News

1. Province to abandon Amanda 7 computer system

“The Halifax Examiner has learned the province will replace the Amanda 7 computer system used to access and process requests for government information,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

A tender will go out within the next five months, almost a half-year since the online portal used by journalists and the public to file Freedom of Information requests shut down. Online service has been unavailable since last April, when a government employee mistyped a web address that triggered a download of confidential files.

That led to the discovery of an earlier, mischaracterized “breach” of the website by a teenager that resulted in an avalanche of more than 5,000 files being downloaded onto his computer, followed by a police raid of his home and his arrest. He was not charged but the incidents highlighted the fact the two-year-old computer system was vulnerable to disclosures of both authorized and personal information collected by the province.

Click here to read “Province to abandon computer system at heart of Freedom of Information security failure.”

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2. Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz’s Blues Brothers photo was supposed to one day be displayed at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

“If money is what’s standing in the way of getting the pictures of famed portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz on the walls of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, it won’t be coming from the provincial government,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC:

“As a government, no, we’re not prepared to negotiate a monetary settlement to get it exhibited,” Leo Glavine, minister of communities, culture and heritage, told reporters Thursday at Province House.

More than 2,000 of the noted American artist’s images were donated to the gallery in 2013, but few have made it onto the walls of the AGNS since then. For years, gallery officials were evasive when asked questions about why the work wasn’t on display.

That changed last year, however, when CBC News revealed the artwork was tangled up in a bureaucratic quagmire involving the family that donated the work, the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, the gallery and Leibovitz herself.

3. Cannabis use

Stats Canada has published its quarterly National Cannabis Survey. Consistent with previous surveys, the survey for the third quarter of 2018 finds that Nova Scotia has the highest reported use of cannabis in the country:

About 4.6 million or 15% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported using cannabis in the past three months. That was a similar percentage to what was reported throughout 2018. Use remains more common among males and 15- to 24-year-olds in the period immediately preceding legalization of cannabis. The percentages reporting daily or almost daily consumption also tended to be higher among males and those under the age of 25.

In the third quarter, 23% of residents in Nova Scotia and 20% in British Columbia reported using cannabis in the previous three months, above the estimates for the rest of Canada (other provinces combined). By contrast, Quebec (10%) was the only province where cannabis usage was lower than the rest of Canada during the previous three months.

The rate of cannabis use continued to be higher among males (18%) than females (12%) in the third quarter. Use also decreased with age, as 27% of 15- to 24-year-olds reported cannabis consumption, more than double the rate for people aged 25 and older (13%).

The Stats Canada release makes the claim that “the frequency of cannabis use has been associated with the risk of addiction, poor mental health, and reduced academic achievement,” which is undoubtedly true (Stats Canada won’t publish false stats), but that statement implies cause-and-effect rather than simple correlation, and if there is a cause-and-effect, it may be working in the opposite direction. That is, it’s possible that cannabis use doesn’t cause those social ills but rather that people addicted to other drugs or who have poor mental health or who aren’t doing well in school may use cannabis to relieve the stress associated with the those problems.

In any event, the release continues:

In the third quarter, 6% of Canadians aged 15 and older (nearly 1.8 million) reported using cannabis on a daily or almost daily basis, while 3% (close to 800,000) reported using weekly.

Daily or almost daily use was more common among males (7%) than females (4%). Age was also a factor, as daily or almost daily use was more prevalent among people aged 15 to 24 (8%) than it was for those aged 45 or older (3%).

The release also gets into the money in cannabis:

One in three cannabis users reported not paying for cannabis they consumed in the previous three months, consistent with findings for the first half of 2018. In contrast, one-quarter of cannabis users spent more than $250.

For the first time, detailed data are available on cannabis users who spent in excess of $250 on cannabis. In the third quarter, about 14% of cannabis consumers (more than 650,000 Canadians) spent from $251 to $500 on cannabis, 7% spent from $501 to $1,000, and 3% spent more than $1,000 in the previous three months (or $333 per month, on average).

