In the harbour
1. FIFA scandal: the Nova Scotia connection
Canover Watson — now under arrest on fraud, corruption and money laundering charges, and also under investigation for corruption related to the FIFA scandal — was managing director of Admiral Administration, a firm that received over $2 million in payroll rebates from Nova Scotia Business Inc. Read the details here.
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2. Unique Solutions
Another Chronicle Herald story about Unique Solutions, and another sleight of hand to mislead readers. This article is about an infusion of $15 million into the company. Along the way, business reporter Joann Alberstat slides the pea from one cup to the other; watch for the misdirect:
“We’re looking to further the next generation of our body-scanning technology,” [company founder Tanya Shaw] said in an interview. “We are working toward that to be released in Q1 of next year.”
Unique, launched in 2009, started off developing its technology by placing full-size booths in shopping malls in the United States. The technology scanned consumers’ bodies and told them where they can find the best-fitting clothes.
The kiosks were free for the consumer, and clothing makers paid Unique each time the system recommended their product.
The company originally had plans to place 300 scanners across North America by the end of 2013, although only 65 ended up being deployed.
The chairwoman said the technology did reach its goal of compiling one million body scans. Shaw said the hand-held scanners will be lower-cost and easier to distribute than the kiosks.
“The current technology is large. That’s the challenge,” she said. “It’s a 10 by 10-(foot) booth. Not only is it expensive, it takes up a lot of floor space.”
Not mentioned? That those 65 “deployed” scanning booths were un-deployed (removed from the malls) and that Unique Solutions’ stock value has been written down by 80 per cent. Nova Scotia Business Inc. sank $5.6 million into the company, and that “investment” is now worth less than a million dollars.
The new $15 million comes from Northwater Capital Management, which I’m told already owns a controlling share of the company. Northwater has been trying to buy out other investors for pennies on the dollar of their initial investments.
I have no knowledge of the “next generation” scanning device. Who knows? Maybe it’s really a thing, and good luck and all, but I suspect something else entirely is at play. I’ll get into that on another day.
3. Evan Solomon
I don’t usually discuss national news in this section, but the facts in the Toronto Star’s report on Evan Solomon so very piss me off that I need to comment. First, the story:
The Star found Solomon has been brokering the sale of paintings and masks owned by a flamboyant Toronto-area art collector to rich and famous buyers. Solomon, in at least one case, took commissions in excess of $300,000 for several pieces of art and did not disclose to the buyer that he was being paid fees for introducing buyer and seller.
Among the people to whom Solomon has brokered the sale of paintings are Jim Balsillie, co-founder of Research In Motion (now BlackBerry) and Mark Carney, the former Bank of Canada governor and current governor of the Bank of England.
Solomon, as a journalist, has dealt with both men in his high-profile host jobs at the CBC. Carney, who is also a friend, has been a guest on both of Solomon’s shows.
Solomon met Balsillie while courting him as a journalist two years ago in unsuccessful attempts to get him on CBC to discuss sustainable development and small businesses, as well as Balsillie’s role in backing the search for the Franklin expedition ships.
The CBC code of ethics states that employees “must not use their positions to further their personal interests.”
The Star story is lengthy, specific, and damning. Within hours after it was published, the CBC fired Solomon:
CBC News has “ended its relationship” with Power & Politics host Evan Solomon, CBC editor in chief Jennifer McGuire said in a note to staff.
The note came after the Toronto Star published a report claiming that Solomon had brokered art deals involving people whom he also dealt with as a journalist.
CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson told reporter Ioanna Roumeliotis that based on information that came to the broadcaster’s attention on Monday, CBC determined that some of Solomon’s activities were inconsistent with the organization’s conflict of interest and ethics policy, as well as journalistic standards and practices.
The decision to end Solomon’s employment was based on the findings of an internal review conducted over the last two days, he said.
Look, I’m just some dude in Halifax, far from the corridors of power. But I’ve spent my life trying to figure out how to be a reporter, and how to do it correctly. I’ve never made anywhere near the six figures plus that Solomon made, and have no desire to, but so what? This is what I’ve always wanted to do. Throughout my career, I’ve wrestled with issues of ethics and tried to stay true to the old school journalistic principles. It’s high in my mind.
Enough about me.
I watch reporters entering the field, earnest young people, in the best sense of the word. They’re writing freelance, making 80 bucks an article, living on ramen and dealing with asshole editors. I’ve seen the spark in their eyes, the desire to learn, to understand, to get it right. They’re self-taught, acquiring skills I never even imagined as a young reporter — html, audio, video, social media, and more. The job market is beyond tight; most move on to other careers, but the best of them get hired as reporters at 25 or 30K a year. They do this because they value journalism, and my respect for them is boundless.
