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News

1. Chair of Tourism Agency is a tourist

The mob hit has been taken off Ben Cowan-Dewar.
The mob hit has been taken off Ben Cowan-Dewar.

Ben Cowan-Dewar was appointed the chair of the newly created Nova Scotia Tourism Agency just last month. Now, he’s moved himself, his wife, and his two children to Ontario. That’s not a problem, says both Premier Stephen McNeil and Darlene Grant Fiander, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia.

I happened to be at Province House yesterday when McNeil defended Cowan-Dewar’s move. The premier said that Cowan-Dewar’s great work in tourism is helping to address the problem of out-migration. He said that with a straight face, seemingly unaware that Cowan-Dewer just added four people to the out-migration figures.

Cowan-Dewar moved to Nova Scotia in 2008, from Ontario. In 2012, the New York Times highlighted Cowan-Dewer’s Cabot Links golf course in Inverness — “several hundred miles and a time zone from any large metropolitan city and a lonesome three-and-a-half-hour drive in a rental car from Nova Scotia’s lone major airport” — explaining that remote, out-of-the-way golf courses are all the rage among the uber wealthy:

The foremost example of the seclusion-yields-success business model is Bandon Dunes, a similarly inaccessible Oregon seacoast complex opened in 1999 that now draws 130,000 golfers annually and employs almost 1,000. The developer of Bandon Dunes, Mike Keiser, a former greeting card mogul who grew up in upstate New York, is the financial clout behind Cabot Links as well.

Keiser is the most successful kind of “financial clout” — the kind who doesn’t use his own money. “Cowan-Dewar, then just 25, nonetheless started pitching his vision to everyone, beginning with regional agencies that could lend him money,” explained the Times.

One of those “regional agencies” was the federal Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, which lent Cowan-Dewer $2.5 million in 2008 to build the golf course, $750,000 more in 2012 to build a hotel at the course, and then another $2.75 million to expand the course last year.

Another “regional agency” was the provincial “jobs fund,” which loaned Cowan-Dewer $8.25 million in 2013.

Golfers tell me that Cabot Links is a great course, whatever that means. I have no reason to doubt that’s true. Lend me $14 million and I’ll build something spectacular, too.

The Times article gives some possible insight into what motivates Cowan-Dewer’s move back to Ontario:

And in March 2008, even though not one golf hole had been constructed, he moved from downtown Toronto to Inverness with his wife, Allie Barclay, who was 35 weeks pregnant and leaving behind a career in finance.

“I arrived in tears,” Barclay said last week, recalling the move. “I felt like I was in the witness protection program.”

I guess the mob boss has been murdered, and the family can move back to the city without fearing for their safety. The kids can go to a nice school, not those hellhole schools they’ve got in Cape Breton. Barclay can sit on a board of a museum or charity, and drink wine with other sophisticates after an afternoon shopping in boutiques. Cowan-Dewer can own a table at the local country club, regaling his exploits of getting rich on the backs of the hicks out east.

The golf course has brought much-needed economic activity to the area, but the owner of the Cabot Links is sending the message that while Inverness may be a nice place to visit, it’s a horrible place to live.

Maybe that should be the new slogan for the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency. “Nova Scotia: you wouldn’t want to live here, but it’s a great place to visit!”

2. Racist grafitti

Racist grafitti has been discovered at the Dal library, reports Moira Donovan.

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. To purchase a subscription, click here.

3. Rainmen

I was out of town when the Rainmen fiasco/scandal/whatever happened, and so am not on top of it. You can read El Jones’ analysis here.

Yesterday, the Canadian Press reported that:

The fallout continues from the bizarre battle between the Windsor Express and Halifax Rainmen.

The National Basketball League of Canada suspended Windsor’s head coach Bill Jones one year and fined him $4,000, while Windsor guard Tony Bennett has been suspended indefinitely pending a review. Halifax assistant coach Pedro Monteiro has been fined an additional $4,000.

