November subscription drive
One of oddest stories I’ve reported is John Risley’s attempt to profit off apartheid.
I explained how that story came about in the article, but today I’d like to highlight a decision-point I came upon during that reporting. Simply: Can the Halifax Examiner afford this?
The short answer was: No, the Halifax Examiner cannot afford this.
I felt that to do the reporting correctly, I needed to go to London, England and interview some people. Understand that I am not one of those globe-trotting reporters. I rarely even leave HRM to work on a story. International travel for work has never remotely been on my radar. But here was a story that needed telling. And there were people in London I needed to speak with.
I looked at the cost of flights. I looked at the balance in the Halifax Examiner bank account. The former far exceeded the latter.
Maybe I could go into debt? How would I do that? The Examiner didn’t even have a line of credit back then. We did have a credit card with a low limit, but even that wasn’t enough to cover the trip.
Then, suddenly, just a few days before I wanted to go, flight prices dropped dramatically. I found a roundtrip red eye from Halifax to Philadelphia to London and back again for just $700. I know, right?
And my American pal Elaine (Elaine broke her leg in the 9/11 attacks, but that’s another story) told me if I’m going to London, look for a hotel near the Earl’s Court subway stop. I did, and found a ridiculously cheap place a block off the high street. So, with two days’ notice, off to London I went.
Given the red eye, I was basically tired for the entire four days I was in London. But each day, I got up and worked diligently, interviewing people on the phone from my hotel room, and arranging in-person interviews. I went to a couple of evening events, and interviewed people after. At the end of each day, I ended up at a pub on the high street around the corner from my hotel, ate fish and chips for dinner, and had a couple of pints while I talked with the adorable redheaded bartender who laughed at my accent and explained how the money worked.
Which is to say, I was on a budget. I didn’t have time or money for fancy meals or sight-seeing, although on the day before my flight home, I walked around and looked at Big Ben and some palaces and such. I doubt I spent 20 pounds a day.
Still and all, I got the story. I also maxxed out the corporate credit card and emptied my personal bank account.
To say I was worried about money is an understatement. I’m always worried about money, but this was some extra deep worry, as besides the cost of the trip, there were some other big bills to pay coming up.
But when I got the story out, a remarkable thing happened: a steady stream of new subscribers arrived. In the end, the trip “paid for itself,” and financial disaster was averted.
The experience taught me to go after the story and to worry a little less about funding it. I’m of course not reckless in this regard, but people want deep dive news reporting, and they’re willing to pay for it.
At least I hope so. My most recent project, the proposed Original Sin series, will be much, much more expensive than my jaunt to London was, and the Examiner can’t just put it on the corporate credit card. It needs sustained funding through more subscribers now.
Please make that a reality by subscribing.
“One of several wind projects proposed to supply renewable energy to EverWind Fuels’ hydrogen project at Point Tupper has hit a pocket of resistance,” reports Jennifer Henderson:
The wind project, named Bear Lake Wind, is majority owned by Membertou First Nation (through a subsidiary called Wind Strength) and minority partner EverWind Fuels.
Bear Lake Wind has filed an Environmental Assessment with the Department of Environment & Climate Change to build a 15-turbine wind farm south of Windsor.
Although named “Bear Lake,” the wind farm is actually closer to Armstrong Lake, a spot popular with cottagers.
The Bear Lake wind farm would be situated about six kilometres from the South Canoe wind farm, where 34 turbines have been turning since 2015.
A third wind project, Benjamin Mills, is approved for 28 turbines and is under construction eight kilometres northwest of Bear Lake, or 14 kilometres south of Windsor. That wind farm is expected to begin operating by December 2024.
Steve Hart heads up a community group called Protect Vaughan (Upper and Lower Vaughan, which are located between Windsor and New Ross). This past week Hart sent a letter to the councillors and mayor of the Municipality of West Hants, where most of the Bear Lake wind farm will be sited.
Hart is asking West Hants councillors to amend the municipal plan to stall the development of Bear Lake, as well as any other proposed wind farm, for at least two years.
Henderson gets into the neighbours concerns about the wind project, and readers will think whatever they want about that — maybe it’s just NIMBYism run amuck, or maybe there’s substance to it.
But for me, the thing that the neighbours almost incidentally stumbled upon is the most interesting, and that involves not Bear Lake, but rather the neighbouring South Canoe wind farm:
The Examiner has run into a headwind of secrecy trying to learn if the largest wind farm in the province has been hitting its target of renewable energy production.
South Canoe was one of the first wind projects built after the province announced its renewable energy strategy. In 2013, the Utility and Review Board approved its $93 million cost to ratepayers, and South Canoe was built by a consortium that included Oxford Frozen Foods, Minas Basin Pulp & Power, and Nova Scotia Power.
