News

1. Stadium

A woman hails a cab from the middle of the proposed Shannon Park stadium.

David Fleming is an economist who has worked with the Greater Halifax Partnership and the North End Business Association, and is now working on PEI. He reviewed the case for public financing of a stadium, and found it wanting.

Click here to read “There’s not a good financial case for a publicly funded stadium.”

At the end of his article, Fleming raises a point that we probably haven’t considered deeply enough: What happens if the Schooners blackmail us?

For another relevant example, you can check out a January 8th, 2018 issue of Morning File where Tim Bousquet outlines SSE founding partner Anthony Leblanc’s history with the city of Glendale, Arizona and leveraging the prospect of leaving to get a new arena deal. That should worry Halifax residents greatly.

The reality is if you think having a professional CFL sports team is part of what makes your city “world class” — this despite the fact nobody in the world but Canada has rights to broadcast CFL games — and you pony up money to help build a stadium, you surely are going to do what it takes to stay “world class” and get a return on that investment.

This is what is known as the sunk cost fallacy — that past investments justify further expenditures.

So when the team shows up in 10 years requiring upgrades to its facilities to attract customers, or a renegotiation to its tax rate or rent payments to remain competitive, the prospect of the team either folding or being moved will be put on the table and Halifax Council will get to chose between an empty stadium and the loss of a “world class” asset and deepened financial support that staff are not recommending right now.

Perhaps the Schooners will use the Moncton stadium they’ll potentially use in 2021 as a way to get there.

Recall the “contest” to name the Schooners (I’m sure there was no real contest at all; it was just a marketing exercise) — despite the request for the city of Halifax and the province of Nova Scotia to fund a stadium, Leblanc and his crew settled on the name Atlantic Schooners, and not Halifax Schooners or Nova Scotia Schooners. This gives them flexibility to move the team from Halifax to Moncton or Saint John or even St. John’s without even having to change the name.

In any event, my prediction is that if Halifax council agrees to a one-time pay out of $20 million for a stadium, it’s almost certain that the Schooners will come back hat in hand somewhere down the road, aw-shucksing their way through a “gee, we’d like to stay here but…” routine.

2. Power rates are going up

Tufts Cove Generating Plant. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Power rates will go up an average of 1.5% in January and by the same amount for each of the next two years,” writes Jennifer Henderson:

The new rates were approved by the Utility and Review Board in a written decision released Friday. While large industrial customers such as Oxford Frozen Foods will pay 3% a year more, residential customers will see a 1.3% increase on their bills. For “average” residential customers that will work out to an additional $70 a year by 2022.

Henderson is keeping her eye on a connected issue: expected changes in air pollution regulations such that Nova Scotia Power will be able to exceed pollution levels laid out in current regulations because the Maritime Link project is delayed, and so therefore expected reductions in sulphur dioxide emissions from burning less coal are not materializing. Henderson writes:

The bottom line appears to be that the government is prepared to let NS Power purchase dirtier coal (“solid fuel”) that will produce more sulphur dioxide emissions because it is cheaper — to keep fuel costs down for ratepayers in a province where more than half our electricity is still generated by coal.

I’m guessing an Order in Council increasing the allowable emissions will be issued on a Friday afternoon during the holidays.

Click here to read “Power rates are going up.”

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3. Calvin Lawrence

Calvin Lawrence

Writes Stephen Kimber:

His hiring as a Halifax police officer in 1969 happened only because the city feared what might happen if it didn’t at least pay lip service to inclusion. But over the course of his 36-year policing career, Calvin Lawrence proved a more than worthy fighter against racism.

Click here to read “Calvin Lawrence: Black Panther Party’s ‘unlikely cub.’”

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4. Northern Pulp Mill

Northern Pulp Mill at night. Photo courtesy of Tony DeCoste Photo-Video

Several deadlines are fast approaching to determine what will happen with Northern Pulp Mill, Boat Harbour, and the proposal to pipe the mill’s effluent into the Northumberland Strait.

