Hi, I’m Joan Baxter, a Nova Scotian journalist and author. Some of my books are actually quite upbeat, proving that I’m not always a bearer of bad news.


1. Abandoned tidal turbine

A photo of the tidal turbine.
Photo: Cape Sharpe Tidal

Jennifer Henderson updates the situation of the abandoned tidal turbine in the Minas Basin in this article for the Examiner.

After a month of turmoil, regulatory uncertainty, and inertia, it appears steps are being taken to monitor the environmental impact in the immediate zone around an abandoned tidal turbine at the bottom of the Bay of Fundy near Parrsboro.

The five-storey high machine is owned and operated by Cape Sharp Tidal, a joint venture between Emera and OpenHydro of Ireland. OpenHydro was declared insolvent July 26 when its French parent company Naval Energies pulled the plug. Naval Energies is owed close to $200 million.

Emera spokesperson Stacey Pineau says the liquidator appointed by the Irish High Court, Grant Thornton, has allocated money to pay for fish studies and the deployment of an underwater platform equipped with sonar and equipment for measuring currents within a 100-meter vicinity of the turbine.

Sending down the FAST platform (Fundy Advanced Sensor Technology) to monitor the spinning turbine’s environmental impact on marine life is a condition of approvals granted by the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to undertake a field test at the demonstration site in the Minas Passage.

The turbine is not producing power and there’s been no monitoring of fish or marine mammals for the past month.

It could take several days to a week to deploy the platform: the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy has been hired by Cape Sharp to deliver the unmanned platform to carry out the monitoring while a court decides the future of the $33-million turbine. Emera is withdrawing from the project.

2. Little Bass River porpoise dead on shore

Dead porpoise found near Bass River. Photo courtesy of Mathew Boyd/ Shoreline Journal Photo.

If indeed environmental monitoring is going to be put in place for the turbine, it can not come soon enough for fishermen in the area. The monthly Shoreline Journal, which serves the Fundy Shore / Glooscap Trail from Truro to Parrsboro, has published a photo of a dead porpoise on its Facebook page. The photo, taken by Matthew Boyd of Tatamagouche, is accompanied by a short write-up about how Boyd found the porpoise when he took his children bass fishing on August 4. Writes Shoreline Journal editor Maurice Rees:

Boyd, who has a cottage on Kings-Minas Road, noticed something floating. He waded out and upon investigation found an adult female porpoise, which weighed in at 163 lbs [28.6 kg] and measured over 5’6” [1.68 m].

He says it had two significant injuries – one on each side of its head. He called to report the incident. The porpoise was picked up by MARS [Marine Animal Response Society] and is the second of two to wash up in the Minas Basin since the unmonitored turbine was installed.

According to area fishers, the perfect situation is in place to create an environment with no accountability. The turbine, which is spinning freely, is not being monitored; creates no data and with no data there is no proof and therefore nothing happened.

Fisherman Darren Porter, who has been very vocal about the risks of the turbine and the way the project has been handled from the beginning, sent me a copy of the July 19, 2018 Canada Fisheries and Oceans authorization for the project. It describes the turbine as 16 m in diameter, with 10 blades, each about 2.4 m wide and 4.8 m long, which spin at between 7.5 and 14  rotations per minute. Porter points out that the tidal currents are extremely strong and that marine life is put at enormous risk from the turbine, which continues to spin unmonitored in a crucial passage for marine life in the Minas Basin.

Based on past experience with the turbine, Porter is not optimistic: he tells me the last time it was put in the Minas Basin with functioning environmental monitoring, the sonar monitoring equipment was installed upside down, facing the ocean floor.

In today’s Chronicle Herald, Aaron Beswick also writes about the dead porpoise, in an article with the subtitle “no evidence connects death to turbine yet.” Beswick reports that the porpoise has been scheduled for a necropsy at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown this week, to determine the cause of its death, and that a dead dolphin was found near Highland Village on August 4. Both died after the installation of the tidal turbine in late July.

Neither Fisheries and Oceans Canada nor the province have yet made public plans for if or how the turbine will be removed from the Minas Passage. It took three months for its owners to remove another similar turbine from the water in 2017.

Beswick also spoke with Darren Porter:

“The issue here is that we don’t have any data,” said weir fisherman Darren Porter, who has long campaigned against the turbine.