The news comes a week after the NBL handed out $90,000 in fines to the Halifax Rainmen after they failed to show up for Game 7 of the league final against Windsor. The Rainmen argued they felt unsafe after a morning altercation with the Express at shootarounds.

I don’t have any particular insight into this, except to say that the Rainmen have failed to increase the fan base and it’s clear the organization has been struggling financially. I don’t know what explains the lack of fans — I’ve been to a few games and enjoyed them, but somehow was never motivated enough to buy season tickets or even tickets ahead of time. Maybe this just isn’t a basketball town. But I suspect that financial struggles led to an organizational breakdown.

4. The Battle of Point Pleasant Park

D-Day

Reports the Chronicle Herald’s Frances Willick:

Dog walkers and fresh-air enthusiasts who visit Point Pleasant Park on Saturday may encounter soldiers and assault boats.

Canadian Armed Forces members are participating in a training exercise at the south-end Halifax park from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The military exercise will include assault boats landing at Black Rock Beach, a forced march around the perimeter of the park and the construction of an aerial ropeway.

5. Bozo government tweaks film tax credit yet again

CBC reporter Jean Laroche’s Twitter feed yesterday was a laugh riot:

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Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 9.51.54 AM

The Chronicle Herald’s Michael Gorman spells it out in detail here.

6. Steroids

Three SMU football players — Kayin Marchand-Wright, Melvin Abankwah, and Jonathan Langa — have tested positive for steroids and have been sanctioned for four years, which means that “none of these athletes are eligible to participate in any capacity with any sport signatory to the [Canadian Anti-Doping Program], including training with teammates, until their sanction periods have concluded.”

A fourth SMU player, Marvin-James Golding, has tested positive, but his case remains open.


Views

1. Fire stations

Queen Street fire station, circa 1880. Photo: Nova Scotia Archives
Queen Street fire station, circa 1880. Photo: Nova Scotia Archives
Former Queen Street fire station, circa 1980. Photo: Stephen Archibald
Former Queen Street fire station, circa 1980. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald has a wonderful post about old fire stations around town that long ago were converted to other uses. Pictured above is the Queen Street station. Archibald also mentions the McKelvie’s building, the Stubborn Goat gastro pub, a station on Oxford Street converted to a workshop, and a now-gone station across from the town clock that operated as a car repair shop. A couple of weeks ago I walked along the Bedford Highway and noticed an old station that has been taken over by a non-profit agency. I’m sure there are lots of others.

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

The rash of fires that hit Cape Breton last year upset me.

Particularly saddening for me was the loss of my own home in South Harbour in northern Cape Breton to a fire in the very early morning of June 20.

Whoever was responsible took away a home that housed five generations and the beginning of a sixth generation of one family, not to mention everything in the house.

Sad to say, that is not what was most upsetting.

The constable who arrived on the scene was very compassionate when I spoke to her on the phone and again when I arrived at the RCMP station in Ingonish.
However, it appears my house didn’t deserve the attention of a house that was occupied year-round.

No fire marshal or forensics experts came. And there was no investigation other than what the constable did.

Because there was no power hooked up to the house, the cause of the fire was said to be arson.

I was refused insurance coverage because the house didn’t have power. Had there been insurance, I believe this case would have received more attention.
I am grateful no one was hurt. My girls, their children and I often stayed in the home. Thank the good Lord that was not the case on June 20, 2014.

But I think of what I had in that house and who originally owned it. I am very sad and sick about the loss.

The fire was a crime, but it didn’t seem to be treated as such by anyone other than the constable who was there. I thank her sincerely for all her efforts.
Whoever is responsible took from me and my family things that can never be replaced: My father’s gramophone, my Aunt Cy’s settee set, a rubber dolly from generations back in my mother’s family, my godmother’s Remington typewriter, one daughter’s dollhouse, another daughter’s heirloom dishes, my children’s and grandchildren’s toys, and many more things.

I hope whoever was responsible for the fire never has the sinking feeling I have, and never loses anything they cherished and looked after for many years, only to have someone else take it away in a minute. I hope someday they realize what they took from my family and maybe even feel a little remorse.