Joan Baxter reviews where things now stand and what might happen: “A tangled mess of dubious science, loans, and liabilities will determine how government officials will act in coming days — and how much it will cost Nova Scotians,” she writes.

Click here to read “Deciding Northern Pulp’s future.”

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5. Saltwire and toxicity

Joan Baxter wrote this item.

On Saturday, the Chronicle Herald online edition carried an opinion piece — not an article, an opinion piece — by Jim Williams entitled “Mill pollution myth-busting” that ran more than 6,000 words. The version in the print edition ran over 1,500 words, twice as long as a typical op-ed in the paper.

In both pieces, Williams says that effluent from the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County is “not toxic.”

This must have come as quite a surprise to other scientists who have found exactly the opposite, including the large group of researchers from Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s Universities who spent six years studying Boat Harbour together with the Pictou Landing Native Women’s Group, and determined that “Boat Harbour water is toxic to both fish and amphibians in the lab,” and “acutely lethal” at early development stages of fish and amphibians.

Not only did the Chronicle Herald give Jim Williams, who introduces himself as a research professor “semi-retired” from St. Francis Xavier University, an extraordinary amount of space for his opinions, it also provided three videos to accompany the online version.

One video is 11 minutes and 58 seconds long, shot on-location at and around Boat Harbour, and in it Williams explains and praises the existing treatment facility for the pulp effluent. In another, 4 minutes and 12 seconds, we hear Williams deliver what sounds like an introductory lecture on biochemical oxygen demand, or BOD, using crude diagrams that look as if they’re being drawn on a virtual blackboard by a pre-schooler. In the third video, 3 minutes and 2 seconds long, we hear Williams explaining how aeration helps bacteria reduce BOD (which is what happens with the current treatment system).

Williams writes that he is “not working for or being paid by the pulp mill,” but in the video he does say he is a member of an advisory committee working with Nova Scotia Lands on the Boat Harbour remediation project, and that he received funding from that Crown agency to do research at Boat Harbour in the past year.

Williams says he decided to make the video (although it’s not clear who really made it, who was behind the camera) because he thought, “it was important to get some facts out there as I see them.”

Except that the piece doesn’t appear to cite facts published in a peer-reviewed journal; no references are provided. Nor is it presented as an objective piece of fact-filled scientific writing or journalism. It is presented as opinion.

The timing of this onslaught of opinion in the Chronicle Herald that claims to be busting myths about mill pollution is curious (I can think of other more pointed words, but I’ll just leave those ones lurking between the lines for now). It comes just 10 days before the province’s environment minister, Gordon Wilson, is to make his decision on whether to approve the proposal for Northern Pulp’s new effluent treatment facility, and 54 days before the legislated closure of Boat Harbour to pulp effluent. (It is also featured in the weekend edition of the newspaper, which carried a full-page colour ad on page A18 saying “Nova Scotia needs forestry,” the mantra for a campaign by Forest Nova Scotia on behalf of the forestry industry to support the mill, but there is no sponsor mentioned on the ad in the online version I read.)

Williams’ St. FX webpage identifies him as a “Senior Research Professor” and provides a link to a biographical page with a CV that looks as if it hasn’t been updated since the 1990s, since it shows 11 publications from the 1990s and 1980s, and only one “refereed scientific paper,” from 1984 [note: see Tim’s appendix to this item, below]. An updated CV would have been a good idea before he decided to go so public with his views on such a controversial issue.

In the 4,423 pages of submissions made to Nova Scotia Environment about Northern Pulp’s proposed effluent treatment facility by citizens, government and many groups, I could find no record of anything from Jim Williams, or any reference to anything he might have published on the subject.

So it seems odd, to say the least, that Williams has now decided to speak up about Northern Pulp’s effluent and how to treat it, saying:

If we could guarantee that future Northern Pulp effluent is treated to the same level as it is at present, there is considerable evidence that it could be released via the proposed pipeline/diffuser system with no significant impact on commercial fisheries, or on the receiving coastal ecosystem.

