NEWS

1. Northern Pulp

The Northern Pulp mill before its closure. Photo: Dr. Gerry Farrell

“This afternoon, Nova Scotia time, the British Columbia Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether Northern Pulp and six affiliates should get yet another six-month extension – their eighth – of the creditor protection the Paper Excellence companies have been enjoying since June 2020 under the Companies’ Creditor Arrangement Act or CCAA,” reports Joan Baxter:

Given the history of the case, the odds are that Northern Pulp, which owns the 55-year-old pulp mill in Pictou County, will get what it is asking for again today.

Baxter has been meticulously documenting the ongoing court proceedings, and it feels like watching the set of a disaster film being set up: the workers first laid a ridiculously curvy railroad track, then built a chemical plant, with an elementary school constructed next door. Hundreds of children have been brought onto set, and the locomotive is fired up and is belching smoke at the top of the hill. Now, everyone is just waiting for the director to yell, “And, action!”

In this case, the director is British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick, who has forced the province of Nova Scotia into mediation with Northern Pulp under the terms of the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). Baxter detailed the pro-corporate underpinnings of the CCAA and Fitzpatrick’s disregard for any value besides shareholder interest in her two-part series explaining the process.

But by then Paper Excellence had already laid the curvy track by seeking protection against debt it owes, mainly to its primary owner, Paper Excellence. As Baxter wrote in July 2020:

The total debt from which the petitioners are seeking relief — the “financial difficulty” in which they find themselves — is about $311 million.

Of this, Northern Pulp & Co. owes $4.4. million to 245 creditors, mostly small companies, contractors, and individuals here in Nova Scotia.

Employee-related liabilities — pensions and severance payments — amount to $7.1 million.

The petitioners owe the province of Nova Scotia nearly $86 million.

But the bulk of Northern Pulp’s debt — $213.3 million — is owed to one of the petitioners’ owners, Paper Excellence Canada Holdings Corporation.

Now layer on top of that a $450 million lawsuit Northern Pulp has filed against the province, and demands that Nova Scotia’s environmental review process be short-circuited and that the company be given essentially free water.

I’m stretching this analogy far too wide, but the children in the elementary school should be getting quite nervous. What’s at stake is the democratic governance of this province, a half billion dollars and more in additional debt saddled on the citizenry, and the reopening of the mill in an environmentally destructive new phase of operation.

Click here to read “Northern Pulp wants another six month delay in B.C. court and forced mediation with Nova Scotia.”

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2. What’s the ‘due process’ at West Mabou Beach Provincial Park?

West Mabou Beach Provincial Park. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia Credit: Communications Nova Scotia

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

News that a company owned by an American billionaire intends to apply to lease part of a publicly owned beach park in Cape Breton to build a golf course caught many by surprise last week. 

Equally surprising was the response of Premier Tim Houston and Environment Minister Tim Halman that the provincial government is willing to consider the forthcoming application and give it ‘due process.’ 

The West Mabou Beach Provincial Park includes unique sand dune formations and an ecologically sensitive wetland area. NDP leader Claudia Chender called the idea “a non-starter”.

So what is the ‘due process’? 

The Department of Natural Resources Land Services division considers applications from companies, municipalities, and people that want to lease publicly owned Crown land for up to 20 years, with an option to renew. You can find a description here. https://novascotia.ca/natr/land/leasing.asp

Crown lands have been leased in the past for farming, forestry, wind farms, cellphone towers, and mining purposes —  however none of those lands were protected under the Parks Act. 

The closest the province came to allowing a golf course to be developed on park land was during the tenure of the last Liberal government, when a developer tried to do a deal to purchase acreage at Owls Head along the Eastern Shore which had been designated as a potential park. You know how that story ended: Owls Head became an election issue and the new Progressive Conservative government designated Owls Head as a provincial park, protected under the Parks Act.

Or is it? 

Under the Natural Resources process, the applicant who wants to lease publicly owned land (including parks) must submit a development plan that addresses potential environmental impacts. It must also submit a reclamation plan describing how the land would be returned to its former use. 