People who reported consuming cannabis on a daily or almost daily basis typically reported higher expenditures—more than a quarter spent from $251 to $500 and another quarter spent more than $500.

People who used cannabis infrequently were more likely to report little or no expenses. About two-thirds of cannabis users who consumed cannabis once or twice in the third quarter reported spending nothing on cannabis, perhaps reflecting the social or sharing culture of cannabis users.

There’s much worry about smoking and driving after legalization, and the stats reveal that already many people are smoking and driving:

Over the first nine months of 2018 (combined survey data for the first, second and third quarters), 14% of cannabis users with a valid driver’s licence reported driving within two hours of using.

Males were nearly twice as likely as females to engage in this behaviour.

The percentage who reported driving after consuming did not differ by age, with similar proportions reporting for people aged 15 to 24 and for those aged 25 and older.

The prevalence of driving after use also did not vary across the country.

Frequency of cannabis use, however, did play a role in a user’s likelihood of driving within two hours of consumption. People who consumed cannabis on a daily or almost daily basis (28%) were about nine times more likely to engage in this behaviour than those who reported using cannabis once or twice (3%) over a three-month period.

Click here to read the release and for links to the data tables.

(The photo used to illustrate this item is a bit of an inside joke. See here for more.)

4. Dispensary raids

This ad on the Timberleafhfx Facebook page led to a raid on the dispensary

There have been many police raids on dispensaries over the last few months. A raid last month at the Timberleaf dispensary at 1920 St. Margarets Bay Road in Timberlea is illustrative.

The investigation that led to that raid was detailed by Halifax police detective Nick Joseph in court documents obtained by the Halifax Examiner.

Joseph explained that on September 12 he googled “Timberleaf Alternative Healing Society” and discovered the Timberleafhfx Facebook page. On the page, wrote Joseph, “there is an advertisement from July 26th 2018 showing they sell an ounce for $99. The strains advertised are Black Diamond, Rockstar and Green Crack. (From investigating previous dispensaries, being part of the Guns and Gangs unit and dealing with marijuana on a regular basis, I am aware that the strains listed are strains of marijuana).”

No one ever said cops aren’t clever.

Joseph made sure that Timberleaf isn’t listed as a licensed provider on Health Canada’s website,

Joseph had done his internet research because the night before he had been on a stakeout.

From TV, we know that stakeouts involve long hours with an obnoxious and/or sexually alluring partner, humorous banter, lots of coffee, and dealing with problems about finding a place to pee from drinking so much coffee. But the reality is more prosaic.

At 8:30pm on September 11, Joseph set up surveillance of Timberleaf.

“I set up at an observation point at 1920 St. Margarets Bay Rd,” wrote Joseph. “There is a large sign on the front of the building showing ‘Timberleaf Alternative Healing Society. Open 7 days a week 9:00am to 10:00pm.’ I also noticed that there is tint on the doors but as the inside of the store is lit up and it was dark out you can see through the doors into the store. I observed several shelfs behind a counter. On the shelves there were glass jars, approximately 20 of them. (I know from searching other dispensaries, including this location when it was under another name, that the setup is consistent with these jars containing marijuana. The worker would be behind the counter and the product would be in jars on the wall behind the counter for the customer to see.)”

If Joseph had an obnoxious and/or sexually alluring partner with him at his stakeout, he didn’t report their presence. And forget about the humorous banter or long boring nights of too much coffee and bladder discomfort — Joseph waited exactly 60 seconds before finding action.

“At 8:31pm I saw a female pull up to the building,” he wrote. “She walked over to the front door and got buzzed in. When she opened the door I clearly saw the jars behind the counter. They appear to have a green substance inside with the appearance that looked like marijuana.

“From the time I set up at 8:30pm until 8:43pm,” continued Joseph, “I saw five people go into the dispensary for a short stay.”

“I believe that Timberleaf is illegally selling Cannabis Marijuana and Cannabis Marijuana derived products,” he concluded, and asked for a search warrant, which was granted.

