1. Tax scam rejected for fourth time
“A federal tribunal has — for the fourth time — rejected the bulk of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia’s enormous Annie Leibovitz collection, raising questions about whether the prints by the famous American photographer will ever be displayed in Halifax,” reports Richard Cuthbertson for the CBC:
The gallery confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board has refused to certify the collection as of “outstanding significance and national importance.”
Predictably, the AGNS says this attempted tax scam is totally not a tax scam:
“We disagree with the decision,” a gallery spokesperson said in a statement. “We consider Annie Leibovitz to be one of the most influential photographers of her time and feel the collection is culturally significant — to our province, our country, and internationally.”
But, well, the scheme to buy photos for $4 million and then get a $20 million tax credit for donating them to a museum is obviously an attempted tax scam, and the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board and anyone else with any sense can see right through it.
2. Muskrat Falls protestors jailed
“Three Inuit elders have been incarcerated at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) in St. John’s after refusing to promise a Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador judge they would stay away from the Muskrat Falls site in Labrador,” reports Justin Brake for the Independent:
On Friday NunatuKavut Elders and land protectors Jim Learning and Eldred Davis, and Nunatsiavut Elder and land protector Marjorie Flowers appeared in court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay after allegedly breaking a recognizance to stay more than one kilometre away from Muskrat Falls. All three refused to sign a new undertaking and were subsequently arrested and taken into custody.
Learning, who is 79 and living with advanced prostate cancer, was arrested for protesting outside the project’s main gate in 2013 and launched a six-day hunger strike that ended once he was released from custody in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
All three currently in custody allegedly defied a court order and previous recognizances while participating in recent protests at Muskrat Falls.
3. No transparency in Cape Breton
“The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) will continue funding Destination Cape Breton Association (DCBA), the island’s tourism organization, to the tune of $1.9 million over the next three years,” reports Mary Campbell for the Cape Breton Spectator:
The ACOA funding will match monies raised by a room marketing levy (imposed by the island’s municipalities) to a maximum of $640,000 per year.
DCBA, as we’ve noted before in these pages, is one of this island’s “special” entities — a body funded entirely by public monies and yet oddly unaccountable to the public.
Campbell’s been on this story for a while. The problem, as I see it, is that there’s not much economic opportunity in Nova Scotia, so people will agree to any crazy scheme — convention centre, golf course, Olympics, cruise ship Nirvana, what have you — if it’s packaged as an “economic development” proposal. Then, once the idea has been sold, it becomes a matter of faith — no questioning allowed! So any citizen or reporter who wants simple answers to simple questions — How much is this really costing? Who came up with this idea anyway? How’d that guy become the exec and how much is he being paid? — is seen as a ne’er-do-well, a naysayer, a hater of progress, and really just an asshole, so must be denied at every turn.
This is an issue here in Halifax, but as Campbell reports it, it’s especially a problem with the inter-tangled web of government agencies and quasi-governmental organizations in Cape Breton.
Back in October, Campbell reported that an unnamed citizen “wanted to know more about the expenses of Mayor Cecil Clarke, Port CEO Marlene Usher, CBRM Chief Administrative Officer Michael Merritt, the mayor’s executive assistant Mark Bettens and his communications person Christina Lamey.”
The Citizen was also curious about the processes by which Bettens, Lamey, Merritt and Usher were hired. (Of the four, only Merritt was actually required to apply for his job, which, as I write it, reminds me again how utterly amazing that is.)
The Citizen also wanted to know if the CBRM had made any payments to Harbor Port Development Partners (HPDP) or the Chinese Communications Construction Company (CCCC). And The Citizen was really interested in the financial relationships between the CBRM, Business Cape Breton and the Port of Sydney Development Corporation. (The Citizen, by the way, is not me, although even I had to stop and ask myself, “Did I do that?”)
Reluctant to file a freedom of information/protection of privacy (FOIPOP) request personally, The Citizen approached a Sydney lawyer, Guy LaFosse, of Lafosse MacLeod. LaFosse took The Citizen on as a client and filed the FOIPOP on his client’s behalf.
It was a whopper of a FOIPOP, I’ll be the first to admit it, but it sought information to which we, as citizens, are entitled. And if you are an entity subject to FOIPOPs, and you know the information to which citizens are entitled, you should be prepared, when requested, to produce that information.
What you should not do is present a citizen with a cost estimate of $42,804.50 — and ask for $21,402.25 up front, just to begin processing the application.
But that’s what the CBRM did.
Then, in February, Campbell reported on her attempts to get information from Destination Cape Breton (DCBA):
The tourism industry organization is funded entirely by public monies — a 2% levy on tourist accommodations in Cape Breton, plus municipal, provincial and federal grants — and yet is immune from public scrutiny because it is not considered to be a “public body” under Nova Scotia’s Freedom of Information Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPOP) nor is it subject to federal Access to Information and Privacy requests.
Campbell discovered that DCBA has received at least $10 million in public money since 2012, but there is absolutely no public accountability for that money. She went on to detail a series of problems with the organization, commenting:
Lack of accountability, lack of transparency, problems disseminating information, lack of input from stakeholders — these are serious governance issues for any organization, let alone one entrusted with the expenditure of millions of public dollars.
