supply chain issues, nobody wanting to work anymore, some of the Examiner crew being on holiday, I am in the Morning File seat for the second day in a row. I will try not to use the word “tedious” today.
1. Tracy Kitch sentenced to five months
Tracy Kitch, the former CEO of the IWK Health Centre, has been sentenced to five months in jail. Kitch was found guilty of fraud earlier this year. She was found to have charged $43,000 in personal expenses to her corporate credit card.
Steve Bruce of SaltWire reports that Judge Paul Scovil “rejected the defence’s request for a conditional sentence to be served in the community, saying it would be ‘manifestly unfit’ in the circumstances of this case…
While on probation, Kitch will be prohibited from working or volunteering in any capacity that would give her authority over the real property, money or valuable securities of another person.
Kitch was earning $280,000 as head of the IWK. She is appealing the conviction.
2. Cruise line markups and the Cape Breton Miners Museum
I’m going to point to a couple of stories by Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator this morning. The first has to do with cruise ships, excursion costs, and the Cape Breton Miners Museum, which is apparently charging exorbitant fees… or is it?
In a piece called “Nickled and Dimed by the Cruise Industry,” Campbell notes that some cruise lines have dropped the Cape Breton Miners Museum in Glace Bay as an excursion destination, because its entrance fees are too high.
Dennis Campbell, CEO of Ambassatours Gray Line tells the Cape Breton Post:
“The cruise lines said to us, ‘We’re going to cut that tour (of the museum),” said Campbell, without naming specific companies. “And it is a bit of a challenge to sell this to cruise lines, because it is a bit out of whack in terms of the other museum prices.”
Mary Campbell shares those “out of whack” fees with us:
If you want to take a mine tour, you pay more:
Add a Virtual Mine Tour and the price rises again:
Then she looks at what you’d pay for those tours if you were a Disney cruise passenger:
Presumably, these costs include the bus to and from the museum, but that’s still a heck of a markup. And it’s not uncommon in the cruise business. As Dennis Campbell told me when I interviewed him for an Unravel story on cruise ships:
Campbell, of Ambassatours, says the markup cruise passengers pay for the company’s tours is substantial. “It varies by line. Many of the cruise companies mark up the excursions anywhere from 60 to 100%. There are times when the cruise lines almost give the cruises away, and look at their profit centres as the onboard bars, casinos and on-shore tours. That’s just the way it is.”
Mary Campbell notes that the markup is even bigger on excursions for children:
The Miners Museum offers free entry to children under 5, so those 3 and 4 year-olds paying Disney $85 are actually not earning the Museum anything. And the Museum charges “youth” aged 5 to 17 the child entry fee, so those aged 10 to 17 being charged $109 by Disney are earning the Museum $14.
(Parks Canada sites like the Fortress of Louisbourg have made entrance for “youth under the age of 17” free since January 2018 and must be a little gold mine for cruise lines like Disney, which charges those aged 10 and up $99 for its Fortress Excursion, while those aged 3 to 9 pay $90. Only the 0 to 2 crowd get to travel free-of-charge.)
Bottom line: there’s nothing particularly “out-of-whack” about the Miners Museum’s entry fees. What’s out of whack is the profit expectations of the cruise lines.
3. Everwind, hydrogen, and the public purse
Cape Breton Spectator story #2 is called “Surprise! Everwind wants public money.”
Mary Campbell and Tim Bousquet have written about Everwind before.
The tank farm at Point Tupper (which stores the oil that supplies the nearby Nova Scotia Power generating station) has been sold by Nustar to EverWind Fuels for US$60 million.
According to its website, “the EverWind Fuels team includes former executives from Stonepeak, Blackstone, Emera, and Nova Scotia Power.”
The president of EverWind is Trent Vichie, the co-founder of the New York-based Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, a private equity firm that has been called one of the “megafunds of infrastructure.” Vichie “retired” from Stonepeak last year, at age 46. Everwind is a subsidiary of TDL Partners, of which Vichie is the CEO.
If you’re wondering why Australian-born, New York-based Vichie is suddenly interested in turning Nova Scotia into a regional green hydrogen hub, the answer can be found under the “climate” section of Canada’s 2022 federal budget:
“Budget 2022 announces that the Department of Finance Canada will engage with experts to establish an investment tax credit of up to 30 per cent, focused on net-zero technologies, battery storage solutions, and clean hydrogen [emphasis mine]. The design details of the investment tax credit will be provided in the 2022 fall economic and fiscal update.”
Now, Campbell writes:
I had pinned Vichie’s sudden interest in Nova Scotia on a federal tax incentive for green hydrogen projects, but there’s more to it than that. Everwind has a hefty lobbying presence in Ottawa.
The company is looking for federal money, Campbell notes:
And what are these good people, who assured SaltWire’s Aaron Beswick they had all the financing for their project in place back in May, lobbying the feds for?