On September 13, the cops raided Timberleaf and took away 2,456.8 grams of “dried marijuana (Apa),” “81 packets of various strands and brands of Shatter,” “21 syringes containing 1 ml of Cannabis Oil each,” “43 Cannabis concentrate suckers,” and “22 THC orange gummies,” among other products.

Like shooting fish in a barrel.

Two weeks later, on September 26, police executed a search of Herbal Buds at 3450 Joseph Howe Drive. I don’t have the investigative narrative that led up to that search, but curiously, in addition to a similar range of cannabis products seized as those seized at Timberleaf, at Herbal Buds the police also seized $1,165 in cash.

I have mixed opinions about the dispensaries. I think the raids open the dispensaries up to attack by real criminals who know that the dispensaries are unlikely to call the cops, for fear of drawing attention to their operations. This introduces an element of potential and real violence that wouldn’t otherwise be present. (See “How the Scotia Green robbery went down, and why criminals think they can attack dispensaries with impunity.”)

On the other hand, the dispensaries are illegal, or at least “grey market” operations, avoiding health and safety and other regulations. I’ve never heard of adverse health effects from buying cannabis sold at a dispensary, but such contamination is possible, especially with the processed goods like gummies and other edibles. As with people selling other baked goods, it’s not unreasonable to expect that these goods are produced in commercial kitchens with regular health inspections, instead of in your girlfriend’s basement, with all the safety risks that brings. I also wonder about payroll taxes, workers comp coverage, and so forth. Is your local dispensary handicap accessible? Does it honestly report sales and pay sales taxes, or report its true income to CRA?

As we’re approaching legalization, some other provinces are allowing for retail sales through privately owned outlets. This could possibly be a mechanism for the grey market dispensary operators to become legit businesses (although I fear it’s only a matter of time before some large company becomes the Starbucks of cannabis, cornering the retail market).

In Nova Scotia, however, even the possibility of legitimizing the grey market operators is cut off, as the province itself will hold a monopoly on cannabis sales through the NSLC. I think this will have two effects.

First, the black market will flourish, as street dealers undercut the monopolized price of cannabis sold at the NSLC.

Second, all the dispensaries will be raided and put out of business permanently. Expect province-wide raids starting Wednesday.

5. Port expansion nixed

“Nova Scotia’s federal cabinet minister is defending the Trudeau government’s refusal to fund a major expansion at the Port of Halifax while pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into rival Canadian ports,” reports Paul Withers for the CBC:

So far this year the Liberals have announced $300 million in upgrades for ports in Vancouver, Montreal and Quebec under a new National Trade Corridors Fund.

Halifax has not seen a penny.

[Treasury Board president Scott] Brison’s office initially said the Halifax application was for a $400-million expansion involving a northern extension of Halterm and inland rail facility, a project with a potential 50-year lifespan requiring due diligence. An official later corrected the number to about $500 million.

After the application was rejected, the port announced plans this summer for a $35-million temporary extension of the Halterm container pier in the city’s south end to accommodate a second berth for ultra-class container ships, vessels which carry 10,000 or more 20-foot equivalent unit containers.

These giants are becoming more common as the world shipping industry consolidates.

The port says it is able to fund this project by borrowing the money.


Government

City

No public meetings.

Province

Legislature sits (Friday, 9am, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Testosterone: Regulating Women’s Hormones in Elite Sport (Friday, 12:10pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Jennifer Metcalfe from Yale University will speak.

CIHR Institute of Genetics Launch (Friday, 12:30pm, Foyer, Tupper Medical Building) — from the listing: “The Institute of Genetics will be hosting its Advisory Board; a group of prominent national leaders in healthcare delivery, knowledge translation, research and education.” ​​​

Tom Diamond, Acting Workshop for Singers (Friday, 3pm, Room 121, Dalhousie Arts Centre) —Info: jmailhio@dal.ca

Karly Kehoe.

Historical Perspectives on the Integration of Black Refugees in Atlantic Canada, 1812-1830 (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Karly Kehoe from Saint Mary’s University will speak.