Natural Resources then consults with other government departments, such as Environment & Climate Change. The Natural Resources department has the authority to order a full environmental assessment and/or public consultations about the project. (Houston has said the proposed Cabot project would include consultation with the public.) 

The developer must also consult with the Mi’kmaw about the intended use of the land, including traditional and archaeological considerations.

The Cabot Group has already developed two ‘natural’ courses at Inverness — Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs — that attract golfers from all over the world. Golf has boosted tourism on Cape Breton Island and during the summer season; Cabot says it employs about 500 people and spends $11 million annually in Inverness county. 

Cabot’s supporters include Mabou resident and former Conservative premier Rodney MacDonald, who has approached several community groups in the Mabou area soliciting support to develop a third course on part of the West Mabou Beach Park. 

And Cabot is proposing to donate a total of $125,000 a year split among half a dozen local cultural and recreational organizations. That’s an idea that Nadine Hunt, a founding member of the West Mabou Beach Park advisory committee, described as “a form of bribery.”

The Mabou Golf Course project does not include restaurants or accommodations, and promises to provide the public with continued and improved access to two miles of sandy beach, something that became a contentious issue during an earlier development at Cabot Links 15 years ago. 

The Examiner asked the Department of Natural Resources for any other examples involving golf courses and publicly-owned Crown lands. Here’s the response we received:

Our records show there have been three other developers with an interest in using Crown land for the purpose of a golf course:

• In 2021, Lingan Golf and Country Club applied to purchase some Crown land on Grand Lake Road, Cape Breton County to extend its existing golf course. The request was not approved.

• In 2018, 3314197 Nova Scotia Limited applied to purchase some Crown land at Lequille, Annapolis County to modify an existing golf course that is located on both sides of a highway. They wanted to relocate the greens and fairways to one side of the highway to improve safety (avoid golfers having to cross the highway). The request was approved and is close to being completed. [This is the Fort View Golf Club near the town of Annapolis Royal.]

• In 2014, Cabot Links Venture Inc. applied to expand its golf course onto part of Inverness Beach. The request was approved and in compensation for gaining this Crown land, the company conveyed other lands to the Province for $1.00.

If the Cabot Group decides to go ahead with an application to develop a third golf course that would require approval to lease a portion of a provincial park along Cape Breton’s rugged western shore, the company has 60 days to submit a development plan.

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3. Mabou or Cabot?

A reader forwards me this, written by Margaret MacDonell:

Cabot:   A Lesson in Reconciliation

A recent experience has become a lesson in reconciliation for me. This experience has helped me to understand a bit more the experience of colonization. My experience  is a teeny tiny glimpse, a fraction to the magnitude of 1/1,000,000,000,0000th of the experience of colonization. But, I find it illuminating to my journey of reconciliation.

I was recently sent a link to an article from a magazine called Beyond the Contour, its audience the world of elite golf. In this article Cabot Cape Breton was boasting of its plan to develop a golf course at West Mabou Beach Provincial Park. The article was complete with course plans and praise for the course developer. It was all described as if it was a done deal: the world of elite golf could look forward with great anticipation to this magnificent new course on the brink of development. A whole new world awaits in Mabou Point with the advent of Cabot Harbour. 

That’s right, history was being rewritten: West Mabou Beach Provincial Park (protected parkland belonging to all Nova Scotians) was referred to as Mabou Point. Mabou Harbour was now Cabot Harbour.

Cabot Harbour.  Doesn’t that just say it all? It’s ours now. Let’s give it a new name. Let’s take this place that is held sacred to so many and give it a new name, a new purpose, a purpose that serves Cabot, not Nova Scotians. According to the gist of the article, all that is left to stake claim to the new territory is the placing of the Cabot flag on the sand dune: It’s ours now.

Even the offering of trinkets has taken place. And trust me, $125,000 is a trinket to a billionaire.

Future generations may well refer to this era in the history of Inverness County as the era of The Great Dune Clearances. Cabot will not stop until it has developed every significant dune system in the county. And after all, according to the community liaison, Cabot Cliffs has taught us that Cabot has the ability to develop a dune while preserving it – that state in the process where we are asked to embrace the narrative that serves their
(corporate) agenda.