I’m not sure where Williams has been or why he has been so quiet for the past 11 months, since Northern Pulp registered the new effluent treatment facility project for environmental assessment with the provincial government, which found 19 “key deficiencies” in the proposal, and demanded a “focus report” to fix those deficiencies, a focus report that has been thoroughly panned by scientists and experts in five federal departments (as I report here), and by independent scientists who were engaged by fishermen and Pictou Landing First Nation to study it.

If Williams read even a few of those scientists’ comments and conclusions about the proposed treatment facility, he would surely see that there can be no guarantee that “future Northern Pulp effluent is treated to the same level as it is at present.”

Even Terri Fraser, Northern Pulp’s technical manager, admits that without the use of Boat Harbour, the effluent will have a bigger impact on marine environments.

As reported here, in November 2016, Fraser sent an email to the Department of Transport and Infrastructure Renewal with a KSH consulting report done for the mill, which states:

The [current] effluent treatment system consists of constructed sedimentation basins followed by aeration in a natural basin with baffle curtains directing flow. A large, natural final polishing / stabilization basin follows prior to release to the Northumberland Straight [sic] . . . Point C of the effluent treatment system also benefits from the settling effect of Boat Harbour prior to Point D [where the effluent is released into the Strait], so the impact on marine environments is even less pronounced [than it would be with the new effluent treatment system].” 

In the 6000+ words of his online opinion piece about the pulp mill effluent and Boat Harbour, Williams mentions Pictou Landing First Nation only once:

Some may say it is overly simplistic, but I feel the evidence speaks for itself. I sincerely believe that forestry and fisheries can continue to co-exist in northern Nova Scotia, as they have for the last 50 years, and I am glad that a remediated Boat Harbour will soon be returned to the people of Pictou Landing First Nation.

He doesn’t mention the suffering of the people of Pictou Landing First Nation who have had to live with the stench of the mill effluent in Boat Harbour in their back yard and the mill emissions for 53 years, but says he hopes a “remediated Boat Harbour” — which is actually known as A’se’K — will “soon be returned” to PLFN. Williams conspicuously fails to “hope” that it will be closed on January 31, 2020, as legislated by the Boat Harbour Act, and a date already being celebrated by PLFN.

On her Facebook information page, Chief Andrea Paul posted this about Williams and his opinion piece on Friday evening, when it first appeared online:

This man was contracted by NSLands … to do some work. However — it had to be Northern Pulp that gave him permission to enter the Boat Harbour Treatment Facility as there is no public access. ** Will find out from NS Lands if they or NP granted access. 

Jim WAS also on the Boat Harbour Environmental Advisory Committee which I have called NSLands this evening and asked that he be removed from this committee. I also asked that he apologize to the community members of Pictou Landing First Nation. 

We have worked to develop relationships with individuals based on an understanding of our harm and the reconciliation that goes with that. This man has betrayed that trust and jeopardized the relationship we have developed with NSLands and those that sit around the table. 

His science only looks at a small piece of the whole project. He may feel like he needed to “get this out there” however we have also worked with scientists and engineers with regards to the adverse impacts this effluent, sediment and air has had and could have. 

STFX has been working to develop relationships with the Mi’kmaq communities and it is unfortunate that this researcher whom we welcomed into our community betrayed that trust. As an alumni of STFX I am so disappointed that this man has no understanding of the depth of harm he has inflicted.

What is even more interesting is that Pedro Chang and Brian Baarda of Paper Excellence were also visiting this week – the same time this guy decides to share his science.

Tim Bousquet adds:

Calling Williams’ 1984 contribution a “refereed scientific paper” may be a stretch. He was one of dozens of academics who presented at a two-day workshop in Moncton in 1982, “Update on the Marine Environmental Consequences of Tidal Power Development in the Upper Reaches of the Bay of Fundy.” Proceedings from the workshop were collectively published by editors Donald Gordon and Michael Dadswell.