Nanabozho’s Sisters Opening Reception and Curator’s Tour (Friday, 7pm, Art Gallery, Dalhousie Arts Centre)

Mount Saint Vincent

Friday

Technology in Victorian Fiction (Friday, 2pm, Keshen Goodman Library) — Karen MacFarlane will speak.

Saturday

Christiane Poulin: Echoes (Saturday, 2pm, MSVU Art Gallery) — exhibition opening reception,  with refreshments.


In the harbour

05:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
06:00: Selfoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
07:00: Seven Seas Navigator, cruise ship with up to 550 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Boston (10-day round-trip cruise out of New York)
07:00: Silver Spirit, cruise ship with up to 648 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney (10-day cruise from Montreal to New York)
08:00: Norwegian Escape, cruise ship with up to 5,218 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John (seven-day round-trip cruise out of New York)
11:30:  Selfoss sails for sea
14:00: New England, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
15:00: Brevik Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Genoa, Italy
15:30: Atlantic Sail sails for Liverpool, England
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
18:00: Silver Spirit sails for Bar Harbor
19:30: Norwegian Escape sails for New York
22:45: Seven Seas Navigator sails for St. George, Bermuda


Footnotes

A bit late today, sorry.


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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. The Active Transportation Advisory Committee is primarily ‘The HRM Bicycle Committee’.
    If you want to discuss anything other than cycling and bike lanes don’t waste your time applying.

    1. I would like to cover the rail cut for its length on the peninsula. Put a streetcar, bike trail, footpath, art, playground etc on it. I think it would be cheaper than twinning the 103 etc. and a lot more fun. Can there be a comittee for that?

  2. For those readers who are community-minded, do note that HRM is looking for volunteers to sit on various municipal committees. These include:

    Accessibility Advisory Committee
    Active Transportation Advisory Committee
    Board of Police Commissioners
    Community Design Advisory Committee
    Design Review Committee
    Grants Committee
    Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee (formerly known as Districts 7 and 8 Planning Advisory Committee)
    Halifax Regional Library Board
    Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council Planning Advisory Committee
    Heritage Advisory Committee
    Investment Policy Advisory Committee
    North West Planning Advisory Committee
    Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee
    Port Wallace Community Public Participation Committee
    Regional Watersheds Advisory Board
    Shubenacadie Canal Commission
    Special Events Advisory Committee
    Western Common Advisory Committee

    Deadline for application is October 21. For more info, or to apply, see https://www.halifax.ca/city-hall/boards-committees-commissions

    For questions and inquiries, you can contact the Municipal Clerk’s Office – clerks@halifax.ca or 902-490-4210

  3. Would someone just please carefully pack up all the Annie Liebovitz materials and send them back to the “donors” with a polite refusal? The whole thing was a blatant attempted tax scam into which the Province of N.S. was drawn. Ms. Liebovitz has no connection to this province.
    Please just step away from this before we get blackmailed into participating in someone else’s scheme.

    1. I totally agree the above statement! Why are we in this mess? I am glad the province isn’t ponying up money for a bunch of picture.

      1. I sometimes wonder though if this would actually be a more worthwhile taxpayers’s money investment than say, the Yarmouth ferry? We might actually get people coming to the province to see those pictures exhibited rather than drown money in the Atlantic Ocean….

  4. I’ve always thought marijuana should be legal though I don’t consume.

    No matter the issues with roll out it is still so cool that Canada can be this progressive and if I get to read lines like this from the stodgy Globe and Mail it’s all worth it.

    “Otherwise, when you’re using in a social setting, take a puff or two and pass it along, McCorrister says.

    Don’t hog it or skip anyone or share your germs if you’re sick. And try not to get too much saliva on it; nobody likes a soggy joint.”

  5. “First, the black market will flourish, as street dealers undercut the monopolized price of cannabis sold at the NSLC.”

    The black market has always been cheaper than the NSLC prices even when legalization was merely a campaign promise. Even legal marijuana meccas like Colorado have a thriving black market.