Hello, I’m Joan Baxter, Nova Scotian journalist and author, wondering how on earth Tim does this every morning.
1. Ships start here, but when?
Jennifer Henderson investigates the six-month (and counting) delay in the completion of the first ship in the multi-billion dollar Halifax Shipyard contract in a new article for the Examiner:
The slogan said, “Ships Start Here,” but it didn’t address the “when.”
The first vessel built under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy program at the Halifax Shipyard will be delivered to the Canadian Navy about six to nine months later than expected — sometime next summer.
Click here to read “Unexpected delay pushes completion of the first ship in the multi-billion dollar Halifax Shipyard contract back at least six months.”
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2. Responding to the prisoner protest at Burnside
El Jones interviewed Jason MacLean, the president of the NSGEU and a correctional officer himself, to get the perspective of guards to a statement by prisoners at the Burnside jail about their non-violent protest, which was published earlier by the Examiner. She summarizes MacLean’s responses to the prisoner statement on their protest:
People are not happy, but there’s been nobody acting out. And I just want to take the opportunity to thank all the staff that are working there and all the inmates that are working there while we’re dealing with this crisis.
I think it’s important people know that it’s not optimal in there for anybody, and inmates and staff are – it seems to me – working together to get through this crisis.
I think that needs to be noted, and I think that the employer needs to take action to make things better. It appears that the employer will take action, but I don’t know that they are fully informed or fully aware about the damage that this could do in the long run.
But staff and offenders are doing their part as the people that work and live in these conditions.
Click here to read El Jones’ full article.
3. Conservatives converge on Halifax
Halifax is turning Tory blue this morning, as members of the Conservative Party of Canada converge on the city for a three-day policy convention in preparation for the 2019 election. As Taryn Grant reports in StarMetro Halifax, the convention comes at a time of infighting in the Conservative caucus caused by inflammatory tweeting by former party leadership contender, Maxime Bernier, criticizing Prime Minister Trudeau’s support for cultural diversity. According to a political scientist, this means that candidates for the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party who attend the national convention should “tread lightly.” Grant writes:
It would be “dumbfounding” if the PC leadership hopefuls didn’t appear at the Conservative Party of Canada policy convention, said Jeffrey MacLeod, political studies professor at Mount Saint Vincent University, because the event could breathe new life into their campaigns.
But, MacLeod warns, the leadership candidates need to steer clear of the ongoing discord in the federal party, which is not formally linked with the provincial PC party:
If the Bernier controversy gets dragged to Halifax, MacLeod said it could overshadow the event’s intended purpose — which is to debate policy for their election platform — as well as any chance for provincial leadership hopefuls to make gains.
“The challenge of course is that the national party, the national Conservative caucus has a controversy. So there are … some internal caucus rumblings, particularly between Maxime Bernier and the leader,” MacLeod said. “So if that spills over into the public debate and that becomes the message from this meeting, then that will undo any good that could come from (the convention).”
Seems to me there may already be some discord and controversy brewing within the ranks of the provincial PC party, with at least one of the five leadership candidates — John Lohr — testing the political waters for hard right, blinkered populism, and two other contenders — Tim Houston and Cecil Clarke — going at each other in what the Cape Breton Post called a “one-on-one war of words” at their last leadership debate.
4. The turbine spinning in murky waters
There is still no word on the fate of the turbine that is spinning away, unmonitored and apparently without an owner, at the bottom of the Minas Basin, and its future is “murkier than ever” according to the CBC’s Emma Davie.
Cape Sharp Tidal’s second turbine was hooked up to the power grid on July 24. Two days later, OpenHydro filed for liquidation in Ireland after its parent company, Naval Energies, announced it was no longer funding tidal power projects.
The Irish High Court ordered provisional liquidators Grant Thornton to begin dissolving OpenHydro.
At this point, no one knows exactly what will happen to the turbine if OpenHydro is done for good.
