News

1. Motor Vehicle Act

Rendering of proposed changes to Gottingen and North intersection, including a cross-ride enabled crosswalk on the north leg, from a July 2017 HRM staff report.

“The province has put out an open call for input on a new Traffic Safety Act to replace the much-amended and much-maligned Motor Vehicle Act (MVA),” writes Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler:

The call-out is remarkably open ended, simply asking people to read over the current MVA and “tell us what changes we should consider to the rules of the road,” by June 8.

The province says we can expect a new Traffic Safety Act to be introduced in the legislature this fall. That might be an ambitious timeline considering the complexity of the act, which though it has been amended many, many times, dates back to the 1920s.

Butler goes on to review items that are — or should be — up for consideration in Nova Scotia’s new Traffic Safety Act.

Click here to read “How would you change the rules of the road?”

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

2. Dirty Dealing, Part 4

Northern Pulp Mill. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Last month, in Part 4 of her “Dirty Dealing” series, Linda Pannozzo reported:

Nova Scotia Lands, a provincial crown corporation charged with cleaning up Boat Harbour, played a role in silencing two Dalhousie University researchers whose work studied air pollution coming from the Northern Pulp mill, the Halifax Examiner has learned.

The two researchers, Emma Hoffman and Tony Walker, were the lead authors of a 2017 ambient air study, which revealed that air levels of three volatile organic compounds (VOCs) near the Northern Pulp mill exceeded cancer risk thresholds and “are of primary health concern in terms of population risk.”

Pannozzo attempted to interview the researchers but both declined to speak, citing “ongoing consultations” with the Boat Harbour Remediation Project, which is overseen by Nova Scotia Lands.

Through documents she received from a Freedom of Information request, Pannozzo found that just as the air pollution study was published, the Boat Harbour Environmental Advisory Management Committee discussed “Public Communications” which are “Sensitive at current time and will continue until strategy is finalized.”

“Message control, in whatever form it takes, always has its beneficiaries,” notes Pannozzo:

In the case of the ambient air study, the study authors’ silence certainly reduces, if not eliminates the possibility of inconvenient questions arising about Northern Pulp’s cancer-causing air emissions. Indeed, there isn’t a single news outlet in this province (other than The Halifax Examiner) that has reported on it, likely because the authors wouldn’t agree to speak about it.

Who benefits from this silence? Take a wild guess.

We’ve now made the article available for all, including non-subscribers, to read. Click here to read “Dirty Dealing, Part 4: Message Control and the Northern Pulp Mill’s Cancer-Causing Air Emissions.”

Still, while you no longer need a subscription to read Part 4, subscription revenue is how we are able to pay for Pannozzo’s investigative work. I’ll say it again: good journalism doesn’t fall out of the sky like manna; it takes real money, and that money needs to come from you, dear readers. I have a working list of a dozen in-depth investigations I’d like the Examiner to tackle, but we can’t get to them until we have the money to pay for them. Click here to subscribe.

3. Forest fairy tales

Marcus Zwicker, manager of Westfor, being interviewed by reporters at just before noon. Photo: Joan Baxter

The legislature’s Resources committee met yesterday to discuss “the current state and future of the forestry industry in Nova Scotia.” Joan Baxter stopped by to witness the hilarity, and here is her report:

Well, well, well … it turns out that the only problem with Nova Scotia’s forests and forest industry these days is that the public just doesn’t understand the “complexities” of the industry and forests. Anyone who is concerned about all the clear-cutting or herbicide spraying, the loss of old growth forest, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity; the low prices that woodlot owners are paid for the trees that come off their land; or the shortage of hardwood that has led to recent closures of small, value-adding businesses in the province can just toss those worries to the wind.

Yesterday, MLAs on the Standing Committee on Resources learned that there is no need to worry, be happy about the state of our forests. The sources of all this good news were Jeff Bishop, Executive Director of Forest Nova Scotia, the organization which represents the forestry industry in the province, and Marcus Zwicker, who manages Westfor, a consortium of 13 mills in the province (not least of which is Northern Pulp in Pictou County). Westfor is currently not just leasing and cutting (mostly clear-cutting) a huge piece of crown land in western Nova Scotia, it’s also managing the land.

MLAs were informed that we are “growing healthy forests” in this province, forestry has a “very bright future,” and our forests are being managed with “leading-edge science.”

