1. Atlantic Gold’s lobbying blitz

December 2020 Muddy brook downstream from Atlantic gold clay mining Photo: Mitchell Glawson

Reports Joan Baxter:

The company is in now in court on charges of harming the environment, regulators are casting a wary eye at its plans for future environmental protection, and investors are getting worried, so Atlantic Gold has hired a lobbyist to fast track federal approval of its Nova Scotia projects.

The entire article is interesting but two parts especially stood out for me.

First was the account of an investors call with Atlantic Gold’s parent company, St Barbara:

On January 26, 2021, St Barbara Managing Director and CEO Craig Jetson held an “earnings call” to brief analysts and institutional investors on second quarter 2021 results. Participating in the call were representatives from Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and Credit Suisse.

Jetson’s presentation showed the latest schedule for the four Nova Scotia mines, the “Atlantic project development,” and blamed the delay on the original mine opening plans on “changes in Federal regulatory permitting” that “have impacted project timelines.”

Alex Barkley of Morgan Stanley later asked Jetson when he expected the first gold production from Beaver Dam, whether he was looking at 2023 or 2024 as plausible starting dates.

“Do you know if you’re any closer to knowing whether we should expect that earlier gold production?” Barkley asked. “And could we get an update on that process, please?”

Jetson replied that they had “refocused” the business in Nova Scotia, and appointed a general manager, “to take the lead on that permitting, certainly interface with the First Nations and all the key stakeholders to make sure that doesn’t become problematic or managed accordingly and that permits are delivered on time from a sequencing-perspective and the project-perspective.”

Jetson continued, falling all over his own wordiness:

So that’s going very well, and leading the team are certainly engaging quite well. I think Beaver Dam, in terms of its sequence, will be really subject to the permitting and I think we’re working with First Nations and the government. We’ve put it in their timeline where we think the permitting will be. In my view, that’s conservative and we’ll certainly try to shorten that timeline down without guarantees, of course. A lot of things have to work and as you’d know, Alex, the permitting is not really something that we can control other than work with. So, I guess the quality of our applications is extremely important, so we make sure that we answer all the questions, we have all the technical solutions in place, and one that really explains as we submit the permit. So, I’m confident that the timeline will be less than what we have in that project plan … [italics added]

Second is Baxter’s analysis of an October 2020 telephone call between Jetson and Premier Stephen McNeil, during which, according to the premier’s office, the pair did not discuss anything related to Atlantic Gold’s operations in Nova Scotia. Perhaps they talked about their big families.

And, it will come as no surprise, but the provincial lobbyist registry is a complete joke.

Click here to read “Atlantic Gold’s lobbying blitz.”

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2. COVID-19

One new case of COVID-19 was announced in Nova Scotia yesterday (Thursday, Feb. 4).

The new case is in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone and is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

There are 10 known active cases in the province. Two people are in hospital with the disease, one of whom is in ICU.

The active cases are distributed as follows:

• 5 in the Halifax Peninsula / Chebucto Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 2 in the Dartmouth/ Southeastern Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 1 in the Bedford/ Sackville Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 1 in the Cape Breton Community Health Network in the Eastern Zone
• 1 in the Annapolis and Kings Community Health Network in the Western Zone

Nova Scotia Health labs conducted 854 tests Wednesday.

So far, 16,448 doses of vaccine have been administered; of those 4,046 were second doses.

Here are the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average (yesterday at 1.1) since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):

And here is the active caseload for the second wave:

The only active potential exposure warnings are for two flights coming into the Halifax airport:

WestJet flight 3346 on Jan. 26 from Toronto to Halifax
WestJet flight 3346 on Jan. 30 from Toronto to Halifax

Premier Stephen McNeil and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang will provide a COVID update today at 1pm. Strang hinted Wednesday that he may announce some lifting of restrictions on spectators at sporting events.

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3. End of the McNeil era

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil removes his mask as he arrives at a post-cabinet media availability on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020.— Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

“Thursday was Premier Stephen McNeil’s last cabinet meeting after seven years as ‘the boss,’” reports Jennifer Henderson:

The scrum with reporters was preceded by an announcement by Business Minister and Glace Bay MLA Geoff MacLellan that he does not intend to re-offer when the next election is called. “It feels like the end of the road,” said MacLellan. “I came in with the boss and I’m going out with the boss.”

Click here to read “Premier Stephen McNeil and Business Minister Geoff MacLellan say good-bye to each other, and to us.”

Today’s COVID briefing will be McNeil’s last public appearance as premier. The new Liberal leader, and therefore premier, will be announced tomorrow night after the party election results are tallied. Henderson will report on those results from the party convention as they happen.

McNeil’s tenure has been rambunctious, to put it mildly. I’ll let others comment more fully (undoubted Stephen Kimber will have much to say this weekend), but I’ll just mention that to his credit, McNeil changed his mind last year, and by doing so helped keep Nova Scotia on the near-zero coronavirus trajectory we’re still on.

That moment came last summer, when McNeil seemed determined to have Nova Scotia “go it alone” and break the Atlantic bubble so that the provincial tourism industry would be salvaged at least to a degree by visitors from the rest of Canada. For whatever reason —strong public opinion that the bubble not be popped was probably top of the list, but certainly Strang’s contrary view also contributed — McNeil gave up on that idea, and the bubble remained until recently (when it collapsed because of increases in case numbers in provinces within the bubble).

