News

1. Mass Casualty Commission: the selective memory of Cst. Greg Wiley

RCMP Cst. Greg Wiley visited the mass murderer’s Portapique cottage 15 or 16 times.

Tim Bousquet writes about the testimony of Cst. Greg Wiley, and what he chooses to remember, in the Examiner’s latest report from the Mass Casualty Commission.

Bousquet wrote about Wiley Tuesday, when the RCMP constable gave his testimony, but follows up with more commentary on Wiley’s accounts in this latest article.

For those who need a refresher, here’s Bousquet’s summary from Tuesday about how Wiley is connected to the April 2020 shootings and the MCC’s work. (A reminder, the Examiner refers to the Portapique killer by his initials, GW):

• Wiley visited the killer’s house in Portapique 15 or 16 times (the Examiner refers to the killer as GW), mostly in the period between 2007 and 2008, but some years later Wiley ran into GW at the grocery store in Truro, and then, weirdly, one day in 2017 Wiley stopped to relieve himself in the woods and GW drove up on an ATV;

• In 2010, after GW threatened to kill his parents, Halifax police asked Wiley to contact GW and investigate whether GW had any weapons, but Wiley never did so;

• In 2017, Wiley was one of the officers who responded to Susie Butlin’s complaints that she had been sent harassing texts by her next door neighbour, Junior Duggan. Wiley told Butlin there was no criminality involved, and suggested that she simply block Duggan’s number on her phone. She did. There’s no evidence that Wiley attempted to contact Duggan or take any other action related to Butlin’s complaint. Three weeks later, Duggan killed Butlin.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get back to Wiley’s testimony Tuesday.

Toward its conclusion, commissioner Leanne Fitch told Wiley she was “troubled” by the constable’s detailed memory of some encounters with GW, but his inability to recollect anything about certain serious incidents with the future killer.

Consider one such instance, which Wiley says he can’t remember at all.

In 2010, a Halifax Regional Police sergeant called Wiley, investigating death threats GW made against his own parents. The sergeant had placed a “firearms interest police” document in the HRPD database after finding GW had no registered firearms, even though his parents had told the police otherwise. An occurrence report written by the sergeant said Wiley “advised that he is a friend of the suspect” and that “he is aware of the family situation of [GW] and the stress that has been causing him.”

The initial call to Wiley was placed on June 8, 2010. By August 26, after the sergeant had followed up with Wiley multiple times, Wiley still had yet to begin an investigation or even speak with GW, and the sergeant closed the file.

In testimony Tuesday, Wiley told the Mass Casualty Commission he doesn’t remember the call and would never describe himself as a “friend” of GW. Though Wiley said he didn’t consider the sergeant a liar, he did find his report suspect.

The testimony raises more questions than it answers, and Bousquet looks at all of them, diving into Wiley’s selective memory, his history with GW, his tone of contempt on the stand, and his disconcerting views of critical race theory and policing. Read the full article here.

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2. Report: Living wage in Halifax now $10 higher than minimum wage

“Life should not be a constant struggle. Yet, for many Nova Scotians, that is their reality, and the challenge to make ends meet has gotten even tougher this year,” writes Christine Saulnier in the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ latest report on the cost of living in Nova Scotia.

The big conclusion: the wage required to meet one’s needs has gone up across the province, the current minimum wage continues to rise too slowly to match quickly rising costs, and local governments need to provide some relief through expanded public services and — surprise, surprise — increasing the minimum wage. The report calculates the living wage based on living expenses for a family of four with children between two and seven. It finds the biggest expenses are shelter, food, and childcare, which are driving the increase in costs.

So what does it take to make ends meet in this province right now?

According to the report, $23.50/hour at the high end (Halifax) and $20.00/hour at the low end (Cape Breton).

That’s a problem, because only about half of Nova Scotians are making that much. The median hourly wage in this province, as of June, is only $22.80. According to the CCPA report, about 200,000 workers are earning less than $20/hour, and half of them are earning less than $15/hour.

At the end of this month, the minimum wage in Nova Scotia will rise to $13.60/hour. In April, it will go up $15/hour. For years, that $15/hr minimum wage was a number fought for across the country, but it’s been an outdated goal for a while now. And we haven’t even reached it yet.

