News

1. Corey Rogers

Corey Rogers

“A Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice has acquitted the former Halifax Regional Police special constables who booked Corey Rogers in cells the night he died,” reports Zane Woodford:

“While the death of Corey Rogers is sad and tragic, it did not come as the result of criminal negligence,” Justice James Chipman wrote in his decision on Thursday.

Rogers, 41, died in a cell at Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street in June 2016. He’d been arrested a few hours earlier outside the IWK for public intoxication. The officers who arrested Rogers placed a spit hood over his head as they brought him into cells, and he eventually vomited into the spit hood and asphyxiated, according to his official cause of death.

Special constables Dan Fraser and Cheryl Gardner were working as booking officers in the cells at HRP headquarters that night, and were responsible for checking up on Rogers after he was placed in a dry cell, one without water or even a bench. They didn’t check on him as often or as thoroughly as dictated by policy, and Fraser claimed to have checked on Rogers after he was already dead, falsifying records in a log book.

Click here to read “Former Halifax police special constables acquitted in Corey Rogers’ death.”

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2. Cabinet ministers

Province House in June 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Jennifer Henderson spoke with cabinet ministers yesterday; read her complete report here.

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3. COVID

Weekly COVID death counts in Nova Scotia since January. Note that due a change in the reporting period, the week ending April 11 has just six days.

Nine people died from COVID in Nova Scotia last week (May 24-30); all nine were 70 years old or older.

Over the same period, 41 people were hospitalized because of COVID.

By age cohort, those hospitalized are:
• Under 18 — 2
• 18-49 — 6
• 50-69 — 8
• 70+ — 25

Nova Scotia Health reports the current status of hospitalizations:
• Currently in hospital for COVID-19: 27 (7 of whom are in ICU)
• Currently in hospital for something else but have COVID-19: 174
• Currently in hospital who contracted COVID-19 after admission to hospital: 73
These figures do not include the IWK.

Weekly new (PCR test confirmed) case counts since January. The gap reflects a change in testing protocol that left those weekly numbers incomparable to the other weeks. Also, as explained above, the week ending April 11 has just six days.

Over the same reporting period, there were 1,563 lab-confirmed (PCR tests) new cases of COVID, just 21 fewer than the week before. The 1,563 new cases do not include people who tested positive with the take-home rapid tests or people who didn’t test at all.

The wastewater sampling for the week ending May 26 (above) shows a slight increase in COVID concentration in Dartmouth, a slight decline in Halifax, and a larger decline in Bedford.

The chart below shows the age-adjusted hospitalization and death rates by vaccine status, December 8, 2021 to present.

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4. Truro shelter

The exterior of the new shelter operated by the Truro Housing Outreach Society. Photo: Truro Housing Outreach Society

“A new 24-hour shelter will open in Truro this summer in response to an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the town and Colchester County,” reports Suzanne Rent:

The shelter, which will be operated by the Truro Housing Outreach Society, will replace the current 16-bed shelter the society runs in a commercial district on Prince Street in downtown Truro. That shelter operates from 6:30pm to 8:30am seven days a week.

“The rate of people experiencing homelessness in our area has been going up every year,” said Krista McNair, executive director with the Truro Housing Outreach Society said in an interview with the Halifax Examiner. “Throughout the pandemic, we saw the rate of vacancy of beds was always at capacity with multiple people always on the waiting list. The need for a larger facility with more social distancing space was required.”

Click here to read “New 24-hour shelter opening in Truro this summer.”

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5. Eating disorders

Shaleen Jones, executive director of Eating Disorders Nova Scotia (EDNS). Photo: Contributed

“Using the tagline ‘It’s about damn time,’ a five-day social media campaign was launched Thursday to raise awareness of eating disorders and to seek input from Nova Scotians about what they believe needs to change,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

The ‘It’s about damn time’ campaign theme was inspired by a popular TikTok dance and song by Lizzo. The executive director of Eating Disorders Nova Scotia (EDNS) said it’s also the perfect fit for World Eating Disorders Action Day, which was Thursday.

“We were talking about how we’ve been involved in this for so long, haven’t seen a lot of changes, and that things are getting worse and not better,” Shaleen Jones said in an interview on Thursday afternoon.

“I mean, it’s about damn time we saw some real changes, especially with the new report from CIHI showing the number of folks being hospitalized. So part of it is frustration, but a part of it is also that we know some things that are working really well and let’s get more of these supports.”

