1. Cabinet shuffle
Yesterday, Premier Tim Houston announced a cabinet shuffle: Twila Grosse, MLA for Preston, is the new Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs and Minister of the Public Service Commission; Trevor Boudreau, MLA for Richmond, is the Minister of Community Services and Minister responsible for L’nu Affairs; and Kent Smith, MLA for Eastern Shore, is the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
The three were trotted in front of reporters and said… well, nothing beyond platitudes.
To be fair, the three haven’t yet even met their staff, but I think it’s reasonable to ask what their priorities will be, so I did. This is from the transcript of the press conference:
Bousquet: First of all, congratulations. Recognizing that you still need to get your sea legs in the position as minister, you have been involved significantly in the African Nova Scotian community and various organizations. Do you have a sort of set of issues that you feel need to be addressed or is there some sort of first steps that you want to take given that you still have the limitations of the bureaucracy to figure out, but surely you bring some concerns into the office?
Grosse: You know, at the end of the day, I still have to… this is all a game. This is all new. This is sort of day one. So, I think I really need to take a little bit of time to assess, you know, what’s going on and get a good idea as to where the department is at. So in terms of, you know, it’s not about what I want. It’s what’s best for, you know, what the African Nova Scotian community can do.
Bousquet: Congratulations, minister. I’m going to follow up on the question from my colleague, Michael Gorman. He asked you if social assistance rates should be increased and fair enough, it’s too soon for you to to understand what the parameters of the department are, much less the provincial budget. I appreciate that. But do you see your position as being one of advocating for impoverished people in this province?
Boudreau: I think all roles, all ministers, all MLAs have a role of of advocating for Nova Scotians. And certainly in this position, you’re looking out for some of the, you know, the ones that are have the most need. So yeah, in a way it’s, it’s a disposition but I think it is as an MLA as well fully.
Moderator: Tim, do you have a follow up question. Yeah.
Bousquet: I think the fairest criticism of department policy over many governments and you know, this isn’t directed at your government in particular, but is the inability or the failure to to peg assistance rates to the rate of inflation. Is that something you will be visiting?
Boudreau: As I said before, look, it’s early and I’m looking forward to meeting with my team. I haven’t done that yet. That’s on my list of things to do today. And we’ll work through and with the support of Minister MacFarlane. I’m a very fortunate minister, new minister that has that. And so I’m looking forward to sitting down with her and the team and building on the knowledge that I have and learning lots more.
Bousquet: Congratulations on your appointment. I just wonder if you have any thoughts or any framing for what is obviously one of the major issues, which is the Indigenous fisheries. And if you have any thoughts on that.
Smith: I appreciate the question. I think it’s too early for me to to really chime in on that without talking to the team, but certainly looking forward to interacting with the federal counterparts and learning more.
Moderator: Tim, do you have a follow up?
Bousquet: Yeah. Is there a path, even just rhetorically, to lowering some of the tension around this issue that you can take?
Smith: Again, thanks for the question. This is ours too. So I’ll be happy to talk to you next week and come back with some more fulsome answers for you.
What I take away from this is this: These are three new cabinet ministers who are too frightened to state views they surely have without the premier’s prior approval.
“Hurricane Lee is expected to make its way to Nova Scotia this weekend, but experts say while Lee is a big storm, its intensity will be much less than that of Hurricane Fiona,” reports Suzanne Rent:
For more information and to track Hurricane Lee, click here.
“After finding numerous dead eels floating in Dartmouth lakes, a marine scientist is asking for help tracking and logging them online,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:
In recent weeks, Dr. Christine Ward-Paige began hearing reports of multiple dead American eels in the Shubie Canal.
It didn’t take long to discover that dead eels weren’t just showing up along the Shubie Canal. They were found elsewhere too, including in lakes Banook, Fletchers, Miller, MicMac, and Charles. Ward-Paige also learned that people had been seeing the dead eels since mid-August.
During a trip to Lake Banook on Tuesday night, she found another 36 dead eels.
Ward-Paige thinks the eels might be dying off due to blue-green algae related to recent mowing of seagrass in Lake Banook, but the lake’s been mowed before and there wasn’t a similar die-off.
Hey, Ward-Paige is the scientist, and DFO is investigating, so hopefully we’ll get an answer soon. But I’ll throw out another possibility: arsenic.
In August, during one of the heavy summer rainfalls, I went and hiked around the abandoned Montague gold mine to see the state of the toxic tailings. It wasn’t pretty.
There was once a stream, sometimes called Mitchell Creek, that flowed from Loon Lake to Lake Charles. The lower portion of the waterway, which passes under Waverley Road, is called Barry’s Run. The landscape has been altered over the last 150 years, so I’m not sure if Barry’s Run was originally a separate stream that Mitchell Creek flowed into, or if the two are really the same stream, but the point is, water that flows through the gold mine ends up in Lake Charles.
Lake Charles is the highest point in the old canal system, so water from the lake flows both south into Lake Micmac, Lake Banook, and the duck pond, and north to Lake William, Lake Thomas, Fletchers Lake, Grand Lake, and the Shubenacadie River. Which is to say, if toxins end up in Lake Charles, they could spread all the way from Dartmouth Cove to the Bay of Fundy.
Arsenic-laden tailings from Montague gold mine have been placed in mounds throughout the site, and warning signs are posted next to the mounds. That was obviously an attempt to keep them undisturbed, but to my eye, that’s an utter failure in heavy rain.