I know a lot of CBC reporters, too, some full-time, some on contract work. They get paid shit, and fear they’ll lose their jobs at the next round of budget cuts, while the corporate managers get big bonuses for reducing costs. Still, they work hard and produce amazing copy, the day-in, day-out coverage that we’ve come to rely on and, beyond the call of duty, the pieces that make a real difference in the world. Yet the repeated scandals among the celebrity hosts bring disrepute onto the entire network, and onto their work.
Last month I visited the Newseum, the news museum in Washington, DC. On one floor, tastefully removed from the more dynamic exhibits, was a memorial to journalists killed on the job. I took a picture of the photo mural of some of the reporters killed in the last couple of years:
Reporters Without Borders says 71 reporters were killed in 2013. Another 826 were arrested for doing their jobs. Thousands more were threatened and beaten. Already this year, 30 reporters have been killed.
People die for this thing we do. And Solomon’s fucking around with side art deals?
Yes, we get it: you can throw ethics to the wind and parlay your reporting connections into meaningful cash. But you know what? There’s a shitload more money to be made working directly for power. You want money? Go into fucking PR. That’s where the real money is.
If every media outlet in the country were to disappear tomorrow — all the newspapers out of business, TV and radio news shows taken off the air — the governments and corporations would still get their message out just fine. They don’t need reporters for that. Nobody is paying you to brownnose power, or to rewrite press releases, or to be an uninteresting twerp. Your job is to be an asshole, to call bullshit, to explain how the powers that be are fucking us over. And, sorry, you won’t get paid shit for it. That’s part of the deal.
You’re either a journalist, or you’re part of the problem.
The Liberal government has cut $105,000 in funding for an Ecology Action Centre program that encourages kids to walk to school. “For more than 12 years,” explains Metro, “the money provided 24 schools province-wide with access to coordinators, who would help staff and parents brainstorm strategies to promote walking and bicycling amongst students.”
I’m a huge advocate of walking, and walk most everywhere I go myself. Kids are safer walking than they are being driven everywhere, it’s healthier for them, and better for the planet…but.
Maybe the EAC’s messaging is off and/or the press is getting it wrong, but the Chronicle Herald reports that “the program has been in place for 12 years and is in 24 schools, including eight in Cape Breton, directly engaging with over 2,000 students across the province.”
Let’s do the math here. That’s 50 bucks per kid per year for 12 years. It’s hard to disagree with health minister Leo Glavine. “It was the right decision at this time,” he said. “We have thousands of children who walk to school without any programs in place.”
1. Mother Canada
George Mercer, a former park warden in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, writes:
It’s this latest proposal, to erect what is being called the “Mother Canada” memorial in Green Cove in Cape Breton Highlands National Park that is a kind of tipping point for me.
Our veterans are in my view, one of the most deserving groups of Canadians.
Remembrance Day for me is the most significant statutory holiday of the year.
I have worked with veterans for decades and have nothing but respect for the service they gave to our country and the price they paid for doing so.
My parents lived on the “Army Side” near the present day town of Gander in Newfoundland and helped build the town from its war-era beginnings. War-related stories were a significant part of my upbringing.
One national park in every province and territory has a memorial to the sacrifices made by each and every person who served our country in wartime. In Cape Breton Highlands, that memorial sits on French Mountain, overlooking the iconic view of the park’s coastline that is known around the world.
The inscription is short but poignant.
They will never know the beauty of this place,
See the seasons change, enjoy nature’s chorus.
All we enjoy we owe to them, men and women who
Lie buried in the earth of foreign lands and in
the seven seas. Dedicated to the memory of
Canadians who died overseas in the service of their
country and so preserved our heritage.
It is a deeply meaningful and appropriate memorial, well situated in one of our most special of places. It fits well within the context of a national park and its inscription hits the mark.
A grotesque 26m tall monument in Green Cove, Cape Breton Highlands National Park does not.
There are famous memorials across Europe that play homage to the sacrifices of those who fought and those who lost their lives during the Great Wars. Vimy is one such site and the proposed Mother Canada memorial has been likened to it.
But Vimy was a significant battleground. Green Cove was not.
Let’s not make it one.
2. Cranky letter of the day
Please, please, stop this shameful deal to impose possibly the ugliest, most distasteful, pretentious, vulgar lump of concrete on our province.
How can Parks Canada be allowed to give away our land to private developers? Who gave the final approval of this abomination? If this final approval was given by the Prime Minister or his PCO, it would seem to indicate that they have no interest in the families of those who died in our armed forces or of today’s veterans.
If the proponent of this Soviet-style monument, Mr. Tony Trigiani, actually wanted to build something lasting for our veterans, does he not understand that memorials have already been built over the years and that he could use his money to help the veterans who have suffered PTSD, loss of limbs, and who need assistance in their lives by setting up a foundation for them?
