In the harbour
1. Arrests in deaths
Police have made an arrest after a fatal shooting on Stage Rd. in Enfield yesterday.
Earlier this morning at approximately 6 a.m, Homicide investigators from the Halifax Integrated Special Investigation Section, the RCMP Emergency Response Team and Kentville Police Service executed a search warrant at an apartment building in Kentville and arrested a 53-year-old Kings County man. He was taken into police custody without incident.
Police remain on scene at Stage Rd. today where a 47-year-old Bedford man was shot. Members of the RCMP Forensic Identification Section are processing the scene and the RCMP Mobile Command Post is at the location. At approximately 1:50 p.m. yesterday, August 12, Halifax District RCMP responded to a weapons complaint at a residence on Stage Rd. in Enfield. Upon arrival, police found an individual outside the residence suffering from a gunshot wound.
The Chronicle Herald identifies the dead man as Patrick Earnest Deagle and the arrested man as Joseph James Greene.
And the Halifax police department announced yesterday that:
Homicide investigators in the Special Investigation Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division have laid charges against 24-year-old Jordan Rodrigues in connection with the 2011 homicide of James Gregory Wareham.
At 11:15 p.m. on May 22, 2011, officers responded to an apartment in the 0-100 block of Primrose Street in Dartmouth after receiving a call that a man had been stabbed. Upon arrival, the officers located Mr. Wareham suffering from a stab wound. He was rushed to hospital where he passed away.
Homicide investigators arrested Rodrigues without incident at 9:30 a.m. yesterday at an address in the 0-100 block of Walter Havill Drive in Halifax. He is scheduled to appear in Dartmouth Provincial Court today to face charges of second degree murder and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. This was not a random incident as the accused and the victim were known to one another.
2. Economic development
“RCMP seized a computer hard drive from a bank lockbox in Amherst two weeks ago which they believe could be “extremely beneficial” in their investigation of fraud allegations at the former Cumberland Regional Development Authority,” reports the CBC’s Richard Cuthbertson.
As I explained last year (behind paywall), the PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm released a 700-page audit of the CRDA that found:
• The board of directors of CRDA was given no financial information at all; financial statements were kept with CRDA Executive Director Rhonda Kelly.
• “CRDA management and employees routinely participated in the submission of false invoices and cheque copies to ERDT and the recording of accounting entries to conceal the impact of the fictitious documentation.”
• Project and administrative funds were co-mingled, and funds designated for particular projects were used on other projects with no authority to do so.
• Kelly was both the Executive Director of CRDA and the recognized agent for the Downtown Amherst Revitalization Society (DARS); DARS billed CRDA for over $100,000 via what PWC calls “false or questionable” invoices.
• Acquisition of goods and services from several vendors, including Carter’s Sports, Jost Vineyards, and MT&L Public Relations, violated provincial procurement policy.
• Kelly had excessive and “unreasonable” car rentals paid for by CRDA. PWC notes that in 2010, a car was rented for Kelly on over half the working days, including an eight-day stretch for a single rental. The full cost of car rental for Kelly alone (other employees also rented cars) in 2010 and 2011 came to $28,030, and that didn’t include fuel costs.
• Violating provincial rules around alcohol, CRDA regularly purchased special label wine from Jost, amounting to over $14,000 in the four years covered by the audit. The was given to people associated with various CRDA projects and to employees and board members, both of which were inappropriate, says PWC.
In the wake of the audit, the province turned the matter over to the RCMP, and hence the recent search warrant. The CBC continues:
As part of their investigation, RCMP learned all computers at CRDA had been backed up on a hard drive before being wiped clean and prepared for donation. The hard drive was stored in a lockbox at the Amherst CIBC.
Individual employee computers were differentiated on the backup by a number assigned to each employee folder.
In an affidavit, lead investigator Const. Wayne Ross says RCMP technical forensic investigators will be able to comb through the electronic backup to determine who exactly created the false invoices.
Police seized the Seagate external hard drive on July 31, along with a log of everyone who has accessed the lockbox since 2007.
“In order to establish that Rhonda Kelly, or other CRDA staff or board members, may have misappropriated funds, received funds and/or falsified invoices and cheques, electronic copies of all falsified invoices would prove extremely beneficial,” says the affidavit filed in court.
None of the allegations have been tested in court, and Kelly has not yet been charged.
These things don’t just happen. As I commented last year:
We see this time and again: Anything labeled “economic development” gets a pass from the rules everyone else has to follow. It happened in the Commonwealth Games fiasco. It happened when Trade Centre Limited produced completely bogus delegate projections (and therefore economic impact projections) for the new convention centre.
