News

1. Jen’s choice

Jen Powley

Writes Stephen Kimber:

Jen Powley is smart. She has four degrees. She’s a prize-winning author with an eclectic CV and a significant record of ongoing accomplishment. She’s still only 41. So why does she face a government-imposed Hobson’s life choice: go into a nursing home to be warehoused and “removed from society” for the rest of her life, or accept care that isn’t even adequate to meet her most basic needs?

This article is heart-wrenching. Each day this week, as part of the Examiner’s November subscription drive, I’ll be highlighting the work of a different Examiner contributor. And so I’m making Kimber’s column on Jen Powley available for all to read. Click here to read “Jen’s choice is no choice at all; why not?” It’s the kind of public service journalism we’ve come to expect from Kimber.

Stephen Kimber. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Kimber has been around seemingly forever. I’m not saying he’s old, heh, just that you’d have a hard time finding any local or provincial issue that Kimber hasn’t already addressed over the years — as a reporter at the radical 4th Estate newspaper, as a columnist at the Daily News, The Coast, and Metro, or as the author of nine non-fiction books and one novel. Time and again, I find myself researching something only to find, oh look, Kimber wrote about this in 1992 or whatever.

On top of that extensive library of work, Kimber shepherded a litany of students through the King’s Journalism program, and now they’ve produced enough reporting to fill a wing in the library.

I asked Kimber to become a regular contributor to the Examiner two years ago — tomorrow is the second anniversary of his first Examiner column, “Stephen McNeil and the folly of false choices.” Since then, he has not disappointed. He continues to write insightful and poignant columns. Some of my favourites:

• “How the government chose to build two new schools in the ‘right’ place in the right pre-election time“:

The very suggestion the Nova Scotia government would cherry-pick new school building projects from the bottom of the priority pile simply because said schools would be built in constituencies held by Education Minister Karen Casey and Premier Stephen McNeil, is — cue the harrumphs — “a ridiculous comment to make.”

So says the minister herself. So it must be true.

• “Who is Lyle Howe?” parts 1 and 2.

• “Can Mark Lever succeed where far smarter, far more experienced minds have failed? No“:

In Mark Lever’s alternate-facts reality, the reality that his audacious scheme makes no business, journalistic, or common sense probably makes it make perfect sense to him.

• “Will the next government finally end the 15-year persecution of Dr. Gabrielle Horne? Time to ask…

• “The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, the Paradise Papers, and taxpayer interests“:

So far as I can tell, the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation has not uttered even a single shocked-and-appalled tweet about the revelations in the Paradise Papers, or demanded that Ottawa begin collecting all those billions in lost revenue. So who does the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation really represent? Who are its members? Who funds it… really? And why are its spokespeople always popping up in the mainstream media pretending to speak for Canadian taxpayers — while ignoring their real interests?

• “The Yates case: professional self-regulation or plain old self-protection?“:

In 2015, Pamela Yates began her job as the IWK’s head of youth forensic services. Her early performance reviews — and results — were positive. So why was she “terminated effective immediately” just eight months later?

I could continue, but you get the point: Kimber covers a broad range of issues, bringing historic knowledge and empathy to his subject matter.

Honestly, I don’t know what we’d do without Kimber. He’s such an important resource.

It’s your subscriptions that have made this work possible. Paying Kimber and publishing his work here at the Examiner costs money, and that money comes exclusively from subscribers. There’s no advertising here, no annoying pop-up ads, no tracking or selling your information. It’s a straight-forward arrangement: you buy a subscription, and we use your money to produce this product, including Kimber’s work.

So, please help us to continue to publish Stephen Kimber’s weekly column. Click here to subscribe.

