In the harbour
1. Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Friday, the board of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia met and abruptly dismissed CEO and director Ray Cronin and appointed Lisa Bugden as interim CEO. Bugden was the president of Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia, which the Liberal Government did away with last month, handing its responsibilities over to Nova Scotia Business Inc.
Cronin announced his dismissal on Facebook, explaining that “the Board has decided that the gallery needs to move in a new direction and will seek new leadership to undertake that course.”
Before she was appointed to Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia, Bugden was the Vice President Marketing Communications at NSBI, so this looks like part of the ongoing Liberal government’s ham-handed attempt to “align” the arts industry with business interests. Bugden has no experience in fine arts.
Cronin was paid $125,801 last year. Bugden was paid $143,203. The gallery’s announcement did not say what Bugden would be paid as interim CEO.
There might, however, be something more to the story. Cronin oversaw the donation to the gallery of 2,070 Annie Leibovitz photographs. That deal was made in 2013, and yet the collection has yet to be displayed. There seems to be something awry. The gallery has not yet published its financial statements for the year ending March 31.
2. Kicking puppies: Examineradio, Episode #14
This week, Sydney-based Techlink Entertainment closed its doors and laid off 50-60 staff. This, despite an $8 million equity stake in the company purchased by taxpayer-funded Nova Scotia Business Inc. NSBI loaned Techlink an additional $6m just three years ago.
Also, as the completion date for Halifax’s new convention centre gets pushed back, independent downtown businesses are concerned for their future. Will the opening of the Nova Centre price local retailers out of the area?
And, Trade Centre Limited announced the Connecticut-based Centerplate company would be taking over the concessions trade at the $48 NSF Fee Centre, despite being involved in labour disputes at some of the other arenas and stadiums in which it works. Readers may recall that former Conterplate CEO Des Hague was infamously videotaped kicking a puppy in a Vancouver elevator.
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3. Sydney port
“After he quit a little over a week ago, [Sydney economic development officer John] Whalley said he was upset about having been taken off the municipality’s port development file,” reports the Chronicle Herald. “He said he had raised concerns about a potential conflict of interest and contravention of the Municipal Government Act.”
Last Wednesday, Sydney mayor Cecil Clarke “announced a proposed land purchase at Sydport Industrial Park intended to attract a tugboat operator from Hamilton, Ont., and the possibility of an exclusive contract with private consultants to market the municipality’s greenfield site as a container terminal.”
Whalley told the Chronicle Herald that he wanted an opportunity to address council directly before he would speak to the media.
It’s unusual, to put it mildly, for an economic development officer to resign on principle. This bears watching.
The misguided notion that seals, and not humans, are destroying the fisheries, has led to its absurd endpoint. The CBC reports:
Sales of Canadian seal products could get a lift if the federal Fisheries Department adopts a plan that, among other things, calls for the revival of the controversial seal penis trade, a key supporter of the East Coast seal hunt says.
The report, drafted by the Fur Institute of Canada, is aimed at creating new markets to support an earlier proposal to slaughter 140,000 grey seals over five years in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence — 70 per cent of the grey seals that frequent the area.
“Asian consumers, particularly athletes, also consume a beverage called Dalishen Oral Liquid that is made from seal penis and testicles, which they believe to be energizing and performance enhancing.”
I’m not against the seal hunt per se. It is integral to the economies of Cape Breton, and some of the anti-hunt activists discount any concern for the humans who depend on it. But those who want a mass seal slaughter are taking the same sledge hammer approach that destroyed the cod fishery; it is simplistic, unscientific, and disregards long-term effects.
Linda Pannozzo and Bruce Wark detailed the plans for mass seal slaughter in their investigative piece “How to kill 220,000 seals on Sable Island: the DFO plan,” which included these lovely details:
The study details what would be required to kill, lift and move tens of thousands of seal carcasses over a 25-day period. Adult seals would be killed with rifles and the pups with either rifle or by clubbing. To achieve the goal of 100,000 dead seals in 25 days, 10 seals would have to be killed every minute. “At this production rate, a tandem dump truck would be filled with seals approximately every 10 minutes…seven hours a day for 25 days,” says the study.