So how do we work toward a living wage for everyone? The report offers some suggestions.

Read about those, how the CCPA calculated its “conservative estimate” of a living wage, and what it takes to get by in every region of Nova Scotia right now, in Zane Woodford’s summary of the new report.

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3. Cops working security at Superstores leads to Halifax Police board policy review

A Halifax Regional Police officer posted in the produce section of the Braemar Superstore in August 2022. — Photo: Zane Woodford

More from Zane Woodford, this time from Halifax’s police commissioners board meeting on Wednesday.

In August, Woodford reported on police officers who’d been seen working at different Superstores, armed and in full uniform:

The Halifax Examiner has seen officers at the Braemar Drive location in Dartmouth and the Joseph Howe Drive location in Halifax, and seen reports and photos from the Quinpool Road and Bayers Lake locations.

Const. John MacLeod, spokesperson for Halifax Regional Police, didn’t reply to questions specific to Superstore, but said private businesses are able to hire off-duty officers.

“We have an extra duty program that is staffed by officers who volunteer to fill positions while off duty,” MacLeod wrote in an email.

“Business, organizations, public and private events can place requests for officers to conduct policing duties on or near their facilities and are responsible for the associated costs. These requests do not draw from our primary policing duties and are only filled if there are officers available from the extra duty program.”

That was pretty well the extent of the police response to public criticism over the “Superstore cop.” Times are tough, I get it. I can’t blame anyone for picking up a little side hustle. But how police were allowed to work these jobs off-duty in full uniform is unclear. We could be finding out more soon though.

Halifax Coun. Lindell Smith, who also chairs the municipality’s police commissioner board, says he’s received complaints from constituents asking why police officers are moonlighting for private corporations. And why they’re doing it in full police uniform.

On Wednesday, Smith moved to direct Halifax Regional Police and Halifax RCMP to make public both organizations’ policies regarding employment outside of police duties, also known as “extra-duty” policies. The motion, which passed, also directed those policies to be made available to the police commissioners board for review.

In the rest of his article, Woodford relays a few other highlights from Wednesday’s meeting.

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4. The Tideline, Episode 94: Koumbie

Koumbie.

Tara Thorne’s out with a new Tideline today.

The debut feature of Halifax hyphenate Koumbie—known as an actor for the stage and screen, a writer, and a director—will have its world premiere at the Atlantic International Film Festival on September 22. Bystanders tells the story of a lifelong friend group rocked to its foundation by accusations of sexual misconduct against one of their own. He’s their friend, brother, even ex-boyfriend—so now what? As Koumbie puts it, “What do you do when someone you love does something you hate?” A thoughtful conversation that digs into the grey areas of so-called cancel culture, how it is to be an actor directing actors, and what the filmmaker hopes you’ll take away from the experience.

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Views

1. The housing crisis vs. the climate crisis

Signs are seen on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 at one of the entrances to the Eisner Cove wetland, along Highway 111, where Defend Eisner Cove Wetland has set up camp to slow development. — Photo: Zane Woodford

This week, environmentalists and neighbours of the Eisner Cove wetland got into another ugly altercation at the Dartmouth green space, where 45 hectares of wetland, woods, and wildlife habitat are slated to be replaced by 1,200 housing units and a causeway.

Concerned about the loss of untouched natural land near the downtown core, as well as the impacts of disturbing the carbon-storing landscape, protestors had set up camp there in order to block the construction, which has received fast-tracked approval from the provincial government for tree clearing and earth moving. (The development proposal from Clayton Developments and A.J. Legrow Holdings has yet to be approved). The wetland is one of “nine special planning areas” where developments can be expedited to build housing stock fast and hopefully ease the municipality’s housing crisis.

At sites like Eisner Cove, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr will bypass Halifax regional council’s usual process of public hearings and green-light developments himself.

So the public is finding other ways to provide the government with feedback.

Four people were arrested at the wetland Tuesday after police were called in to defend the developer’s equipment. In August, protestors had faced off with logging crews, an altercation that turned dangerous after workers decided to start their machinery with protestors in the way.