And if you buy an annual subscription this month, we’ll mail you a free Halifax Examiner T-shirt, and you too can experience getting up in the morning, not combing your hair, being in dire need of coffee, and yet, despite that, being stylish as all get go:

2. Containing Northern Pulp’s mess

The aeration basin at Boat Harbour. Photo: Joan Baxter

The pumping of effluent from the Northern Pulp Mill into Boat Harbour will soon stop, but after that comes the cleanup. And that isn’t so straightforward, reports Joan Baxter:

When this effluent system is shut down in 2020, Boat Harbour will be “remediated.” Toxic sludge will be dredged from its bottom, the dam separating the lagoon from the Northumberland Strait will be removed, and Boat Harbour will be restored as a tidal estuary as it was before the pulp effluent began to flow in 1967.

But the toxic sludge that will be dredged from the bottom of Boat Harbour is not going to be sent far away for treatment.

…the sludge will be stored underground in a “containment cell” — a kind of landfill — located on provincial land a little less than 100 metres from Boat Harbour.

Baxter goes on to report that the recent leak at the pipe is not the sixth at the site since 1985.

Click here to read “Containing Northern Pulp’s mess.”

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

3. Biomass fraud

Last week, I noted that over 123 environmental organizations from around the world signed onto a statement titled “The Biomass Delusion,” which condemns the use of biomass as a tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In her May article “Life After Pulp,” Halifax Examiner contributor Linda Pannozzo laid out a similar critique of the use of biomass in Nova Scotia.

Today, Chronicle Herald reporter Aaron Beswick interviews an MIT expert about Nova Scotia’s use of biomass; the expert agrees with the environmental organizations and Pannozzo:

It takes more than 30 tractor-trailer loads of wood a day to feed Nova Scotia Power’s Port Hawkesbury biomass plant when it’s running.

But according to the province’s new cap-and-trade carbon-pricing plan, nothing comes out of the facility’s stacks.

The plan classifies biomass as a carbon-neutral way to create electricity or heat.

The province is taking its cue from federal government policy, along with that of the United States and European Union.

All are attempting to meet promises they made at a much-touted 2015 summit in Paris to reduce carbon emissions to a level that would ideally slow global warming.

The problem is that a tremendous amount of greenhouse gases come out of a biomass plant – often more per unit of electricity than if you’d burned coal.

“It’s an accounting fiction,” John Sterman, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, said of the carbon neutrality of biomass.

“I’d go so far as to call it an accounting fraud.”

Side note: Beswick’s article is labeled as “premium content,” a tag I have not previously seen before at the Herald, and which isn’t explained. I’m guessing that it’s a precursor to a hard paywall at the Herald.

4. Police evidence

Halifax police issued this release Friday afternoon:

Halifax Regional Police (HRP) today announced that it has placed four civilian employees on administrative duty and the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division has initiated an investigation.

These actions were taken in response to information of improper handling of property that was designated to be destroyed and in HRP’s custody in its Property and Exhibit Section. Concurrently, HRP has also initiated a review to fully understand the potential breakdown.

“On Wednesday, information came to light internally that led to questions about the handling of property designated for destruction, and a criminal investigation was immediately initiated,” said Chief Jean Michel Blais of Halifax Regional Police. “At this time, it is unknown if there will be grounds for criminal charges. Although that process is still at a preliminary stage, in the interest of transparency and public interest, we chose to communicate the available information. HRP will also conduct a review into the circumstances.”

Halifax Regional Police’s Property and Exhibit Section handles property that is seized, surrendered or found, and is in the custody of HRP. Exhibits are kept for investigative and court purposes as well as to return property to rightful owners when they are identified. These exhibits do not include property related to drug investigations.

Further details will be made available as the process unfolds.

5. Pedestrian struck

A police release:

At 7:25 p.m. 2 November [Friday evening], Halifax Regional Police responded to a vehicle/pedestrian collision that occurred in the 600 block of Portland Street Dartmouth. A Halifax transit bus was travelling inbound on Portland Street when it collided with a 52-year-old woman in a marked crosswalk. The woman suffered life threatening injuries and was transported to hospital by EHS.

Update: The investigation by the Accident Investigation Section on going and charges under the Motor Vehicle Act are pending.