Click here to read “Non-profit launches social media campaign to raise awareness about eating disorders.”

6. Spaceport non-news

They made a pretty picture of a rocket in space, so everyone in Nova Scotia thought it must be real.

“Ceres Acquisition Corp. is seeking an extension to complete a deal to Dec. 16 from June 30. Stockholders are scheduled to vote on an extension resolution at a June 22 meeting,” reports Josh Beckerman for the Wall Street Journal:

Ceres “believes that it has identified a number of promising targets” for a deal.

Translation: Ceres is trying to kick the Maritime Launch Services can down the road a piece.

Let’s back up.

Ceres is a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), which is a financial work-around for the typical way companies go public. Normally, in order to go public, a company, let’s call it Corporation X, has to go through a litany of legal requirements and disclosures, which can be both expensive and time-consuming, especially for a small and under-capitalized start-up like Corporation X.

A SPAC, however, is a “blank check” company that has no actual commercial operations. It exists solely as an investment vehicle for purposes of “merging” with companies that actually do stuff, such that Corporation X gets an infusion of money without ever having to go through the expensive and time-consuming rigamarole of going public.

Here’s the thing, though: A SPAC is established by a founder or group of founders, and then goes and finds investors who for some reason have faith in the founder(s). The SPAC has a limited time to make a merger — typically two years. And when it does find a potential target for merger — Corporation X — the merger must be approved by the investors into the SPAC. If a target is never approved by the investors, then the founder(s) must return all the investors’ money, plus penalties. So there’s great pressure on the founder(s) to find a target company for merger that the investors will approve.

In this case, the SPAC is Ceres, which was founded by Scooter Braun, a record company executive turned comic book movie producer turned dude with a lot of money.

Last year, Ceres attempted to merge with a cannabis company called Parallel, which of course a record company/comic book dude named Scooter would think was a good idea, but Ceres’ investors rejected the $1.88 billion deal in October because “several investors had lost confidence in Parallel’s ability to deliver on lofty financial projections it provided in February, when the merger was announced.”

The two-year deadline for Ceres to find a company to merge with was March 3, 2022, and so Scooter announced in February, just before the deadline, that Ceres had found a space company! called Maritime Launch Services (MLS) to merge with.

Space isn’t dope, but it’s pretty damn close if you’re stoned.

There were a lot of reasons for Ceres’ investors to be skeptical of the MLS merger: MLS hopes to use untested rockets produced by a sketchy Ukrainian company, the space launch business is extremely competitive and soon may be upended by Space X with its reusable rockets, and MLS is still working through the regulatory regime in Canada. Still, the Ceres’ investors were willing to give Scooter at least the opportunity to better develop the MLS merger proposal, and so pushed the merger deadline back to June 30.

But here we are in June, and among many, many other problems with the MLS proposal, the Ukraine war is still raging, so Scooter is asking Ceres’ investors to grant another extension on the merger deadline — to Dec. 16.

Investors will vote on that request on June 22.

Where does that leave Maritime Launch Services? Well, the company is free to continue its efforts to make the Canso Spaceport something more than fiction and to find investors on its own, without Ceres. And its lobbyist, Liam Daly with Sussex Strategy Group, continues to knock on the doors of federal bureaucrats and politicians — most recently having talked to MP Mike Kelloway on May 26 — but otherwise the company seems to be in a holding pattern.

And remember Parallel, the cannabis firm that Ceres’ investors rejected last October? Besides being courted by Ceres, Parallel and MLS have nothing to do with each other, but Parallel’s experience may serve as a cautionary tale.

After the failed merger with Ceres, Parallel (which is led by William “Beau” Wrigley, Jr., the chewing gum heir) was sued in two different courts by its own investors, reports Debra Porchardt with the Green Market Report:

Both cases suggest that Wrigley loaded up Parallel with excessive debt and misrepresented the health of the cannabis company. The complaint alleges that his goal was to get the company taken public through the Ceres Acquisition Corp SPAC and then exiting with a profit.

The case also alleges that Wrigley inappropriately placed himself on both sides of the debt negotiations. The investors complain that Wrigley “repeatedly botched his own projections, ultimately ruining the company’s credibility and chance of going public.”