I’m of the mind that there isn’t enough deeply affordable housing in this proposed development to justify the destruction of such an important ecosystem. I also think that such a strong backlash should make the province reconsider whether the public and HRM should have a say in what gets developed in their community.

Eisner Cove wetland, untouched, from above. Photo: Shanni Bale
The planned Eisner Cove development. Photo: Shanni Bale

Halifax’s Centre Plan acknowledges the importance of green spaces for biodiversity and climate, noting future park planning should consider these impacts, but the “special planning areas” don’t require developers to take those factors into account.

I thought I’d share a piece published this week in the Conversation about the importance of integrating environmental concerns into housing development plans. It’s co-written by three professors, Michael Drescher, Dawn Parker, and Rebecca Rooney, whose respective fields of study are planning, environmentalism, and biology.

In it they urge local governments not to let housing crises supersede the incredibly urgent climate crisis that all governments should be prioritizing.

Canada is a highly urbanized country, with more than 80 per cent of residents living in urban centres. The urban population is growing by more than 400,000 annually, and these new urban residents need housing.

With affordable housing in decline, there are loud calls to massively increase the number of homes being built. Unfortunately, conventional residential development destroys large amounts of green space. The average greenness of urban areas across Canada declined five percentage points between 2001 and 2019, and even more in larger cities.

The loss of urban green space leads to increases in urban heat and flooding, which are amplified by climate change, and can threaten human health and well-being, and property. They also degrade natural ecosystems and the biodiversity they support.

Perversely, poorly planned cities themselves contribute to climate change. As Canadian cities move to tackle the housing shortage, they should take care not to worsen climate change and its impacts.

A recent study found that each year, Canadian urban forests remove over 660 kilotonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. These climate change mitigation benefits are reduced when urban trees and green spaces are removed. Even when new landscaping is put in place, young trees and lawns do not provide the heat mitigation, flood protection and biodiversity support of more mature landscapes.

Most conventional residential developments also add large amounts of sealed surfaces, such as roads, sidewalks, driveways, patios and roofs to the urban environment. Rainfall runs off these sealed surfaces instead of being caught by vegetation or seeping into the ground.

If you’ve ever been to Toronto in August, you’ll understand the heat that big concrete cities can radiate. And the runoff from rain water is a big concerns at Eisner Cove, where salt and chemicals from the proposed causeway (to connect the new community to the roads leading to Highway 111) would likely decimate wildlife habits in what’s left of the wetland after construction.

More on runoff from the article:

The manicured lawns surrounding houses do not help much, and may contribute runoff polluted with fertilizer, pesticides and sediment. Runoff from sealed surfaces and lawns often flows into creeks, rivers and lakes, where it decreases water quality.

Alternatively, runoff may be collected in engineered storm water management ponds, which can be effective if managed well. But if poorly designed and managed, they can be a significant source of urban greenhouse gas emissions including methane, further intensifying climate change.

By early 2022, over 600 Canadian municipalities had declared a climate emergency.

Halifax is included on that list.

Some of them are taking action by conserving natural ecosystems and better integrating them into their operations. Others are beginning to use green development standards to guide developers in building more sustainable communities.

The article says municipalities are individually accountable for their climate goals, and need to put them at the forefront of future developments. Good luck with that at Eisner Cove, Sandy Lake, and Port Wallace.

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Noticed

How to take out invasive species: drink them

Carcinus maenas, or European green crab. Photo: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

You may have heard of the European green crab. It’s an invasive species that’s been decimating shellfish and sea vegetation around North America since it first sailed over on European ships in the 19th century. (The green crab was first reported in Nova Scotia waters in 1953).

Able to produce two batches of about 185,000 eggs twice a year, and with no natural predators in these parts, they’re one of the peskier invaders we have to deal with here. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans calls them one of the 10 “most unwanted species in the world.”

Simply put, they’re bad news for native marine habitats and commercial fisheries. Like, really bad news.

In Newfoundland, Saltwire recently reported “mitigation efforts cannot keep up with the growing population of green crab.”

