1. Paper Excellence
“Canada’s Competition Commissioner has approved the takeover of Canada’s Resolute Forest Products by the pulp and paper giant Paper Excellence, through its recently acquired subsidiary Domtar Corporation,” reports Joan Baxter:
The decision comes despite findings by Canada’s Competition Tribunal that the merger is likely to “substantially” lessen competition in the sector.
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2. Alonzo Wright is new SIRT director
“One of the longest-tenured Black senior crown prosecutors in Nova Scotia’s history recently appointed as director of Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) is encouraging and welcoming questions from the Black community about cases in his new role,” reports Matthew Byard:
Alonzo Wright becomes the fourth director of SIRT since its 2012 launch. He’s SIRT’s first director of African descent.
Wright said he can’t comment specifically on past cases involving SIRT, but doesn’t feel any added pressure as a Black person in his role based on his own experience and what he brings to the table.
“As long as I can justify my rationale for whether or not a charge proceeds — as the director of SIRT, on reasonable and probable grounds, and lay a charge — then I’m comfortable that the Black community and others in the community will accept that,” Wright said.
“And if they can’t, they have every right to ask questions. And I encourage and welcome questions and have me be checked by the members of the Black community, and members of other communities to say, ‘Hey, why didn’t the charge get laid?’ Here’s why it didn’t get laid, or here’s why it’s getting laid.”
“Families of U.S. servicemen killed by ISIS have sued Lafarge, the French conglomerate that pleaded guilty earlier this year to bribing the Islamic State group and the Al-Nusra Front to keep a cement plant running through the Syrian civil war,” reports Aaron Katersky for ABC News:
The guilty plea and a nearly $800-million fine were part of the U.S. government’s first-ever prosecution of a corporation for providing material support for terrorism.
Lafarge operates the cement plant in Brookfield, Nova Scotia through its subsidiary, Lafarge Canada.
According to a US Department of Justice press release:
From approximately May 2010 to September 2014, Lafarge, through LCS [Lafarge Cement Syria], operated a cement plant in the Jalabiyeh region of Northern Syria (the Jalabiyeh Cement Plant) that Lafarge had constructed at a cost of approximately $680 million. After the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, Lafarge and LCS negotiated agreements to pay armed factions in the Civil War to protect LCS employees, to ensure continued operation of the Jalabiyeh Cement Plant, and to obtain economic advantage over their competitors in the Syrian cement market.
As Lafarge executives made clear in contemporaneous emails, their motives were primarily economic. LCS executives purchased raw materials needed to manufacture cement from ISIS-controlled suppliers; paid monthly “donations” to armed groups, including ISIS and ANF, so that employees, customers and suppliers could traverse checkpoints controlled by the armed groups on roads around the Jalabiyeh Cement Plant; and eventually agreed to make payments to ISIS based on the volume of cement that LCS sold to its customers, which Lafarge and LCS executives likened to paying “taxes.”
Lafarge and LCS executives intentionally structured their agreements with ISIS to compensate the terrorist organization based on the amount of cement that LCS was able to sell – effectively, a revenue-sharing agreement – to incentivize the terrorist group to act in LCS’s economic interest.
As a condition of entering into this revenue-sharing agreement, Lafarge and LCS executives sought ISIS’s assistance to impose costs on competitors selling Turkish cement imported into northern Syria, which was often sold more cheaply than cement produced at the Jalabiyeh Cement Plant. LCS executives made clear to the intermediaries negotiating with ISIS that, in exchange for LCS paying ISIS 750 Syrian Pounds per each ton of cement that it sold, they expected ISIS to take action against its competitors, either by stopping the sale of competing imported Turkish cement in the areas under ISIS’s control, or by imposing taxes on competing cement that would allow LCS to raise the prices at which it sold cement.
“In the midst of a civil war, Lafarge made the unthinkable choice to put money into the hands of ISIS, one of the world’s most barbaric terrorist organizations, so that it could continue selling cement,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York. “Lafarge did this not merely in exchange for permission to operate its cement plant – which would have been bad enough – but also to leverage its relationship with ISIS for economic advantage, seeking ISIS’s assistance to hurt Lafarge’s competition in exchange for a cut of Lafarge’s sales.