Well, that’s not what one would call reassuring. It continues:
Nova Scotia Energy Minister Derek Mombourquette said last week there are no plans to retrieve the turbine as of yet, and the province has no strict deadlines in place saying when the turbine will have to be removed.
Mombourquette did confirm there is a security trust in place to retrieve the turbine, but wouldn’t say how much money is in the fund.
In other words, the whole thing is a mess, and the situation is as clear as the muddy waters of the Bay of Fundy after a turbulent tide, the turbine continues to spin without any environmental monitoring and no one seems interested to taking responsibility for it. Any bets on who will ultimately pay to clean up the mess?
5. It’s spraying time again
The Chronicle Herald’s Francis Campbell reminds us that “it’s spray time again in Nova Scotia forests.” He writes:
More than 2,000 hectares of privately owned woodland is to be sprayed, mostly with the herbicide VisionMax.
The active ingredient in VisionMax and Roundup is the controversial chemical glyphosate.
The feeling, reinforced by a recent American court award of $289 million and a World Health Organization directive, is that glyphosate can or probably can cause cancers.
“The stuff should be banned worldwide,” said Raymond Plourde of the Ecology Action Centre. “That’s my opinion, full-stop.”
But there appears to be no stopping the application of the herbicide in provincial woods.
Northern Pulp, the company that runs the Pictou County mill in Abercrombie Point, has applied to spray 794 hectares of forest in Halifax, Hants and Colchester counties.
The Environment Department has already approved spraying to cover about 1,351 hectares of forested land, including three aerial and three ground sprays. The companies that have been approved are MacMullin Forestry Consulting of St. Andrew’s, Antigonish County, JD Irving Ltd., and Century Forestry Consultants of Pictou. Those sprays will take place in Antigonish, Guysborough, Colchester, Cumberland, Pictou and Richmond counties.
I asked the Department of Environment why there were only six approvals and none from Northern Pulp on its website. Spokesperson for Lands and Forestry, Bruce Nunn, replied that the Northern Pulp applications arrived only on July 31, and were being reviewed: the process can take up to 60 days.
It looks as if Northern Pulp takes it for granted that their applications will get approvals, however, because on August 1, Northern Pulp notices about their planned spraying were already appearing in newspapers.
As unpopular as the annual spraying may be with some members of the public, who are concerned about the the potentially harmful effects of the herbicide on wildlife and human health, on water and biodiversity in our woodlands, they can take some consolation that at the moment the widespread spraying occurs on private woodlots and is funded privately.
If the provincial government decides to accept one of the recommendations of the Lahey Report on forestry practices covered in this Examiner article by Jennifer Henderson, then next year when spraying time rolls around again, we can expect to see it happening on Crown land – and we’ll paying for it too.
Recommendation 14 on page 63 of the Lahey Report reads:
To ensure the productivity of plantations and high‐production forestry where it is conducted in accordance with ecological forestry, licensees on Crown land should have access to public funding for the use of herbicides to control competing species and as a density control measure within plantations.
Publicly-funded herbicide spraying on Crown land stopped in 2011, as part of the Natural Resources Strategy brought in by the NDP government, which the Stephen McNeil’s Liberals decided to ditch.
6. Water not gold in Tatamagouche
About 40 citizens worries that the provincial Department of Energy and Mines is preparing to issue a Request For Proposals (RFP) for gold exploration in the Tatamagouche watershed in the Cobequid Hills of northern Nova Scotia showed up for a meeting this week of the Tatamagouche (French River) Source Water Protection Advisory Committee (I’m going to call it the watershed committee from now on).
They broke into spontaneous applause when the watershed committee unanimously passed two motions. One recommends that the Colchester Municipal Council start the process to officially designate the watershed as “protected” with the Department of Environment, which will allow the council to restrict activities such as mining from the watershed. The second motion recommends that council make an official request that the Department of Energy and Mines delay issuing the RFP until the watershed protection process has been completed.