Why, money, of course:
- The client has applied for a Strategic Action Fund – Net Zero Accelerator loan under the Call to Action program.
- The client wishes to engage the government on potential funding under the Net Zero Accelerator Fund or other funding mechanisms as appropriate.
They are also keen to discuss “energy export policy, programs and initiatives.”
And, presumably, part of that effort is convincing the powers that be that hydrogen is clean energy (like, you know, biomass, I guess):
A quote from Alisdair McLean, executive director of something called NetZero Atlantic… references “recent research” that shows “both offshore wind and clean hydrogen hold significant potential for the province.”
This research was commissioned by NetZero Atlantic (in its previous guise as the Nova Scotia Offshore Energy Research Association or OERA), ACOA, Heritage Gas Limited, Liberty Utilities and the Nova Scotia Department of Energy & Mines.
The result was this 158-page doorstop of a report, created by “a consortium of Zen Clean Energy Solutions, Dunsky Consulting and Redrock Power Systems,” that tries its best to present hydrogen as a viable option for both heating and transportation in the Maritimes, two purposes retired chemical engineer Paul Martin, co-founder of the Hydrogen Science Coalition, told me back in May were “dumb distractions” on the road to de-carbonization…
And here are two natural gas companies—Liberty Utilities, which supplies natural gas to over 12,000 customers in New Brunswick, and Dartmouth-based Heritage Gas Limited—funding a green hydrogen study that—wouldn’t you know it?—finds their natural gas pipelines would be perfect for delivering hydrogen or hydrogen mixed with natural gas to consumers.
Yesterday, I referenced Bill McKibben’s New Yorker essay on how we need to stop burning things. Here’s what McKibben has to say about hydrogen:
Hydrogen does burn cleanly, without contributing to global warming, but the [fossil fuel] industry likes hydrogen because one way to produce it is by burning natural gas.
As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
4. Province quietly shuts down dedicated COVID-19 units
Trip down memory lane here, as I bust out one of the old COVID graphics.
Brooklyn Currie at CBC reports that the province has shut down dedicated COVID units in hospitals. Patients with the disease are now treated among the regular hospital population.
Currie says the last COVID units in the province closed in mid-July:
The removal of COVID-19 units means there are longer designated beds held for COVID-19 patients. Those beds are instead put into the regular rotation of medicine and hospital services, ideally improving flow for patients through the hospital.
Dr. Shelly McNeil, senior medical director for COVID planning and implementation for Nova Scotia Health, says the change comes in part as a result of the changing nature of what patients hospitalized with COVID need:
“It might be making their underlying lung disease worse, or their underlying heart disease worse, or other things. So they’re not needing the same type of intensive respiratory support that we were seeing in the beginning phases of the pandemic.”
I have a lot of questions after reading this story. Is the change actually improving flow for patients? What does improving flow mean? If the changes are designed in part to ease ER pressure, how is that working out? Is the risk of transmission to other patients higher now that COVID patients are not in a dedicated unit?
5. Someone is shooting at cyclists in downtown Montreal
Drivers like to refer to any inconvenience that might slow them down for a few moments as a “war on cars.” Meanwhile, someone is actually shooting at cyclists in Montreal’s Plateau Mont-Royal district, and several have been hit. From the Montreal Gazette:
Several cyclists have been hit by plastic or lead projectiles this month near Portugal Park, Montreal police confirmed Friday. Neighbourhood resident Hazel Field says she knows of at least six people who have been shot since early July while riding on Marie-Anne St. East near St-Dominique St.
“This is scary,” Field, a photographer who has been living in the area since the late 1970s, said in an interview. “There’s someone literally shooting random cyclists at this intersection. It’s unconscionable.”
Montreal police “are aware of these events and are very concerned,” spokesperson Caroline Chèvrefils said Friday via email. She wouldn’t say how many cyclists have been shot, adding only that “we believe that there may be other victims who have not yet come forward.”
The story is dated July 30. Field tells reporter Frédéric Tomesco she became aware of the issue on July 9, when she saw a police officer photographing a wound on the leg of a cyclist who had been shot.
Having looked up Hazel Field while writing this I’m now curious about her connection to someone I went to high school with in Montreal.
6. The Tideline: Gus celebrates his 100th
What is there to say that hasn’t been said 100 times (probably more) about Halifax’s most famous animal? Gus — the de facto mascot of the Museum of Natural History — has been with the museum at its two locations since 1942, after being purchased in Florida for five American dollars. This weekend there are six chances to celebrate his life and sing happy hatch day to the oldest known living gopher tortoise in the world — Tara burrows into her love for him and his enduring place in the city’s tapestry. Listen to the podcast here.