Street Insider has posted a copy of the Parallel deck associated with the Ceres SPAC deal and it came with some pretty lofty projections. The projected 2021 net revenue was $447 million. The presentation said that the company had $348 million in debt. The company also said in the presentation that it had a net loss of $140 million in 2020. Growjo.com estimates Parallel’s annual revenue at $65 million a year, but since the company is private this number can’t be verified.

The court document goes on to say, “ On February 22, 2021, the company had announced that it planned to go public by merging with Ceres Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition corporation or SPAC. After numerous failed efforts to keep the deal alive, on September 30, 2021, the deal was called off due to investors’ concerns in “Parallel’s ability to deliver on lofty financial projections it provided in February.”

The case also suggests that Holmes, PE Fund, and Wrigley were negotiating terms of the company’s debt that would benefit them and described as terms that would “Make a loan shark jealous.”

The allegations contained in the lawsuits against Parallel and Wrigley have not been tested in court.

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Views

The creation of the convention centre

A man waits for a COVID-19 test outside the Halifax Convention Centre on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

I’ve long thought something was fishy about how the Halifax Convention Centre came to be built on property owned by Joe Ramia, on the old Chronicle Herald site on Argyle Street. I laid out the oddity of that process in an article I wrote for The Coast back in 2010:

Through 2008, Joe Ramia had a fortunate run of luck with his Nova Centre proposal. A judge ordered the sale of the Midtown property to Ramia the day before he had to demonstrate ownership. The EOI evaluation team scored the competing Hardman proposal for a convention centre on the Cogswell Interchange higher, but failed to notify anyone about the scoring and didn’t move on to the next step in the process. The concept of using the Cogswell property as a land bank for downtown was adopted by bureaucrats without first being tested in the realm of public opinion. And, contradicting its public vote of just 10 months before, Halifax council secretly voted to deny Hardman the use of the Cogswell land for a convention centre, leaving Ramia with the sole viable convention centre proposal.

There’s a lot to unpack there, but let’s just look at the “EOI” part of that:

On April 2, 2008 … the city and province issued what’s known as an Expression of Interest [EOI] for the convention centre — basically, a call for developers to offer up suggestions for how a convention centre might be built.

An evaluation team was put together — three from the city, including HRM By Design manager Andy Filmore, three from the province, and Scott Ferguson from Trade Centre Limited. The team would judge the convention centre proposals based on criteria spelled out in the EOI, and the developers who passed this hurdle would be asked to submit more detailed proposals via a Request for Proposals.

The timeline in the EOI was extremely short. Developers had just six weeks — until May 16 — to draw up and submit proposals. The evaluation team would then judge the proposals the week of May 18 and issue the RFP on June 2.

In The Coast article, I detailed how Ramia’s proposal wouldn’t qualify for the EOI unless his company, Rank, Inc. obtained the old Midtown Tavern property, but he wasn’t able to do so because the family that owned the Midtown was involved in a legal battle for control of the property. Fortunately for Ramia, however, just one day before Ramia had to demonstrate ownership of the property, Judge Suzanne Hood (who years before had presided over the wrongful conviction of Glen Assoun) ordered the Midtown sold to Rank. Back to the EOI process:

The second obstacle for Ramia’s Nova Centre proposal was that, despite the short timeline of the EOI, five other proposals were submitted. Four were rejected as inadequate, but one, from the Hardman Group, had submitted a proposal that also met the terms of the EOI.

The EOI said the convention centre had to be in the downtown core, which it defined as bound by Cornwallis Street on the north, Brunswick Street on the west, and a line following Spring Garden Road, Barrington Street and Inglis Street extended to the harbour on the south.

The Hardman proposal was well within that area — it called for tearing down the Cogswell Interchange, recreating a city-street grid, building a convention centre and hotel and selling off the rest of the land for private development.

Hardman had collected an impressive team of a dozen firms to work on the proposal — it included Lydon Lynch Architects; real estate consultants Colliers International, which had some years before conducted a study on how to tear down the Cogswell; the Hilton Hotels Corporation for work on the hotel; Toronto transportation consultant BA Group, which worked up plans for new traffic patterns; and, notably, Jennifer Keesmaat, the consultant who had initiated HRM By Design.

The secret report to council reveals that the EOI evaluation team did in fact evaluate the proposals, and Hardman scored higher. But no announcement of that scoring was made, and the RFP wasn’t issued in June, as the EOI called for. Summer turned to fall, and December came along, with still no public action on the EOI, and no public explanation for the delay.

