November subscription drive
We’re just over halfway through our annual fall subscription drive. I don’t have much to say on this Monday, but my birthday was last week, so maybe you can subscribe as a belated birthday gift.
In fact, let’s have a challenge: 53 new subscribers!
Thanks to all of our long-time supporters, and welcome to our new ones.
Tim Bousquet is away for a few days, and the team is already hard at work. We have lots of news and stories coming soon. You can subscribe here:
“On Friday, Canada’s minister of housing, infrastructure and communities and MP for Central Nova, Sean Fraser, announced a $125 million federal investment in EverWind Fuels,” reports Joan Baxter.
EverWind plans to build massive wind farms in Nova Scotia and use the green energy to produce green hydrogen and ammonia in a plant it wants to build in Point Tupper. The ammonia will mostly be shipped to Europe.
The press release states that Fraser made the announcement “alongside Trent Vichie, CEO of EverWind Fuels, Chief Terry Paul, Membertou First Nation; Chief Cory Julian, Paqtnkek First Nation; Chief Wilbert Marshall, Potlotek First Nation; and Mike Kelloway, Member of Parliament for Cape Breton Canso.”
The press release also notes that, “EverWind Fuels and Export Development Canada have reached an agreement in principle on terms for a $125M debt facility to support the project, pending final due diligence.”
So nothing signed along the bottom line yet, but a hefty chunk of public money for Trent Vichie’s company EverWind Fuels, a subsidiary of three New York companies that Vichie also owns.
Baxter reports that not everyone was impressed with the news, including chemical engineer Paul Martin, who’s worked, made, and used hydrogen for 30-plus years. He called EverWind’s project “either a subsidy-harvesting scheme or something else other than earnest.”
Click or tap here to read “Feds offer EverWind $125 million despite many unanswered questions about ‘green hydrogen’ project.”
2. It’s time to make Nova Scotia Power’s shareholders pay for utility’s failures
Nova Scotia Power “want us to pay so that company shareholders can continue to enjoy their guaranteed profits,” writes Stephen Kimber.
Consider this, from an August 17, 2023, story by my colleague, Jennifer Henderson:
Nova Scotia Power must pay a fine of $750,000 for failing to meet performance targets in 2022 …
Last year was the sixth consecutive year that Nova Scotia Power failed to meet certain metrics. The penalty is double the $350,000 the company was charged in 2021 but well short of the $25 million maximum contained in an amendment to the Public Utilities Act passed by the Houston government last April…
Of 14 established performance standards, the utility did not meet five designed to improve reliability and customer service.
Click or tap here to read “Nova Scotia Power: it’s time to make shareholders pay for utility’s failures.”
This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont and Jennifer Henderson.
Nova Scotia’s paramedics have approved a new three-year contract with the province.
In a media release Friday, the Department of Health and Wellness said the agreement was ratified by members of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 727. That union represents about 1,200 Emergency Medical Care Inc. (EMCI) employees who work as paramedics, transport operators and flight nurses.
The agreement covers compensation, health benefits, and a retention allowance for paramedics employed in permanent or term positions.
In the release, Minister of Health and Wellness Michelle Thompson described the contract as fair and balanced. She said it recognizes the “critical role” they play in providing emergency health services.
Thompson also said the contract, in addition to other system investments, will help retain and recruit more paramedics.
The new agreement runs from Nov. 1, 2023, to Oct. 31, 2026. It includes:
• A 16.5% classification adjustment for paramedics in the first year, in addition to other incentive and premium increases
• Cost of living increases totalling 8.5% over the life of the contract
• Improved extended health benefits
• A retention allowance of up to $5,000 per year of the contract for paramedics in permanent or term positions
• Resources to support clinical transport operators to return to school and train as primary care paramedics
• Salary increase in recognition of training required for clinical transport operators
• Aligning classifications for various roles across the system
Salary information available from Talent.com suggests that prior to this three-year deal, a primary care paramedic working in Nova Scotia earned approximately $49,000. That compared with $54,000 for the same paramedic in Alberta and $74,000 a year for someone working in Ontario. To what extent the new contract closed the gap between Nova Scotia and other provinces will have to wait until more details are forthcoming.