Nova Scotia Power is also the customer for the renewable electricity.
The project description read, “The South Canoe site is expected to produce 312 GWh/annum on average, over a 10-year forecast period.” The Examiner asked Nova Scotia Power, “What has been the output — the GWh/annum on average — for the past eight years the South Canoe wind farm has been operating?”
The short answer is…we weren’t able to get an answer.
A check with the Utility and Review Board that sets power rates and monitors NS Power fuel costs turned up this tantalizing reference to South Canoe during a 2021-2022 audit:
The redactions make it impossible to know if the reductions were small or large, but South Canoe is the largest wind farm or Independent Power Producer (IPP) in the province.
It’s not clear which “safety issues” at South Canoe resulted in lower-than-expected wind power production in 2022.
The Examiner will try to confirm whether the Labour Department ordered modifications to the turbines based on Occupational Health and Safety concerns.
The South Canoe wind farm was opened in 2015, using turbines produced by Acciona, a Spanish firm. Acciona was acquired by the German firm Nordex in 2016.
In July, the CBC reported that a P.E.I. wind farm at Hermanville that installed Acciona turbines in 2014 saw a 65% drop in production over the past two years, and that some of the turbines have been offline for over a year.
The Clean Power Program envisions our grid being powered by 80% renewables by 2030, and the bulk of that will be wind power. But here we have the biggest operating wind farm in the province, which we know is underperforming, but might be significantly under-performing.
That doesn’t bode well for meeting the 2030 goal.
Besides that, even if built, the proposed Bear Lake wind farm will do nothing at all to meet that 80% renewable target, as all of the power generated at it will go to EverWind.
2. Coastal Protection Act
“A dozen Nova Scotia municipalities have joined the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) in demanding the province implement Coastal Protection Act (CPA) regulations,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:
In a media release Monday, the EAC said six municipalities have joined them in signing a joint statement. Another seven municipalities sent individual letters to the Nova Scotia government — this includes Pictou County, which also signed the joint letter.
That joint letter calls on the province to immediately release and implement the regulations “before any more reckless development puts our communities and ecosystems further at risk.”
The letter said because we’re in a climate emergency, the delay is “irresponsible and unacceptable.”
King’s County Mayor Peter Muttart sent his own letter:
While Kings is not directly impacted (our coastal areas are already zoned as environmentally sensitive areas where construction is restricted), we have observed in other municipal jurisdictions the ‘race to the bottom’ whereby some members of the public are scrambling to erect multiple residential and other structures on paste-stamp sized lots within ‘spitting distance’ of the high-water mark – mostly to rent as B & B’s as commercial tourism enterprises.
“Premier Tim Houston chaired the fall meeting of the Council of the Federation of premiers, which concluded Monday with a united front asking Ottawa to pause the carbon tax on all types of home heating sources,” reports Jennifer Henderson.
The premiers additionally talked about housing and travelling nurses.
Last month, I reported that Halifax Fire officials had ordered Banc Investments Limited to take action on the abandoned Bloomfield school property. Banc co-owner Alex Halef appealed that order. As a result, the entire appeal record is now public, and the documents are alarming, to put it mildly.
In the documents, fire inspector Dustin Garnett is very plainly stating that people are sleeping in the building and to keep warm are setting fires. There have already been multiple fire calls to the building, and as the cold weather approaches, both the sleeping and the fires will likely increase.
“There could be a fatality in the building,” wrote Garnett.
There was one fire call to the building in 2019, one in 2021, and two in 2022. Three of the calls involved fires inside the building, and the fourth was “an incendiary fire on the exterior burning up against the exterior wall.”
There is no electricity, water, or fire suppression equipment in the building.
The public has also reported that there is a fire pit inside the building, presumably used by unhoused people trying to stay warm.
Garnett visited Bloomfield on Oct. 3 and found two open access points into the building. When Garnett walked by a window that was one of the access points in the building, he seems to have startled someone who was in the building, and that person ran away.
Garnett noted that there were 8-10 vehicles parked on the property, some with people in them, and that “the site is not secure to public access.”
“Areas of the façade are failing and there is debris on the ground below from fallen bricks,” wrote Garnett.
The next day, Oct. 4, Fire Prevention Officer Larry Viren emailed Garnett, as follows:
I would advise not making entry into the Bloomfield Centre. If you are going to make entry into this building, use extreme caution and adequate PPE. We investigated an incendiary fire (HF23‐11890) at this address about a year ago and due to unsafe conditions on the first floor we did not make entry. The crew reported a hole in the floor in the gym when they were conducting their interior search. The ceiling had collapsed in areas around the entrance and there were wire entanglements throughout the first floor from what we could see from the entry door on the left side of the building.