Here in Nova Scotia, Kejimkujik has had problems keeping these stubborn invaders from destroying native species like eelgrass. The Park partnered with a McGill researcher in 2020 to try to use green crab shells as a way to produce biodegradable plastic. It doesn’t solve the growing population problem, but at least it might solve another massive marine problem and get a few water bottles out of the ocean.

The fact of the matter is, these crabs simply reproduce much faster than we can take them out.

“Once European Green Crab have established a population in an area,” reads the DFO’s website, “it is practically impossible to eradicate them.”

But people are trying.

You might have heard in recent years that scientists and foodies in New England have been trying to create a commercial fishery around the green crab itself, hoping to lower the population in the most American way possible: eating way too many of them. They’re hard to harvest though. You have to get them in the brief window when they’re about to molt, while the shell is soft and can be opened.

Then you have to convince enough people to eat them. A niche market won’t suffice if you’re trying to make a dent in the population — many people hate seafood, for some baffling reason. (I’d start a rant about how seafood is lean, pre-salted, and easy to cook, but I could go on forever.)

Yesterday, Business Insider released a video on a new culinary effort to eradicate the European green crab, one even more enticing than a seafood dish.

A company in New England is turning them into whiskey.

It’s a fascinating watch. And I have to admit, I’m curious.

Imagine if we could deal with other invasive species like this in the Maritimes, though I doubt tick-flavoured rum or woolly adelgid-flavoured gin would be big sellers.

At the very least, we can just drink regular whisky and forget about lyme disease and the decimation of hemlocks in our forests.

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Government

City

Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm, online) — agenda

Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

No events

Friday

Stable Main-Group Radicals and Diradicals Based on Unconventional Carbon-Donor Frameworks (Friday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Rajendra S. Ghadwal from Bielefeld University, Germany will talk


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: MSC Sandra, container ship, moves from anchorage to Fairview Cove
06:30: Adventure of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,058 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a nine-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
07:00: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney, on a seven-day cruise from Montreal to Boston
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Pier 41
08:30: CMA CGM Marco Polo, container ship (176,546 tonnes), sails from Pier 41 for New York (this very large ship has been in port for more than 48 hours, an exceptionally long time to process a container ship)
10:00: Carnival Legend, cruise ship with up to 2,549 passengers, arrives at Pier 31 from Saint John, on an eight-day, roundtrip cruise out of Baltimore
11:45: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Autoport
15:30: MSC Sandra sails for sea
15:30: Zaandam sails for Boston
16:00: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland
16:45: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41
17:00: Adventure of the Seas sails for New York
18:00: Atlantic Condor, offshore supply ship, sails from IEL for sea
19:00: Carnival Legend sails for Baltimore
23:00: Vivienne Sheri D sails for Reykjavik, Iceland
23:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York

Cape Breton
12:00: Stena Surprise, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea


Footnotes

  • I knocked a mason jar full of water off my nightstand while trying to hit the snooze button. It was an awful cleanup but at least it got me out of bed.
  • Yesterday, Mary Campbell at the Cape Breton Spectator announced a publication delay, citing personal reasons. The next issue will be out next Wednesday. A reminder that you can help support local journalism by signing up for the Spectator here.

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Ethan Lycan-Lang

Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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  1. The Eisners Cove development is simply corrupt. Public land, heavily discounted and sold to a developer with no public visibility, transparency or consultation. While every other channel of government is spouting the importance of natural areas, here is the example they show of scorched earth practice. Add to that the lie they keep pushing about “affordable housing” which is NOT part of this development. This is only about using connections to make rich developers richer.

  2. Fisherman on their own initiative and money have tried fishing green crab in order to reduce the population.

    DFO shut them down arguing that DFO would first have to establish a regulated fishery for them so that the resource wasn’t depleted (laughable). Absolutely ridiculous. Come to think of it a ‘well regulated’ fishery by DFO might just be the way to decimate the population if history repeats itself.

    Just like white tailed deer (another invasive species documented to reduce biodiversity but ‘regulated’ for the sake of settler hunters) it should be open season. Fill your freezers. Donate it to food banks, whatever…if somebody has the initiative and resources they certainly shouldn’t be stopped from attempting to make a difference in these cases in my opinion.