News

1. Gerald Regan

Maclean’s, December 28, 1998.

Writes Stephen Kimber:

More than 20 years after former Nova Scotia premier Gerald Regan was acquitted of sexually assaulting multiple women, other women are still coming forward with still more stories of what he did to them, still needing finally “to be heard.” Including “Catherine.”

Catherine tells Kimber of an alleged encounter Regan after a diplomatic reception in London, England.

Click here to read “Verdict without end.”

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2. Biomass

“A few months ago,” writes Linda Pannozzo:

I reviewed a film that has been circulating the province about the growing use of forest biomass as a form of so-called renewable energy. The film — Burned: Are Trees the New Coal? — reported on how the biomass industry sells itself as green by making two bogus claims: it uses only wood waste or otherwise non-merchantable trees, and it is carbon-neutral, so therefore can be burned to help countries meet their greenhouse gas emissions targets.

In early March of this year, plaintiffs from six countries filed a lawsuit against the European Union for “ignoring the science on forest bioenergy and promoting false climate solutions.” The lawsuit specifically challenges the EU’s inclusion of forest biomass as a renewable and carbon-neutral energy source.

In my review of the film I wanted to include the most recent data on biomass harvesting in Nova Scotia and turned to the place where the Department of Lands and Forestry (DLF) reports these figures, but as I delved deeper into some of the numbers, I was confounded on many levels, found I had more questions than answers, and came up against too many brick walls.

If nothing else, my foray into the murky world of biomass reporting should put the accuracy of forest harvest data in this province seriously in doubt.

I like this investigative article. It’s really wonky, and doesn’t reach any definitive conclusions, but I’m glad somebody is running the numbers and finding that the supposed forest inventories are, well, bullshit.

“What I found most disturbing about researching this latest piece for The Halifax Examiner,” writes Pannozzo, “is that as governments hand over public services (like electricity generation) to the corporate/ private sector, there is less and less information that the public actually has access to. I tried to find out how much biomass is being harvested in Nova Scotia and was staggered by how little I was allowed to know. Even the data collected by the provincial government on our behalf, that we pay for them to collect, is pretty opaque. Our governments are not acting on our behalf anymore, folks.”

Rightly, the auditor general should have a second look at biomass data collection. (The data the province now collects is the result of a There was a scathing 2006 auditor general’s report that essentially said provincial forest policy was based on no hard data at all. critiqued the province’s data collecting.) *updated to reflect input from Pannozzo

I’m especially glad that the Halifax Examiner can publish this kind of work, because no one else will.

Click here to read “Forest Confidential: An investigation into Nova Scotia’s biomass harvest data and how the numbers aren’t adding up.”

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Relatedly, last month Pannozzo looked at the history of the pulp industry in Nova Scotia, and how government policies encouraging over-cutting of forest to feed pulp mills have hurt the ability of saw mills to produce more valuable lumber.

That investigation resulted in “Pulp Culture: How Nova Scotia’s Faustian bargain with the pulp industry may leave the sawmills in ruins.” We’ve now taken that article out from behind the paywall, so it’s available to everyone.

3. Halifax police want an armoured vehicle

The Halton Police Department has an armoured vehicle that looks like this.
The Calgary Police Department is buying an armoured vehicle that looks like this.

The police commission meets at 12:30 today at City Hall. There are two items of note on the agenda. Item 9.2.2 is discussion of the Wortley report on street checks. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first let’s consider an earlier item on the agenda, Item 9.1.1, labelled “Armoured Rescue Vehicles – Presentation – Inspector Jim Butler [PDF].”

Consider the optics of this: at the very same meeting where commissioners will talk about a report that documents and details the racial profiling of citizens by police, the department will talk about purchasing an armoured vehicle.

I want to say the juxtaposition of the two items on the same agenda reflects cop cluelessness; I fear, however, that it is purposeful.

Typically, agendas for city committee meetings are set by a two- or three-person team. City council agendas, for example, are set by Mayor Mike Savage, CAO Jacques Dubé, and City Solicitor John Traves. In similar fashion, the police commission agenda is likely set by Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais and commission chair (and councillor) Steve Craig, perhaps with the input of a staff person.

These are not stupid men. They know that because discussion of the street check report is on the agenda, a large number of citizens are likely to attend the meeting, and that many of those citizens will be Black people upset about the racial profiling documented in the Wortley report. And yet, aware of the likely presence of Black citizens concerned about police racism and overreach, these not-stupid men put discussion of the purchase of an armoured vehicle on the same agenda, before discussion of the street check report. It has the feel of an in-your-face message: Screw you.

Of course no one will come out and directly say “screw you.” Instead, concern that armoured vehicles represent police overreach is discounted before it can be considered.