Also on Oct. 4, Garnett had a phone conversation with Alex Halef, the co-owner of Banc. Garnett, clearly annoyed at Halef’s general attitude about the problems at Bloomfield, summarized the call in a memo to file:
Spoke to Alex and wanted to introduce myself and asked who was the best person to communicate with in reference to 2786 Agricola st and he said him and only him “I’m it” I explained my position and concerns and Alex suggested I should ask HRM as he just bought the property from them so they should have to answer. I said the building has been vacant for two years since he has been the owner and weather has been infiltrating through missing windows and no maintenance has been do [sic] so I felt he as the current [owner] is the only appropriate person to deal with and I wasn’t interested in the history of the building I just needed to deal what was at hand, being the unsecure building with potentially being occupied by people taking shelter and our crews in a position of potentially hesitating making entry due to questionable structural stability. The exterior is showing signs of failure an in an effort of us managing risk effectively we need assurance that the building structural integrity is not compromised. I expressed my concerns that people would seek shelter in this building as temperatures drop and Alex replied people are always in there and they couldn’t be stopped and if he thought that fencing the entire property would stop all trespasser he would instantly fence the property by he knows as soon as he does someone would just easily cut the fence and he would constantly be paying to have the fence repaired just as he does with the boarding of openings, he said he has spent a ton of money buying wood to board over windows. I told Alex he should certainly not be so casual to say to me that there are people in the building all the time. I explained my concerns of people being trapped and disoriented and having egress issues. [I said] that it would be very likely there could be a fatality in the building if there were an emergency. Alex didn’t feel there was much risk of fire and I gave a few examples and explained the importance of fire personnel being confident to make safe entry. Alex felt he may not be able to comply as he first had to consult with his lawyer and alluded to court proceeding may take place under the direction of his lawyer so it is very likely he would not comply by the compliance date, I told him it was a reasonable request I was making and a reasonable amount of time has been given so I expected compliance and suggested that he should really re consider debating since I was motivated by life and public safety. Alex said the property was built like a brick shit house and he couldn’t see the structure being compromised to which I replied that sounded great and should make this an easy issue to deal with. I advised I would send the OTA [Order to Take Action] the following day.
The next day, Oct. 5, Halef received the Order to Take Action and emailed Garnett, saying simply “I’ll see what I can do here.”
On Friday, Oct. 6, Garnett spoke with Logan Savoie, the property manager for Banc, about the possible creation of an access point for firefighters.
Twenty days later, on Oct. 26, Savoie emailed Garnett:
I just wanted to give you an update in regards to our phone call a few weeks ago about Bloomfield’s access issue. I think we’ve managed to devise a solution and give you guys a door that can be opened and closed freely on the attached area.
We still have a long way to go, but the work will begin on Tuesday. It’s looking like there’s going to be some welding and concrete chipping which may take some time, but again please don’t hesitate to reach out for an update.
If we go with the locked-door approach we discussed on the phone, I’ll reach out to provide you guys with a key as we discussed.
But while a fire access point might be welcomed, it doesn’t really address the underlying issues.
On Nov. 1, Garnett wrote a Case Summary, noting that:
This large building in its current state is a public safety risk. There is an immediate risk to a person’s life safety to anyone who enters the building or is even within the immediate area of the structure. The building is considered hazardous and poses life safety risks to emergency personnel.
In the summary, Garnett detailed the structural issues and the general “collapsed” nature of both the structure and its mechanical systems, and noted that another abandoned building — presumably St. Pat’s–Alexandra school — is facing similar issues.
I believe people are currently taking shelter and occupying this building, I also anticipate with homelessness on the rise and the colder months upon us more people will look to this building for shelter:
• A recent inspection of the exterior found some securing of windows and doors had been forcibly removed and at that time movement from within the building was heard that suggested the building was occupied by persons.
• Municipal Compliance has been dealing with unauthorized entry complaints on an ongoing basis and has evidence that people have been accessing the building through second storey windows.
• A similar vacant building in HRM is currently believed to be occupied by homeless persons seeking shelter. During my recent exterior fire inspection there was strong evidence suggesting persons were inside the building which was later affirmed by Municipal Compliance.
• Police currently have a do not enter order on the building due to environmental concerns so with no policing of trespassing the situation can quickly escalate.
This building is high risk to occupants and first responders:
• The past and current building security methods are not adequate as break-in happen regularly and for the entire month of October the building was not secure.
• Vacant buildings such as this one frequently become the target of vandalism, arson and other criminal activity.
• The building has no heat or electricity so it is likely fires will be used inside for heat and lights, as has been the case in the past.
