News

1. Electric vehicles

Plugshare charging stations in HRM.

“This May, the federal government will start issuing a rebate up to $5,000 to people buying a new electric car. The program will cost Transport Canada $300 million, or roughly enough to provide 60,000 people with full $5,000 rebates on new EV (electric vehicle) purchases,” reports Erica Butler.

Butler goes on to examine the pros and cons of the rebate program, and to scrutinize the environmental claims and counter-claims.

Click here to read “Will the new electric car rebate help us stop changing the climate?”

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2. Environmental assessments

Shell’s Stena IceMAX drillship. Environmentalists raised concern that there was no capping stack nearby during the drilling in case there was a blowout.

“A federal bill to change the way environmental assessments of large projects are handled met with strong and mixed reaction at a Senate Committee hearing held in Halifax yesterday,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

Environmentalists like the fact assessments of new projects must include “climate change” as one factor. “The Bill is not perfect but it is a balanced and modern process,” said Sarah MacDonald, a lawyer for the non-profit advocacy group EcoJustice.

In Newfoundland on Tuesday, PC leader Ches Crosbie said “In Alberta they call this the ‘no more pipelines’ bill. Out here I call it the ‘No more offshore’ bill.”

Click here to read “Oil industry-friendly politician objects to proposed strengthened environmental assessment rules.”

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3. Parkview News

“Parkview News is a local newspaper dedicated to spreading the good news in our community,” explains its website.” It was founded in August 2014 by Bruce Holland and Eric Caines.” Holland is listed as the publisher, Caines as the VP of Operations, and Andy de Champlain as the editor.

The Parkview News is mailed to 70,000 addresses in Clayton Park, Fairview, Bayers Lake, Bedford, and Sackville.

It’s basically an ad sheet. The March issue, for example, is full of business-friendly puff pieces like the front page article, “May Garden Opens Fifth Metro Restaurant in the Halifax Casino”; “Atlantic Superstore Proud to Sponsor the 2019 Chinese New Year Celebration!” (with a Superstore ad just below the “article”); and a column by Scott McFarlane, a financial planner with Edward Jones, headlined “Now is the Time to Prepare your Estate Plan” (next to an ad for an estate planning seminar by Edward Jones). Interspersed are feel-good articles with headlines like “Titus Smith: The Dutch Village Philosopher’s Dad” and “Province House Celebrates 200 Years!”

This is nothing to get worked up about. The nation is full of such community ad sheets, and they might even serve a purpose for small businesses. If they get a little loosey-goosey with the advertorials, or if there’s no talk of a firewall between editorial and advertising, nobody much is going to care. It’s just that silly ad sheet you get in the mail, not journalism. And journalistic ethics never come into it.

But here’s something to get worked up about: The April issue.

The front page story in the April issue of the Parkview News is “Bruce Holland to Carry Conservative Banner in Halifax,” written by Andy de Champlain. So the editor of the Parkview News is writing about the publisher and founder of the Parkview New’s bid to become the MP for the area covered by the distribution of the Parkview News.

How is this not a reportable campaign contribution? Is it even legal this far out from the campaign? (I don’t know the answer to that.)

Maybe it is indeed time to talk about journalistic ethics when it comes to community ad sheets.

4. Birch Cove Lakes – Blue Mountain and government secrecy

The parcels that were recently purchased are within the red circles. Annotation: Halifax Examiner

Yesterday, I reported on the government’s purchase of land to add to the Birch Cove Lakes – Blue Mountain wilderness park. This is a good thing and should be applauded.

What isn’t a good thing is continued government secrecy about the purchase.

As Carly Churchill reports for StarMetro Halifax:

The federal government gave $860,000 to help buy this new land, but it’s unclear how much HRM paid in total.

“The municipality does not disclose costs of purchases from individual land owners,” said HRM spokesperson Brynn Langille in an email Wednesday afternoon.

This is public money, and the public has every right to know how much of its money is going to any purchase. Secrecy is bad public policy in and of itself, but additionally it’s bad policy because we want the public to know just how much it costs to (in this case) protect wilderness land, and it’s part of the public conversation about the use of limited public resources.

Understand that I’m in favour of this purchase. I’m not afraid to say to people, “hey, this is a good use of public money” and to defend it, with arguments and facts. So why is the city government afraid to do the same?

So for the record, the total price for the five parcels purchased on March 28 and announced yesterday was $1,665,495. Of that, the federal government contributed $860,000; that leaves $805,495 to be picked up by somebody — presumably the city.

That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Hobsons Lake at night. Photo: Chris Miller

Here’s another reason why the secrecy should concern us so much. Further down in Churchill’s article is this:

The municipality purchased another 80 hectares in 2018 in an area near Hobsons Lake. The cost of that land was also undisclosed, with the municipality again citing privacy reasons.

I reported on this purchase in December 2017, as surveyors were preparing for the purchase:

[This land is] owned by West Bedford Holdings Limited, one of the companies associated with the Shaw Group. The president of West Bedford Holdings is none other than Richard Butts, the former CAO of the HRM. The parcel is assessed at $64,500 as resource land (i.e., forest or farm land).