The motions were brought forward by Greg Watson, a citizen representative on the watershed committee. He told the committee that to gauge the views of constituents on the issue, he had checked with the local MLA office, among others, and found that only about one in 20 people supported gold exploration and mining, while the vast majority were against it.
John Perkins of the citizens’ group, Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia (SuNNS) that opposes gold exploration in the watershed, told me that their group has been going house-to-house to canvas the population in the area and that 97 percent of the people they met are against gold exploration and mining in the watershed.
Members of the watershed committee acknowledged that the Minister of Energy and Mines can override a water utility’s decision to prohibit mining in a watershed.
Nor is there any guarantee that the Department of Energy and Mines will agree to delay issuing the RFP, which is currently expected to go out in September, and lead to an exploration license being awarded before the end of 2018.
The committee agreed, however, that seeking protected status and asking for a delay in the RFP are their only options for trying to prevent gold exploration in the watershed.
7. The Whalley suit, what’s it all about?
Mary Campbell is in court, following the remarkable twists and turn of an important case, so she can reveal them all tomorrow in the Cape Breton Spectator:
If you are reading this after 10:00 AM on Wednesday morning, then I am currently in court, watching the proceedings in former CBRM Economic Development Manager John Whalley’s civil suit against the municipality for constructive dismissal.
Given that the trial, which is being presided over by Justice Patrick Murray, is touching on almost everything the Spectator has been writing about for the past two years (Archibald’s Wharf! The McKeil deal! BCB funding! Port governance! Accountability! Transparency!) I have made the editorial decision to publish a shorter edition today and return on Friday with a full report on the proceedings.
As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
1. Stinks worse than a barrel of rotten fish
As reported by Erica Butler in Tuesday’s Morning File, the generosity of Nova Scotians seems to know no bounds, especially when it comes to Northern Pulp, which last year received a grant of $6 million from the Department of Transport and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR).
Wanting to know more about what the latest millions were for, I contacted Marla MacInnis, media relations advisor for TIR. She replied:
We are working to find a solution which ensures an environmentally and economically sustainable future for the Pictou Landing First Nation, the Pictou area, Northern Pulp and other stakeholders. This has required a contribution towards detailed design and engineering studies for a potential replacement effluent treatment facility. The amount was determined based on estimates by design consultants and includes civil design, mechanical design, electrical and instrumental design.
Right. And, then:
The contribution allows negotiations with Northern Pulp to continue and will be credited towards any future agreement. This cost is part of a larger discussion with Northern Pulp which is yet to be concluded. Detailed engineering was one of the critical items required to build a potential replacement facility in time to meet the closure deadline of January, 2020 for the existing facility. This step was required to stay within that timeline and would be reviewed as part of the Environmental Assessment process.
McInnis assured me that there had been no further grants to Northern Pulp since March 31, 2018.
It can’t be easy, being a government media relations officer trying to dance a buzzword jig around the issue of handouts from the provincial government to Northern Pulp, owned by Indonesian billionaires and the subject of 50 years of public protest.
Such government patter on the matter certainly hasn’t appeased those concerned about the proposal to pipe pulp effluent directly into the Northumberland Strait, or the fact that the provincial government is in a conflict of interest because it owns the mill’s effluent and is thus responsible for all costs related to it because of a 1995 Indemnity Agreement.
It is estimated that the new treatment facility may cost upwards of $100 million, and of course, Nova Scotians are also on the hook for the remediation of Boat Harbour, which has to be closed by 2020. The estimated cost for that is currently $217 million.
In the words of Ronnie Heighton, president of the Northumberland Fishermen’s Association (NFA), the whole business “stinks worse than a barrel of rotten fish.” (For more on the pulp effluent issue see the four-part Examiner series “Dirty Dealing” by Linda Pannozzo available here, here, here, and here.)
