Erica Butler here, helping out with Morningfile today. Fear not, Tim’s still all over it.


News

1. Burnside jail

Photo: Halifax Examiner

Tim reports from the hearing for Burnside jail prisoner Maurice Pratt, continuing to shed light on the situation in the facility. Prisoners launched a protest in August asking for better conditions at the jail, including access to the library and to healthier food.

Highlights from the story:

• a prison official agreed with the statement that “several” prisoners at the Burnside jail have died in the past week
• the three-week lockdown at the jail started when an inmate allegedly said that “someone is going to die” after the peaceful protest was ended
• prisoner Maurice Pratt hears for the first time at his hearing today that he made the alleged threats, an allegation he denies
• Pratt readily acknowledges that he has in the past assaulted jail guards but says “but when I do that, I take ownership… I’m honest”
• at least 10 guards refused to work in the new direct supervision unit at the jail, and Pratt alleges that they fabricated his alleged threats to justify their work stoppage
• left unanswered was why, if Pratt’s alleged threats were the concern, all 40 prisoners in the direct supervision unit were locked down

Tim’s full story, “Habeas corpus hearing illuminates jail conditions,” is not behind the Examiner paywall because he often makes his own work public. Still, you can help support this reporting by subscribing to the Examiner for as little as $10 a month ($5 for students/low income.)

2. Tidal Turbine turns no more

The abandoned tidal turbine. Photo: Cape Sharpe Tidal

This item is by Jennifer Henderson.

The blades of a massive, five-storey tidal turbine abandoned on the bottom of the Bay of Fundy near Parrsboro are no longer turning. Emera Inc., which owns 20 per cent of the Cape Sharp Tidal venture in partnership with failed turbine developer OpenHydro of Ireland, issued a news release late yesterday.

“The team from Ireland also determined that the turbine’s rotor is not turning,” said Stacy Pineau, an Emera employee and spokesperson for Cape Sharp Tidal. “They believe an internal component failure in the generator caused sufficient damage to prevent the rotor from turning. The turbine operated as expected immediately after deployment in July. It is too early to understand when the component failure happened. The team will analyze the information collected from sensors on the turbine and will report whether the turbine could be functional.”

The release brings back echoes of the first turbine deployment in November 2009. It wasn’t until several months later the companies admitted the blades had been sheared off by the force of the waves within the first two weeks of deployment. Yesterday’s release says “the turbine rotor will remain stationary with the environmental sensors operating.”

A technical team of former OpenHydro employees has succeeded in re-starting the environmental monitoring equipment on the turbine required to bring the 1,000-tonne device into compliance with approvals granted by the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to protect fish and marine mammals.

In addition, the Fundy Ocean Research Center responsible for the overall environmental monitoring at the demonstration site has dispatched a platform equipped with hydrophones (similar to underwater microphones) to detect marine life within a 100 meter radius of the turbine.

Pineau says that brings the third version of the doughnut-shaped OpenHydro turbine into full compliance with environmental regulations, which has not been the case for the past six weeks. On July 26th, four days after the turbine was deployed in the Bay of Fundy, OpenHydro’s parent company Naval Energies of France pulled the plug and asked an Irish Court to begin liquidating the Irish tidal developer.

Naval Energies says OpenHydro owes it nearly $200 million. An Irish court has given a long shot bid by two of OpenHydro’s founders until the first week of October to come up with new financial backing to pay off debts (including $2.6 million owed towing and marine supply companies in the Maritimes) before the court declares the company officially out of business.

Pineau says the technical crew flown in from Ireland has also succeeded in re-booting the turbine’s control center or brain on which a German creditor has slapped a lien. Emera has previously announced it is withdrawing from the Project because it does not own the turbine technology and sees little value in the immediate future. Yet it is still the messenger for the venture.

“Since OpenHydro’s legal process started in Ireland on July 26, Emera, the Cape Sharp Tidal team and OpenHydro Technology Canada have continually stressed with the provisional liquidators the need for ongoing compliance and control of the turbine,” says the news release attributed to Stacy Pineau for Cape Sharp Tidal. “Even though Emera has started the process of withdrawing from the Cape Sharp Tidal partnership, our continued reinforcement of that message has not changed.”

The dormant 3.0 version of the turbine cost $33-million to build. That was on top of Emera’s $12 million investment to buy a stake in OpenHydro back in 2008. Nova Scotia Energy minister Derek Mombourquette has told the Halifax Examiner the government is not interested in buying the turbine if the receiver appointed by the Irish Court puts it up for auction.

3. Yarmouth ferry numbers still low

The Alakai. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Tim Bousquet wrote this item.

The City of Portland has released the latest passenger counts for the Yarmouth ferry — 18,366 people rode the ferry in August — a new monthly record. (I was one of this August’s passengers.) The August 2018 count is a whopping 47 per cent higher than the August 2017 count.

For the season, which began in June, by the end of August, 38,382 people had taken the ferry. At the same point last year, 32,026 had taken it. That’s an increase of 20 per cent, largely on the strength of the August numbers.

Here are the running monthly totals:

2016
June: 3,616
July: 10,813
August: 13,909
September: 7,128
Total 2016: 35,466

2017
June: 7,677 (+112% compared to June 2016)
July: 11,816 (+9% compared to July 2016)
August: 12,533 (-10% compared to August 2016)
September: 6,907 (- 3% compared to September 2017
Total 2017: 38,933 (+10% over 2016 total)

2018
June: 6,701 (- 13% compared to June 2017)
July : 13,315 (+13% compared to July 2017)
August: 18,366 (+ 47% compared to August 2017)

While there’s an increase in ridership, we’re still a long way from even the imagined case for the provincial subsidy for the ferry.

The $100 million subsidy to Bay Ferries — $10 million per year for 10 years — is dependent on an annual passenger count of 60,000. Here’s what Paul LaFleche, then the deputy minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, told the legislature’s Public Accounts Committee on March 30, 2016, after the deal with Bay Ferries was announced:

We’ve set what we believe are realistic targets for this ferry. We knew the subsidy would be double digit initially. We knew there would be some start-up costs, and we knew that the passenger counts had to be set realistically. So again, when I appeared last September — and I know only some of the media heard me and some of the other people in the audience — we said 60,000. We didn’t say 120,000. We didn’t say 150,000.

We had people who actually bid on other numbers even though we told them they had to bid on 60,000 – and of course those bids were disqualified. We went back to them before we disqualified them and insisted to them, can you bid on 60,000? They said, we don’t believe in 60,000, we have a big number. We weren’t interested in that. At this time, we would like to achieve 60,000 in the next couple of years. If we achieve a much larger number, that’s fabulous.

“We would like to achieve 60,000 in the next couple of years”… er, we’re well into Year 3 and with continued good weather the figure might, with a spectacular September, reach 45,000. When do we acknowledge that 60,000 isn’t a “realistic target”?

Not that I think there’s anything particularly great about even 60,000.

4. