In the harbour
Local Xpress reporter Aaron Beswick looks at a reversal of fortune at the Groupe Savoie hardwood mill in Westville:
Until recently, the mill, built in 2006 by New Brunswick-based Groupe Savoie, was only operating the equivalent of 15 weeks a year — stifled primarily by a lack of access to hardwood.
“Supply has been our nemesis,” said [manager John] Vautour.
It’s been the nemesis for nearly all the players in the province’s small high-value hardwood lumber industry.
Over the past two years, Finewood Flooring & Lumber Ltd. of Middle River and River’s Bend Wood Products Inc. of Antigonish County shut down, both citing a lack of access to the province’s hardwood stands as the main reason.
On Thursday, Vautour was confident his mill finally had the supply boogeyman under control.
“There is more than enough hardwood in the province to supply this mill.”
It’s important to read this article in the context of Linda Pannozzo’s Feeding the Fire article (behind paywall), which details the mad rush to cut down forests to fuel the biomass generator at Point Tupper.
Beswick downplays the biomass angle, but that’s clearly a big part of the equation:
It’s [Vautour’s] job to head down rural woods roads and convince contractors and pulp mills and Natural Resources Department bureaucrats to let his mill have access to high-value saw logs — instead of them being turned into electricity at Point Tupper or into paper or firewood.
While that may seem like a no-brainer, it’s a bit more complex than that.
Leaf-bearing hardwood trees grow interspersed with conifers such as spruce, fir and pine in this province’s Acadian forests. The hardwood industry is all about quality – only a small percentage of the trees in even the best stands are candidates for hardwood lumber. Then, if they’re not felled correctly or left waiting roadside for too long before reaching the blade, quality is diminished.
Softwood harvesting, meanwhile, is driven by the clock.
Half-million-dollar harvesters and porters are often kept running 18 hours a day, six days a week cutting spruce and fir that is milled for construction lumber or ground up and turned into paper.
So just because a harvester operator spots two or three choice sugar maples in a stand doesn’t mean it justifies the expense of redirecting a logging truck.
As I read this, we’re pulling up, chipping, and burning so much of the province’s forest land that Vautour has been able to catch enough of the stream to keep his mill running.
“Sustainable” has been overused to the point that it’s a meaningless word, so let’s just say this mode of forestry can’t possibly continue as is into the future.
2. Pogo-sticking across Canada
When I worked at The Coast, nearly every week I’d get an email from some earnest young person who was bicycling or hiking or canoeing or pogo-sticking across the country, around the province, to the North Pole or what have you, “for charity.” This has always struck me as odd, and distinctly Canadian. It doesn’t happen nearly as much in the States — I bet at any given moment there are over a thousand earnest young people biking/hiking/canoeing/pogoing for charity across Canada. I blame Terry Fox.
Metro today features Gregor MacDonald, one such earnest young person:
The 19‐year‐old Halifax native is planning on spending the month of May longboarding around Nova Scotia’s coast to raise money for Feed Nova Scotia, in what he calls a “push against hunger.”
MacDonald has created a GoFundMe page to raise what he hopes will be a total of $1,000.
MacDonald apparently has the financial independence to feed and house himself over the course of a month, so good on him for wanting to help a needed charity. But let’s do the math here. If he simply got a minimum wage job at a Tim Hortons and contributed his earnings over the course of the month to Feed Nova Scotia, he’d raise $1,696. Or, he could volunteer at the Feed Nova Scotia warehouse…
To be sure, there’s benefit in “raising awareness” about the cause of the week, but more often than not the point of these “charity” rides/hikes/canoes/pogos seems to be more about raising awareness of the rider/biker/paddler/sticker.
Send your hate mail to email@example.com.
I’m actually quite fascinated by this distinctly Canadian practice. If I had the time (I don’t), it’d be interesting to follow up on some of these earnest young people, find out how much money they actually raised, if the experience led them to reflect on the charity they were raising money for, and if so, how that manifested itself after the trip.
3. Ashes to ashes
“What was supposed to be a visit by one grieving friend from England to other grieving friends in Canada, ended in an arrest after the ashes of his friend tested positive for an illegal drug,” reports CTV:
Russell Laight came to Canada on March 2 to deliver a portion of the ashes of Simon Darby, a mutual friend. When weather diverted the flight from Halifax to St. John’s, he ran into trouble at customs.
“They took that away, they did a narcotics test of some description on it, and it came up positive for ketamine,” said Laight.
Laight was immediately arrested and charged… Laight spent six days in jail as a result.
A retest found no ketamine or other drugs in the ashes. But Laight still hasn’t gotten his buddy’s ashes back.
Halifax Dartmouth election
I am running for Councillor in Dartmouth Centre this Fall. Plan to spend the next few months hearing from residents. #lovethistown
— Tim Rissesco (@Dartmouth_Tim) March 10, 2016
1. Brad Wall
“If nothing else, you have to admire the guy’s chutzpah. Brad Wall, Premier of the most unapologetic greenhouse gas polluting province in the country, managed to emerge from last week’s First Minister’s meeting on climate change as a regional hero,” writes Richard Starr:
Although Alberta and its tar sands have acquired an international reputation as Canada’s climate bad guy, neighbouring Saskatchewan has been much, much worse. Between 1990, the generally accepted base year for assessing efforts to contain GHG emissions, and 2013, the most recent reporting year, Wall’s Saskatchewan has increased its per-capita emissions by 46.0%. Over that same period, every other province in the country has reduced per-capita emissions. That includes Alberta, which cut them by 5.5%. And that reduction by Alberta was clearly before Rachel Notley’s NDP government announced its aggressive new plans to contain emissions from the tar sands.
NDP governments in charge of Saskatchewan between 1991 and 2007 bear a lot of the responsibility for that province’s GHG pollution, but Wall and his Saskatchewan party have weakened even their paltry efforts to restrain emissions. Since coming to power, Wall’s government has eased overall emission reduction targets, cut crown-owned SaskPower’s conservation targets, slashed renewable energy programs and eliminated the Climate Change Secretariat. No wonder that between Wall’s 2007 election and 2013, Saskatchewan’s GHG emissions went up 6.6% while the combined emissions for all other provinces dropped by 5.7%.
Going easy on Brad Wall is something a few of his fellow First Ministers may come to regret. He will now use his stature as defender of the west and the oil industry against the dreaded east to get himself a landslide win in the April 4 provincial election. After that, no one would be surprised if he adopted the same persona to run for the leadership of the federal Conservatives, hardly a recipe for national unity.
Graham Steele gives a primer on how the cabinet works, and ends with this bit:
The justification for cabinet secrecy is that the cabinet should be able to receive free and frank advice from civil servants, and have free and frank debate. That’s legitimate.
But the net of cabinet confidentiality, which should have a narrow scope, has been cast far too wide.
Every government proclaims its openness, but they’re all pulling your leg.
One of the easiest ways to keep something secret is to throw the blanket of cabinet secrecy over it. Just last week, I heard a senior civil servant say that they write “advice to minister” on everything, whether it’s advice to the minister or not.
It’s not a guarantee the document will stay secret, but it helps.
Cabinet secrecy is intended to serve the public, by improving the decision-making process.
Instead, it’s being abused, giving politicians a free pass from accountability.
3. Cranky letter of the day
In the article “Chamber event see’s [sic] debate on merits of amalgamation,” March 4, I have to ask what kind of Kool-Aid did they serve at this Chamber Of Commerce breakfast meeting?
I see quotations of “we have no choice,” and comments like commercial assessment expected to decrease, and this, “It’s a death spiral.” Then Jack Kyte, “…our future one way or another.”