6. ATV and snowmobile deaths

CBC reporter Jack Julian has compiled a database of people who have died in ATV and snowmobile incidents:

CBC News combined hundreds of police reports, news articles and obituaries to build a computerized list of deaths, and factors that contributed to them.

Of 178 victims, 154 of them … were male. Sixteen were female. In eight cases, information on the gender was unclear.

The CBC investigation found several factors strongly associated with fatal ATV and snowmobile crashes.

In 21 per cent of cases, victims weren’t wearing a helmet.

And no surprise, most of the fatalities involved alcohol or drugs.

7. Bullshitter of the day: SMU’s Entrepreneurship Centre

A reader points me to the webpage for SMU’s Entrepreneurship Centre’s “The Pipeline” er, class?, dance studio?, I dunno, something:

The Pipeline is a social innovation accelerator designed to provide students and community groups the opportunity to ideate and launch sustainable social enterprises.

Through a 12 stage-gate process, The Pipeline challenges the way participants think to ensure the business models created are fundamentally sustainable and scalable. The Pipeline uses the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for exposing global challenges, and uses social innovation as a stimulus for creating community solutions.

The Pipeline is currently accepting 20 ambitious science and engineering students who are eager to use their knowledge to solve the world [sic] greatest challenges. Over the course of eight weeks, students will work in teams to develop new innovative ideas and turn them into reality. The Pipeline is a process that teaches students about design thinking, innovation, and how to launch a business. Faculty of the SMUEC will be facilitating the workshops and helping students form teams, ideate, and accelerate their ideas. Students are not required to have any prior knowledge or experience in developing business models. Students do not need to have an existing idea or a team established before signing up.


The Pipeline is an opportunity to:

• Develop new ideas that could solve the worlds [sic] greatest challenges
• Be immersed in experiential learning
• Apple [sic] in-class education to the real world
• Learn the process of creating a social enterprise
• Showcase your creative and innovative skills

No ideas required!

“Wins hands down for most bullshit words packed into a webpage,” comments the reader.

Think about it: someone took the time to write the above babble, thinking it would attract people to join “The Pipeline.” Maybe it will.

Besides everything else, don’t they have copyeditors over at SMU? I’m worried that the “Apple in class education” has a razor blade in it. There’s an entire English department just across the way; maybe they can provide a grad student to proof the babble.

Do you have a candidate for Bullshitter of the day? Drop me a line at tim “at” halifaxexaminer.ca with “Bullshitter of the day” in the subject line.


Noticed

These are tough times for my home country, and for the world. It’s hard to stay focused on my own work with tomorrow’s elections looming in my consciousness.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the issues involved. Listen to the latest Intercept podcast about Fascism to understand just how frightening these times are.

Over the weekend, a couple of songs have been top of mind for me. First is Allen Toussaint’s evocative cover of Paul Simon’s “American Tune”:

And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
or driven to its knees
But it’s all right, it’s all right
We’ve lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
we’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what went wrong

“American Tune” was Toussaint’s last recording before he died in 2016 (and what a loss that was). I only learned Sunday that that recording was produced by Joe Henry, which is just so coincidental I don’t know what to make of it, because another song that’s been banging around my head the last few days is Henry’s “Our Song”:

This was my country
And this was my song
Somewhere in the middle there
Though it started badly and it’s ending wrong

This was my country
This frightful and this angry land
But it’s my right if the worst of it might still
Somehow make me a better man

No matter what happens Tuesday, the next few years are going to be difficult, to put it mildly. I recall Yeats’ poem, The Second Coming:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The worst, in their passionate intensity, are using racist tropes, chanting “lock her up,” sending mail bombs, shooting up synagogues and yoga studios. “The best” — meaning our supposed betters — lack so much conviction they’re merely trying to figure out a middling route that doesn’t risk their comfortable positions.

And yet, I see so much passion among so many good people, and the hard slogging work they do; there is hope, no matter how stretched that hope may seem now.