The NFA and the Friends of Northumberland Strait (FONS), a citizens’ group that formed in late 2017 to protest Northern Pulp’s plans to put its treated effluent directly into the Northumberland Strait once Boat Harbour closes in 2020, have been delving into Public Accounts figures to see what the people of Nova Scotia have been doling out in grants to Northern Pulp.
They are not happy about what they found, and neither should any Nova Scotian.
From the NFA and FONS press release this week:
Ronnie Heighton is outraged that the NS Government has provided $6 million to Northern Pulp for design of their proposed new effluent treatment facility.
“This proposal puts our industry at risk,” says Heighton. “Our fishing organizations requested meetings with the provincial Minister of Environment for months and he would not meet with us. We asked for information from the department two months ago and received nothing. Now we find the government has funded the project to the tune of $6 million in the last year.”
In March, Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Renewal (TIR) Lloyd Hines told CBC that ownership of the facility was still to be determined. When asked who would be paying for the facility, Hines stated, “… we look at partnering, we look at sharing liability, we look at reasonable partners who want to reach an objective who want to get things done.”
“The Nova Scotia government thinks they can be defendant, judge and jury on this project,” says Heighton. “If the Feds don’t step in, we’re on track for another environmental disaster that could rival Boat Harbour and the Sydney Tar Ponds.”
Nova Scotia Public Accounts for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018 were posted on July 26, 2018. The accounts include a sum of $6,001, 238.13 to Northern Pulp from Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (Grants and Contributions.)”
2. Credit to investigative citizens
The Friends of Northumberland Strait and Northumberland Fishermen’s Association learned about the $6 million from a social media post by Stacey Rudderham on August 13. Rudderham had combed through the 351 pages of the 2018 Public Accounts statements (Volume 3 Supplementary Information), and dug out the list of public monies handed over to Northern Pulp in the 2017 – 2018 fiscal year. Rudderham is an investigative citizen who reports on all things environmental and political in Nova Scotia on her website, “One Not So Bored Housewife.”
FONS and NFA picked up on her social media post, and then issued their press release, after which the media picked up on the story.
To give credit where it is due, this is what Rudderham posted a week before the media picked up the story of the $6 million to Northern Pulp:
According to Nova Scotia Public Accounts the following sums were disbursed to Northern Pulp in 2018 (April 2017 – March 2018)
$29,076.50 – Labour and Advanced Education (Grants and Contributions)
$464,480.45 – Natural Resources (Grants and Contributions)
$31,353.38 – Natural Resources (Other)
$6,001,238.13 – Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal – (Grants and Contributions)
On 15 August, David Patriquin, another investigative citizen and author of “NS Forest Notes,” also took a look at how public money is making its way into private hands in his blog, “Public Accounts provide some numbers on Nova Scotia DNR Grants and Contributions to private industry.”
Under Grants and Contributions, the following are the items listed as $100,000 & greater (asterisks are mine):
Association for Sustainable Forestry … 1,809,458.20
Forest Nova Scotia Inc … 671,500.00
*Harry Freeman and Son Ltd … 241,927.73
*Ledwidge Lumber Company Ltd … 164,370.83
Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute Co-Operative Ltd … 108,598.13
*Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corp … 464,481.45
Nova Scotia Landowners & Forest Fibre Producers Assoc …204,077.50
Port Hawkesbury Paper LP … 4,083,275.15
*Scotsburn Lumber Ltd … 141,394.13
Western Woodlot Services Cooperative Ltd …129,675.50
Accounts Payable Adjustments … 860,974.38
*Members of WestFor
Wow. Can Premier McNeil who has campaigned against corporate welfare, explain the whopping $4,083,275.15 to PHP?
Why are these bigger mills getting so many $, especially with good prices for many products currently?
Why is Forest Nova Scotia Inc, a declared Advocacy organization (see About FNS), so heavily supported?