Thirty modified tree forwarders with boxes and rubberized grips would be required to load all the carcasses from the “work zones” to one of the 20 or so mobile crematoriums where they would be “thermally treated,” meaning incinerated. If the carcasses were not incinerated then the onset of rot and disease would be fast, resulting in biological hazards and health and safety issues for the workers. The study explained that if incineration did not occur before stockpiling and storage, then the carcasses would have to be transported daily off the island — slung from shore by helicopter to a supply vessel — and brought to the “shore base” for disposal. CBCL identified the Mulgrave Marine Terminal on the Strait of Canso as a base, able to accommodate offshore supply vessels, ocean-going tugs and barges, fixed and mobile cranes and regular off-loading capability for the tractor-trailer support the operation would require.
According to the study, 100,000 intact carcasses would weigh roughly 15,000 tonnes and would require 500 trips by tractor trailer from the marine terminal to a disposal facility. The study notes several problems with this scenario, one being that the carcasses would likely freeze inside the containers, making disposal difficult and, secondly, that it’s currently not legal to dump 15,000 tonnes of dead seals into a Nova Scotia landfill.
For these reasons incineration on Sable Island is the study’s preferred choice. Units called “Air Curtain Burners,” designed to burn wood waste with a special mechanism to control smoke, would be used for incinerating the carcasses.
Having googled “plural of penis” this morning, I fear what ads will be directed at me today.
5. Weed Kid
Weed Kid is a thing. Explained.
1. Living wage
Stephen Kimber calls bullshit on the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
2. Farmed salmon
Responding to a recent letter in the Chronicle Herald from self-proclaimed salmon farming expert and academic Jon Grant, Halifax restaurant owner and “clean food” specialist Lil MacPherson said that consumers have been “suckered” about the health effects of farmed salmon and that she not only refuses to serve that salmon to the thousands of loyal customersd who frequent her two popular Wooden Monkey eateries, but she would not feed it to her dog.
Grant, who in some circles is called a “pimp” for corporate salmon farming interests, penned a recent Herald piece which extolled the virtues of open net pen salmon farming, which has been challenged in recent years in every country in which it is practiced as unsustainable and damaging to marine ecosystems.
Following Grants’ pro-fish farming piece, the Herald ran a full page “environment” section, which was dominated by advertising and “advertorial” material supplied by the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia, a lobbying group for the industry.
I had missed the advertorial section South Coast Today’s Timothy Gillespie references above.
Another Chronicle Herald advertorial section — called “World.Oyster.Go.,” paid for by Nova Scotia Business Inc. — was central to my presentation this past weekend in the Media Criticism session of the Canadian Association of Journalists conference.
Specifically, I talked about how the Chronicle Herald completely botched its coverage of Dartmouth firm Unique Solutions, of which NSBI has nearly a $6 million equity stake.
Unique Solutions produced “body scanners” (think those airport security scanners) that people could step in to get their body types measured, and then those measurements matched with specific clothes sizes at nearby retailers. By early 2013, scanners had been placed in over 70 US malls.
The Chronicle Herald uncritically celebrated Unique Solutions, despite the fact that the scanners were an utter failure. By summer of 2013, the scanners had been removed from all the malls. In August 2013, five of the scanners were repurposed for Bloomingdales stores, but even that last-ditch effort was soon aborted. So far as I can determine, Unique Solutions doesn’t have a single scanner in operation anywhere.
Moreover, an investment vehicle created to raise capital for Unique Solutions has written down the value of its stock by over 80 per cent. A similar write-down of the NSBI investment would mean that taxpayers have lost over $5 million.
But the Chronicle Herald has reported none of this. Columnist Peter Moreira, who is an investor in Unique Solutions, plugged Unique Solutions in 2012. Yes, that’s a clear conflict of interest, but that’s the way it rolls over at the Chronicle Herald. Even worse, as an investor, Moreira has direct access to the company’s financials but has failed to update his readers on the sad state of affairs.
The Chronicle Herald’s business reporters, meanwhile, failed in the fundamentals of reporting, going so far as to simply rewrite company press releases.
At the time, the associate publisher at the Chronicle Herald was Ian Thompson, who took the position after leaving his position as deputy minister of Economic Development and board member of NSBI, where he approved the Unique Solutions investments.
All the while, NSBI was paying for the World.Oyster.Go. advertorial in the paper.