Wow! I hear, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” from somewhere at the back of that room! Where did you get all the doom and gloom? I even heard the definition of “insanity” mentioned! Maybe somebody didn’t take their meds. You just can’t make this stuff up.
Haven’t you heard the whole world is in a bit of a slump right now, so lighten up! Are you really trying to persuade everyone to climb into your little lifeboat so you can pass this proposal and then the storm clouds will suddenly depart! Trying to ‘SCARE’ us into voting for this amalgamation with, ‘it’s us or else’ won’t work. We won’t be fooled!
Ken Fraser, RR2 Hopewell
Audit & Finance (10am, City Hall) — councillor Gloria McCluskey has refused to let the Mt. Hope interchange issue fall down the memory hole, and so today we have a staff report on the $7.2 million funding gap. The short of it is that council agreed to a financing plan for the interchange that relied mostly on capital cost contributions (CCCs) — that is, fees on developers as land near the interchange would be developed in the future. Much of this development was expected to take place on land at the Shearwater air base, which the military had announced it was planning to abandon. But as construction of the interchange started, DND changed its mind and said it was keeping the air base.
Ever since, city staff has been trying to put together a plan that would find new land to develop. One bizarre idea was to run a road parallel to the Shearwater runway, next to Morris Lake, all the way out to Caldwell Road, open up that area to development, and charge fees on those new houses to backfund the interchange. That plan seems to have gone nowhere; I guess the military didn’t like the idea of a civilian road running 20 metres off a runway, and who can blame them? Imagine an insurance salesman getting of work, taking the long way home, stopping at the Millstone Public House to calm down from wanting to kill his asshole boss, having a third and then one for the road before heading out to his suburban paradise to deal with the nagging spouse and screaming kids, and then drunkenly careening off the road and into a C-5 carrying orphans from Syria. The PR would be terrible.
Anyway, the budget shortfall has never been dealt with, and so now Audit and Finance will decide how to properly account for it. That “good news” budget passed Tuesday suddenly looks a lot less good.
No public meetings.
Tobacco and alcohol (12:10pm, Room 104, Dalhousie Weldon Law Building) — Oscar Cabrera, from Georgetown University, will speak on “Marketing Restrictions on Tobacco and Alcohol Products: International Human Rights and Comparative Law Perspectives.” BYOB.
RNA (1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Gerald F. Joyce, the director of the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, will speak on “Targeting Functional RNA with Both Hands.”
Satire (3:30pm Weldon Law Building, room 207) — Rhiannon Purdie, from the University of St. Andrews, will speak on “Sir David Lyndsay and ‘SquyerMeldrum’: satire and misreading in sixteenth-century Scotland.”
In the harbour
Dinkeldiep, general cargo, Saint-Pierre to Pier 42, then sails back to Saint-Pierre
Galaxy Ace, car carrier, Zeebrugge, Denmark to Autoport
Selfoss sails to sea
So here is part of a note I sent to my MLA back in June of 2010. Some comments are a bit dated, but the sentiment, I believe is still relevant.
“So why is Newpage so interested in biomass? To use up waste fibre and generate electricity and income, of course, but I would suggest they are looking forward to using that plant to only generate electricity when producing pulp and paper is uneconomic. I don’t think that time is far off. Because we have already destroyed so much of our forest Newpage and others will harvest younger and younger trees and the slash (tops and branches) from their clear cuts. A deforested Nova Scotia was not what I had in mind when I voted NDP in the last election. If you want to see your legacy 20 or 30 years from now, go to Google Earth and take a look at Haiti. I know you are concerned about the environment as are many of your colleagues – where is Howard Epstein on this issue anyway? – and I don’t want to sound condescending, but I want to make sure you get my point, so let me summarize my concern in simple terms regarding biomass generation: deforestation is one of the biggest causes of climate change and burning stuff is another cause of climate change.”
The problem is essentially that the folks at DNR who advised my MLA back in 2010 are the same folks (or they’re part of the same bureaucratic culture) who are advising the politicians today. This goes back to what I maintain is the biggest problem we have in governance in this province; a lack of competance and a lack of accountability.