From August 2013 through October 2014, Lafarge and LCS paid ISIS and ANF, through intermediaries, the equivalent of approximately $5.92 million, consisting of fixed monthly “donation” payments to ISIS and ANF, payments to ISIS-controlled suppliers to purchase raw materials, and variable payments based on the amount of cement LCS sold. Lafarge and LCS also paid the equivalent of approximately $1.11 million to the third-party intermediaries for negotiating with and making payments to ISIS and ANF on Lafarge’s and LCS’s behalf. In addition, when LCS eventually evacuated the Jalabiyeh Cement Plant in September 2014, ISIS took possession of cement that LCS had produced in furtherance of the conspiracy, and ISIS sold the cement at prices that would have yielded ISIS approximately $3.21 million. As a result of the scheme, LCS obtained approximately $70.30 million in total sales revenue from August 2013 through 2014. The gains to all participants in the conspiracy, including LCS, the intermediaries and the terrorist groups, totaled approximately $80.54 million.
It may be that the payments to the terrorist state were made by rogue “individuals” employed by the company, but it seems highly unlikely that executives and financial officers at Lafarge would be unaware that almost $7 million in corporate funds was transferred directly to ISIS and associates.
ABC details the damage done to the plaintiffs:
The plaintiffs are the families of three U.S. servicemen killed in attacks blamed on ISIS.
Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason Finan of California was killed by an ISIS-planted IED in Iraq on Oct. 20, 2016. His widow and his parents said they have “experienced severe mental anguish, extreme emotional pain and suffering” since his death, according to the lawsuit.
Navy Senior Petty Officer Scott Cooper Dayton of Virginia was killed by an ISIS-planted IED in Ayn Issa, Syria, on Nov. 24, 2016. His widow and children are among the plaintiffs.
Former Marine David Berry was a 12-year combat veteran from Virginia, and was killed by an ISIS attack on the Corinthia Hotel in Libya on Jan. 27, 2015. At the time, Berry was working for a private contractor.
This week, Small Claims Court Adjudicator Andrew S. Nickerson published his September decision in the case Kate Shropshre Cornell vs. E.A. Farren Limited and Edward Farr.
Ed Farren was the promoter of building a campus of the Gordonstoun School in Annapolis County, because it made perfect sense that British nobility would send their spoiled brats to rural Nova Scotia to be educated at an amusement park — well, enough sense that the Municipality of the District of Annapolis ponied up $600,000 in public funds to buy the collapsing roller coaster and leaky flume at the Upper Clements theme park, and then attempted to transfer the property to E.A. Farren Limited before a court stepped in and put a stop to the nonsense.
Kate Cornell, who was the “director of development” for Gordonstoun, was caught up in the collapse of the scheme. She “was engaged to provide various services in relation to the establishment of a private school,” wrote Nickerson, the adjudicator, without actually naming the school, Gordonstoun. “The Defendant, Edward Farren, acknowledges that the invoices totaling $13,217.70 are in fact representative of the services provided, but takes the position that corporate defendant E.A. Farren Limited (of which he is a shareholder and an officer) is the party which is liable for the payment of them. He consents to judgement on behalf of E.A. Farren Limited, but contests that he should be held personally liable.”
Nickerson ruled in favour of Farren.
E.A. Farren Limited appears to be belly-up, and so it’s unlikely that Cornell will get any blood out of that stone.
5. Ryan Sawyer
On Wednesday, the medical examiner announced that “the death of a 31-year-old man that occurred on December 24 in Halifax has been ruled a homicide.”:
At approximately 1:15 a.m., police responded to a report of a disturbance involving several people in the 1700 block of Brunswick Street in Halifax. Officers located an unresponsive man on the sidewalk, just east of Brunswick Street on Prince Street. The victim was transported to hospital where he later died.
The Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Service conducted an autopsy and has ruled the manner of death to be a homicide. The victim has been identified as 31-year-old Ryan Michael Sawyer. Our thoughts are with the Ryan’s family and loved ones during this difficult time.
Members from the Special Investigations Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division continue to investigate the case and are asking anyone with information about the incident or video from the area, who has not already spoken with police, to call 902-490-5020.
Later on Christmas Eve, Halifax police issued a release to reporters saying that they had a “man in custody” related to Sawyer’s death. On Wednesday, a police communications person told me that no one has been charged. By that time, without charges, whoever was in custody would’ve been released.
On social media, many people have said that Ryan was beaten and choked by a bouncer at the Halifax Alehouse. Some of the posts name a particular bouncer, but I’ve been unable to independently verify that accusation.
According to one person on Facebook, Sawyer was from Ontario and was visiting friends in Halifax for the holidays.