First of all, the vehicle in question is not called simply an “armoured vehicle,” which would be a factual description of the vehicle, but rather an “armoured rescue vehicle,” an ARV. And the staff report, written by Inspector Jim Butler, bends over backwards to suggest that this is not, you know, a tank, but rather a touch-feely vehicle designed to “safely remove people from dangerous situations” and that “there is no weaponry or aggressive equipment on ARVs”; “Models and types have evolved from tactical use to rescue response in the case of active shooters and threats,” the report assures.

Let’s think about this. While they make headlines, “active shooter” incidents are thankfully rare in Canada. I can think of exactly one that could’ve happened in Halifax — James Gamble and Lindsay Souvannarath’s aborted mass shooting at the Halifax Shopping Centre. I guess the police are arguing that had the shooting actually happened, an armoured vehicle could have driven in, gone up and down the escalators, and rescued people trapped in the mall.

Even if we were to accept that rather incredulous scenario, it would only make sense if the vehicle was already at the mall. Most active shooter incidents are over in minutes. And unless you park fully-staffed armoured vehicles at every mall, high school, and sporting event in town, the armoured vehicle is going to be sitting in a garage across town. It’s going to take 10 or 15 minutes to get to the scene, by which time the bloodbath is already over.

The Calgary police recently purchased one of these vehicles, at a price tag of just over a half a million dollars. That’s the capital cost. Then figure, say, $100,000 annually in maintenance, and many thousands more dollars in training for officers who could be doing other, more useful stuff.

And you can’t just keep the thing in the police garage. You gotta drive it around so police can have some “real world” experience with it. And — as the Wortley report makes clear — when police have a tool (like street checks), that tool will be employed in a manner that reflects and amplifies the racist tendencies of the broader society. So I fully expect to see the armoured vehicle rolling around Uniacke Square.

Let’s also review the claim that “there is no weaponry or aggressive equipment on ARVs.” Inspector Butler doesn’t say in his report which vehicle he is suggesting the police buy, but one of the largest ARV manufacturers is the International Armored Group, which has offices around the world, including in Ontario.

IAG sells something it calls the Sentinel ARV, “an armored rescue vehicle re-designed specifically for tactical response teams, with added interior space and overall functionality in the event of a rapid deployment.” It is only sold to governments, military, and police forces; it looks like this:

The IAG website explains that the Sentinel “can be outfitted with a large variety of equipment such as hydraulic ram, gas insertion equipment, 360 degree surveillance system, thermal and night vision capability, LRAD, ATF approved storage and much more.” So a “hydraulic ram” and “gas insertion equipment” (!) are not standard with the vehicle, but such equipment can evidently be added.

Still, maybe the Halifax police won’t outfit the vehicle with “aggressive equipment.” But there doesn’t have to be “weaponry or aggressive equipment on ARVs” because the mere presence of the thing is aggressive. It’s a show of brute force, intended to intimidate.

By the way, IAG helps police agencies find grant opportunities to purchase the vehicles through its “grant assistance program.” There’s government money out there for all sorts of whack shit.

Moving on to the Wortley report, the agenda merely links to the report itself and then to a webpage explaining the Police Complaints Process. The implication seems to be that, hey, if you Black folk have a problem with the cops, you should be filing official formal complaints instead of bothering us with this Human Rights Commission nonsense.

It’s a knuckle-headed argument. Black people who correctly understand that the entire police system — from the cop on the street to the non-quota quota for street check data to the chief of police who claims there’s no such thing as systematic racism — is discriminating against them are not likely to trust that very same system to correct itself. And they’re right not to trust it: nearly every one of those very few people who have attempted to go through the police complaints process ended up frustrated, but now every cop in town knows that they attempted to get a fellow officer disciplined.

Police commissioners are faced with a choice. They can either attempt to gain trust in the community by doing away with the street check process that is documented to be used in a racist fashion, or they can double down, ignore the factual data, continue on with street checks, and purchase an armoured vehicle that will be used to further intimidate citizens.

The armoured vehicle won’t be used to protect imagined people cowering in a mall in fear of active shooters. It’s pretty much useless for that.

The armoured vehicle can, however, be used for another purpose: to protect and project police racism. For that, it’ll get the job done.

4. Hanna Garson

Hanna Garson

El Jones profiles Hanna Garson, a lawyer who is trying to help prisoners in their uphill battle to have the justice system take their habeas corpus appeals seriously.

Click here to read “Hanna Garson: a young lawyer dedicated to the long, slow fight for prison justice.”

5. SaltWire

Recently, the SaltWire Network ended its contract with the Canadian Press and instead went with Postmedia, which results in papers across Atlantic Canada now publishing the likes of Christie Blatchford.

The move undoubtedly reflects a dire financial situation at SaltWire, which is made even more evident by two new events.

As Philip Moscovitch reported for the Examiner Thursday:

Yesterday [Wednesday], SaltWire announced changes to publications in Newfoundland and Labrador. Corner Brook’s Western Star would go from a six-day-a-week subscription daily to a free weekly community paper. In addition, the company’s Labrador papers — The Labradorian and the Aurora — are merging.