In September, provincial auditor-general Kim Adair released a disturbing report detailing weaknesses in the emergency health system. Adair found that Emergency Medical Care Inc. (owned by Medavie) was unable to staff 23% of daily scheduled ambulances in 2022.
Adair found at the Halifax Infirmary, the largest acute care hospital in the region, paramedics waited on average three hours to offload a patient to someone in the emergency department. Sick time and overtime among paramedics cost the province another $11.8 million last year.
For several years, paramedics in Nova Scotia have complained about being chronically short-staffed and unable to take breaks during their working day. Dozens have left the profession citing working conditions. This contract increases the compensation and benefits for all classifications of paramedic. The aim is to try and retain those we have while expanding the number of seats available to train people who wish to enter the field.
This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont.
On Friday, customers who use Maritime Fuels for their home heating fuel were warned to stop any pre-scheduled payments they had with the company after it declared bankruptcy.
In a media release, Service Nova Scotia advised customers with prepayment plans to contact their financial institution or credit card company and immediately stop payments to Maritime Fuels.
Based in Nova Scotia, the company filed for bankruptcy last week. The province said licensed insolvency trustee PwC was appointed on Thursday.
“Under bankruptcy legislation, a licensed insolvency trustee is in charge of dealing with creditors,” Service Nova Scotia wrote in the release.
Nova Scotians who already paid for fuel they didn’t or won’t receive are advised to contact PwC.
“This ensures that they will hear from the trustee as arrangements are made to pay off the company’s debts,” the release said.
The province added that it doesn’t know how many customers were on a prepayment plan with Maritime Fuels.
For more information, consumers can visit PwC’s Maritime Fuels Limited bankruptcy page here.
5. Cumberland Public Libraries
On Nov. 11, I drove to Advocate Harbour to visit Leslie Allen, who works as the part-time librarian at the village’s small branch. That library is at risk of closing and Allen is at risk of losing her job because the Cumberland Public Libraries needs money.
How much? Just $179,000. Yes, that’s all.
Leslie Allen has been the librarian at Advocate Harbour Library for the last four years. She’s the only librarian at this branch, which is located in the bottom of the Fundy Tides Recreation Centre, just up the road from the tiny post office on Highway 209, which runs through the village.
Cumberland’s other libraries are in Amherst, Pugwash, Parrsboro, Oxford, Springhill, and River Hebert. Cumberland Public Libraries employs about 26 staff across those branches.
Allen heard about the potential cuts from her manager, Denise Corey, the director of the Cumberland Public Libraries. Allen said her first reaction to the budget news was one of shock that she might lose her job. But she also wondered what the closure of the library would mean for her clients in Advocate Harbour.
Funding for the libraries come from the province (59%), the Town of Oxford (1%), the Town of Amherst (7%), and the Municipality of Cumberland (14%). The rest of the budget, about 19%, comes from donations, grants, and fundraising. The library’s total revenue is about $1.3 million and it’s running a deficit of $179,000.
Allen thinks this budget news is a test of what libraries — especially those in rural areas — mean to the province.
“In the midst of a giant financial crisis that’s facing all Canadians across the country, are libraries, in our rural communities, worth saving?” she asked the Examiner.
Allen invited along three of her clients, Jennifer Robarts, Lorna Fletcher, and Paul Callison, for the interview. They use the library on a regular basis and are just a few of the residents fighting to keep the branch open.
Advocate Harbour, like many other rural communities in Nova Scotia, has experienced many cuts in service: to the hospital, rail service, bus service, closure of stores, and so on.
When Callison heard the news about the potential closure of the branch, he said, “Here we go again.”
Culture has been underfunded for as long as I’ve been alive. It never comes on the radar until it gets critical, like in this point in time, it’s critical, so it’ll get on the radar and maybe people will do something.
I don’t know much about funding for other libraries across Nova Scotia, but $179,000 seems like such a blip, compared to the value Allen and her colleagues bring to their communities and clients. Even the entire Cumberland Public Libraries budget of $1.3 million seems like not much.
I hope the next time I visit Advocate Harbour I hear good news about the branch and Allen’s job.