“They’ve put this thing in an area of water we call the highway of life, and now there’s no monitoring so they can all stand back and say, ‘There’s no data that it’s killing anything.’”

3. Burnside protest continues

Sandra Hannebohm writes in The Coast that despite denials from the Department of Justice, the protest that has been covered extensively by El Jones here in The Examiner, continues in the Burnside jail.

Bianca Mercer doesn’t sugarcoat the conditions she endured at the Central Nova Correctional Facility in Burnside.

“You can see the dirt on the floor and you’re in your bare feet. You feel ashamed.”

Mercer was one of four prison reform advocates speaking Monday evening at an open information session in support of the ongoing, non-violent protest by inmates at Central Nova.

The gathering was in solidarity with Nova Scotian prisoners who published an open letter two weeks ago announcing the protest, and listing demands such as better health care, rehabilitative programs, exercise equipment, personal clothing and shoes, food comparable to other jails, access to the library and a healthier canteen.

El Jones, who broke this story for the Examiner, participated in this week’s information session in the Glitter Bean cafe in Halifax.

Mount Allison University sociology professor Ardath Whynacht and Mercer, who now works as an advocate for the Elizabeth Fry Society, was also there and vocal about the criminal justice, which she said is:

“…hands-down the least evidence-based, biggest garbage fire of wasted money that could possibly happen.”

The provincial government, however, maintains things are fine in Burnside:

Department of Justice spokesperson Sarah Gillis denied the existence of the prisoner protest last week, saying the jail is “operating as usual.” In an emailed statement to The Coast, Gillis states the province provides healthy food to inmates and has several rehabilitative programs.

4. Swissair, two decades on, Stephen Kimber reflects

Stephen Kimber

Global News’ Sarah Ritchie brings reflections from University of King’s College journalism professor, author, and Halifax Examiner columnist Stephen Kimber about the Swissair crash, in the lead-up to the 20th anniversary on September 2.

Kimber, who wrote the book, Flight 111: A year in the life of a tragedy, tells Global that he wasn’t one of the many journalists who went immediately to the site to report on the disaster; he was working on another book at the time and didn’t even hear about it until 18 hours after it happened. It wasn’t until he heard the name of someone he knew — the best friend of his brother-in-law — among the casualties that it suddenly became real to him.

At that point, he tells Global, he shelved the book he was working on and began one on the tragedy.

The book is an in-depth look at the lives of the people involved in one of the worst disasters to ever hit Nova Scotia. It details who they were, why they were on that flight from New York to Geneva on Sept. 2, 1998, and what happened to the families and loved ones left behind when 229 lives ended abruptly in the ocean.

Kimber also tells the stories of some of the many Nova Scotians who pitched in to help, and officials whose lives were interrupted by a nearly five-year investigation.

“Fisherman from around that area have a long history of, you know, if somebody is in trouble they all just muster at the docks and go out and try to rescue them,” he said. “What they thought they were getting into was something like that – they were going out into a situation where a small plane had come down, they’d heard the noise, they hadn’t heard any news, they didn’t know what it was. And then of course they get out there, and they’re greeted with this horrific scene.”

Kimber says 6,000 Nova Scotians sought counselling in the period after the crash, a testament to how deeply the tragedy and the subsequent investigation affected people.

The anniversary, he says, will bring back a lot of memories.

5. Worst roads in Canada?

A road sign reading "Rough Section Next 7 km" has a handwritten sign saying "shamefully" posted above it.
Frustrated Nova Scotians sometimes add adjectives to describe the extent of the roughness of a rough road. Photo: Joan Baxter

In an article with the headline “Nova Scotia roads among worst in country,” Josh Healey writes in The Chronicle Herald that roads, highways and anything else we drive on in this province have been “deemed poor in a recent Statistics Canada survey.”

When compared to other Atlantic provinces, Nova Scotia’s infrastructure rated poorly but that doesn’t surprise stakeholders dealing with the effects of its potholed highways.

And according to the survey, many of the 23,000 kilometers of roads and highways maintained by the province are also in poor condition.

The survey, which collected data from 1,500 government organizations, set out to determine the state of the nation’s infrastructure.

In the inventory of publicly owned road assets, Nova Scotia had the highest percentages of poor ratings out of all the Atlantic provinces. This inventory included highways, arteries, collector, and local roads.

For example, 49 per cent of the province’s highways were rated as poor or very poor while the Canadian average sat at 17.1 per cent.

According to Marla MacInnis, a media relations adviser for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, the poor roads may be partly explained by Nova Scotia’s weather and a unique freeze-thaw cycle. MacInnis noted that:

… unlike other parts of Canada, Nova Scotia is affected by warm air coming up from the Carolinas and freezing air from the Arctic.

I’m certainly not an expert on roads, but I do wonder if there are some other factors at play here too. Could the heavy logging trucks that ply the 200-series highway near my home in northern Nova Scotia also have something to do with the wear and tear on country roads? I can’t even imagine what the roads will look like with still bigger and heavier logging trucks on them, and if the Nova Scotia government greenlights all the huge gold mines that have been proposed (you can read about them here and here in the Examiner, or here and here in the Cape Breton Spectator).

Of course if the corporations behind these big projects were to pay the royalties and taxes that they should — and that’s a big if — then the government might have more money to maintain the roads.

And while I’m dreaming about how things could be, how about if Nova Scotia were to follow the lead of more progressive jurisdictions around the world that recognize the potential of travel and tourism-by-bicycle? That might mean adding substantial paved shoulders to save lives and encourage local people and visitors from far and wide to come and visit, ride the rural roads, and spend their money to strengthen rural economies by eating, drinking, sleeping and recreating in rural communities in Canada’s Ocean Playground.


1. Critics ask Germany not to support Goldboro LNG plant

Screenshot from Pieridae Energy website of rendering of proposed LNG plant and terminal in Goldboro, Nova Scotia.

Even as Calgary-based Pieridae Energy is busy signing deals and talking up the viability of its proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant in Goldboro on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, and talking it up in the media, citizens on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean are busy trying to get the brakes put on the project.

More specifically, they have been trying to get the German government to withdraw from a loan guarantee for USD $4 billion for the project.

On August 21, more than 30 Canadian and German groups – including the Nova Scotia Fracking Resource and Action Coalition (NOFRAC), the Ecology Action Centre, the Council of Canadians, a handful of Quebec environmental groups, and many more German ones — signed and sent a letter to the German Ministers of Environment and of Economics, as well as to politicians in all the major political parties in Germany. A press release from the coalition, published by the Nova Scotia Advocate’s Robert Devet, states:

The German guarantee would enable construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal with an export capacity of 10 million metric tons a year in Goldboro, Nova Scotia. The guarantee would be granted in return for a commitment to guarantee Germany a part of the exported LNG. Already, German Uniper S.E. made a commitment to buy at least 50% (5 million metric tons) of the total capacity of the terminal for 20 years.

The loan guarantee would also support Pieridae’s project to produce approximately half of the 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day to supply the terminal. According to Pieridae’s corporate presentation dated June, 2018, the gas exported to Europe would be supplied by fracking in Western Canada (74%), Eastern Canada (13%), and the Marcellus shale in the United States (13%).

Some of the Eastern Canada natural gas is supposed to come from Quebec. The press release suggests there are expectations that other provinces, where there is currently a moratorium on fracking, may soon change their minds:

The Frederick Brooks and Hiram Brooks sites are also targeted in New Brunswick, where, according to Pieridae, the Conservative Party indicated that it will end the moratorium on fracking if it is elected on September 24th this year.

The first letter was followed up by another one on August 27, this time from NOFRAC Nova Scotia and Guysborough Communities Coalition. It too asks the German government not to provide Pieridae with an Undertaking Financial Guarantee (UFK) of US $4 billion, for a host of reasons.

Nova Scotia has so far been successfully meeting its greenhouse gas reduction targets. But if built the Goldboro LNG plant will by itself increase Nova Scotia’s projected 2022 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20%. Germany would not achieve a comparable GHG reduction even if the LNG displaced coal burning electricity generation. And it appears that LNG from Goldboro will simply displace other natural gas from existing sources Uniper is currently using to generate electricity.

Pieridae has acquired in a non-cash stock swap a money losing and near-bankrupt Western Canada gas producer to supply the proposed Goldboro LNG plant. Without major debt financing Pieridae can do nothing with these assets and that [sic] it has engaged [German government-owned] KfW IPEX-Bank to lobby for the awarding of an Undertaking Financial Guarantee (UFK). No North American financial institution would invest in these assets.

Considering the depressed prices of Canadian natural gas producing assets, and the chronic structural oversupply of Western Canadian gas, this is transparently a risky financial proposition for Germany.

In its letter, NOFRAC also raises the spectre of fracking:

Hydraulic fracturing is now effectively banned in four eastern Canadian provinces, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The oil and gas industry strongly opposed the fracking ban in Nova Scotia and our neighbouring provinces, and they have continued to pressure governments to lift the fracking bans. These efforts increased this year because of the promise of an LNG facility in Goldboro. If Germany provides Pieridae with a UFK for the LNG facility in Goldboro, it will be providing the oil and gas industry a far greater incentive, and argument, to pressure our governments to lift the existing bans on fracking.

If Germany approves this financially risky Undertaking Financial Guarantee, it will be encouraging the expansion in Canada of hydraulic fracturing that is banned within its own national borders.

There’s more, but it gets into a lot of complex material about pipelines, which will have to wait for another day.

I contacted Pieridae to ask whether they had seen the letters, and if so, what their reaction was. This is the reply I received from spokesperson Mark Brown:

Yes, we have seen the letters. We are well aware of the restrictions imposed by the government of Germany regarding the use of the guarantee and we will not be using it for any of the purposes indicated by these uninformed groups.

Asked for elaboration, Brown replied that this was Pieridae’s “complete response.”

2. Cheerleaders for big gas

Screenshot of BNN interview with Pieridae Energy CEO and president, Alfred Sorensen

Of course, there are others who are very much in favour of the proposed LNG plant.

Some media sources don’t bother mentioning the project’s critics and their criticisms.

One example is Global News’ Peter Watts, who interviewed Pieridae’s CEO Alfred Sorensen, and then described the plant as bringing a “new kind of gold” to Goldboro. Watts doesn’t mention several large gold mines planned for eastern Nova Scotia, including the Anaconda’s proposed open pit and underground gold mine in Goldboro itself, and seems to be confused about Goldboro’s location, as he places it on the “northeastern shore” of Nova Scotia, when it is actually on the Eastern Shore.

Another source of unquestioningly positive coverage of the LNG project is the weekly Guysborough Journal, which says on its website that it is “dedicated to providing fair and comprehensive coverage of Guysborough County issues and events to our readers.”

In its August 22, 2018 edition, The Journal’s editorial overflows with optimism that Pieridae’s “[US] $10 billion mega-project” is “very close” to reaching “a positive conclusion.” Pieridae, according to the editorial, “is closing in on financial and business arrangements in Europe that are essential to making Goldboro LNG a reality.”

With the announcement of the appointment of KfW IPEX-Bank as an advisor to the finalization of a multi-billion dollar loan guarantee from the German government and the negotiation of purchase of sale of LNG from Train 2 of the Goldboro Liquefaction facility to Switzerland’s Axpo Group, there is a profound momentum for the project that has caught the eye of more industry observers.

Add to that Sorensen’s confirmation last week that talks with the pipeline giant TransCanada Corp about sourcing gas from Alberta should be concluded soon, and Goldboro has all the makings of a project that is close to launching.

As MODG [Municipality of the District of Guysborough] warden Vernon Pitts told The Journal this week, for the local community it has always been about jobs. We fully agree. And it’s also been about patience for our region, which is understandable [sic] excited about a possible economic opportunity on a scale that would surpass that of the Sable Project 20 years ago.

In an article about the LNG project written by Helen Murphy in the same edition of The Guysborough Journal, which isn’t very different from the paper’s editorial, we hear from more from Warden Vernon Pitts:

“I only expect good things coming down the pipe the next couple of weeks,” he said during an interview Monday. . . There are good things coming.’

In the August 29 edition of The Guysborough Journal, Helen Murphy once again gives top billing to the Pieridae story, at least the version told by its CEO.

Alfred Sorensen, CEO of Pieridae Energy, says the company is “on the cusp” of making its final investment decision for the $10 billion (US) Goldboro LNG project. During a telephone interview with The Journal Monday, Sorensen said getting a construction permit before the end of September is key to moving forward.

That permit, from the N.S. Government, is a condition of Pieridae’s recently announced acquisition of Ikkuma Resources, an Alberta gas producer.

“Towards the end of September we should have a very good idea if this is all going to come together,” he said. Sorensen said Pieridae is about 30 to 45 days away from making its final investment decision on Goldboro LNG.

Ikkuma does not produce enough gas to fulfill all of Goldboro LNG’s supply needs, but Sorensen said the company has a “very good” development plan in place to acquire the additional supply needed.

“We don’t need the full supply today,” he said. “We need it five years from now.” The CEO said the potential is good for getting other producers on board. “Once you have one, it’s easier to get others.”

Sorensen then tosses out a big number — 3,500 — for how many people would be involved in building the plant. (According to Pieridae’s project description, even if Phase 1 of the project goes ahead, it will employ only 140 to operate it.)

Since Helen Murphy didn’t give voice to any critics of the project in the Guysborough Journal, I called up Ken Summers, who is on the steering committee of NOFRAC Nova Scotia, and asked him for his thoughts on the rosy picture Pieridae was painting about its plans for the Goldboro LNG plant.

He described Pieridae’s media campaign to sell the project to investors and politicians as “cunning obfuscation,” and some other words I promised not to quote.

It is perhaps not surprising that The Guysborough Journal seems to cover just the pro side of the LNG project in Goldboro. On its website, it says that the paper began in 1994 and, that it went weekly with the 1998 launch of the Sable Offshore Energy Project in Guysborough County. At that point:

The paper became the official newspaper of the onshore Sable project, and has closely covered the emerged [sic] oil and gas industry in Guysborough County ever since.

The Journal’s affinity with oil and gas is not surprising. Allan Murphy, who is the Journal’s publisher, is currently Vice President of Government Relations at the Canadian Propane Association.

His wife, Helen Murphy, is The Journal’s Managing Editor, and her byline appears over most lead articles about large industrial projects in the area, almost exclusively from the point of view of their corporate proponents, sometimes with a quote or two from Warden Vernon Pitts, who seems to have never seen a large industrial project proposal he didn’t like.

Among the other industrial projects The Journal has covered in articles devoid of criticism, are the proposed Medford Terminal, the Anaconda gold mine slated for Goldboro, Vulcan Materials quarry at Black Point (aka Fogarty’s Cove), and the Canso “spaceport.”

The Murphys’ Guysborough Journal also printed an op-ed by Sean Kirby of the Mining Association of Nova Scotia, which argues that Nova Scotia should open up protected wilderness areas for mining, and the MODG Council’s statement in support for fracking in the province.

Here’s the thing: I am all for community newspapers. We need them. Kudos to anyone who takes on the incredible workload and responsibility of putting together a weekly paper (let alone a daily Morning File) that keeps citizens informed of what is going on in their area and their communities. A paper like The Guysborough Journal has an important role to play, providing people in the area with important information and local stories.

But — and this is a Very Big But — I also think it extremely important that readers be aware and regularly reminded of who owns the community papers and the editorials they are reading, and what political agenda or history they may have.

In the case of Allan Murphy, his political agenda looks solidly Tory blue. In 2008, while he was running as a Conservative candidate in the federal election, the paper he co-owns with his wife received $25,000 from the discretionary fund of Economic Development minister Angus MacIsaac in the provincial PC government of Rodney MacDonald. The NDP questioned this grant, given Murphy’s Conservative connections, but MacIsaac said the funds were needed to keep the paper afloat.

Allan Murphy did not win a seat in the 2008 election, but in 2010, he was appointed to Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation (ECBC), a Crown corporation that would later be rolled into the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). In 2014, Canada’s Public Sector Integrity Commissioner issued what Josh Wingrove in the Globe and Mail called a “damning watchdog report of apparent patronage appointments in Atlantic Canada.” The appointments were made by John Lynn, when he headed ECBC.

In his ruling, Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion said Mr. Lynn hired four people with ties to provincial or federal conservatives in 2009 and 2010. The appointments were not made after a competitive process and were “devoid of any demonstration that they were merit-based, leaving the appearance that they were partisan appointments,” Mr. Dion wrote in his report, which concluded Mr. Lynn was guilty of a serious breach of ECBC’s code of conduct.

According to a separate letter sent by Mr. Dion to Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner, the four staff members were Allan Murphy, a former political staffer of Mr. [Peter] MacKay [former Conservative Cabinet Minister]; Nancy Baker, who has worked for Mr. MacKay before joining ECBC and since leaving it; and Robert MacLean and Ken Langley, each with ties to the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives. Mr. Dion’s public report did not identify these people. Only Mr. Murphy and Mr. MacLean still work for ECBC.

Mr. Murphy was a political staffer to Mr. MacKay and also ran unsuccessfully in the 2008 election for the federal Tories, where he placed second to Nova Scotia Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner. A government website lists Mr. Murphy as director of government relations and advocacy at ECBC, and a LinkedIn profile for an Allan Murphy says he started working there in April of 2010.

Writing in The Chronicle Herald in 2012 about an investigation by the Public Service Commission of Canada of 11 employees who were “inappropriate or politically influenced hires at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency,” Paul McLeod reported that John Lynn was a person friend of then Defence Minister Peter MacKay:

Lynn’s ECBC hires have included unsuccessful Conservative candidate Allan Murphy and staffer Ken Langley. Also hired was Rob MacLean, a former executive assistant to provincial Tory cabinet minister Cecil Clarke.

Clarke himself gave up his provincial seat to run federally in Sydney-Victoria last year but Liberal Mark Eyking retained the seat by a narrow margin. Later in the year, Clarke was given a newly created $135,000-a-year ECBC job as executive adviser to the Cape Breton County Economic Development Authority, which administers ACOA programs in the area.

Allan Murphy’s LinkedIn profile gives his location not as Guysborough County, but as Ottawa.

I emailed the Murphys to ask if they had fully disclosed Allan Murphy’s political history and professional position with the Canadian Propane Association to readers of The Guysborough Journal, if these affiliations affect the editorial stance of the paper.

Allan Murphy replied that his former candidacy “was made clear in the newspaper,” and “no” to the question of whether his Conservative connections and position with the Canadian Propane Association influenced the paper’s editorial outlook.

In response to the question of whether he and his wife were residents of Guysborough County, Allan Murphy said they were currently based in Ottawa, but that, “We spend as much time in Guysborough County as we can.”

3. No public money for herbicide spraying … yet

As mentioned in the Morning File of 23 August last week, the Lahey report on forest practices in Nova Scotia recommends that public funds be made available for spraying of herbicide on Crown land. That was stopped in 2011 when the Natural Resources Strategy was released, but of course the herbicide spraying continues on private land by large mills and contractors. It’s part of the pulp forestry regime, which involves widespread clearcutting, spraying to promote the growth of conifers and kill hardwoods, and short rotations between the cuts.

This year’s spray season is beginning, and so far Nova Scotia Environment has approved six applications for herbicide spraying on 1,351 hectares. However, those don’t include Northern Pulp’s planned spraying programs, which its notices in newspapers that appeared at the beginning of August said would happen in Halifax, Colchester, and Cumberland Counties.

So far, the Department of Environment hasn’t posted the Northern Pulp approvals on its web page. Each morning I check to see if they are there, so I can see which properties are slated for glyphosate spraying. (I just checked again this morning and there is still no sign of the Northern Pulp approvals.)

Just to confirm that this herbicide spraying on private land is not funded by public funds, I checked with Bruce Nunn, spokesperson for the Department of Lands and Forestry (DLF, formerly DNR). “There is no financial support provided by the province for herbicide spraying on forest land,” Nunn replied.

But that doesn’t mean the big mills aren’t benefiting from public money for their forestry operations. As investigative citizen David Patriquin reported in his Nova Scotia Forest Notes that cited figures from the 2018 Public Accounts Supplementary Information (and as reported on 23 August in the Morning File), citizens of Nova Scotia handed out a fair number of grants last year through what was then DNR. These included:

*Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corp … 464,481.45

Port Hawkesbury Paper LP … 4,083,275.15

*Scotsburn Lumber Ltd … 141,394.13


*Members of WestFor

I then asked Bruce Nunn for a breakdown of the 2017 – 2018 grants to Port Hawkesbury Paper, Northern Pulp, and Scotsburn Lumber. (The latter is a mill not far from Pictou, and it is of interest because 2012 media reports said it had been bought by Northern Pulp. The NS Registry of Joint Stock Companies lists one man — Hui-Lun Cheng of Hong Kong — as director, president, and secretary, and just one agent in Nova Scotia.)

Nunn replied that the grants were for “forestry management services,” and he provided the following details:

  1. Port Hawkesbury Paper: $3.8 million of the total relates to a 2012 commitment by the previous government to the company. The funding supports sustainable harvesting practices and ensures environmentally responsible forest land management. Also, $283k for cost-sharing on programs delivered by Port Hawkesbury Paper for woodlot owners and pulpwood suppliers to become more active in the management of their woodlands.
  2. Northern Pulp:  $464k is for cost-sharing on the delivery of a private woodlot silviculture program delivered by Northern Pulp.
  3. Scotsburn: $141k is for cost-sharing on the delivery of a private woodlot silviculture program delivered by Scotsburn Lumber.

Asked whether these three mills would be receiving more grants this year, Nunn replied, “This fiscal year, $1,768,512.62 to Port Hawkesbury Paper. None for Northern Pulp or Scotsburn Lumber.”

As a follow-up, I asked him whether any of these public funds for silviculture programs and woodlands management went towards herbicide spraying. His reply:

The provincial funding is for non-industrial (i.e. small woodlots) private forest lands and the department specifies which silviculture treatments are eligible to be funded. Herbicide application is not eligible for provincial funding.

How one breaks down the exact costs of a silviculture program to ensure that none of the public funding received for them goes towards any herbicides, and whether there is paperwork to ensure that this is the case, is a question I haven’t asked yet.

(Investigative citizen Stacey Rudderham has penned a blog summarizing the latest findings on the herbicide glyphosate and what Nova Scotia’s Environment Minister had to say to her about it, which can be found here.)


I know this AP story by Will Weissart about big oil asking for public money is not from Nova Scotia or even Canada, and I know that there is nothing new about big oil getting public money.

A recent report by the British Overseas Development Institute found that as a percentage of its economy, Canada gives the largest oil and gas subsidies of any G7 country. Our country also came in dead last in ending subsidies for oil and gas production, and we were second last when it came to transparency.

An article by Jessica Chin in the Huffington Post cites estimates from 2016 that had Canada spending $3.3 billion each year on subsidies for fossil fuels, including tax breaks for oil and gas extraction projects.

But Weissat’s story this week made my jaw drop and my head spin.

After years of pumping funds into climate change denial campaigns, big oil now wants  government money — and lots of it — to protect itself from … climate change.

Seems the idea is for the Texas government to put up about $12 billion to build about 100 kilometres of seawalls and other barriers to protect vital oil and gas infrastructure from climate-change-induced storms and rising sea levels along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Tragic irony? Or just, to borrow the words of William Marsden, stupid to the last drop?


No public meetings.

On campus

No public events.

In the harbour

1am: Maersk Seletar, container ship, sails from Portsmouth Marine Terminal for Savannah, Georgio
4am: MOL Magnificence, container ship, arrives at Norfolk International Terminal from Charleston, South Carolina
5am: Hoegh Seoul, car carriers, arrives at Newport News Marine Terminal from Jacksonville, Florida
5am: Precious Ace, car carrier, arrives at Newport News Marine Terminal from Jacksonville, Florida
9am: Maersk Ohio, ontainer ship, arrives at Virginia Marine Terminals from Houston
4pm: Maersk Winnipeg, container ship, arrives at Portsmouth Marine Terminal from Wilmington, North Carolina


I think I’ve said (more than) enough.

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; Twitter @joan_baxter

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  1. Sweet Baby Jesus!

    I wasn’t able to get to Friday’s Morning File until today, and I have to say that part of me is sorry that I got to it at all!

    Once again, Joan Baxter knocked it out of the park, exposing more of the ongoing, depressing skulduggery occurring in this back water of a province! The last piece on fossil fuel subsidies in Canada was the oily icing on the cake – these statistics should have every Canadian rioting in the streets! Seriously folks, this country is mired in some serious shit (or is that bitumen?), and Mr. Sunny Ways has done little to nothing to improve the situation.

    I have to say that I am disappointed by the dearth of feedback expressed by The Examiner readership to today’s Morning File, when such excellent journalistic work has been delivered. Maybe folks are simply too overwhelmed/depressed/pissed off to comment.

    Sad times…

  2. “Some of my books are actually quite upbeat”

    I would need to see evidence of that. ;O)

    Seriously, outstanding work as always Joan. The headline says it all really.

  3. That turbine should be removed now. It is doing harm, irrespective of what the convenient lack of data shows.

  4. When the oil and gas industry no longer exists governments will have to find a new cash cow.
    This from S Africa : ” He also stated that if the petrol price would be deregulated, more than 50,000 jobs could be lost. The charge of petrol attendants is currently attached to the retail margin, and according to Maqhubela, if this is removed in any way, retailers may opt for self-service at the pumps.”