as part and parcel ofANY proposal to dig out more fossil fuel.

    Certain criteria should prevail before any approvals are given:

    • is this BThU equivalent available in any other form with less effect on GW?

    * will the resource deteriorate over time if left in situ?

    * what are the real long term consequences of the activity – fully costed and paid for by the industry?

    Has that happened yet for tracking here? NO and will it happen – possibly.

  2. Future Fracking Studies:

    Younger has denied nothing for the future, the legislation puts a clear hold on permit issuing and NOTHING more; and that hold can be reversed in the future. Future scientific studies will require partnering with BC, AB, and SK and their associated O&G drill industries to complete the desired scientific studies. These studies have the potential to be a win win for all participants because for the O&G industry it is a chance to validate to the public everywhere that their drilling processes are safe, the external provinces get validation that the drilling occurring within their provincial bounaries are safe, and NS will get the necessary scientifically backed information to move forward with a public engagement program that could enable exploration and production to move forward here. The scientific reports will act also as a reference guide as to who are the best drillers in the industry. Yes, these studies will take coordination and time to be done right, but in the end, one will finally have reliable scientific proof concerning the risks involved in the O&G’s shale gas exploration and production processes. This has been a long time coming, and any industry should embrace these studies with open arms; because that would show that they honestly want to be viewed as a trustworthy parnter in developing a province’s natural resources. To me that is a good thing. Naysayers need to support getting verifiable information; because that is the best way ahead at this time.

    To be clear; I am not a fan of fracking of shale gas exploration and production; but if it ever is decided to allow this process to occur within NS, then I think having reliable and validated scientific studies that have examined the myriad of concerns that now exist for this O&G process is an absolute necessity.