So the city made a secret deal with the former CAO just months after he left his position with the city.

Several years ago, Mike Turner (of Turner Drake) and Bill McMullin (of Viewpoint) worked to make property sales public record. Turner and McMullin had professional reasons for making that information public, but they as well understood the public policy issues, which I explained as follows:

Capitalism, the argument goes, is the perfect economic system because informed markets lead to the most efficient allocation of resources. But here we have a system where only one side of a transaction — the seller, and only some of those — knows how the product is valued. Buyers are uninformed, so the market is likely skewed against them.

It’d be as if every time you went to the grocery store, you had to separately negotiate the price of eggs and you were not allowed to know what eggs sold for at the grocery store down the road. It’s the antithesis of an informed free market.

The result, clearly, was that people who wanted to buy real estate were at a disadvantage, and so home and property prices were higher than they should have been. Nova Scotia was the very last jurisdiction in North America to make property sales information public, but thankfully Turner and McMullin were successful, and so now anyone can go to the PVSC website and look up sales information.

But when I do that for the Hobsons Lake property the city purchased from Richard Butts-led West Bedford Holdings Limited, here’s what I get:

A zero dollar sale doesn’t mean that West Bedford simply gave the property to the city. There must have been some value consideration involved: a tax write-off, a property trade, something.

Again: the city made a secret deal with the former CAO just months after he left his position with the city.

This should concern us.


Noticed

I’ve been slowly cleaning out my home office, which mostly means going through boxes and boxes of documents related to stories I’ve never properly pursued, files on background on various corporate and government endeavours, interview notes, and so forth.

Among the detritus of lost opportunity are also some mementos of times past, including a very weird postcard given to me by my former colleague Stephanie Johns. It shows a 1960s-era Halifax scene:

The caption on the back of the card reads “Jolly Tar welcomes a pretty Miss to The Citadel on Natal Day.”

Long-time Haligonians remember Jolly Tar. “I was in the Jolly Tar marching band, back in the 1970s,” councillor Tim Outhit told me. “We practiced in the building on the Halifax Common and performed in parades throughout NS.” Others say they remember running into Jolly Tar at this or that civic event.

But I knew nothing about him, so went down the rabbit hole to find out what he was all about.

There’s a Wikipedia entry that brings some explanation:

Jack Tar (also Jacktar, Jack-tar or Tar) is a common English term originally used to refer to seamen of the Merchant or Royal Navy, particularly during the period of the British Empire.

The “tar” part of the name, wiki tells me, might be a reference to the tar used on ship ropes in sailing days or to the waterproof tarpaulin used for seafarers’ clothes.

The “jolly” part of the moniker comes from the “Heart of Oak,” the official march of the British and Canadian Navies:

Come, cheer up, my lads, ’tis to glory we steer,
To add something more to this wonderful year;
To honour we call you, as freemen not slaves,
For who are so free as the sons of the waves?

Chorus:
Heart of Oak are our ships,
Jolly Tars are our men,
We always are ready: Steady, boys, Steady!
We’ll fight and we’ll conquer again and again.

We ne’er see our foes but we wish them to stay,
They never see us but they wish us away;
If they run, why we follow, and run them ashore,
For if they won’t fight us, what can we do more?

(Chorus)

They say they’ll invade us, these terrible foes,
They frighten our women, our children, our beaus,
But if they in their flat-bottoms, in darkness set oar,
Still Britons they’ll find to receive them on shore.

(Chorus)

We still make them fear and we still make them flee,
And drub them ashore as we drub them at sea,
Then cheer up me lads with one heart let us sing,
Our soldiers and sailors, our statesmen and king.

Clearly, “Jolly Tar” is a representation of imperialism. The British Navy was of course the instrument for violently and murderously — genocidally — expanding the empire to its full sun-never-sets-on extent: “we’ll fight and we’ll conquer again and again… If they run, why we follow, and run them ashore, for if they won’t fight us, what can we do more?”

It appears that Halifax version of Jolly Tar was a tourism promotion effort. Minutes from a 1967 city council meeting explains:

Attendance — Jolly Tar & Press Gang Representatives at Expo ’67

The report of the Committee reads as follows:

“The committee considered a letter addressed to Alderman Ivany from the General Manager of the Halifax Board of Trade requesting the provision of funds in the amount of $2,150.00 to cover the cost of maintaining two person at Expo ’67 for the months of July and August, the intention being to engage two college students who could alternate wearing the Jolly Tar Head and Press Gang Uniform.

The Committee agreed to send the letter to Council without recommendation and to direct the Acting City Manager to request Alderman Ivany to ascertain whether the appearance of Jolly Tar and a member of the Expo would be permitted at Expo if approved by Council.”

Alderman Ivany stated that he had discussed the matter with Admiral Pullen who is in favour of this type of display and he had also discussed it with a representative of the Board of Trade who said that there is every evidence that this type of thing is going on at Expo.