On Dec. 8, 2008, Ramia met with Halifax mayor Peter Kelly. A developer meeting with a politician about a development process just then being adjudged by a group the politician oversees would have been, well, corruption, but Kelly told me nothing improper happened, as the two did not discuss the convention centre. For his part, Ramia told me he didn’t remember the meeting. The story continues:

The next day, December 9, during a secret session of its weekly meeting, council made a profound reversal in policy. Contradicting the public vote of February 26, which called for the quick removal of the Cogswell Interchange, council voted instead to not make the Cogswell land available for the Hardman proposal. The discussion had been agendized cryptically as “downtown development opportunities,” but no details of that discussion were made public, and council did not repeat its secret vote in public, as is usually the case after council returns from a closed session. Minutes from the meeting make no mention of the Cogswell Interchange or any convention centre issues, and no councillor has publicly discussed the issue until contacted for this article.

In the secret report to council, Filmore explained that the Cogswell lands should serve as a “land bank” for downtown. Last week, he elaborated: “Yes, the Cogswell Interchange is an underused piece of suburban highway infrastructure on the edge of a dense downtown. However, there’s so much densification to be done in the central downtown before we open up other areas for development that it simply doesn’t make sense” to tear down the interchange.

I thought then, and I think now, the entire process stinks to high heaven, and any reasonable person would suspect that something untoward had happened.

The city is right now tearing down the Cogswell interchange. Most every day I’m on the bus travelling through the construction detours and it irks me — this could have been done a decade ago, at great cost savings, as over the decade the city had to spend a half million dollars to keep the intersection’s bridges from falling down. Besides, the cost of the interchange demolition could’ve been rolled into the costs of the convention centre, but instead it is now part of an iffy real estate scheme that brings considerable risk to the city.

Anyway, from time to time over the years, I’ve tried to take an investigative whack at the convention centre story, most recently by filing a Freedom of Information request asking for documents from the provincial Executive Council and Office of the Premier related to the project from December 31, 2006 to December 26, 2011.

Why that date range? Well, Section 13(2)(a) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act lay out an interesting exemption to what the government can hold back:

13 (1) The head of a public body may refuse to disclose to an applicant information that would reveal the substance of deliberations of the Executive Council or any of its committees, including any advice, recommendations, policy considerations or draft legislation or regulations submitted or prepared for submission to the Executive Council or any of its committees.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to freedom of information and protection of privacy 17

(a) information in a record that has been in existence for ten or more years;

So I picked the start date of Dec. 31, 2006 because the convention centre ball didn’t get rolling until well into 2007, and the end date of Dec. 26, 2011 because I was filing the request exactly 10 years after that date, on Boxing Day, 2021.

As is sadly typical, the government agencies kept delaying responding to the request, but I finally got a package emailed to me last week.

However, even given the 10-year exemption, the Executive Council still held back records, specifically:

You are entitled to part of the records requested. However, we have removed some of the information from this record according to subsection 5(2) of the Act. The severed information is exempt from disclosure under the Act for the following reason:

• Section 16: information subject to solicitor / client privilege.
– 16 The head of a public body may refuse to disclose to an applicant information that is subject to solicitor-client privilege.

Again: this is garbage. It goes against the spirit and I would argue actual letter of the Freedom of Information Act, and I will appeal this as high as I must go, even if that means going to the Supreme Court.

But for now, I looked at what I did receive. It’s entirely a collection of memos and bureaucrats’ slide shows to credulous politicians walking them through the bogus arguments for a new convention centre. But a close reading of those memos does illustrate a bit of bureaucratic sleight-of-hand.

A March 1, 2008 memo to the Executive Council signed by Deputy Minister Paul Taylor explained that “the objective of this Memorandum is to seek approval from Executive Council to proceed with a joint issuance of an Expression of Interest for a new World Trade and Convention Centre.” The memo then outlines how proposals would be scored through the EOI process.

The Executive Council voted on March 25, 2008 to proceed with the EOI.

The next document is a memo back to the Executive Council dated Dec. 1, 2008. No one claimed ownership of writing the memo, but it was submitted by Angus MacIsaac, the minister of Economic Development, and “reviewed by” Bob Fowler, the deputy minister to the premier.

“Over the past nine months, staff from HRM, the Province of Nova Scotia, and Trade Centre Limited have collaborated in developing, issuing, and reviewing responses to EIO 08-055,” reads the memo.