This is what “economic development” schemes do. There are a number of reasons for it. First, and fundamentally, the contradictory purpose of these things is almost guaranteed to lead to corruption, just as HAL 9000’s contradictory programming led to that whole “lock Frank out of the spaceship” thing: the primary purpose of the economic development agency is to break the rules. We have an established tax structure: Nova Scotia Business, Inc works around it to give “payroll rebates” so those tax rates don’t apply to favoured companies. Concert promoters are many things, but at heart they’re business people who have to live by the rules of the market; bring a government partner in, however, and market discipline no longer applies. The job of regional development agencies is, in essence, to be a deal-maker, to work the room, slap a lot of backs, grease a lot of palms, hand out the government bennies, like a coke dealer working a night club. It’s no wonder these things go off the rails.
Second, the “economic development” agencies attract grifters and players. They see where the money is, and want to place themselves as the conduit, with all the social benefit that comes with it. They’re not exactly sticklers for rules.
Third, and I think in the end most important, is we’ve so capitulated to the rhetoric of “economic development” that we no longer can control it. Anyone who questions “economic development” is a “naysayer,” or a misanthrope bent on destroying his or her community. Since we’ve muzzled all the watchdogs, the crooks have the run of the place.
The militarization of the Halifax Regional Police department continues apace. Yesterday, the department issued a tender for anti-riot launchers. Today, the department is looking to buy a robot. Specifically, an iRobot Model 110 Firstlook, pictured above.
iRobot is an US company that started in business making such wonders as the Roomba vacuum cleaner, but the real profits started rolling in thanks to the seemingly unlimited money poured into America’s military adventures in the Middle East. The company’s top-line military robot is the PackBot, which can be configured in various ways to inspect and deal with improvised explosive devices. The Firstlook is a smaller, more affordable knock-off that is also being marketed to police departments:
FirstLook is engineered with visible cameras, long-wave infrared sensors and thermal cameras – all designed to gather and beam back images and video of nearby terrain such as buildings, caves or any potential IED or hazardous location, said Mark Belanger, director of iRobot’s robotic products.
Most of the roughly 500 FirstLook robots delivered to the U.S. military have been sent to Afghanistan, he said. The small size of the robot is designed, among other things, to better enable movement for dismounted infantry units carrying a lot of gear. FirstLook can travel at speeds of 3.8 MPH and has a small manipulator arm that can pick up 2 and ½ pounds of C4 explosive material, Belanger added.
First delivered in 2012, the FirstLook has a line-of-sight range of about 200 meters and uses standard RF technology and tele-operation for navigation. The Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, ordered roughly 100 FirstLook robots in March of 2012 in a $1.5 million deal. Since that time, iRobot has gone on to deliver about 400 more FirstLook robots to U.S. military and law enforcement entities, company officials said.
However, like other small tactical robots made by irobot such as the PackBot and Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle, FirstLook has received software upgrades allowing it to reach certain levels of semi-autonomy, Belanger said.
The small robot can also function as part of a mesh network wherein video feeds from multiple robots can be looked at in real time, essentially extending the range of the FirstLook sensors.
Yes, we are now living Minority Report:
Lezlie Lowe talks with Brendan Jones, the lawn-mower at Kentville Memorial Park — in Kentville, they arranged government services in such a fashion that the grass at ballfields actually gets cut. And Jones is that rarity: a man who takes pride in his job.
2. Cranky letter of the day
On Tuesday, Nova Scotia Power (an Emera subsidiary) said it will ask the provincial regulator to allow it to increase its power rates to its largest consumers. Its reasoning is an anticipated increase in its fuel bill.
On the same day, Emera released figures showing another record year for profit; it increased its dividend to $1.90 per share (over four per cent) with a promise for further increases in the future.
Assuming that the provincial regulator is on the side of the consumer, it should have no trouble refusing this request.
Ron Young, New Glasgow
“When you say ‘world-class,’” former Toronto Mayor David Miller told me in 2013, “you’re really saying something like, ‘Well, we actually really don’t like what we are, we want to try to be something else.’ And first of all, you never can be something else, and secondly, that’s demeaning to a city. Toronto is a great city, and if it focuses on its strengths it can be even better. The same thing is true of Halifax. But neither of us is Paris. Nor should we try to be.”