Otherwise, it looks very much as if the monument is to himself. He should build it in Ontario. But not in Ottawa. They seem to have their own problem there with the government preparing to build another monstrosity supposedly as memorial for victims of communism.
Why would they think that building a Soviet-style monument would make victims of communism happy?
I lived in the Soviet Union for a couple of years and that is the kind of monument that is being proposed for our capital. Why?
Mary MacMillan, Cornwallis
Harbour East Community Council (6pm, Dartmouth Sportsplex) — lots of development proposals.
No public meetings.
In the harbour
ZIM Constanza, container ship, arrived at Pier 41 this morning
Octavia, container ship, New York to Pier 41
Virgo Leader, car carrier, Emden, Germany to Autoport
Fundy Rose sails to sea
Ningbo Express sails to sea
Podcast recording day. Then I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 4pm.
My uninformed guess is that a Toronto gallery owner or pee-ed off art dealer is the source of the leak!
Just a thought!
Re: Evan Solomon
People like Evan Solomon, Amanda Lang and Peter Mansbridge do more harm to the reputation of the CBC and the serious journalists who work there than they do to journalism in general. People who have a serious interest in politics and current affairs must support and promote sites like The Halifax Examiner, CanadaLand and Rabble.ca, as well as independent bloggers who actually look for real news and report it to their readers.
If the Herald died tomorrow, I wouldn’t bat an eye – provided columnists like Ralph Surrette still had a place to comment on local issues. The CBC has some fine journalists and interviewers (locally, Stephanie Domet is my favourite), but unfortunately the greedy posers like the ones I mentioned above are simply giving ammunition to the Harper crowd who would like to get rid of the CBC altogether. Keep up the good work of real journalism.
Re 3. Evan Solomon
Seems the ethics and infraction aren’t clear to some. Let’s try applying the same core dynamics to a different arena, one of adoption, either human or animal. A CEO or similar decision-maker makes secret, side, profit-incurring deals with powerful contacts, people with whom he/she interacts, either through a personal or related professional, public-interest role. It’s been done, sadly, in the human arena and in our own back yard, e.g. “Butterbox Babies,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterbox_Babies. A salaried journalist’s monetary gain is supposed to come from his/her job unless/until outside sources are approved and disclosed to an employer, and ideally disclosed publicly as well. It keeps the core investigative and/or information-sharing purpose honest and honestly perceived. Great piece on it, Tim.
An iPolitics writer wryly noted today: “This isn’t what Ben Bradlee meant by ‘follow the money’, people.”
Can anyone doubt that The Star’s Kevin Donovan got the leak for his takedown of Evan Solomon from someone close to the PMO? There are many ways to undermine the CBC.
Reading the article, I think it’s pretty obvious that Balsillie was the source of the info.
Whoops, I meant Bruce Bailey.
I have always liked Evan Solomon’s work. I read the Star piece and I can see the professionalism issue. What I’m having trouble gauging is, how bad was this? Like, on a scale of one to ten of ethical violations? I see how he did something off side, but the immediate firing of a good journalist seems a harsh response too.
If I’m making $300,000 from the sale of art to a dude, am I going to piss him off by asking tough questions in an interview, or am I going to lob softballs at him to keep him happy with me? Think about it. He either storms out of the studio pissed off, or he comes has drinks with me after, where I introduce him to my favourite art dealer buddy.
I haven’t quite wrapped my head around how art sales can be *so* heinous and anti-ethical just a year after Jian Ghomeshi and while we are waiting to hear about Senate scandals, but then I haven’t read the Star piece. I agree good journalists should have higher value in our society.
Just to be clear though, PR may on average pay more than journalism (I don’t know but I’ll assume you have the facts on that, and aren’t just indulging in grass-is-greener sniping) but there are plenty of underpaid PR jobs — and PLENTY of ethical, idealistic PR practitioners who just want to do good in the world. It may be a different set of ideals than journalists have – and I’m not convinced that’s always the case — but I am plenty tired of my profession being treated like second class money grubbing sycophants and liars.
Sheesh. It’s not like we’re lawyers. (Kidding, Derek Simon. Kidding)
(Every profession needs another one to say, ‘at least we’re not THOSE guys’. Who do politicians say that about? )
I’d be more sympathetic to this view if, as in journalism, there were more PR professionals calling out other PR professionals for unethical behaviour. I know of exactly one organized effort — desmogblog. That’s it. And yet the media landscape is full of organizations devoted to calling out bad reporting (FAIR, Media Matters, etc), newspapers pointing out bad reporting (e.g, the WaPo calling out Rolling Stone), and individual reporters calling out bad reporting (e.g., me). Where’s the equivalent in PR? When PR professionals refuse to criticize their colleagues, how are they not part of the problem?
Too bad Evan couldn’t have just waited for a Senate appointment before cashing in. I hear that’s where the real money is.