I summarized the multiple problems with the Chronicle Herald’s coverage of Unique Solutions in one slide, which read:
• The lines between government and reporting were impossibly blurred when provincial deputy minister Ian Thompson was hired as associate editor at the Chronicle Herald.
• For whatever reason, business reporters were incurious and lazy, relying on “access journalism” to produce copy, rather than independently acquiring documents and otherwise verifying information.
• A press release was rewritten, and no effort was made to advance the story.
• As a shareholder, columnist Peter Moreira had a clear conflict of interest. He had insider information about the company, but failed to tell readers about it.
• During this period, NSBI was paying for advertorial in the Chronicle Herald.
• The Chronicle Herald’s coverage of Unique Solutions makes readers less informed, mistakenly informed, and shifts the understanding of Unique Solutions and NSBI in ways that do not reflect reality.
• In effect, the Chronicle Herald served as government propaganda.
I detailed all of the above here.
4. War memorial
After criticizing the “Never Forgotten” memorial proposed for the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Parker Donham finds “a real memorial, not a feel-good exercise in sentimentality and blind nationalism.”:
Last month, data visualization artist Neil Halloran produced a meticulous video account of the military and civilian deaths during World War II—contrasting it with the much lower death tolls from the smaller wars that have characterized “The Long Peace” since 1945. Halloran’s visualization doesn’t parse the individual distinctions advocated by the Mount historians, but does illuminate the experience of World War II on a country-by-county* basis that may surprise you.
Police commission (12:30pm, World Trade & Convention Centre)—I don’t know why the meeting isn’t being held in City Hall, or how much we’re paying to rent a room at the WTCC. Here’s the agenda.
Public information meeting (7pm, Halifax Forum, Maritime Hall)—plans for a seven-storey apartment building at 5555, 5549 and 5543 Almon Street (at the corner of Isleville Street) will be presented. That area has seen a proliferation of crappy apartment buildings with uninspired architecture. Why not one more? Details here.
No public meetings.
In the harbour
NYK Demeter, container ship, arrived at Fairview Cove this morning, will sail to sea this afternoon
Singapore Express, container ship, New York to Fairview Cove
Atlantic Concert, container ship, FVCW
Finess sails to sea
The cruise ship Maasdam is in port today with its 1,258 passengers.
Crows are intelligent creatures:
The reason they’re so smart? Because they wake up so damn early.
When I wrote my book about the grey seal-cod controversy ( The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, published by Fernwood, 2013) I did a little research on the Chinese angle to marketing grey seal products, and while it might finally be out the open, selling seal penises is nothing new. It’s true that seal penises, when powdered and mixed with wine, are a much sought after aphrodisiac in Chinese traditional medicine fetching a much higher price than any other part of the animal, but good luck making sure the so-called “medicine” isn’t fraudulent. Apart from the legitimate ethical questions about men using crushed up seal penises to boost their aging libidos, there’s also a lot of fraud involved in this stuff. In 1997 a team of Canadian scientists analyzed the DNA from supposed seal penises sold in traditional medicine shops in Canada, the U.S and Asia and found that some were bona fida seal organs, but some were actually parts from domestic cattle and dogs. The paper published in the journal Conservation Biology noted that the presence of unidentifiable species, possibly including the protected Australian fur seal, suggested the legal trade in seal products was being used as a cover for an illegal trade.
Stories about the clandestine sales of seal penises in eastern Canada abound but are no better described in the 1998 book by former NFLD sealer and fisherman Michael Dwyer who spent 20 days aboard the C. Michelle with seven other crew members in the spring of 1997. He describes in sickening detail not only the horrors visited upon the crew, having to endure near tortuous conditions and squalor, but also upon the seals. In this excerpt from his book he describes the value of a male or “old dog” penis:
“An old dog organ, as every sealer knows, brings the best kind of money. Last year, on our first trip, we had brought in 550, almost a large fish container full. Very discreetly, they were loaded onto a pickup that disappeared into the night. We received more money from that tub of organs than we did from the tractor-trailer loaded with pelts, meat, and fat. Asians loved them. Nothing less than 6 inches was acceptable. They averaged $70 each and we only had to handle them twice.”
Up to now the Canadian government and sealing industry have said they’re promoting seal meat in China… at least now the real product they’ve been trying to promote is out in the open.