Bishop assured his audience that a career in forestry in Nova Scotia is all about “passion” and “science” and that it’s “more than a job, it’s a way of life.” I thought this sounded familiar, and indeed it was; it was eerily similar to the script in a Forest Nova Scotia advertisement that used to show up every day at the top of my Facebook news feed, featuring ever-so-earnest forest workers telling us how dedicated they were to making sure there was “something here always for the future that will support us.”

Like the Forest Nova Scotia advertisements, Zwicker’s and Bishop’s testimony was noteworthy not just for the hyperbolic optimism, the obfuscation on a couple of tough questions from NDP MLAs, and the industry spin, but also for what was missing from the discussion, namely everything that is wrong with forests, forestry practices, and forest management in this province.

The MLAs would have been much better off skipping the PR sessions yesterday and instead immersing themselves in the meticulously researched “Dirty Dealing” articles by Linda Pannozzo here in the Halifax Examiner (see Dirty Dealing Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4), which irrefutably document that there are many very serious problems in our woodlands and the way they are being “managed” by some very powerful industry players.

Three elephants that dominate the forestry sector and policies in Nova Scotia didn’t even make it into the room at One Government Place, where their impact on forests could have been scrutinized.

There was not a single mention of the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County and its decades-long history of promoting clear-cutting and herbicide spraying to turn the province’s rich and diverse Acadian forests into softwood pulp plantations.

Nor was there any mention of Port Hawkesbury Paper (PHP), nor the Nova Scotia Power biomass burner in Port Hawkesbury that it feeds, which energy consultant Peter Ritchie has shown is less “green” than burning coal. Yes, that biomass burner, the one that, as Aaron Beswick reported in the Chronicle Herald, has been burning chips from hardwood trees from old growth forests cut by PHP on FSC-certified Crown land in eastern Nova Scotia. After denying the stands were old growth, DNR later admitted that it had made a mistake, and PHP had been cutting and burning wood from Old Growth forests after all.

The whole sordid story has been told by NS Forest Notes.

But it sure wasn’t on the agenda yesterday, when Zwicker or Bishop decided that fairy tales were better fare for the Standing Committee on Resources. Then again, that is what they are paid to do.

— Joan Baxter

Jeff Bishop of Forest Nova Scotia. Photo: Joan Baxter

4. Town Clock

Parks Canada this morning issued a tender for the rehabilitation of the Town Clock on Citadel Hill. “The work involves, but is not limited to, replacing the roofs, the copper flashings, repair wood elements, and painting the exterior building envelopes to eliminate water infiltration and renew the exterior appearance.”

5. The China Syndrome

“Government and port officials in Cape Breton are forging ahead on a proposed container terminal project that includes a controversial Chinese partner,” reports Tom Ayers for the CBC (will the last departing Chronicle Herald reporter please turn off the lights):

On Wednesday, the federal government blocked the China Communications Construction Company’s plan to take over Aecon, a Canadian construction firm, citing national security concerns.

The Chinese company is one of several Canadian and international firms that has agreed to help build a container terminal in Sydney.

Marlene Usher, CEO for the Port of Sydney Development Corp., said Thursday the federal decision could have upset local plans.

But, she said, the Chinese firm, known locally as Quad C, is still working with port marketer Albert Barbusci on the plan.

“We were disappointed, just in the sense that Quad C will be disappointed, and we just don’t want that to lessen their appetite to come to Canada,” Usher said.

“But having said that, Albert’s been in contact with them every step of the way so no, they’re very much still interested in our project.”

The state-controlled Chinese company has been sanctioned internationally for bid-rigging, but is still considered one of the world’s largest construction firms.

Paging Mary Campbell. Mary Campbell, white courtesy phone…

It amuses me that the kids don’t get that reference, but while Campbell is jumping over suitcases and rent-a-car counters, let’s all read her account of Quad C’s potential purchase of Aecon, which Campbell wrote back in December:

China Communications Construction Company International Holding Ltd, or CCCCI, the overseas investment and financing arm of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), is poised to buy the Canadian construction company Aecon for $1.5 billion.

CCCC is, of course, “Quad C,” the company our port promoter Albert Barbusci says may build a $1.5 billion mega-container-ship terminal in Sydney harbour. (For the record, nowhere, in any of the coverage I’ve seen, has anyone referred to the state-owned CCCC as “Quad C.” Apparently, it’s a private nickname between the company and Barbusci. Also, why does everything cost $1.5 billion?)