Williams was one of a group of four who presented their work at a session titled “Possible Impact of Large-Scale Tidal Power Developments in the Upper Bay of Fundy on Certain Migratory Fish Stocks of the Northwest Atlantic.” You can read the presentation on page 577, here. (Spoiler alert! “Construction of large-scale tidal power structures [in the Bay of Fundy] … may cause significant mortality [of fish].”)

I may be misunderstanding Williams’ claim that this presentation or the resulting publication was “refereed,” but it does not appear that either was sent out to external reviewers for approval.

Hey, people can make arguments without having those arguments go through peer review. We do it every day right here in the Examiner. But in Williams’ case, he appears to be doing a bit of resume fluffing.

6. Canso spaceport

A MLS graphic of the cyclone rocket it proposes to use at Canso.

And, this seems to be Joan Baxter Day at Morning File, Incorporated.

We’ve taken her November 5 article, Maritime Launch Services and its private/public servants,” out from behind the paywall.

In the article, Baxter takes a look at various government communications around the proposed Canso spaceport and discovers that public servants were unquestioningly shilling for a private company, Maritime Launch Services. Along the way, we learn that one government bureaucrat sent a nasty email to a CBC reporter; others had rude things to say about the Halifax Examiner; and Stephen McNeil met with MLS and its Ukrainian “partners” even though they aren’t registered as lobbyists.

Click here to read “Maritime Launch Services and its private/public servants.”

7. Gold mining

“A company that wants to develop a gold mine on the Eastern Shore is making significant changes to its proposal,” reports Frances Willick for the CBC:

Anaconda Mining originally planned to create a 125-hectare surface and underground gold mine just outside Goldboro, N.S., about 250 kilometres east of Halifax.

The proposal called for ore to be processed on site and then for gold concentrate to be trucked to the company’s Point Rousse processing facility near Baie Verte, N.L., via the North Sydney ferry.

Company spokesperson Lynn Hammond said the new plans will include a full-scale mill that will produce gold doré, or partially refined, bars at the Goldboro site.

The revised plans also modify the original layout “with a goal of further minimizing environmental impact,” Hammond said.

6. Whale sanctuary

A still from the film Blackfish.

“After three years of searching, a U.S.-based conservation group has selected two prospective sites in rural Nova Scotia for a kind of ocean retirement home for beluga whales raised in captivity,” reports Michael MacDonald for the Canadian Press:

The Whale Sanctuary Project confirmed Friday it is talking to residents and government officials in the Sheet Harbour and Sherbrooke areas along the province’s rugged and sparsely populated Eastern Shore.

Writing for the Halifax Examiner during the Chronicle Herald strike in 2016, reporter Chris Lambie explained the sanctuary:

The Whale Sanctuary Project has checked out a dozen sites between Lunenberg and Guysborough that could become a home for between five and eight orcas, belugas and other cold-water cetaceans that spent their lives in the concrete tanks of theme parks and aquariums.

“We’re actually talking about a netted-off area — not a pen or a tank — of at least 65 acres along the coast,” said Lori Marino, a neuroscientist and marine mammal expert who heads the non-profit outfit.

“What we’re going to be giving them is so much more space and depth than they’ve ever had in a tank.”

The group is looking at coves, bays, and sites where they could string nets from the mainland to an island to create the sanctuary.

“We’re trying to find somewhere that is as natural as possible, but also doesn’t interfere negatively with industries or even the animals that are in the water in that area.”

The whales would be able to live in a natural setting that the water flows through, Marino said.

“We would have, of course, animal care staff. We would have a visitors’ centre that would do public outreach and public education. People could view the animals from a distance. But the whole idea would be to give the animals back what they really need to thrive. What was taken from them by being in a theme park.”

9. RCMP record-keeping

“The RCMP is apologizing for saying it didn’t have any records about its 11-month investigation into the death of Michel Vienneau, who was shot by a Bathurst Police Force member in 2015,” reports Karissa Donkin for the CBC:

In fact, the police agency had more than 10,000 records about the Nova Scotia RCMP’s investigation into Vienneau’s death, which led to criminal charges against two Bathurst Police Force officers. The charges were dropped in 2017 after a preliminary inquiry.