Click or tap here to read “Cumberland Public Libraries fight budget cuts that could mean layoffs and branch closures.”
6. Pete’s Frootique
“Dozens of striking workers and supporters gathered outside the Sobeys-owned grocer Pete’s Frootique in Halifax on Sunday as employees called for an improvement to wages and benefits,” reports Mitchell Bailey with Global.
Early on Saturday morning, staff officially began their strike, which has since resulted in the store’s location on Dresden Row temporarily closing.
Signs held by striking workers showcasing messages like “Pete’s works because we do” and “I can’t afford to shop here” surrounded a larger banner that read “Pay workers fair wages” outside the retailer’s main entrance.
Terry Armour, a Pete’s employee who works in the store’s produce department, said he and his coworkers “are not going to stand idly by any longer” and accept their current working conditions.
“We’re done with the delay tactics and we’re demanding fair wages for everybody who works here,” he said.
As the Examiner reported on Friday, the most recent offer from Sobey’s would provide for a 20 cent per hour raise or less for over 70% of the workers. Most would only see a five-cent increase. There are close to 100 workers in the bargaining unit.
On the Pete’s Frootique Facebook page, there’s a message saying the store will be “closed until further notice”, adding its Bedford location is still open.
The workers at the Halifax location voted to join a union in May 2022. In October, the Examiner interviewed two workers, Emily MacKinlay and Nick Piovesan, who spoke about their experiences working at the grocery store.
7. Amherst police want armoured vehicle
“The Amherst Police Department is considering the purchase of an armoured vehicle, but a criminology researcher questions the necessity in a municipality with around 10,000 people,” reports Luke Ettinger with CBC.
Amherst Police Chief Dwayne Pike said the service is looking to purchase an armoured vehicle to improve public safety. He said the force is in discussions with a company about purchasing a former cash truck located in Atlantic Canada.
“It gives you an option for safety for your members and for the public when you’re going into a serious situation where you’re dealing with weapons,” said Pike.
The vehicle would be bulletproof, but Pike said Amherst is not purchasing a military vehicle.
Ettinger also interviewed Temitope Oriola, a criminology professor at University of Alberta, who said police departments are “imitating police militarization” of police in the U.S. saying, “I think what each police service ought to do is a very sober analysis.”
As the Examiner reported in June 2020, Halifax regional council voted to cancel a purchase of an armoured vehicle for the Halifax Regional Police. The funds of almost $400,000 instead went to the city’s diversity and inclusion office, the public safety office, and to fight anti-Black racism.
The value of making art, culture, and history accessible for all is more than the price of admission
On Saturday I visited the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS), which is now offering free admission to Nova Scotians until Jan. 14.
I’ve been to AGNS many times, but when I read the notice about free admission earlier this month, I decided to check it out again. Free admission is good news.
It was a great way to spend a Saturday, and we got to check out artwork that wasn’t at the gallery the last time I visited, including a few more paintings by Cree artist Kent Monkman.
Of course, we also checked out the Maud Lewis Gallery of her folk art, and her home that’s been on display at the museum since 1998.
While I was there, I asked the customer service staff how the pilot project is going, and was told the number of visitors is “way up.” They told me visitors included people who have lived in Nova Scotia all of their lives, who have never been to AGNS, but the free admission project inspired them to go. This is good news.
AGNS always offered free admission on Thursday evenings, but offering free admission during all of its opening hours gives more people more chances to visit. And it’s working.
I don’t have any official news from AGNS on this, but one staff member told me AGNS would like to get more funding to keep the pilot project going beyond Jan. 14. This is even greater news.
Art is more than admiring its beauty and the talent and work artists put into a piece of artwork; art is a way for artists to express their experiences and understanding of the world we live in. And it’s important that the rest of us learn that, too.