Then, later in the day, SaltWire, which owns The Chronicle Herald and dozens of other papers throughout Atlantic Canada, announced it was suing Transcontinental. SaltWire was formed after the purchase of Transcontinental’s Atlantic Canadian papers, printing plants and distribution business in 2017.

Reporting on his own company (a thankless task for any journalist) Ryan Ross writes that

SaltWire Network alleges Transcontinental overstated revenues the business would produce, hid facts regarding the condition of its assets and wasn’t forthcoming about several business practices…

[SaltWire Chief Operating Officer Ian] Scott said Transcontinental’s actions made earnings look better than they were.

“So, we paid more for it than we should have,” he said.

He also said the conditions of some equipment and operations, such as printing presses, were “deplorable”.

“Our due diligence teams weren’t permitted, in some cases, to review that equipment before, so we ended up with some challenges there,” Scott said.

The idea that you would buy expensive printing presses, or any other equipment, without inspecting it seems very odd to me. But what do I know? Maybe that’s why I’m not a publishing tycoon.

On Thursday, Transcontinental responded to the SaltWire lawsuit:

TC Transcontinental has been made aware of the legal proceedings initiated by SaltWire Network related to the transaction involving the Corporation’s Atlantic Canada media assets in 2017. 

“We have not received the lawsuit yet, so we haven’t had the opportunity to review it,” stated François Olivier, President and Chief Executive Officer of TC Transcontinental. “We are confident that the sale of our media assets in Atlantic Canada was conducted based on fair, accurate and timely information. We intend to vigorously defend ourselves in court.” 

TC Transcontinental is a reputable organization that has conducted well over 100 transactions since its founding. “Our Corporation has always been recognized for its integrity and for operating its business in accordance with the highest ethical standards and business practices,” added Mr. Olivier. We apply the same principles in our M&A activities.” 

Furthermore, SaltWire Network has failed to fulfill its payment obligations and is in breach of contract with TC Transcontinental. As such, the Corporation is considering initiating a counter-suit against SaltWire Network. 

The unfolding legal battle will likely give us great insight into the financial condition of the media industry in Atlantic Canada.

Comments Mary Campbell in the Cape Breton Spectator:

Personally, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall as the SaltWire C-Suite weighed the possibility of recouping some of the millions they spent buying Transcontinental’s papers and presses against the certainty of looking like rubes by filing this suit. For the sake of the people whose livelihoods depend on them, I hope they made the right choice.

For myself, I suspect the rapid-fire layoffs, consolidations, cost-cuttings, and now a lawsuit suggest that SaltWire is in imminent danger of collapsing completely. I’d honestly be surprised if it lasts through the calendar year.


Government

City

Monday

Police Commission (Monday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — see #3 above.

Tuesday

City council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Province

No public meetings this week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Sanofi Biogenius Canada Regional Competition (Tuesday, 9am, Tupper Building Foyer) — “fosters young minds and talent by challenging participants to carry out groundbreaking biotechnology research.” Info on Twitter and the website.

Board of Governors Meeting (Tuesday, 3pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building) — agenda


In the harbour

05:00: YM Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
05:30: Columbia Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
05:30: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
11:00: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Portland
16:30: Tropic Hope sails for Palm Beach, Florida
16:30: Columbia Highway sails for sea
16:30: Skogafoss, container ship, sails for Argentia, Newfoundland
17:30: YM Express, container ship, sails for Rotterdam
18:00: Horizon Star, offshore supply ship, sails from Dartmouth Cove for the offshore
19:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea

Where are the Canadian military ships?



Footnotes

Lots and lots of thanks to Philip Moscovitch and Suzanne Rent for filling in Thursday and Friday respectively. This is working out quite well, and if they’re agreeable to it, you’ll hear more from them.


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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. I bet the folks at the big rink formerly known as the Metro Centre are having a great chuckle about the distraction caused by the story of the Police Tank. While everybody was dazzled by that, the good ole boys got their $4.5 million for a fancy new scoreboard. That is an insult to all the people in this city who struggle to pay their taxes and expect our City Government to use those funds wisely. There is no community benefit for that $4.5 million expenditure. There was no pressing need to have a fancier way to show the score at a game for which all attendees paid handsomely for the seat they were in. There were many ways such a frill could have been paid for. A surcharge on tickets; Half the take draws at major sporting events; a surcharge on concessions; etc. Throwing $4.5 million at a toy and spending less than a half million on much needed active transportation improvements to benefit the whole community quite frankly is irresponsible on the part of every Councillor who voted for that useless bobble.

  2. Why not $50,000,000 for an armoury and half dozen tanks? Jet packs for the entire force? Whatever the police want. They’re worth it.

    Just think the world of good a tank would do if it came rumbling through Uniake Square…..