Nova Scotia is now essentially virus-free, except for a small number of people flying in with it. Most of the credit for that comes goes to regular people following public health protocols, and secondly to very good contact tracing and quarantining of active cases, but we couldn’t have attained this enviable position had McNeil not changed his mind.

So I credit McNeil there, at least. If only he had been able to similarly listen to better angels through the rest of his premiership.

So what’s next? The next few weeks will be quite interesting.

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4. Dartmouth development

A rendering of the proposal for Prince Albert Road. — Kassner Goodspeed Architects Credit: Kassner Goodspeed Architects

“Councillors on the Dartmouth side of the harbour rejected a staff recommendation and approved a 12-storey development for Prince Albert Road following a public hearing Thursday night,” reports Zane Woodford:

The Harbour East Marine Drive Community council voted unanimously in favour of a motion from the councillor for the area, Sam Austin, to approve a development agreement for three properties — two on Prince Albert Road and one on Bartlin Road.

Click here to read “Community council approves 12-storey Dartmouth development.”

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5. Sister city

A view of Zhongshan Square in the heart of modern Dalian. 2006 (By MR+G from Wakayama, Japan – Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

“Remember CBRM’s sister city, the Chinese port city of Dalian?” asks Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator:

I don’t blame you if you’ve forgotten, the relationship never really amounted to much and we basically stopped talking about it after our sister city (population: 6 million) sentenced a Canadian to death in 2019.

But back in December 2015, Albert Barbusci, CEO of what was then Harbor Port Development Partners (HPDP), assured the CBC the connection would redound to our benefit:

“Dalian has agreed to work with us [on port development],” he said. “But the real value is for Nova Scotia and Cape Breton to look at the potential trading that they can do with China.”

Barbusci said the sister-city agreement will work on at least three levels.

“One is to have a port relationship, second would be city to city and the third tier, which is the most important tier, is to bring the peers together, the business community from Cape Breton and Nova Scotia and to match them up with our colleagues from Dalian so that they can begin to talk about what’s important, and that is trade and business.”

Reading that in 2021, it looks like Barbusci suspected the idea of Dalian helping us with “port development” was a non-starter. Why else pretend that developing the Port of Sydney — the raison d’etre for his company and the goal of his exclusive contract with the CBRM — was less important than playing international matchmaker between Cape Breton and Chinese businesses?

Dalian in particular — and China in general — having turned out to be such a dead end, there’s not much point in digging through the ashes of the relationship, except that some parts of it are funny, and who doesn’t have time for funny?

Click here to read “FOIPOP Findings: Dear China…”

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6. Sandy Lake Park

Aerial view of the Sandy Lake-Sackville River Regional Park. A coalition of 27 organizations is working to give official status for the regional park. The area is also on the list of growth centres in the HRM.

“Representatives from a coalition of organizations hoping to expand a little-known park in Bedford made their pitch to Halifax council’s environment committee on Thursday, but couldn’t convince the councillors to take action,” reports Zane Woodford:

Karen McKendry and Karen Robinson of Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park Coalition made the presentation on their hopes for a regional park on the land between Lower Sackville, Hammonds Plains, and Highway 102.

Click here to read “Coalition asks Halifax council’s environment committee to expand Sandy Lake Park.”

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The superport of Melford, which will never exist.

This is your periodic reminder that in 2008, 13 years ago, the province of Nova Scotia kicked an old man out of his house so some investors could shill for a deepwater port in Melford, which is just down the road from the space port:

A 78-year-old fisherman in Guysborough County could be evicted Thursday after refusing to sell his home to make way for a proposed container terminal on the Strait of Canso.

Basil Scott has lived his entire life in the modest house on the Melford Loop road.

Unlike 10 other landowners, he refused to sell his home and turned down an offer of $30,000. A relative who lives nearby won’t go either.

Joey Scott said if the Municipality of the District of Guysborough evicts his uncle, it will have to find somewhere for him to go.

“I told them they were basically responsible now,” said Joey Scott. “They got to find him a place to live. If it’s a jail cell, it’s a jail cell.”

A court order says sheriffs can evict Scott on Thursday as the result of an expropriation carried out last November.

Three years ago, in 2018, the company clearcut the property so construction of the international terminal could begin (narrator: construction has not begun).

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Budget Committee (Friday, 9:30am) — contingency meeting if required


No meetings.

On campus

Saint Mary’s

Navigating the Census: Working with Census Data (Friday, 10am) — learn how to select, export, and clean your data in this Zoom workshop

In the harbour

06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
06:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Anchorage 5 to Pier 41
10:30: Siem Confucius, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
14:00: CMA CGM A. Lincoln, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Tanger Med, Morocco
15:00: Singelgracht, cargo ship, sails from Pier 9 for sea
16:00: Nolhanava sails for  Saint-Pierre
17:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from Gold Bond (National Gypsum) for sea
18:00: IT Intrepid, cable layer, moves from Pier 9 to Irving Oil
19:00: East Coast, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
22:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk


I try not to be annoying about it, but we really do depend on your subscriptions. If you’ve been putting it off, now’s as good as time as any to subscribe. Thanks!

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

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  1. With Spaceport in the Morning File title, it was a swerve to see the name Jetson in the Atlantic Gold piece.