In August, a man was badly beaten by bouncers at the Alehouse. A witness filmed the beating and posted it to Reddit (the disturbing video is here).
I usually post the latest weekly COVID numbers in Friday’s Morning File, but the people who update the province’s dashboard have taken the holidays off, so no update until next Friday, Jan. 6.
7. Province House
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
With two days left in 2022, the Houston government appointed Agassou (Augy) Jones to lead and establish a panel to make recommendations to address environmental racism in the province.
The panel is one of the government’s commitments to diversity and equity included in the Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act passed in the fall of 2021.
The location of landfill sites near black communities in Shelburne, Guysborough County, Truro, and Africville are well-known examples of the problem.
Augy Jones is the principal at the Akerley campus of the Nova Scotia Community College and the son of civil rights activists Rocky and Joan Jones.
“The harms of environmental racism have affected too many communities in Nova Scotia, especially African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaw communities. This panel is one step to address these wrongs and build a more just future, and I’m so pleased that Augy Jones will help develop the foundation to make the panel a success,” said Pat Dunn, Minister responsible for the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives in a news release yesterday.
Jones will form the group by the end of February with its recommendations due a year from now.
This year ends with some unfinished business as it relates to the Yarmouth ferry, which cost taxpayers in the vicinity of $17 million last year and more than $130 million since the CAT began operating in 2018.
In September, when Premier Tim Houston said he was “disappointed” the seasonal ferry service between Bar Harbour, Maine and Yarmouth would not achieve pre-COVID passenger targets, the government announced it would undertake “a cost-benefit study” to assist with decision-making about its future.
But to date, no Request For Proposals (RFP) nor tender for such a study has gone out, Toby Koffman, communications director for Public Works in an email to the Examiner.
“Staff are finalizing the documents and taking the time needed to get it right,” wrote Koffman.
Liberal leader and Yarmouth MLA Zach Churchill has vigorously defended the ferry, claiming the average traveller to Nova Scotia spends $1,250 within the province.
A 10-year contract signed in 2018 with Bay Ferries to operate the ferry appears to have been poorly negotiated. Until at least 2026, the province must pay the operator $1.17 million a year whether the ferry runs or not.
Last summer marked the return of the May-October run after a three-year stoppage due to COVID and substantial renovations made to the ferry terminal in Bar Harbour after re-locating from Portland. Here are the final figures on the 2022 season provided by the provincial government:
Year Passengers Vehicles
2022 36,151 14,972
2018 50,325 18,702
2017 41,493 15,505
2016 35,644 13,176
Flurry of December spending announcements
News that the province’s books are in better financial shape than the finance minister expected — thanks in part to an influx of 32,000 people and a booming shipyard and construction industry — led to a series of pre-Christmas announcements designed to help people struggling with what will be higher electricity and living costs this winter.
Income thresholds were adjusted to allow thousands more Nova Scotians who pay for their own heat to receive an additional $1,000 rebate for home heating costs. Applications open Jan. 30 and the eligibility requirements can be found here.
The government also announced free heat pumps, electrical panel upgrades, and oil tank removals to encourage more people — especially seniors and those on fixed incomes — to make the switch from oil. Efficiency One is handling those applications at here and here.
Hopefully volunteer agencies, seniors groups, and churches will be able to help people complete the online application forms to actually receive the money. Local MLA offices are also good places to find applications on paper (hard copy) and get help to apply for financial assistance.
About 11,000 university and community college students carrying student loans will receive a one-time, tax-free grant of $550 next month to help with rising living expenses.
And the Houston government announced more money for rinks and roads in rural areas; the amount budgeted to upgrade gravel roads will rise from $20 million last year to $40 million by the end of 2022-23.
In the harbour
05:30: SFL Conductor, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
06:00: ZIM Yokohama, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
08:30: One Helsinki, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
10:00: Chantaco, oil tanker, arrives at Pier 25 from Montreal
10:00: NYK Romulus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
11:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 42 from St. John’s
11:30: SFL Conductor sails for sea
13:00: Lagrafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland
14:30: ZIM Yokohama sails for New York
16:30: APL Sentosa, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Tanger Med, Morocco
22:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Autoport
22:00: Lagrafoss sails for Reykjavik, Iceland
19:00: Hafnia Kallang, oil tanker, arrives at EverWind from Sikka, India
My New Year’s resolution is that I will stay on top of my email and social media. I’m setting myself up for failure, but a guy can dream.