Why am I writing about this? I am not, after all, a tour operator, why do I care how DCBA operates?
Because my tax dollars — and yours — are being poured into an organization that is apparently accountable to no one, not even the tour operators on whose behalf it claims to work.
If DCBA runs entirely on public money then DCBA should be accountable to the public: its by-laws should be publicly accessible, its hiring practices should be clear and fair and the process by which it chooses its board should be posted on its web site.
It’s not like tourism development schemes in Cape Breton have a great track record. In April I quoted an academic study that mentioned one particularly hilarious scheme:
For example, in 2001 a project was initiated by CBCEDA (but to be funded by Federal and Provincial Governments) to transform the downtown area of Glace Bay into a late 1920s coal mining town, seeking to capitalise upon its coal mining history. The intention was to recreate period facades on all downtown buildings, for there to be people in period costume and pit ponies on the streets (apparently motivated in part by the success of a local TV series, “The Pit Pony”) as Glace Bay was re-made as a themed town for tourists.
I bring all this up because this morning the province released its answer to a citizen’s request for information about the Glace Bay & Area Revitalization Plan. The $225,000 plan was entirely funded by the province, but commissioned by Business Cape Breton, which paid Ekistics Plan+Design for the work.
The citizen wanted documents and communications between Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan and CBRM or BCB. The province’s answer: No such records exist.
I don’t why the citizen was zeroing in on the Transportation Minister. I’d be more interested in the communications with Tourism Nova Scotia, but it’s clear from Campbell’s reporting that none of this will be made public in any event.
To be clear, Business Cape Breton (BCB) is a different organization than Destination Cape Breton Association (DCBA). (For one thing, DCB’s chair is Parker Rudderham, the owner of Frank Magazine, which back in the day used to ridicule people like Parker Rudderham.)
Still, it illustrates the point, which is: Why can’t we do economic development or tourism promotion in a public, transparent way?
As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so some of the articles linked to above are 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.
There was a fire in an apartment building at the corner of Quinpool Road and Connaught Avenue last night, and it spread to a house next door. No one was injured, and the pets are OK:
— Amy Smith (@amysmithcbc) July 26, 2017
5. Another body found at Clam Bay fire scene
An RCMP release from yesterday:
July 26, 2017, Clam Bay, Nova Scotia . . . Just before 5 p.m. last evening, the remains of a second individual were located in the home on Nebooktook Walk where a suspicious house fire occurred on July 24.
The second autopsy was conducted today at the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Service in Dartmouth. Police are able to confirm that the remains are those of a man and a woman.
The investigation into this incident is ongoing, and the matter is still considered to be suspicious.
6. Ethan Hawke and Nova Scotia
Here and Now, which is a radio show produced by Boston NPR station WBUR, interviewed Ethan Hawke about his performance in the film Maudie. Hawke owns property on the Eastern Shore and periodically comes to visit, telling the show about his love for Nova Scotia:
“It’s ungentrified. It’s wild, and it’s raw and it’s unpretentious. And I started going out there, I was probably in my early 30s. I had my first, kind of, depression, and I wanted to escape, and I’d been out there, and I found there’s something really healing. The horizon is always there, the place is wild. You can almost feel the Earth turning. And all of a sudden, the melodramas of the life of an actor get placed in a perspective that is very helpful for me. And I’ve fallen in love with some people out there, and so when I read the script, for me my life as an actor is always about pushing your boundaries, but pushing them in ways that you know that you can succeed. And despite all his flaws, I had real genuine love for Everett, and I really wanted to do that portrait.”
But through the entire 15 minute interview, Hawke never mentioned that Maudie wasn’t actually filmed in Nova Scotia.
7. Beech leaf mining weevils
“Scientists are saying efforts are failing to control an invasive insect that is slowly killing off beech trees in Nova Scotia,” reports CTV:
The insects are European natives called beech leaf mining weevils. Adult weevils lay their eggs in young leaves and produce larvae that eat through the foliage.
Weevils have left thousands of beech trees in Halifax without leaves.“It is wiping out a certain amount of the native beech stove,” says Halifax urban forester, John Simmons.
No public meetings in July.
Darwin’s Phylogenetic Reasoning (Thursday, 9:30am, Room C-150, Collaborative Health Education Building) — Elliott Sober of the University of Wisconsin will speak.
Halifax Urban Forest Walkabout (Thursday, 6pm, meet at the corner of Cunard and North Park St in the Halifax Common) — James Steenberg leads the walk.
Peacekeeping in the 21st Century: Where Do We Go from Here? (Thursday, 7pm, Paul O’Regan Hall, Halifax Central Library) — Major General Patrick Cammaert, retired from the Royal Netherland Marine Corps, will speak.
PhD Defence, Economics (Friday, 1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — Weiyang (Nancy) Kong will defend her thesis “Three Essays on Economic Insecurity and Child Development.”
In the harbour
5am: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
7am: Maasdam, cruise ship with up to 1,510 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney
7am: Sycara V, super yacht, sails from Salters Seawall for sea
7:30am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
10am: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
11am: ZIM San Diego, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
11:30am: Arcadia Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
3:30pm: Glen Canyon Bridge, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
3:30pm: Maasdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor
I’m really rushed this morning, so there are probably lots of tipos (see what I did there?). Please be kind.