The memo says that the EOI closed on May 16, with six proposals received. One proposal was rejected outright as it didn’t meet the minimum terms of the EOI. The other five proponents were invited to give formal presentations to the EOI evaluation team on June 16.

After that presentation, the evaluation team decided that the Hardman and Rank proposals were the best of the five, and the memo outlines the strengths of each.

Rank had ownership of the land, a demolition permit had been issued for the Herald building, but Hardman could use the city-owned land beneath the Cogswell interchange.

The Rank site, the memo continues:

is in reasonable proximity to existing hotels (the closest being the Prince George). However, the Cogswell site is in close proximity to more hotels (both Deltas and the Marriott) and to Casino Nova Scotia and redevelopment offers a unique opportunity to improve overall accessibility in the northern downtown/waterfront area.

The Hardman proposal has easier access to the existing Pedway system, potentially greater opportunity for future expansion, somewhat better approach to public consultation and slightly better quality of submission and innovation resulting in a marginally higher score than the Rank proposal.

Then the memo says that provincial staff doesn’t have the expertise to decide which of the proposal best fits into the imagined private–public partnership, so they should hire a consultant to figure it all out.

However, due to the significant costs involved in the preparation of a response to an RFP of this nature HRM and Provincial staff both agree that Regional Council should provide some direction as to whether or not the Cogswell lands can be considered as a development option for this proposal.

HRM staff, in light of the extensive public consultation of the HRM By Design project have developed a rationale for excluding the Cogswell lands from the RFP, understanding that this would leave the Rank proposal as the only option to be considered.

Understand that “HRM staff” here is Andy Filmore, now the MP representing Halifax.

Let’s recap. The province and city arranged for a supposedly fair and open-ended process for companies to submit proposals for a convention centre. An Expression of Interest was written, with detailed requirements for geography and land ownership, among other criteria. A judge had to intervene such that Rank could meet one of those land ownership requirements. But when a company that wasn’t Rank, Inc. — the Hardman Group — met the terms of the Expression of Interest and presented a high-quality and innovative proposal that scored higher than the Rank proposal, suddenly the EOI criteria weren’t as firm as originally suggested. Secret meetings were held. Secret memos were written. And it was secretly decided that tearing down the Cogswell interchange was bad policy, so the Hardman proposal was rejected.

I’ve talked to hundreds of people over the years about this, and I’ve heard some interesting theories about what actually happened, and why. But I can’t prove what happened until someone drops me documentation. My email is tim@halifaxexaminer.ca.

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Government

No meetings


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
07:00: Majestic, superyacht, arrives at Foundation Wharf from Hamilton, Bermuda; the boat is owned by retired financier and Miami Marlins owner Bruce Sherman
07:30: Seven Seas Navigator, cruise ship with up to 550 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Sydney, on a 10-day cruise from Montreal to New York
08:30: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Sydney
15:00: MOL Maestro, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia
16:00: Contship Leo, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
16:30: Seven Seas Navigator sails for Bar Harbor
17:45: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre

Cape Breton
05:00: CSL Argosy, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
05:00: Arctic Lift, barge, with Western Tugger, tug, sail through the causeway en route from Charlottetown to Aulds Cove quarry
15:00: Arctic Lift, barge, with Western Tugger, tug, sail from Aulds Cove quarry back through the causeway for sea
17:30: SLNC Severn, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Halifax


Footnotes

Somebody knows something.


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Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. A developer meeting with a politician about a development process just then being adjudged by a group the politician oversees would have been, well, corruption,……..

    Would love to see the level of corruption at city hall right now. So many building cranes, so many pockets to be filled.

  2. So hundreds of affordable units in fine historic buildings are being torn down for so-called densification of the Halifax Peninsula because according to Andy Fillmore “there’s so much densification to be done in the central downtown before we open up other areas for development that it simply doesn’t make sense” to tear down the interchange. Really?

  3. I thought that one small silver lining to the invasion of Ukraine was that the stupid rocket launch complex that depended on hacked-together ICBM parts wasn’t going to happen. And yet here we are. At least the convention center is hypothetically useful – although there were of course better uses for that money.

    Elon Musk recently said that he thinks the coming recession is a good thing, as too much money has been raining on fools for too long.

      1. As much as I dislike muskbros, he did a) restore crewed launch capacity to the USA, something NASA is no longer capable of, and b) will likely survive the coming recession on the strength of SpaceX and Starlink.