I know most people thought this was just an old house, but it was my old home, my place to get away. And without insurance, I will never be able to put anything else there.

Those responsible should keep in mind that everything you do in this life — good and bad — comes back to you. It’s called karma.

Linda Mae MacKinnon, Sydney


In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 10am Saturday. Map: marinetraffic.com
The seas around Nova Scotia, 10am Saturday. Map: marinetraffic.com

Maersk Palermo, container ship, Montreal to Pier 42, then sails to sea
Fusion, sails to Saint-Pierre


Footnotes

I’m only this morning getting to all those emails that piled up while I was away. Thank you for your patience.

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

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10 Comments

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  1. I didn’t bother reading the Cowan-Dewar article because I had a pretty good idea of what it contained; a guy shows up from out of province and hustles a bunch of government money, does something that enhances his bank account and then leaves. Then someone mentioned Parker Donham’s response and now, here I am, writing my own response. Damn!

    Wow, Parker Donham sure is upset. If I recall correctly, Mr. Donham used to be a journalist, before in went into PR, so he should know that journalists are supposed to publish the facts and I read quite a few facts in this piece. I must say that none of it surprised me, which is why I didn’t read it in the first place. Granted, the accounting of the facts was interspersed with some typically Bousquet style cynicism and sarcasm. Another reason why I subscribe to the Examiner. Shitty news about Nova Scotian taxpayers getting hosed once again needs a bit of something extra to make it palatable.

    As for Mr. Cowan-Dewar: Well played, sir. Your are following a time honoured tradition of leveraging taxpayer money to enrich yourself and leave buckets of booty to your offspring. Enjoy.

    Parker Donham is well acquainted with the aforementioned, tradition. He was around when Peter Monk showed up to save us rubes from ourselves and create an economic miracle by using our money – of course – to build state of the art stereos. Parker Donham was a journalist when the Clairtone debacle was taking place, I believe. I can’t recall if he fawned over Mr. Monk the way he just praised Cowan-Dewar, but I would love to know. Perhaps Mr. Donham would like to share a few clippings with us. For those few who don’t already know, Peter Monk is now the richest person in Canada. Yup, another Nova Scotia success story.

    A small point, but worth asking the question: What kind of bizarro mind fart caused Donham to reference a history of burning buildings “north of Cape Smokey”, in the context of people getting rich off building a golf course on an old coal mine?

    Finally, I suspect that this story is just beginning. Like any good journalist, Tim Bousquet, will probably be asking himself if Cowan-Dewar is managing to service the massive debt he has incurred to create what, by all accounts, is a wonderful golf course. And if it doesn’t work out, who’s left holding the bag? I recall reading the other day that the provincial government is trying to unload two other golf resorts that are appraised at $ 0 – despite still being in operation. Why is that? Golf resorts, like convention centres are a concept in decline. Oh well, Mr. Cowan-Dewar will turn out to be another Nova Scotia success story, I’m sure.

    1. A few random thoughts, FWIW.

      I don’t know how Cabot Links fits into the larger golf industry. The government-funded courses on PEI are going bust, but that may be from overbuilding. I understand that Cabot Links is marketed towards the extreme wealthy end of the golf spectrum, and there may be opportunity there that isn’t available to the other provincial courses. That’s the theory, anyway. Cabot Links is getting great reviews. Whether that translates into the potential envisioned is anyone’s guess. Time will tell.

      A few years ago Malcolm Gladwell (with whom I often disagree, and who has crossed some unforgivable ethical lines, so grain of salt) had an interesting piece on Ted Turner and other billionaires. Gladwell reviews Michel Villette and Catherine Vuillermot’s “From Predators to Icons.” His takeaway: “The truly successful businessman, in Villette and Vuillermot’s telling, is anything but a risk-taker. He is a predator, and predators seek to incur the least risk possible while hunting.”