In January 2018, editors at Condé Nast Traveler put together a list of comments from travelers on whether galleries should charge admission or not. That year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art started charging admission after going about 50 years offering entrance for free. Galleries in London dropped admission fees in 2001. Here are a couple of the stories:
“Imagine how much better our society would be if museums were free to everyone. Seriously, imagine it: people of all ages and walks of life having a free pass to the world’s revolving door of installations, exhibits, and thought-provoking commentaries. I only see potential for positive change. I believe everyone who can give should give to the arts, but privilege shouldn’t be a prerequisite for access to museums.” —Megan Spurrell
“I don’t want income to determine who can and cannot access art and antiquities. Of course, in theory, I would want them to always be free. But the reality is that museums do not charge to make a profit; all admission fees go to salaries and maintaining the collection. I do, however, think that the fee should be economically structured and subsidized if the museum determines that it must charge to keep its doors open. Twenty-five dollars is peanuts to pay for an afternoon admiring treasures including Bronze Era jewelry and Ming Dynasty porcelain to Rembrandt portraits. If the charge is in fact necessary, at least it’s a decent deal.” —Erin Florio
I will go back to AGNS before Jan. 14 and have already invited along a friend who hasn’t been to the gallery for years.
If you read the obituaries at SaltWire, you may have noticed the above message on the online obituary page.
There was a lot of online discussion about this decision, including this obituary by Jenny Richard “in loving memory” of the obituary page in The Guardian in P.E.I., which is one of SaltWire’s newspapers.
Richard wrote this message, too:
One of PEI’s greatest attributes is our ability to be a community. With less access to the obituaries – a part of that community is swept away. Saltwire (The Guardian) has announced that the obituaries will now be behind a paywall (meaning you need to subscribe in order to read them).
And someone else started a P.E.I. obits page on Facebook where you can share and read obits for free.
North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm, City Hall and online) — agenda
Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall and online) — agenda
Accessibility Advisory Committee – Town Hall (Tuesday, 6:30pm, Halifax Central Library and online) — agenda
Veterans Affairs (Tuesday, 2pm, One Government Place and online) — Peer Support: Community Facilities; with representatives from Atlantic Centre for Trauma; Landing Strong; Replenish Around Shipmates Veterans Society; and Rally Point Retreat
Strings / Chamber Ensemble Noon Hour (Monday, 11:45am, Strug Concert Hall) — selections from students’ repertoire
Combating Antibiotics Resistance: Selective Iron-Capture Polymer and a Traditional Mi’kmaq Medicine (Monday, 2:30pm, online) — Matthias Bierenstiel from Cape Breton University will talk
Baroque Performance Practice Masterclass with Marie Bouchard (Tuesday, 2:30pm, St. Andrew’s Church, Halifax) — more info here
An Evening with Darren Calabrese (Tuesday, 6:30pm, KTS Lecture Hall) — the Halifax-based documentary and editorial photographer will discuss his first book, Leaving Good Things Behind:
… an honest look at grief coupled with a profoundly moving meditation on home and what it means to be of a place. Examining the tradition and cultures that run so deeply in the Atlantic provinces, stitched into the fabric of the place that so many call home, Darren creates a visual elegy through his documentary photojournalism that pairs effortlessly with his family’s century-old photos from the region
Opening Reception: HYMNS (Monday, 4pm, Port Loggia Gallery) — exhibition by Kate JH Dong
Opening Reception (Monday, 5:30pm, Anna Leonowens Gallery ) — exhibitions by Shoora Majedian, Lauren Runions, and “FEAST”
Verbalist in postposition (Monday, 5:30pm, Anna Leonowens Gallery) — durational live performance featuring Laura Runions, Julie Robert, and Lili Maud Dobell
In the harbour
12:00: Maria S. Merian, research/survey vessel, moves from Dartmouth Cove Pier 9 to Fairview Cove west end
15:30: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York City
16:00: Maria S. Merian, research/survey vessel, moves from Fairview Cove to Dartmouth Cove Pier 9 south
21:30: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
23:30: CMA CGM Hermes, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
10:30: Algoma Victory, bulker, sails from quarry for sea
12:00: Algoma Value, bulker, moves from Anchorage F to Anchorage C (alongside INO Horizon)
14:00: Algoma Mariner, bulker, arrives at Quarry from Halifax
13:00: Blair McKiel, cargo ship, sails from Mulgrave for sea
People say they hate bullshit, but they sure love a bullshitter.