Aecon Group Inc, with offices in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, has what the CBC termed a “storied 140-year history in landmark Canadian construction and engineering projects such as the CN Tower, Vancouver’s SkyTrain and the Halifax Shipyard.” But don’t think that means its technology is anything special. As China’s ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye, told reporters in Halifax on November 7:

The technology from the Chinese side is much higher than the Canadian side… it is not necessary for them [the Chinese government] to steal the technologies from Canadian companies.

Lu was making the case — not particularly diplomatically — that no national security review would be necessary for the deal, which requires the approval of two-thirds of the votes cast at a special meeting of Aecon shareholders as well as government and regulatory approvals under the Investment Canada Act, the Canadian Competition Act and authorities in China.

Campbell went on for another 3,000 words about the company (“I feel the need to warn you,” she wrote, “that this article is really long. That’s what happens when you start writing about a company with annual revenue of US$55 billion and 100,000 employees. But since it’s also a company that has been cited in reference to not one but two Cape Breton ports — remember, CCCC first expressed interest in Melford — I figure the length is justified. Besides which, it’s all pretty interesting.“).

You can read the whole thing here.

6. Side guards

Boston city trucks require side guards. Photo: fastcoexist.com

Yesterday, Halifax council’s Transportation Committee heard from lawyers Bruce Clarke and William Mahody, who represent different parts of the trucking industry (Clark represents independent truckers and Mahody represents the Road Builders Association), who wanted to talk about new regulations requiring side guards on trucks hauling material to or from city-owned construction sites.

Both Clarke and Mahody complained that even though the city is retrofitting its own trucks slowly, over time, the requirement was imposed on private truckers immediately. Mahody said that the city’s policy for itself is that that trucks will be fitted with side guards “where practical,” but the side guard requirement for private truckers came in the form of contracts that removed the words “where practical.” The result is that contractors are being sent Breach of Contract letters when their trucks don’t have side guards.

Clarke presented a series of photos of trucks to make the point about practicality. Many of the trucks he showed had fuel tanks, utility boxes, and batteries between the wheels, all of which need to be accessible, and which in any event have the same effect as side guards, in that they would push a struck person away from the vehicle. (I’m not convinced of the last point.)

Moreover, said Clarke, independent truckers haul to many different kinds of sites, including over unfinished, bumpy roads. The requirement that side guards give protection from 14 inches above the road service presents a problem because on some sites the trucks move more than 14 inches vertically, meaning the guards could become a hazard.

Both lawyers claimed that money was not a consideration in their complaints, and that their respective clients weren’t opposed to side guards in principle. They said that even in jurisdictions where side guards are required by law (as in Britain), there are exemptions that cover around 15 per cent of trucks.

Their view was that the city should stop issuing the Breach of Contract letters and that discussions between the industry and the city should continue until a report is made to council in July about the city’s own progress on side guards. That seemed agreeable to staff.

Paul Vienneau showed up to, in his words, present “a human face” to the side guard issue. Vienneau said he didn’t sleep the previous night because he was dealing with “ghosts walking around my apartment” while he was thinking about what he would tell the committee.

Vienneau was riding his bicycle on a Toronto street on August 12, 1991, when he was struck by a truck making a right hook. “It sailed in at light speed and vaporized me,” he said. He spent a year in hospital, going through more than 40 surgeries.

Vienneau is now a photographer, musician, and advocate for accessibility. He uses a wheelchair to get around.

Vienneau pointed out that the collision that changed his life didn’t just affect him. His parents had to quit their jobs to tend to him, and his brother delayed career plans so he could be at Vienneau’s side in hospital. The costs of hospitalization and other government expenditures far exceeded the costs of requiring side guards, he said.


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Friday

Dalplex Opening (Friday, 10am, 6260 South Street) — there’s a big to-do with Florizone and such, but the actual fitness centre doesn’t open until noon.

Ingrid Waldron (Friday, 7pm, Mahone Bay Centre, 45 School Street, Mahone Bay) — Waldron launches her new book, There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous & Black Communities.

Saturday

Why Feminist Philosophy Matters to the Health of Canadians (Saturday, 12:30pm, Halifax Central Library) — Francois Baylis, Kirstin Borgerson, and Jocelyn Downie from Dalhousie University and Carolyn MacLeod from Western University will talk about how “Dalhousie’s feminist bioethicists have shaped and continue to inform medical and social policy and practice to create better health care and a fairer society.”