Vienneau appeared on the officers’ radar that day when their supervisor, RCMP Sgt. Ron DeSilva, now an inspector, received Crime Stoppers tips that Vienneau was returning from Montreal with a load of drugs. The tips were false.

For months, a team of Nova Scotia RCMP officers pieced together what led to the shooting. They interviewed about 100 witnesses.

But when CBC News asked for all records about the Nova Scotia RCMP investigation into Vienneau’s death, the RCMP had a surprising response.

“Based on the information provided, a search for records was conducted in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick,” Insp. Richard Haye of the RCMP’s access to information and privacy branch wrote in a May 2017 letter.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to locate records which respond to your request.” 

How is it possible that a division of Canada’s largest police force could spend months on a complex investigation into a man’s death but not have any records about the investigation?

It wasn’t possible because it wasn’t true.

10. Settlers

Writing in the Ponoka (Alberta) News, Mike Rainone recounts how Nova Scotians moved to Alberta in the 1890s:

Like the extremely motivated John Taylor, many more families would load up their worldly belongings and make the long and arduous trip to the west from Nova Scotia. After several stops along the way they were finally given the opportunity of slowly but boldly beginning to establish their new homesteads in the wilderness close to Wolf Creek, while over the years always encouraging others to join them. The district was originally the location of the Sharphead First Nations Reserve, but after being abandoned by the Government in 1890, four sections were made available for homesteading. The name Elkhorn was likely dedicated to the massive herds of Elk who roamed freely in the vast area, and as the district became established a large influx of settlers began arriving from the United States and elsewhere, resulting in the need for the first school being built in 1902 as well the establishment of the Free Methodist Church in the early 1920s.

Slipped right by that “abandonment” issue, didn’t he? There’s no doubt a complex history there that I’m not aware of, but I make note of the use of “wilderness” to describe a place where people lived for thousands of years.


Government

City

Monday

Investment Policy Advisory Committee (Monday, 12pm, City Hall) — the Treasurer’s Report for the third quarter.

North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm, Bedford- Hammonds Plains Community Centre) — councillor Matt Whitman wants to double the $25,000 contribution from the Hammonds Plains Area Rate “to complete the development of Timberlane Terrace Park and capital improvements to the Grant Line Trail.”

Tuesday

Budget Committee and Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — Budget Committee agenda. Regional Council agenda. See item #1 above on the stadium, but also the Old South Suburb Heritage Conservation District and moving forward with discussion about a “Supervised Consumption/Overdose Prevention Site.” I’ll be there for at least the stadium discussion.

Province

Monday

No public meetings.

Tuesday

Health (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) — the committee is going to talk to folks from the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia about “Pharmacists’ Role in Health Care and Scope of Practice.”


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

Thesis Defence, Chemistry (Monday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Patrick Driscoll will defend “Exploration of Multivariate Chemical Data in Noisy Environments: New Algorithms and Simulation Methods.”

Thesis Defence, Pathology (Monday, 10am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — PhD candidate Victoria Ann Miller will defend “The Plasminogen Receptor S100A10: Structure and Function Studies.”

Chemometrics for the Masses: How to Painlessly Improve Your Science (Monday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Peter de B. Harrington from Ohio University will talk.

Thesis Defence, Mechanical Engineering (Monday, 1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Marciel Gaier will defend “Development and Characterization of High-Performance TiC and TiN Cermets.”

Tuesday

Thesis Defence, Mechanical Engineering (Tuesday, 10am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — PhD candidate Alexander John Wright will defend “Design and Aerodynamic Analysis of a Novel Medium Bypass Turbofan Engine Exhaust System.”

Thesis Defence, Health (Tuesday, 11am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Adria Quigley will defend “The Feasibility and Impact of a Yoga Intervention on Cognitive and Physical Performance among People Living with HIV.”