Cabot, the new company store. Moses Coady must be rolling over in his grave. So much for being masters of our own destiny (sic).

Another really important lesson from the history of colonization in this country that illuminates my journey of reconciliation: we are all only stewards of the earth. It belongs to none of us. We are called to honour Creation.

Unama’kik, where my heart will never leave.

4. Dawe vs Emera

Wade Dawe Credit: Memorial University

“You certainly wouldn’t mistake Wade Dawe for a wild-eyed radical seeking the overthrow of the capitalist system as we know it,” writes Stephen Kimber:

He is, in short, a successful, profit-driven capitalist.

I tell you all of this by way of introduction to a deliciously fascinating dust-up last week in the virtual pages of allNovaScotia.com, the subscriber-based website that is the self-reflecting news source of choice for Nova Scotia’s business and political elite.

Click here to read “Emera: the view from the expensive seats.”

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

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4. Death at the Bridge Terminal

Saturday evening, a 67-year-old man was struck by a bus at the Bridge Terminal and died.

A police release described the incident as follows: “A 67 year old man succumbed to his injuries after contact was made with a Metro Transit bus in motion.”

I’m not sure whether to read anything into the “contact was made” language or not.

I happened to be taking the bus home to Dartmouth just after the incident occurred. The Bridge Terminal was closed and all buses were re-routed to the area around the old liquor store on Faulkner Street, but people on my bus were unaware of what was going on when the bus detoured back under the bridge, so asked the driver. The driver was clearly upset, and unhelpfully barked something about the sign on the bus saying it was on detour, so I told the other passengers that there had been an incident and the terminal was closed. I don’t fault the driver; it must have been truly traumatic for all the drivers.

I passed by the terminal on my way home, and could see a tarp, presumably covering the deceased’s body, placed into the busway a bit, under the pedestrian bridge, just short of the bay where the #1 bus usually stops to load. It’s not a place pedestrians typically travel, so I can’t make out what happened.

None of this is easy for anyone — the loved ones of the deceased, the drivers, the people who saw it happen, the responders.

It doesn’t do any good to speculate, so as Norm Collins says, the public should be informed sensitively about what exactly happened.

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VIEWS

1. There’s seamen all over town

The first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) steams in formation with Spanish Armada frigate Alváro de Bazán (F 101), German frigate FGS Hessen (F 221) and Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), Oct. 20, 2022. Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Mattingly

Seawomen, too, just not as many of them.

I admit to some class confusion and moral ambiguity.

I spoke with a handful of sailors this weekend. I don’t know how representative my tiny sample of the 5,000 or so now visiting Halifax was, but they struck me as upstanding, polite young men.

The USS Gerald R. Ford is based out of Norfolk, Virginia, where I grew up and still have family I visit once or twice a year.

When I was very young, most sailors were drafted. Not a few elected to join the military rather than serve jail time for minor crimes. And so there was a definite class division in the military between the officers (like my father, who was stationed at the Marine air base attached to the navy base) and the typical enlisted men or draftees.

Across the street from the main entrance to the Norfolk Naval Base, at the corner of Admiral Taussig and Hampton Boulevards, was a collection of seedy bars and massage parlours catering to the servicemen. We’d pass them as Mom made her weekly trip to the base commissary, and even my eight-year-old eyes understood what the red light district was all about, and I knew of the civilian disdain for the rank and file — “sailors and dogs keep off the grass” signs and the like.

Times change. The draft was ended in the early 1970s, and the U.S. military began a slow march towards broader professionalism. Standards were tightened, education rewarded. Through the miracle of urban renewal, the seedy bars and massage parlours on Taussig Boulevard were torn down. The fellows still liked to party, but they began blending into the broader city life.

The New York Times noted the change in a 1974 article:

As for the Navy itself, a sailor can still find dives and massage parlors in Norfolk or just about anywhere else in Tidewater. But sailors have changed a lot of late. Many are fairly well‐paid technicians now, guys who come ashore and go straight to a home and a family.