In the harbour

5am: Budapest Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Fos Sur Mer, France
5:30am: CSCC Asia, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from New York
7am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 41 from Saint-Pierre
7:30am: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
9am: an American naval ship will arrive at Dockyard
11:30am: CSCC Asia, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
12:30pm: Horizon Star, offshore supply ship, moves from Pier 9 to Bedford Basin for trials
12:30pm: Budapest Bridge, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
5pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 41 for Saint-Pierre
6pm: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John


Footnotes

I have a weird story about people robbing pot dispensaries, but it’ll have to wait until Monday.

Tim Bousquet

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

Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is an award-winning Nova Scotian journalist and author of seven books, including "The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest." Website: www.joanbaxter.ca;...

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  1. Muzzling scientists was despicable when Harper did it, and it’s despicable when Nova Scotia Lands does it. However, the canard Joan Baxter repeats, that “[a] shortage of hardwood… has led to recent closures of small, value-adding businesses” can best be described as a convenient untruth.

    The wonderful hardwood mill that closed recently in Cape Breton did so because its owners, in their sixties, were eager to retire from what was a physically demanding family business, and they could not find anyone who wanted to take on the challenge of taking it over. It was a matter of succession planning not lack of feedstock.

    1. “The hardwood manufacturer recently closed its production plant, laid off all eight staff members and is selling off inventory, while seeking a buyer for the company or its equipment. Candace Christiano, who owns Finewood Flooring with her husband Peter, said Thursday several factors affected the business operation, including the recent recession, changes in the value of the Canadian dollar and high electricity rates. A reliable supply of quality hardwood was one of the big impediments, she said, but not the only one. “I don’t think it’s that simple,” Christiano added. “It’s always a myriad of factors.”
      On top of the other pressures, she said the company tried to get provincial agreements on a steady supply of quality hardwood, but since Port Hawkesbury Paper bought the pulp and paper plant in Point Tupper and Nova Scotia Power began burning forest biomass at the plant, Finewood has been unable to get an agreement.” http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1226653-finewood-chain-of-events-closed-firm
      and:
      “Good saw logs are being burnt (at the biomass boiler) and that’s a fact,” said Peter Christiano.
      “They can say ‘oh there’s none going in (the boiler)’ but if you talk to any of the people buying logs, when they turn on that boiler, the supply goes way down.” Christiano and his wife Candace founded Finewood Flooring in Middle River 33 years ago. They and Rivers Bend Hardwood Flooring in Antigonish County shut their doors in 2015, citing a lack of access to hardwood from Crown land.” http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1547900-video-old-growth-crown-hardwood-being-cut-and-burned-harvester-says

      1. I guess Mr. Donham’s canard of an convenient untruth can best be described as blowhard bullshit!

      2. Here is the portion of that story Joan Baxter omitted:

        “We are of retirement age, so this is where we were headed for years,” Christiano said. “The shame of it is it’s not an attractive business to be continuing.

        “We’ve been through cycles before, it’s just that we’re not young enough anymore and we haven’t found that person who wants to take it over.”

        I don’t believe NS Power should be allowed to burn sawlogs (hardwood or softwood) at its biomass plant. It seems a terrible waste. And the venture-capitalist-run Newpage hornswoggled everyone involved—unions, woodlot owners, suppliers, truckers, most especially the Dexter government—into outlandishly one-sided concessions to keep the mill open. (Only tiny Richmond County held firm on municipal tax rates.)

        But the idea, now a holy article of faith among forestry activists, that Finewood closed because it couldn’t get hardwood, is a misrepresentation.

  2. Today is the 25th anniversary of the election of John Savage as MLA for Dartmouth South and Premier of Nova Scotia. I placed second on the ballot, which has turned out to be a blessing.
    He and Premier McNeil will go down in history as two of the greatest Conservative premiers in Nova Scotia.

  3. What is in the building below the clock tower and is it open to the public? All the times I’ve been in Halifax it has never occurred to me to walk up and try the front door.

    1. There was a couple living in there, or I guess sleeping in there, a while back. This was of course unsanctioned. They were moved out eventually. I’ve never been in it.

    2. it has been open to the public during Doors Open Halifax the Last couple of years. They year the event is the first weekend in June.