The old stream now spreads over the entire area, such that I couldn’t transverse the place without being knee-deep in muddy gunk. Here and there, the water collects in little streamlets that find themselves and cohere into a proper creek on the western end of the site. Several of the streamlets have eroded right through the tailings mounds:
On the westerly side of Highway 107, Barry’s Run is picturesque creek that runs through the Port Wallace neighbourhood now under development. That development has been fast-tracked by the province, despite concerns of arsenic contamination. Ultimately, the creek empties into Lake Charles:
My understanding is that there’s ongoing testing of both the area and Lake Charles for arsenic and that results aren’t in yet.
I’m not a scientist, so take it with a grain of salt, but I can’t help but think there’s a connection between a summer of very heavy rain that erodes through arsenic-laden gold mining tailings and a bunch of dead eels.
“The founder and president of the Halifax Wanderers Football Club is pitching a $40-million, 8,500-seat stadium on public land,” reports Zane Woodford:
And while Derek Martin is offering to foot part of the bill, it’s unclear how much public money is required for the build.
People are going to argue about the stadium one way or the other, but I have two minor points.
First, Martin wants artificial turf in the stadium:
“We want to install a FIFA-certified premium artificial fields or surface, sized appropriately for Canadian football and international rugby, that allows for multi use,” Martin said.
That would make it easier for other groups to rent the space, as they wouldn’t have to worry about damaging the grass. The Citadel High football team could use the field, Martin said, instead of going to Bedford for home games.
That horse is so far out the barn door that I know someone will post the “old man yells at clouds” meme in response to this — artificial turf is just accepted as part of life now, just as Nazis marching in the streets has been normalized — but artificial turn is bad! It’s already fucked up an entire generation’s knees and backs, and it’s especially bad for young women athletes. If we cared at all about public health, we’d outlaw artificial turf. Meme away.
Secondly, this is not an endorsement of the proposal, but I think this is right:
Martin said he’s tired of the debate around a bigger stadium.
“There’s a lot of debate about whether we could sustain a 20,000 or 25,000 seat stadium and I think it’s why we have never had anyone step up to make this offer to contribute to building a stadium like we are,” he said.
Halifax can’t sustain more than the 8,000 or so people that turn out to Mooseheads or Thunderbirds games, Martin said.
Remember that Harold MacKay couldn’t even sell 25,000 tickets for the Paul McCartney concert.
It’s taken as simple truth that 50,000 people attended the 2006 Rolling Stones concert on the Common, but the city lied about that, and we’ve never gotten a proper accounting of ticket sales for that show. As I reported:
By outside appearances, the September 23, 2006 Rolling Stones concert on the Halifax Common was a huge success. We don’t actually know that to be the case — trustworthy attendance figures for the show have never been released, and city and provincial officials have not revealed how much financial support they dumped into the venture —but outside appearances matter, and city officials wanted to build on that perceived success by bringing more concerts to the Common.
Almost a year later, on August 13, 2007, the Daily News revealed that mayor Peter Kelly had prepared a “marketing card” to be sent to concert promoters around the world, encouraging them to look at putting on shows on the Halifax Common, “with little or no municipal costs to the promoter”; that is, that the city would cover the bulk of policing, fire, inspection and street closure costs that are typically billed to a promoter. The card claimed that the Rolling Stones “drew near 50,000 people.” That number is interesting because officials would later acknowledge that they were misrepresenting concert attendance figures to promoters, in hope of luring more shows to the Common.
I know this is hard to believe, kids, but concert promoters lie! Mayors lie! Mayors named Peter Kelly especially lie!
Concert promotion is a lot like the tech industry: it’s full of bullshit and lies and unsubstantiated hype, and the public ends up picking up all the costs while a few assholes get rich.
5. SaltWire sued
“A Baddeck RCMP officer is suing SaltWire over a Cape Breton Post story that misinterpreted a news release from the Serious Incident Response Team,” reports Zane Woodford:
Terrence Justin Sanford’s lawyer, Nasha Nijhawan, filed notice of action in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Aug. 31, naming Saltwire Network Inc. as defendant.
This is an odd story, and appears to involve crossed wires and cascading misunderstandings — a confused SIRT release, an incorrect CBC story that was corrected after the SIRT release was corrected, and then SaltWire falling through that crack. People make mistakes, and publications sometimes get it wrong, but the lawsuit suggests that SaltWire wouldn’t be in this position were it not for (alleged) plagiarism:
“At approximately 2:13 pm, after both the SIRT news release and the CBC story had been corrected, the Saltwire website published a news story which was plagiarized entirely or substantially from the original CBC story, under the byline of lan Nathanson, without attribution to the CBC,” Nijhawan wrote in the statement of claim.
None of this has been tested in court, and SaltWire hasn’t filed a defence.
6. Riley trial
The murder trial of Randy Riley continues today, following two day of a voir dire that is covered by a publication ban until the trial is over — I was present, but can’t now write about it.
I can say, however, that it’s hard work covering and processing the legal issues discussed. I listen to the lawyers and judge and pull up various court cases on my computer to get to an understanding of what’s going on. It’s exhausting, which is why today’s Morning File is a bit abbreviated.
The jury comes back today, and I’m pretty sure that we’ll get testimony that I can report on. The trial is scheduled for 31 days.
As I noted Wednesday, so far I’m the only reporter present at the trial. If you support this work, please subscribe. Thanks!
A Human Rights-Based Approach to Plastic Pollution: Implications for Health Justice (Friday, 12pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — presented by Sara Seck
In the harbour
07:45: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on an 11-day cruise from Boston to Montreal
13:30: One Eagle, container ship (145,251 tonnes), sails from Pier 41 for Dubai
16:30: ZIM Iberia, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
16:30: Zaandam sails for Corner Brook
12:00: After You, yacht, sails from Sydney for sea