Which reminds me… Trump’s idiotic claim that he will “make America great again” is a perversely distorted echo of Langston Hughes’  1935 inspiring poem, “Let America Be America Again“:

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

No matter what happens tomorrow, this is the time for good people everywhere to rise to the occasion.


Government

City

Monday

Grants Committee (Monday, 1pm, Meeting Room 1, 3rd Floor, Duke Tower) — grants to various museums, including to the S.S Atlantic Heritage Park Society. I had forgotten about this bit of local history:

In 1873, the S.S Atlantic steamship carrying an estimated 1,000 people ran ashore off the coast of Lower Prospect. Despite local rescue efforts, approximately 550 people died of whom 277 were interred in the St. Paul’s Anglican Church burial ground and 150 at the Our Lady Star of the Sea Church both located in Terence Bay.

In 2009, the Globe & Mail, relying on Greg Cochkanoff and Bob Chaulk’s book, SS Atlantic: The White Star Line’s First Disaster at Sea, gave an account of the sinking:

It was then, on March 31, that the captain decided to divert to Halifax to refuel. All seemed well at first, but the crew and captain didn’t realize they were off course and not miles out to sea as they thought. They had drifted toward land, a fact that could easily been determined had they sounded for depth. But they didn’t, and at 3:10 a.m. on April 1, the ship crashed into a granite shelf and ground to a halt. Within 10 minutes it was flooded and rolled over on its port side. Women and children trapped in the stern and midship were drowned, some of them agonizingly slowly as the tide rose and water filled their compartments. Not a single woman or child from the quarters segregated for married couples survived the sinking. Only one child from any part of the ship made it out alive; the majority of the survivors were men.

In all, 562 people “were hurried to eternity” that night, as the inquiry put it. Close to 300 were buried in mass graves nearby; a few were taken to Halifax to be claimed by family; and many were lost forever. Bodies were recovered for weeks after, some of them many miles from the crash site.

The authors write that the White Star Line did its best to forget the disaster, striking the name SS Atlantic from all its public records. Not that there was much resistance to this: The authors also point out that the incident occurred in a century when people accepted marine disasters as a fact of life; no one considered the Atlantic to be “unsinkable.” As well, there was not the same media scrutiny in 1873 that there was 39 years later when the Titanic went down, and the public moved on quickly.

The Atlantic sinking was so far from the public’s mind that, when the Titanic sank, no one in the media linked it to the White Star Line’s first disaster at sea. Today there is a small monument at Sandy Cove, N.S., in honour of the victims. It was erected in 1905, 32 years after the SS Atlantic went down. The White Star Line helped pay for it.

The S.S Atlantic Heritage Park Society operates a small museum on a shoestring budget at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, which is staffed by volunteers and summer grant students. City staff is recommending municipal support of the museum of $7,000 for each of the next three years.

North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm, Acadia Hall, Lower Sackville) — small items on the agenda.

Province

No public meetings this week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

Thesis Defence, Physics and Atmospheric Science (Monday, 9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) —PhD candidate Chi Li will defend his ​​thesis, “Interpreting Satellite Remote Sensing, Aircraft and Ground-Based Observations of Aerosol using a Chemical Transport Model​​​.”

Changing EU Schengen Visa Regime: Biopolitics, Risk Management and Networked Databases (Monday, 11:30am, Room 304, Dunn Building) — Can Mutlu from Acadia University will speak.

Mikiko Terashima

SAMoSA Study: Advancing geographic approaches to population health and epidemiology research (Monday, 12pm, Room 409, Centre for Clinical Research) — Mikiko Terashima will speak. Her abstract:

Not only access to healthcare services, but also access to some day-to-day services and amenities in our environment are important determinants of health.  However, how accessibility to these services together can influence the health of populations is still poorly understood for a few reasons. First, existing studies often assess the effects of one service at a time. Second, many studies miss the specificity of given geographic settings.  Third, evidence in health has been often limited to relatively narrow measures to health such as physical activity levels and obesity. Findings from these studies are less useful in identifying priority communities and formulating interventions beyond those related to physical activity and obesity. Our on-going project, named the Spatial Accessibility to a Multitude of Services and Amenities (SAMoSA) Study, attempts to address these shortcomings.