I had called Miller because I was documenting the spread of the phrase “world-class” as meaningless bullshit phrase tossed out to dupe people in Halifax. The result was an article I’m still pretty proud of, headlined “Two Decades of World-Class Delusion.” It even won an award. But ever since, I’ve been haunted by “world-class”es popping up seemingly everywhere. Turns out, calling bullshit on bullshit just creates more bullshit.
And sure enough, the latest issue of Boston Magazine sports a piece headlined “World Class Culinary Adventures in Nova Scotia.” The article celebrates Brooklyn Warehouse, Ace Burger Company, EnVie, Lion & Bright, EDNA, Two Doors Down, Chives, and other restaurants in Halifax. This isn’t to criticize the restaurants; they’re all good dining options — I’ve eaten at two of them within the last week — but any town can, and should, have decent dining options. Yet as good as our local restaurants are, as Miller would say, Halifax is no Paris.
So how do we get Boston Magazine, published in a fairly sophisticated food market, going on about Halifax’s supposedly “world-class” restaurants? Not, it turns out, because the publishers have a real interest in Halifax or its food. And not because the readers of the magazine are just itching to know they can get sweet pea bruschetta on Barrington Street. And not even because an enterprising freelancer pitched an earnest piece that could fill a slow news summer’s editorial hole.
Rather, Boston Magazine published the piece because it was paid to do so. The “world-class” article is a piece of advertorial, produced by an unnamed writer employed by Destination Canada, which is a crown corporation whose mission is to promote tourism in Canada. The “world-class” article is part of a Destination Canada project called LookUp.ca, which is in turn sponsored by the provinces of Nova Scotia, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Ontario. (No doubt lookup.ca violates the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but that’s another issue.)
So what’s wrong with promoting tourism to Canada in Boston Magazine? Were the piece simply and clearly labelled an advertisement, I wouldn’t be writing this. But Boston Magazine uses code words to disguise what’s going on — the article is “sponsored content…presented by LookUp.ca,” reads the byline, with no explanation of what LookUp.ca is. At the very bottom of the page, after all the related article links and such, appears the single line “this post is a sponsored collaboration between LOOKUP.ca and Boston magazine’s advertising department,” but it’s doubtful that many readers will scroll down that far, or if they do, clearly understand that the piece is paid advertising.
I base that assessment of the fact that the article is the fourth most viewed piece in the entire issue — right after articles headlined “10 Best Reactions to Tom Brady’s Courtroom Sketch,” “How the Heroin Crisis Ushered in a Hepatitis C Epidemic,” and “Celtics Owner Wyc Grousbeck’s Estate Is for Sale,” and even more popular than “New Plan Could Transform Dated South Bay Center,” “Data Shows Who Lives Where in Boston Neighborhoods,” and “Boston Docs Join the #ILookLikeaSurgeon Movement.” Is it really possible that Boston Magazine readers are more interested in an advertisement about Halifax than an actual news article about who lives in their own neighbourhoods?
This blurring of editorial and advertising lines dumbs us down. It’s anti-journalism. Things are “presented” to us, and we become aware of them, not because of their inherent news value but rather because more marketing money was dumped into them than is dumped into other stories. It skews our world view to align with the interests of money.
It should be the job of honest journalism to bring us the under-reported stories, the issues that don’t have a lot of promotion money behind them, and to challenge the powers that be.
In the harbour
ZIM Piraeus, container ship, arrived at Pier 42 this morning from New York
Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, Saint-Pierre to Pier 36, then sails back to Saint-Pierre
Baarkald sails to sea
Oceanex Sanderling sails to St. John’s
The US Coast Guard Cutter James leaves port today, but the US Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay will replace it, tying up at Cable Wharf.
We’ll be publishing episode #23 of Examineradio later today.
Anyone counted all the economists employed by the province ?
Anyone counted all the policy analysts employed by the province ?
Do they make any difference to the lives of Nova Scotians ?
I wonder how the restaurants not profiled in the Boston mag feel about their government putting money into actively promoting their competitors.
I am swinging between rage and despair about the CRDA behaviour. But no surprise and no hope that humans will ever change. From the smallest of grabs like a bottle of wine or a car rental to billion dollar planet exploitation, we consistently suck.
I wonder what those RENs (sons/daughters of the RDAs) are doing these days?
“And Jones is that rarity: a man who takes pride in his job.” Maybe the heat and humidity got to you, Tim. In my experience, a man or woman who takes pride in their job is hardly a rarity. What’s a rarity is a news story that describes the work that workers do — generally to the best of their ability and to the extent that their employer allows it to be done.