I would say the best deal for the bucks from the above list is the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute Co-Operative Ltd., the lowest on that list as it turns out, but good PR when the government needs it.
I think it is worthwhile noting that unpaid citizen muckrakers took on the task of searching the Public Accounts for this crucial information on large grants to pulp mills, which the provincial government did not announce in press releases, at least none I can find.
I emailed the Department of Lands and Forestry to find out what its grants to Northern Pulp, Port Hawkesbury Paper and Scotsburn Lumber were for. Spokesperson Bruce Nunn replied that he was working on answers, but they had not arrived as of this morning.
3. Global warming, global warning
A syndicated column in The Coast, which comes from the Suzuki Foundation, warns us that this summer’s heat is just the beginning, and we’d better prepare for a lot more heat, extreme weather events and climate turmoil.
According to all legitimate scientific agencies that study climate, the past four years have been the warmest on record, and 2017 was the 41st consecutive year with global average temperatures higher than in the 20th century.
This year is also shaping up to be a record-breaker. But as the old saying goes, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” That’s because warming didn’t stop. The rate slowed slightly. And that’s over now.
Although climate scientists agree that human activity—mainly burning fossil fuels and destroying carbon sinks like forests and wetlands—is responsible for most or all of the current accelerated warming, natural factors play a significant role in climate. Natural variability in ocean and solar cycles, as well as volcanic activity and human factors such as aerosol pollution from Asia, are believed to have slowed the rate of warming slightly from 1999 to 2014.
Again, that doesn’t mean Earth stopped warming. It just warmed a bit slower than expected. In fact, some researchers claim the “hiatus” didn’t exist, attributing it to errors in temperature measurements or missing data.
Citing a study by Florian Sévellec at France’s Laboratory of Ocean Physics and Remote Sensing, and Sybren Drijfhout at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, the Suzuki Foundation notes this summer likely marks the beginning of a hotter-than-expected period until at least 2022.
The column doesn’t mince any words in the warning.
With scientists predicting even hotter temperatures and more heat waves over the next few years, we’re about to get a taste of what to expect if we fail to take every measure possible to slow and eventually halt human-caused climate disruption. There’s no shortage of solutions, only political will.
The question is, will we learn from the evidence staring us in the face or will we continue to frack, build pipelines for expanding oilsands, drill the oceans and Arctic and revive the coal industry?
We don’t have much time to decide.
(The original version of this item incorrectly attributed this column to Jacob Boon of The Coast. Boon contacted me to let me know that this is the way it was presented in The Coast, but that actually it is a syndicated column from the Suzuki Foundation. I have corrected that now and apologize for any misunderstanding.)
While I’m banging on about the spending of public money to promote large private interests, I thought it worthwhile mentioning that Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) has been doing that too.
NSBI is a Crown corporation that says it is working “towards a strong, thriving and globally competitive Nova Scotia through attracting global investment to create new jobs across the province and working with companies in all communities to be more successful exporters,” (or, in plain English, NSBI uses public – our – money to woo big business to the province with tax incentives and other perquisites).
NSBI has been using some of that money to “partner” with Eastlink TV to produce videos on businesses in the Maritimes.
Some of the companies are small, locally owned, and genuinely worth showcasing.
But in recent months, the TV series, called “Maritime Made,” has profiled a couple of the companies that are definitely not new or creating any new jobs (except perhaps for a couple of people at Firefly Digital that produced their videos).
The advertorial videos air Thursday evenings on Eastlink TV HD Channel 610, for those who have cable television. For those who don’t, they are also available on YouTube.
The April 12 episode of “Maritime Made,” features Nova Scotia Power’s Tuft’s Cove plant. Yes, the same plant that recently had a spill of more than 20,000 litres of heavy oil, a quarter of which went into Halifax Harbour.