      http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/01/18/the-sure-thing

      I think Cowan-Dewar is in this tradition. I don’t know where he got the financing to start his first company, which was basically a golf tourism business for executives. He appears to have done well in it (the company is still successful), and got to travel to lots of places and meet lots of people with money. He got at least one of his clients, Mike Keiser, to be a financial backer for Cabot Links. The total cost for building the course was $6.54 million, while ACOA put up $2.5 million of that. I assume Keiser was most of the balance, although Cowan-Dewar surely must have had some money in the game, and the ACOA loans are fully repayable, meaning even if Cabot links fails someone will have to pay them back. (I wish ACOA made those terms public, but it doesn’t.) Still, with partners like Keiser, ACOA, and the jobs fund, Cowan-Dewar’s personal risk appears to be minimal.

      So yea, I think he played the game well. Leveraged big money, including taxpayer money, to make a fortune, or at least enough to not have to be present for the day-to-day running of the business.

      I guess we’re supposed to bow down to such genius.

      Maybe it’s even worth it, in the end. Again, time will tell. What I was trying to get at, however, is that it’s terrible optics for the head of the Tourism Agency not to live in the province. It really is saying, quite clearly, that he doesn’t want to live here, and we’re just the quaint place to go visit and goof off, not like a real place with serious people.

      1. Ben Cowan-Dewar

        Tim, it’s good to have you back. Did you try for an interview with Cowan-Dewar? It would be neat to hear what he has to say for himself and his family. Only you could ask the questions we would all like to see answered.

  2. One reason people who enjoy visiting Nova Scotia might think twice about moving here is that anyone who succeeds in business here can count on being subjected to petty, mean-spirited, personal attacks like your article about Ben Cowan-Dewar and Allie Barclay.

    This couple brought about the revitalization of a destitute, down-on-its-luck former coal mining village that had been in deep decline for generations. They helped a group of local residents (including Rankin MacDonald, longtime editor of the Inverness Oran, a wonderful community weekly) realize a longstanding dream of turning a repulsive old mine waste dump into a spectacular golf course.

    And, yes, they committed the sin of getting government help, as well as major private investment, to get this venture off the ground. Readers might think a social democrat such as yourself would applaud the use of government funds to help revitalize such a community—but apparently you only favour government involvement if unionized civil servants run an operation lock, stock, and barrel.

    You flatter yourself with the conceit you could do what they did if only someone gave you $14 million, but this is pure vanity on your part. You don’t have the first clue what would be required.

    For a view of what happens when a community experiences decade after decade of economic and social destitution, consider the letter in this issue from the women whose heirloom home in South Harbour was torched. Then multiply it by 20 or 40 or 100.

    Random and retaliatory arson has been rampant in the coastal communities north of Smokey for at least 20 years. That’s the kind of thing that happens to places when private capital dries up.

    It’s embarrassing that a couple who have brought so much employment and economic activity to a town that needed it so badly would be rewarded with the ignorant nastiness of this article. You are at your invidious worst with this piece, Tim. Your readers, and Nova Scotia, deserve better.

    1. fwiw, I have great sympathy for the woman whose house was torched. That shouldn’t happen to anyone.

  3. Looks like HRM’s CAO started a trend.

    Make lots of money while you’re here, don’t invest in anything other than your own career, take the money and reinvest it in Toronto.

    I guess in that context those awesome Upper Canadians are Apple and Nova Scotians are the sweatshop workers in the Chinese factories. Domestic globalization?

    Sounds like Stephen MacNeil has internailzed that doctrine. Is it any wonder people deem us a backwater.

  4. If we’re going to be run from Ontario and by Ontarians can we at least get Premier Wynne to pop in and school this government? Its getting very hard to choose between stupid or evil with our so-called liberals.

  5. I second that emotion, re: “Cowan-Dewar should be removed from his job if he wants to remain in Ontario.” And add- he should be removed altogether. I want to see CB thrive, but the golf links story is a another example of the absurd and depressing backroom- Nova-Scotia-patronage-system cruising along on it’s well-oiled wheels.

  6. Cowan-Dewar should be removed from his job if he wants to remain in Ontario.

    We should also remove Laurel Broten from her job and send her back to Ontario.