MOVED by Alderman A.M. Butler, seconded by Alderman Meagher that the request be filed. Motion passed.

Expo ’67 was the Montreal World’s Fair. I can’t find whether Jolly Tar (and/or his sidekick the Press Gang) made it into the Fair, but clearly the intent was that the character(s) would promote tourism to Nova Scotia.

I also find it interesting that the wearing of the Jolly Tar head would be limited to “college students,” as if higher education was needed to pull the gig off.

At some point in the early 1970s, however, Jolly Tar was retired. I’m told his head is now kept in the public-viewing storage upstairs at the Maritime Museum, but I haven’t had the time to go take a look.

I don’t know, but my best guess is that Jolly Tar was retired because he was cringe-worthy. The celebration of violent genocidal expansionist imperialism hit a clang-y note in a country trying to reinvent itself with multiculturalism. Best to leave that head in a museum and move on to tourism promotion using didily didily music, or whatever.

So 40 years or so ago, a symbol of genocidal imperialism was set aside, and nobody raised a fuss.

Today, setting aside the symbols and tributes to genocidal imperialism is met with resistance, with ugly racist Facebook posts, with excoriating letters to the editor, with white supremacists rallying in the streets of Halifax.


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Official opening of the Emera ideaHUB (Thursday, 10am, Emera ideaHUB, Emera IDEA Building, Sexton Campus) — “The Emera ideaHUB is an advanced incubator and maker-space that empowers the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, and start-ups” explains the listing. “The Emera ideaHUB is another government subsidy for corporations wrapped in groovy PR language,” explains Tim Bousquet.

Optimizing the Machine Layout of a Custom Fabrication Shop Using Mixed Integer Linear Programming (Thursday, 2pm, MA 310) — from the listing:

Facility layout is a systematic functional arrangement of various departments in a manufacturing industry to facilitate movement of raw material, workers and equipment for optimum utilization of workforce and machinery. Triangle Kitchen is a leading Canadian manufacturer of high-quality cabinetry products and accessories. They have a classical workshop layout for manufacturing a wide range customized product with complex production processes for high volume production. Triangle is investing in new machinery to improve productivity and efficiency. A MILP approach was used to amend their existing facility layout to accommodate these machines considering historical as well as current data as a source for the model parameters. The MILP was able to locate the new machines while rearranging existing stations. The proposed solution utilizes space efficiently and makes the facility better organized.​

Friday

SURGE Launch Oceans Event (Friday, 5pm, SURGE Sandbox, Life Sciences Centre) — we could use public money to, I dunno, better fund transit or give the desperately poor a few more dollars to lighten their load a bit, or, on the other hand, we could do stuff like this and give public money to the rich and connected.

8th Annual Harmony and Hope Concert (Friday, 7:30pm, Faith Tabernacle, 6225 Summit Street, Halifax) — A concert for cancer research, featuring Charlie A’Court, Dalhousie Health Professions Chorale, and Bedford Brass Quintet. Tickets $30/ $20, available here.


In the harbour

06:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
10:00: Dimitra C, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
10:30: Fram, cruise ship with up to 318 passengers, arrives at Pier 24 from Yarmouth, as part of an 11-day cruise from New York to Quebec City
12:15: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
20:00: Fram sails for Louisbourg
21:30: RHL Agilitas sails for Kingston, Jamaica


Footnotes

I’m tied up with personal business, so a short Morning File today. Back to the usual droning on and on and on and on soon.

I have no copyedittor today. Please be kind.


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Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Press gangs went around kidnapping, usually drunk, men and forcing them to serve in the British navy noted for its harsh discipline.

  2. I think “tar”refers to any sailor, although Jack Tar I think was specifically Royal Navy. I had understood the “tar” in question was put into their hair at sea, for a purpose I now forget.

    You must surely have heard the song Jolly Roving Tar. Great Big Sea covered it but there are other versions out there. I happen to like this version by Jim Payne and Fergus O’Byrne https://youtu.be/6y5FPDojbOE (While this is usually thought of as a folk song, it actually comes from a 19th century play.)

    I have no problem with Jack Tar. He may have been involved in imperialist enterprises, but he also was instrumental in defeating the Spanish Armada, Napoleon, the Kaiser, and Hitler. My only question is what was his representation doing up on Citadel Hill, rather than being down by the water. I’d have expected some kind of red-coated mascot up there.

  3. I always thought “Jar Tar” referred to their practice of tarring long hair into a pony tail
    I was pleased to note that this is included in Wikipedia’s entry. For Jack Tar

  4. I’ve had an EV for the past year and public charging stations are very handy from time to time. 95% of the time it just gets plugged in at home. There are advantages and disadvantages but it’s really nice never having to go to the gas station (or garage).

  5. I agree with your criticism of the Parkview News piece, but most if not all of the addresses which receive the Parkview News are in Halifax West riding, not Halifax where Bruce Holland is running. Of course, that raises the question of why a candidate in a neighbouring riding is considered newsworthy for those residents.