Last week, I came across a website and Facebook page devoted to how great the RCMP are in Nova Scotia, and how much Nova Scotians love the force. The ournsrcmp.ca page is brought to you by the National Police Federation, whose greatest hits include, “Police Response to Nova Scotia Mass Shooting Was ‘Textbook,’ RCMP Union Boss Says.”
Surely this campaign can’t have anything to do with any not-so-warm-and-fuzzy feelings we may be feeling following the April 2020 murders, the revelations of the Mass Casualty Commission, or the fact that Nova Scotia municipalities, including Halifax, are reconsidering their contracts with the RCMP for policing.
On that note, from an April Canadian Press story by Keith Doucette:
“Folks are wondering if there’s anything we should be doing provincially, or whether we should start to investigate what municipal policing looks like at the regional level,” [Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities President Amanda] McDougall said in an interview this week…
Cumberland Mayor Murray Scott, a former Nova Scotia justice minister and police officer, said the recent hike will add $500,000 to policing costs, which now account for 17 per cent of his municipality’s overall budget.
However, Scott said his municipality’s review is about more than the cost of policing. “It’s about the RCMP having the resources that we are paying for,” he said, adding that Cumberland currently pays for 27 RCMP officers. He said that full complement isn’t always available due to such things as illness, vacation or temporary leave.
What better way to inspire confidence in your organization than to set up a “non-profit organization” Facebook page, and a website full of terrible graphics and non-proofread materials, that offers opaquely sourced statistics?
The ournsrcmp.ca website informs us of the following (bold text in original):
66% of Nova Scotians agrees [sic] that they benefit from the federal contribution of the cost of RCMP policing (Pollara, Jan. 2022).
79% of Nova Scotians served by the RCMP are satisfied with the policing service they receive.
Only 13% of Nova Scotians would prefer the RCMP to have less control over local policing. (Pollara, Jan. 2022).
Only half of Nova Scotians say that there are adequate resourced [sic] for policing in their community (Pollara, Jan. 2022)
Quality policing requires investments to ensure Members have the resources to tackle evolving situations.
RCMP Members provide multiple specialized services to municipalities in Nova Scotia, no matter the size.
The Facebook page repeats some of these figures in meme-friendly form.
Looking at this, I got curious about a few things. Are the 13% of Nova Scotians in the image above who say they want less RCMP presence the same as the 13% who “would prefer the RCMP to have less control over local policing”? Are these two different ways of spinning the answer to the same question, or are they two different questions? What was the question anyway?
The only source for the stats is a Pollara survey. Pollara, a company which offers “strategic insights” and whose “about” page begins like this:
The idea of a brand is intangible, but it has power and influence beyond an organization’s dollar valuation. Strong brands attract and engage, and have an authoritative voice and platform. Weak brands struggle to be heard and to affect the terrain upon which they act.
The company has a “latest news” page with links to stories on their surveys, but there is nothing on policing or the RCMP in Nova Scotia. The only mention of police I could find on the website was that chief brand strategist Justine Fedak serves on the board of the Chicago Police Foundation.
So I emailed Pollara and ournsrcmp.ca about the survey, asking if I could see the questions and results, or at least a summary, but nobody got back to me.
The ournsrcmp.ca website’s “about” page is highly informative:
Support our RCMP Members in Nova Scotia. We are here to keep our communities safe.
The hashtag is getting a whole lot of traction. One tweet, from John McCracken, calling it a “glossy new astroturfing campaign.”
I highly recommend watching some of the videos on the site, especially if you are a fan of people exiting police cars, writing on whiteboards, and passing Post-It notes to each other in slow motion.
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda
No meetings this week
ArchPlan and Bookstore Spring Garden Road pop-up (Thursday, 11am, Medjuck Building lawn, 5410 Spring Garden Road) — The Dalhousie Bookstore and student ambassadors from the Faculty of Architecture and Planning will be on site on the Sexton campus to talk with passersby about the activities and programs available in the Faculty. The Bookstore will have Dalhousie merchandise available, and books from Dalhousie Architectural Press. Note: this event will not proceed if the weather is inclement.
PhD Defence, Electrical and Computer Engineering (Friday, 9am, online) — Xiaoyao Feng will defend “On the Theory and Experiments of Time-Reversal for Source Reconstruction”
In the harbour
05:45: Caribbean Princess, cruise ship with up to 3,756 passengers, arrives at Pier 31 from Sydney, on a 10-day cruise from Quebec City to New York
06:00: MSC Angela, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Montreal
06:45: Adventure of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,058 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from New York, on a four-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
06:45: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from St. John’s, on a 35-day roundtrip cruise of the Arctic out of Boston
07:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
10:30: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
12:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41
15:30: Caribbean Princess sails for Bar Harbor
17:45: Adventure of the Seas sails for New York
22:45: Zaandam sails for Boston
That’s a lot of cruise ship passengers for one day.