This talk focuses on the approaches taken, while also discussing some data challenges in conducting research such as the SAMoSA Study in the Nova Scotia context.

Trust: Twenty Ways to Build a Better Country (Monday, 5pm, Room 105, Weldon Law Building) — ​Former Governor General David Johnston will talk about his new book.

What is the next frontier: space or the ocean? (Monday, 7pm, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium) — a debate featuring former NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan; test pilot and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Joshua Kutryk;  Canadian astrophysicist Christian Marois; Mark Abbott, president and director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; German marine biologist Antje Boetius; and Boris Worm. Sold out, but live-streamed here.

Tuesday

Policy Matters: Provincial Perspectives on Federal Pharmacare (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 1011, Rowe Building) — info here.

An introduction to the nominal technique (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Frank Fu will speak. His abstract:

In pen and paper proofs, alpha-equivalence (e.g. forall x . P(x) is the same as forall y. P(y)) is not much of a concern, but it is one of the obstacles in formalizing meta-theoretical proofs in proof assistants (e.g. formalizing the meta-theory of programming languages).

The so-called “nominal technique” was first proposed by Gabby and Pitts(1999). It is a mathematical theory (based on G-sets) intended to model and facilitate naming modulo alpha-equivalence. In this talk, I will introduce the category of nominal sets and identify some special objects and properties in this category.​

Saint Mary’s

Tuesday

SMU Indigenous Sharing Circle (Tuesday, 12:30pm, Loyola 290) — with Denise Eisen, Elder at SMU.


In the harbour

01:00: CMA CGM Amazon, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for TKTK
05:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
05:00: Paxi, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
07:00: Selfoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Portland
09:00: Algoma Value, bulker, arrives at Pier 31 from Montreal
11:30: Selfoss sails for sea
16:00: Paxi sails for New York


Footnotes

I’m off to report on something early this morning.

And after complaining about the SMU Entrepreneur Centre’s lack of copyediting, I need to say I don’t have a copyeditor today either. Hopefully Iris will pop in and fix all my stupid mistakes before you read this, but if not, please be kind.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Thanks for drawing attention to the S.S Atlantic Heritage Park Society. They certainly deserve municipal support. Do yourself a favour. The next time you have to drag some visitors out to Peggys Cove, swing by Terence Bay and take in the SS Atlantic Heritage museum. It is a beautiful setting and moving contrast to the tourism circus at Peggys Cove.

    1. I didn’t have time this morning, but hopefully tomorrow I’ll write about the HMS Tribune.

  2. Regarding biomass energy: As Northern Europe recovered from the Black Plague and the population grew there was a permanent energy crisis caused by the scarcity of firewood. Although eventually the problem was mitigated by improved technology (tile stoves and other things the Romans invented):

    https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2008/12/tile-stoves.html

    It is delusional to think that biomass can ever put more than a small dent in our energy consumption, considering that all but the very poorest people in North America and Europe use orders of magnitude more energy than Northern Europeans did 300 years ago. Not to mention, back then the population was much smaller – Sweden, for instance, was mostly deforested for fuel by a population of 2 million in 1700 to fuel their inefficient fireplaces.

    We have the technology to build houses that can be heated by a few cubic meters of wood per year, we just build the same copy-and-pasted crap all over because it is so much cheaper in terms of construction labor and bureaucratic overhead. Try getting all your ducks in a row (engineer’s stamp, municipal approval, etc) to build something even slightly unconventional and the costs become prohibitive quite quickly.

    Those who the Gods wish to destroy…

  3. Kimber alone is worth the money, I forgot how good the Lyle Howe pieces were. To anyone who let their account lapse and has been procrastinating re-subscribing, I can confirm its easy and feels oh so good.