“These days, the sailors don’t even have to wear uniforms when on liberty. You wouldn’t know the fleet was in now — except that we’ve started going out of our way to greet each arriving vessel with a band and pretty girls.”

By the early 1980s, when I was out drinking with friends, it wasn’t unusual to run into sailors farther down Hampton Boulevard, at the bars around Old Dominion University. I remember a bit of a transition as the university kids and sailors learned to behave around each other, but that uneasy dance mostly worked itself out. Eventually, the expanding university consumed those bars as well, and nowadays the bar scene is more dispersed across town, with no one batting an eye at the sailors — it’s just another job.

The fellows I spoke with this weekend were professionals, having taken advanced classes in their fields (around aviation support, in their case). They were out partying, too — they were on leave for the weekend, and had booked hotel rooms downtown. But one was married, and another engaged, and there was a restraint to their partying that was in stark contrast to the free-for-all I remember from my youth.

I asked them about politicization in the U.S. military, mentioning specifically the alt Christian right infiltration of the Air Force and white supremacists joining the Army. They didn’t dodge the question. They said as they saw it, their ship contained a cross section of people, but such extreme views were frowned upon and wouldn’t likely be rewarded with promotion. One, of Mexican descent, told me he had suffered no discrimination, and he actually preferred working with women commanders as they were more professional and emotionally steady.

I also asked them if there were any nuclear bombs on the boat. Not that they were aware of, they said, but they could probably get them quick enough.

I don’t know. They struck me as fine young men, not unlike the fine young men in my extended family who are also servicemen. Is it weird to say that? I’m uneasy (to put it mildly) with the hyper militarization of the U.S. (and other countries), and I don’t know if the volunteer military is a good thing or not (perhaps everyone should be equally at risk of dying in war), and certainly people should question their personal role in the war machine. There’s probably a way to read the professionalism of the military rank and file as problematic.

Yesterday, the Nova Scotia Voice of Women for Peace issued a needed counter-message:

Warships on our dying oceans do not protect us. Nuclear weapons capability in our harbour does not protect us. The cost to build and operate Canadian surface combatants (warships) is estimated at $306 billion, and that money bankrupts us all. We say no to the blind folly of power and war mongering. The USS Gerald Ford warship in Halifax Harbour is a $13.3 BILLION dollar sinkhole floating on a dying ocean.  67 countries in the world have a GDP of less than $13.3 billion ….. We could feed the hungry and house the unhoused instead of funding boys and their toys.

I agree whole-heartedly, but I was able to set that aside and enjoy a conversation with some nice guys.

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Government

Today

Law Amendments (Monday, 10am, Province House) — info here

Tomorrow

Law Amendments (Tuesday, 9am, Province House) — info here

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm)


On campus

Dalhousie

Today

No events

Tomorrow

Come Hell or High Water: Improving Emergency Response for People with Disabilities (Tuesday, 12pm, online) — webinar; from the listing:

Persons with disabilities have unique considerations when it comes to emergencies and evacuations. There are many access and functional needs to consider, particularly relating to communication methods, transportation, sheltering, access to assistive devices, emergency social services, and transition back to the community. Post-disaster audits from disasters highlight the need to improve emergency services for persons with disabilities. Emergency evacuations caused by severe weather are becoming more common, and an aging population means the number of people with disabilities will increase. What can governments, communities, and individuals do to better support persons with disabilities during emergencies?

Saint Mary’s

“Carrie” and the Monstrous Feminine (Monday, 1pm, Rm L170, McNally North 508) — film screening and talk with Lindsay Macumber


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
07:45: NYK Rigel, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Southampton, England
11:30: Skogafoss, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Portland
16:00: NYK Delphinus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
16:30: Atlantic Star sails for New York
17:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 36 for St. John’s
18:00: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, moves from anchorage to Gold Bond
20:30: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida

Cape Breton
13:15: Nordbay, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for sea
13:30: Hamburg, cruise ship with up to 420 passengers, sails from Sydney for Halifax, on a 120-day cruise from Hamburg, Germany to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands


Footnotes

Still getting used to this new website.


Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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