• First responders could get trapped inside this large structure due to exits and egress being obstructed from the exterior.
• Long travel distances from remote areas of this large structure to unobstructed exits are hazardous.
• First responders or personnel from other agencies are at risk of encountering an aggressive individual while inside the building.
When I read the record I hear a very concerned public servant saying that Bloomfield is a disaster waiting to happen — with the potential of homeless people trapped in a burning building and firefighters either not able to reach them or firefighters themselves becoming trapped in the same fire.
And I see a building owner who flippantly disregards the risk.
And I see a bureaucracy that appears incapable of taking swift action. Halef’s appeal of the Order to Take Action was filed on Oct. 13. The Utility and Review Board (UARB) has yet to file a hearing on the matter.
I’m sure there are legal timelines set out in the legislation governing the UARB, but the weather doesn’t follow such legalities. There’s a chance of snow tomorrow night, and temperatures are already dipping towards the freezing mark. Unhoused people will most definitely be seeking a roof over their heads, including at Bloomfield and St. Pat’s–Alexandra. Some of those people will set fires to stay warm, and those fires might escape control.
People could die.
“The pundits appear unanimous,” writes Richard Starr:
The Trudeau government has managed to achieve a trifecta of boneheadedness with its decision to provide a three-year carbon levy exemption for home heating fuel. The move is bad for the environment, bad for national unity and brings the country one step closer to a Pierre Poilievre government.
Beginning with the environment, the carbon tax is far from being the whole solution to cutting fossil fuel omissions to mitigate the impact of climate change. But to have any benefit, it needs to be comprehensive and predictable so that businesses and households will have an incentive to move to low carbon options like heat pumps and electric vehicles. Tampering with the tax for political reasons undermines that.
Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — agenda
Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place and online) — agency, board, and commission appointments
Legislature sits (Tuesday , 1pm, Province House and online) — watch it here
Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House and online) — watch it here
Voice Noon Hour (Wednesday, 11:45am, Strug Concert Hall) — selections from students’ repertoire
Adverse Childhood Experience and Physical and Mental Health: Differential Impact, Mediation, and Effect Modification Analyses (Wednesday, 12pm, online) — Jalal Uddin will talk; from the listing:
Adverse childhood experience (ACE) significantly affects physical and mental health over the life course. Traditionally, ACE has been measured by a cumulative ACE score which simply quantifies the total number of adversities experienced in the childhood/adolescent period. The cumulative risk score approach is limited as it ignores the differential impact of diverse ACEs on health outcomes. This presentation highlights the differential association of ACE items with physical and mental health outcomes among children and adult populations in Canada and the United States. Further, findings from ongoing works will show how social and behavioral factors mediate the association of ACE exposure with cardiovascular outcomes among adults and whether ACE-CVD associations differ by socio-demographic factors (e.g., age, sex, income). The research reveals the complexity of the measurement approaches of ACE and highlights the unique and differential impact of diverse sets of ACEs on population health
World Town Planning Day 2023 (Wednesday, 3:30pm, Murray Design Building) — keynote lecture by Fayola Jacobs from the University of Minnesota: “Planning while Black: Diaspora, disaster, and dreams of new worlds”
Social Enterprise – What’s in a Legal Distinction? (Wednesday, 7pm, Room W105, Weldon Law Building) — Mini Law School lecture by Léo Bourgeois and Alayna Kolodziechuk; from the listing:
Whether through business activities or working together for social and community purposes, humans utilize a variety of legal forms to carry out their work.The terms “social enterprise,” “triple bottom line,” or “alternative business forms” are used, in some contexts, to highlight business activities that incorporate a social/cultural/environmental purpose. This lecture will help to demystify how the law approaches and relates to businesses, corporations, not-for-profits, co-ops, charities, and certain hybrid models for social enterprise. It will be of particular interest to business owners, those involved with not-for-profits, and anyone with an interest in social enterprise, to better understand the legal rights, obligations, and opportunities that exist in this interesting and evolving area.
Mount Saint Vincent
Maroon Town (Wednesday, 2pm, MSVU Art Gallery) — artist Tyshan Wright will give an informal presentation on his exhibition, on view until December 9
Noon talk (Tuesday, 12pm, Anna Leonowens Gallery) — Meichan Yuan will discuss her work
Noon talk (Wednesday, 12pm, Anna Leonowens Gallery) — Emily Davidson will discuss her thesis exhibition
Artists’ talk (Wednesday, 1pm, Anna Leonowens Gallery) — Samantha Holyk and Becca Devenish will discuss their work
In the harbour
15:00: Harbour Feature, oil/chemical tanker, arrives at Port Hawkesbury Paper Terminal from Point Comfort, Texas
This was almost my exact experience in London: