1. Improvements at emergency departments and other new health care initiatives
“By this Saturday, every emergency department waiting room in Nova Scotia will have a patient advocate hired to fetch blankets and coffee and make people comfortable while they wait,” reports Jennifer Henderson:
There will also soon be a “physician-first” triage system with a doctor assigned to every emergency department to assess people who arrive by ambulance. Triage from ambulances has previously been done by nurses and paramedics.
Physician assistants and nurse practitioners will be hired to work as part of the emergency department teams and continually reassess patients in waiting rooms.
Virtual care from an onscreen emergency doctor, who is available now at three emergency departments in Nova Scotia, will be expanded to two more hospitals in the next couple of months. This shaves an hour off patient visits, according to data from the pilot project, and has so far helped 300 patients.
These changes, among other initiatives, were announced at a press conference held this morning. The article will be updated later today.
We were caught a bit off-guard by the sudden announcements. Henderson has more here.
2. Profiting off poor people
“The province’s auditor general has found the former director of public housing in the Halifax area was in multifaceted conflicts of interest involving his own rental properties and government contracts worth more than $1 million,” reports Zane Woodford:
Auditor general Kim Adair published her office’s latest report on Tuesday, an “Examination of Service Contract Awards” at the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority (MRHA). That organization, until October 2022, managed public housing in HRM and Hants County.
Adair’s audit found the director of MRHA:
• Awarded a sole source contract for $83,600 to a business
• Sold a property to the owner of that business
• Issued a tender that led to that business being awarded a contract for $996,000
• Sold another property to the business owner
Meanwhile, the director and the business owner were developing a proposal “to build a full-service affordable housing development on three properties,” to be funded by government.
The director, in his capacity as a private landlord, also received tenants’ income support payments from the Department of Community Services between 2011 and 2022 totalling $115,053. He received portable rent subsidies from tenants totalling $4,212 as well.
The director was in a conflict of interest “in many respects,” Adair told reporters on Tuesday.
“There was a clear mixing of the director’s responsibilities in his capacity at the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority and his private business interests,” Adair said.
The director was Jamie Vigliarolo (due to an unrelated consolidation of the province’s housing agencies, he no longer holds that position). The business owner was Richard Doyle, who owns Five-Star Security Services, the company that won the contract for the provision of security services at Metro Housing, valued at $996,000. Readers probably best know an associated company, Fivestar Bailiff and Civil Enforcement Services, which uses vehicles that are suggestive of official police vehicles (they are not).
The property deal involved a duplex at 18 Jackson Rd. in Dartmouth, which Vigliarolo and his wife, Tracy Vigliarolo, sold to Doyle in two separate sales on Aug. 21, 2020 and Dec. 7, 2020, each for $102,500. (Adair referred to these properties at “Property 1” and “Property 2.”)
MRHA [Metro Housing] also issued a separate tender for “tenant services” in August. But the day before the sale closed on Jackson Road, Vigliarolo was involved in a decision to combine the security services and tenant services tenders into one.
MRHA awarded the tender to three bidders on Oct. 8, 2020, totalling $1.3 million. Five-Star Security Services won the majority of the work, $996,000.
“On November 4, 2020, one month after Metro signed a contract with Company A [Five-Star], the Director [Vigliarolo] sold Property 2 to the Owner [Doyle] for $102,500,” the auditors wrote.
The Vigliarolos also owned the property next door at 20 Jackson Road, which in Adair’s report is referred to as “Property 3.”
In September 2021, Vigliarolo wrote to his superior and declared a conflict involving a plan with Doyle. The two landlords were planning “to build a full-service affordable housing development on three connected properties (Property 1 and Property 2 now owned by the Owner; and Property 3 owned by the Director).”
Vigliarolo approached the government looking for funding for that plan.
“Our audit work confirms the Director and the Owner sought government funding for the business arrangement from the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the department responsible for housing supports and public housing,” the auditors wrote.
“Senior management within the department confirmed to us that they were approached by the Director regarding the proposed full-service affordable housing development.”
While Vigliarolo disclosed the conflict in this case, the auditors “found no procedures were put in place to address the conflict.”
Based on a tip from an unnamed person, the auditor began sniffing around the Metro Housing file soon after June 2022. Perhaps as a result, on Aug. 10, 2022, the Vigliarolos sold 20 Jackson Rd. to Doyle for $218,800.
While there were ‘obvious’ and apparently unreported conflicts-of-interest, Adair did not accuse either Vigliarolo or Doyle of criminality. On the face of it, the sale prices for each of the three properties do not seem inflated, which we might expect if there was a specific quid pro quo — ‘you pay too much for these properties and in return I’ll land you this valuable public contract.’ Still, I’d like people more knowledgeable than me to look into that.
And it’s interesting how the Vigliarolos obtained the properties in the first place. The couple purchased six properties over the course of the 13 months between October 2006 and November 2007. They are:
• 52 Pinecrest Dr. (purchased October 2006);
• 51 Tulip St. (purchase October 2006)
• 12 Jackson Rd. (purchased January 2007);
• both sides of the duplex at 18 Jackson Rd. (purchased March 2007);
• 20 Jackson Rd. (purchased November 2007)
(The Vigliarolos still own the Pinecrest Drive, Tulip Street, and 12 Jackson Rd. properties.)
That’s a noticeable buying spree over a relatively short period. I could find no record that, besides their own family home purchased in May 2000, the couple has purchased any other properties before that spree, or since.
Who knows? Perhaps the Vigliarolos received an inheritance, sold a business, or cashed out savings to help finance the purchases. There’s probably an innocent explanation. However, given the questionable deals with Doyle in 2020, I think those 2006-2007 purchases warrant a closer look.
But in the end, I doubt that any of this will result in criminal charges.
There are two issues of greater concern for me.
The first is pragmatic. Concerns about conflicts-of-interest aside, it makes sense to have an assisted living project in the Jackson Road area. And these specific properties might be just the place for it. There’s yet another adjacent property that is vacant, and together, the four properties have the footprint for a substantial apartment building or low-rise townhouses. An assisted living project at this location could serve people in the neighbourhood, is close to the Highfield Park Transit Terminal and other services, and is across the street from the lovely community garden. It would be a shame if the mess uncovered by the auditor general prevented an objective analysis of the proposal.
And that leads to my second concern, which is that people in this neighbourhood are being preyed upon by the rentier class. This is foundational to how our housing economy works: people with capital get richer through recurring monthly rent payments received from people struggling to find the means to simply stay alive. There’s nothing illegal about this, but it’s utterly immoral, and especially so when one of the landlords is also a director in a public housing organization.
Oh, and besides and unrelated to all the above, in the aftermath of the April 2020 mass murders, should Doyle be driving around cars that are painted in a fashion that could falsely imply he has some sort of policing power?
3. Vigliarolo also named in lawsuit by Metro Housing employees
“Two employees of the organization in charge of public housing in Halifax are suing, alleging senior management attempted to ‘defame, gaslight and vilify’ them in response to a shooting that happened while they were working in 2020,” reports Zane Woodford:
The employees are Jason Ashley and Gareth Boudreau. Lawyer Douglas Lutz filed notice of action on their behalf in Kentville Supreme Court on Jan. 5.
Lutz named the provincial government, Jamie Vigliarolo, Jane Clark, Mark Pace, Curtis Coward, Bob Driscoll, Sandra LaForge, and Ed Lake as defendants.
Ashley and Boudreau say they witnessed a shooting on Romans Avenue on Oct. 30, 2020. That police watch commander notified reporters about the shooting that evening; it happened in the vicinity of “the Pubs” social housing project.
But Ashley and Boudreau say their superiors at Metro Housing tried to claim the shooting never happened. Woodford continues:
In January 2021, Jamie Vigliarolo, MRHA director, appeared at the Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) Committee. The plaintiffs claim he told the committee the shooting “did not occur,” and he repeated that statement at the next month’s meeting and in an email in March.
Vigliarolo was the subject of Tuesday’s auditor general report. That report found the former director in numerous conflicts of interest related to his private rental properties and the awarding of more than $1 million in government contracts.
The plaintiffs say Vigliarolo’s statements in 2021 were false and defamatory.
The claims in the lawsuit have not been tested in court.
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4. Forestry ‘plantation’ plan moves forward
“It’s been more than four years since University of King’s College president Bill Lahey made recommendations to move forestry toward a more sustainable, ecological model,” reports Jennifer Henderson:
Yesterday the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables announced the implementation of the third and final leg in the management of Crown lands.
The so-called “high production” forestry zone will allow clearcutting, re-planting, and herbicide spraying on plantations of evergreen trees to produce timber that will be ready to cut in 25 to 40 years, about twice as fast as occurs today.
“We now have all three parts of the triad model of ecological forestry in place, as recommended in the Independent Review of Forest Practices,” said Tory Rushton, Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables. “We started with the conservation zone and then the mixed-use zone. Now we’re moving ahead with a high production forest zone where there’s opportunity to approach timber harvesting very much like agriculture and support our rural economies.”
“This is the leg of the triad model that environmentalists hate,” said Ray Plourde, senior wilderness coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre, “because it includes plantations and spraying. Still, I’m relatively pleased there’s a cap of 10% on Crown land that can be used for intensive cultivation considering that the original number mentioned by the government was 13%.”
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5. Workshop for aspiring Black journalists
“Registration is now open for a free journalism and multimedia workshop for Black students in junior high and high schools throughout Nova Scotia,” reports Matthew Byard:
J-School Noire takes place annually during Black History Month in a number of cities across Canada, including Halifax. The event is hosted by the Canadian Association of Black Journalists (CABJ).
This year, J-School Noire takes place on Feb. 10 at the NSCC Ivany Campus in Dartmouth from 9am to 3pm.
The program is open to students aged 14 to 18 throughout the province who identify as Black. Students who participate will receive hands-on training and mentorship in shooting video, writing, editing, interviewing, and podcasting.
6. Thistle Street
Thistle Street is now lighted.
Well, mostly. The light pole that was felled by Hurricane Fiona has been replaced, but the light that was on that pole has not yet been re-installed. Still, with the pole in place, wiring was strung down the street to the other light poles (which all have lights), powering the lights down to Wyse Road. Importantly, the crosswalk from the Dartmouth Sportsplex to the Dartmouth Common is now lighted, as is most of the hill up from the Bridge Terminal towards Victoria Road.
7. Guns galore
At the risk of feeding the copaganda agenda, it’s worth noting an RCMP release from yesterday:
On January 16, at approximately 8:25 p.m., Halifax District RCMP received what was reported as an accidental 911 call from a home on Astral Drive in Cole Harbour. As is standard policy, RCMP officers were dispatched to the home to confirm that there was no emergency.
Upon arriving at the home, RCMP officers spoke with a man and woman and learned that a dispute had occurred between them. RCMP officers located damage throughout the home and observed firearms out in the open, that were not safely stored. RCMP officers seized four handguns, numerous long guns including a carbine, loaded magazines, grenades, two swords, a spear, multiple knives and ammunition. The man was safely arrested and held in custody overnight.
William Adam Judson Butt, 42, of Cole Harbour, has been charged with:
• Unauthorized Possession of a Prohibited Weapon;
• Possession of a Prohibited Weapon Knowing its Possession is Unauthorized;
• Unsafe Storage of a Firearm;
Butt will appear in Dartmouth Provincial Court today.
I think I don’t need to explain “accidental” 911 calls to readers.
These kind of situations pop up on an almost daily basis, just in our tiny province. But this one is particular worrisome in that Astral Drive is also home to an elementary and junior high school.
8. Modular housing for health care workers
This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont
As part of its efforts to recruit and retain health care workers in Nova Scotia, the province announced on Tuesday $8 million for modular housing projects in communities where housing options are limited.
“We need more healthcare workers in communities across the province, and we’ve heard that a lack of housing options is a major hurdle,” Michelle Thompson, Minister of Health and Wellness, said in a media release.
“These modular homes will help tackle a long-standing problem and attract healthcare professionals who want to make a life in Nova Scotia.”
The Housing Trust of Nova Scotia is partnering with the province on the project. The non-profit will work with stakeholders to place temporary mobile modular homes in areas where there is acute demand.
“Modular housing will allow us to respond quickly to the demand for housing in areas of greatest need,” Housing Trust of Nova Scotia executive director Angela Bishop said in the release.
The organization will also work with government representatives and municipalities to identify locations for the modular homes.
The province noted the trust will use its current processes to establish a modular partner to ensure the units are delivered as quickly as possible.
“The modular housing model has been successful in other jurisdictions,” John Lohr, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said in the release.
“This investment will help support our healthcare workers with transitional housing until more permanent solutions are available.”
9. Medals for North American Indigenous Games
This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont
In six months Nova Scotia will host the 10th North American Indigenous Games (NAIG), and to mark the occasion the design for the game’s medals was unveiled Tuesday in Millbrook First Nation.
In a media release, the North American Indigenous Games Host Society said the design was initially created by Hardwoodlands youth Ella Scothorn as part of a Nova Scotia-wide student contest. The design was finalized by Mi’kmaw artist Tayla Fern Paul.
“We have reached 2023, the year of the Games and we are now officially six months out from the start of the Games. We’re proud of these young artists for designing these medals that will be awarded to the winning athletes in July,” George “Tex” Marshall, president of the 2023 NAIG Host Society, said in the release.
“The design truly captures the spirit of the Games and Mi’kma’ki as a whole.”
The medal design incorporates several Mi’kmaq symbols, including an eight-pointed star inspired by Mi’kmaq petroglyphs found in Bedford. The ribbon affixed to each medal features the NAIG 2023 logo and “Kjipuktuk,” meaning “Great Harbour.”
“The medals on display today make us so proud of our community, our youth and our athletes,” Millbrook Chief Bob Gloade said in the release.
“Our community is proud to play a part in the hosting of NAIG and we know it will be a historic event that will shape the future of Indigenous youth and athletes in Mi’kma’ki forever.”
Organizers describe the games as “the largest multi-sport event held in Nova Scotia since contact.” More than 5,000 athletes, coaches, and team staff from more than 750 Indigenous Nations are expected to attend.
From July 15 to 23, participants will compete in 16 sports at 21 venues across Kjipuktuk (Halifax), Dartmouth, and Millbrook First Nation.
NAIG 2023 Host Society is looking for volunteers. More information can be found here.
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — and online
License Appeal Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — agenda
Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — also online
Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Thursday, 1:30pm, City Hall) — also online
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda
Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm, Power House Youth Centre, Bell Road) — agenda
Health (Thursday, 10am, One Government Place) — Funding for Public Health in Nova Scotia; with representatives from the Department of Health and Wellness, NSHA, and Dalhousie University
Launch: HealthcareLCA database (Wednesday, 4pm, online) — a new open-access, interactive database of healthcare’s environmental impacts; more info here
Life in the fast Lane – a day in the Emergency Department (Wednesday, 7pm) — this week’s free online Mini Medical School event
Active Learning Classroom Open House (Thursday, 12pm, Room 2017, Marion McCain Building) — more info here
Culturally Responsive Healthcare to Reduce Gender Based Violence (Thursday, 5:30pm, online) — discussion with Wanda Thomas Bernard, Abieyuwa Olowu, Nancy Ross, Dennis Adams, Sue Bookchin, Diving Gbeve Onyenike, and Steph Zubriski; with AI-generated captions
In the harbour
04:45: NYK Remus, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Southampton, Enlgand
05:30: Morning Celine, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 42 from St. John’s
08:00: CMA CGM T. Roosevelt, container ship (140,000 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Tanger Med, Morocco
10:30: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Sept-Iles, Quebec
11:00: Ale, bulker, and Kamarina, tug, move from Pier 9 to Bedford Basin
11:00: AlgoNorth, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
12:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves to anchorage
13:00: Morning Celine moves to Pier 9
21:30: Morning Celine sails for sea
23:00: Ale and Kamarina move back to Pier 9
02:30 (Thursday): CMA CGM T. Roosevelt sails for New York
08:00: IT Integrity, supply vessel, sails from Sydney Marine Terminals for sea
We’ve been having technical problems with the website most of the morning. The vendor is working on it.