But “Maritime Made” videos are up-beat PR, so of course there is no mention of environmental risks or the polluting past of the plant, when it used to spew particulate matter all over the neighbourhood. Nor is there any mention of the fact that Nova Scotians once owned the generating station and Nova Scotia Power, until Premier Donald Cameron sold it all off in 1992.
At no point in the video does the script mention Emera, the multinational corporation that owns Nova Scotia Power. We do learn that in addition to the natural gas and heavy fuel oil burned at Tuft’s Cove, Nova Scotia Power also uses renewables such as “wind, hydro and tidal.”
No mention of NS Power’s controversial biomass plant in Port Hawkesbury, featured in The Halifax Examiner feature by Linda Pannozzo about the “bio-massacre” in our forests that is caused by that plant.
The “Maritime Made” episode from April 17, 2018, features the 51-year-old Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County. Granted, the mill did create a few hundred jobs when Scott Paper of Philadelphia opened in it 1967, but since then, under five different large, foreign corporate owners, it hasn’t created any new ones or brought significant new “global investment” to the province.
Rather, it has absorbed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of government loans, grants, tax breaks, costly infrastructure and access to Crown land.
Former Premier John Hamm, who granted the mill an extension on the use of Boat Harbour for its effluent (for which the citizens of Nova Scotia are responsible, by the way) until 2030, is now chair of the Northern Pulp board.
Bernie Miller, the lawyer who represented the mill for years and acted as a registered lobbyist for it from 2009 until 2014, and whose signature is on the 1995 Indemnity Agreement that puts us, the people of Nova Scotia on the hook for all the costs of the effluent treatment and disposal in perpetuity, was plucked from private practise in 2014 by Premier Stephen McNeil and named Deputy Minister of the Office of Planning and Priorities. Today Miller is Deputy Minister of the Office of Strategy Development and of Business Development.
You would be right if you guessed that the “Maritime Made” video on Northern Pulp, sponsored for by NSBI, doesn’t breathes a word of this. Instead we are treated to 8 minutes and 19 seconds of tedious instructions on the bleached pulping process at the half-century-old mill, with a pedantic script and peppy motivational “music” that sounds as if it came from a 1960s television workout show, or maybe a 1970s game show. I would say the video is grade-school level, except that it seems too patronizing and amateurish to appeal to today’s school kids.
Last week, the Northern Pulp video had 619 views and five “likes,” and the one Tuft’s Cove had garnered 537 views with two “likes.”
Eastlink wouldn’t give me viewer numbers, but spokesperson Jill Laing tells me the “Maritime Made” series is going into its fifth season, and while they can’t divulge viewer numbers, it’s among their “top five programs.” She says NSBI is the only sponsor, but that it does not cover all the costs. She did not specify who does.
NSBI media relations advisor Emily Neil says that to date, the series has cost the Crown corporation $205,000 plus tax. Not sure if NSBI would say that’s value for money or not, but hey, they’re the business experts using our money to bring in the global investors, so we are supposed to trust them.
To be fair, the series does profile some much smaller, local companies. Just not sure why we should be paying anything towards advertising for Northern Pulp and Emera, which have their own mega-budgets for their own PR.
No meetings today.
Thesis Defence, Sociology and Social Anthropology (Thursday, 1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Tonya Canning will defend her thesis “‘We Don’t Want Hippy Money’: Contradiction and Exchange in a Local Currency System.”
Thesis Defence, Pharmaceutical Sciences (Friday, 1pm, Room 14B02, Tupper Medical Building) — Leah Bennett will defend her thesis “The Effects of Solute Carrier Organic Anion Transporters on Jadomycin Pharmacology in Breast Cancer.”
In the harbour
4am Thursday: Algoma Spirit, bulker, arrives at 21 – AMD from Port Weller
2:30am Friday: Algoma Niagara, bulker, arrives at 21 – AMD from Toledo
Noon Friday: Pacific Huron, bulker, arrives at 26 M – G3 Canada from Montreal
I am going to watch some videos of cute animals now.