By the way, Nova Scotia Power could have picked up the boiler for 50 cents on the dollar since NewPage was on the brink of bankruptcy. It is my understanding that it doesn’t really matter to NSP/Emera how much they pay for assets, since paying more for capital assets just increases their allowable profits. I could stand corrected on this last point.
I was an impressionable teenaged girl when Terry Fox started his run, and it moved me to participate in quite a few Terry Fox Runs over the years. I cried real, not-just-teenaged tears when he died. I think the moving part of his run was that he was running to raise funds/awareness about something that he was directly dealing with and dealt with. That’s a form of appeal that differentiates his from so many. I don’t have a problem with folks trying to raise money for good causes–power to them–but you’re right, there is an interesting dynamic going on in terms of what motivates them and what manner they select to grab attention in a world where getting attention seems to require more in the line of stunts than heartfelt appeal. Not saying that’s the case with this young person in your story. But I personally know a few folks who took the ALS “ice bucket” challenge for the novelty of it and not a dime went to fund that research because not a dime left their pockets. I write from Cape Breton where millions of dollars in a depressed economy are up for grabs at another chase the ace event….there’s money here I guess. But how often is the donation motivated by the chance of return. Another coffee by a prize under the rim. Curiouser and curiouser. To donate to me, please reply to this comment.
Until your definitive piece on peripatetic fundraising appears, you’ve at least inspired me to search for my copy of Ray Guy’s collection, entitled “You May Know Them As Sea Urchins, Ma’am”.
If I recall correctly, one of the selections was about a phenomenon he had seen develop in the wake of Terry Fox. Guy had noticed a surge in the number of people who came to St. John’s to begin their trans-Canadian odysseys for assorted causes & charities by touching the waters of the Atlantic. They had – to put it charitably – varying degrees of awareness of what they were about to attempt.
And speaking of the late Mr. Guy, it’s March – time for Parker Donham to fulfill his promise to re-post Ray’s declaration that winter is over.
Richard Starr’s analysis needs wide coverage. Thanks for helping spread it.
Part of the answer to our destructive forestry practices is to manage a much higher portion of our forests with a Community Forestry model that takes into account best economic use; ecologically based forest practices; recreation values; and wildlife values. One community forest was set up under the NDP government. We need many more covering most if not all of the province’s crown forests.
I get at least two “bicycling across Canada” contacts each summer, sometimes more. You’re right, I don’t think I have heard of it in the USA, even though there are more roads with more communities where you could make money. You’d probably end up like poor Hitchbot if you tried it there.
Tim, thanks for the spotlight on the disaster that is industrial forestry in this province.
Re. Pogo-sticking across Canada, I think it would be fascinating to see research on if these XYZ across Canada fundraising efforts are still profitable, and which ones are and aren’t (and why, I guess). I think part of why Terry Fox was so successful with the initial marathon of hope was because he was a real face for cancer patients in Canada (being a young man with an amputation!) and the newness of it all (presuming he was the first to do it, or do it with so much attention for his actions and his cause).
I think amalgamation is a dead horse being flogged by those whose interests are served by decreasing competition between communities for improved services and residents. I know, in many cases, the reason to move to a certain town or region is due to the community. A lot more move for work. In any case, if they are trying to make our communities less vibrant, amalgamation seems like a good way to go. I’m sure there could be a lot more shared services agreements, which could be worked out based upon statistics. But this has been brought up for decades as a reason to just go full bore and “save” lots of money, savings which never materialize and just end with a more top-heavy and heavily-paid management.
People made communities with as many services they could provide for themselves in the past, now we try to provide as few as possible at the highest cost. It’s a sham designed to break local democracy and make service providers (garbage hauling, paving, landscaping) more profitable. When they get a contract for a huge region, competitors can’t really make a good case if they have to drive a long distance. Anyway, end rant.