49598666989151226098104244512918​ (Tuesday, 1pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Michael Filaseta from the University of South Carolina will explain

If p is a prime written in base 10 as d_{r} d_{r-1} … d_{0}, then the polynomial f(x) = d_{r} x^{r} + … + d_{1} x + d_{0} in  Z[x] is irreducible over the integers. This result, due to Arthur Cohn, has been generalized in a number of directions. In particular, we investigate what happens when the coefficients are not restricted to digits. For example, if f(x) is as in the display above with r < 32, the d_{j} simply non-negative, and the value of f(10) a prime, then f(x) is irreducible. We will survey some recent work on these generalizations done with several of my former students Morgan Cole, Scott Dunn, Joseph Foster, Sam Gross, Jacob Juillerat and Jeremiah Southwick.

Bring your own 49598666989151226098104244512918​.

Thesis Defence, Mathematics and Statistics (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Abdullah Al-Shaghay will defend “Some Classes of Generalized Cyclotomic Polynomials.”


In the harbour

04:00: Avon, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Baltimore
05:00: YM Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New  York
05:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
05:30: Olympian Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
08:00: Daisy, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for sea
11:30: Olympian Highway sails for sea
15:00: Atlantic Sky sails for New York
16:00: YM Express sails for Rotterdamn
16:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre

Where are the Canadian military ships?



Footnotes

Rain on the way, they say.


The Halifax Examiner is an advertising-free, subscriber-supported news site. Your subscription makes this work possible; please subscribe.

Tim Bousquet

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

Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is an award-winning Nova Scotian journalist and author of seven books, including "The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest." Website: www.joanbaxter.ca;...

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  1. I wonder if Manager Chapman of NP has contacted those scientists on PEI referred to by Member of the Legislature, Sidney McEwen, in the meeting held with Martin, Chapman and Fraser and a PEI legislature committee in Feb., 2018. Contacting even one such scientist would have helped the three answer the question “When do lobsters molt?”

  2. The case made is nonsense – if it was non-toxic, fill a cup and chug it. That’s a 30 second video, 6,000 fewer words.

    But the “Publications” on the CV do appear to be peer-reviewed journal articles. And the CV is obviously from long ago. His name is too common to do a trivial search to see recent scholarship, but this Scholar query is a decent shot:
    https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=“P+James+Williams”&btnG=

    It’s sparse, but there is stuff there from this decade.

    I see no reason to doubt the proceedings were peer-reviewed – the practice you describe is common. The CV provides context for understanding it was a refereed abstract or paper in proceedings self-published by the conference organizers. It is clearly distinguished from presentations where the same claim is not made.

    Which is to say, there’s no prima facie case to doubt the article based solely on academic credentials, and I’d be nervous about comparing claims based on the weight of the author’s CV in pounds.

    All of the substantive arguments against the tripe published on Sunday remain, of course.

  3. Conference proposals are often reviewed by 2 or 3 people — presumably academics of some sort — prior to acceptance. It is usually an “abstract” … which can vary from a few hundred words in length to several pages….not the whole paper which is reviewed.

    Proceedings papers are technically “reviewed” because the proposal was reviewed…although they may also be an internal process of review on top of that where the other authors critically read each others piece, or it may be that the editors themselves did a close, critical read of all papers prior to publishing (as their name — and hence reputation is tied to — is also on the publication). So the “reviewed” aspect may be all of these, or just the first. It is usually at least the proposal review AND the editors. Rarely are proceedings sent out for external reviews. Speciality workshops like that often have a lot of the “experts” on the topic at it….so papers get a lot of critical feedback at the conference. Weak papers usually just don’t make it into the proceedings…and the editors would have been AT the event, they’d know if a paper received public critique. I’ve worked in both social sciences and natural sciences. In my experience social sciences don’t publicly critique each other all that much at conferences….natural scientists aren’t constrained in the same manner and a paper with flaws at a conference is generally called out publicly so any editor would know if a paper was not up to snuff and would likely not include it in a proceedings publication.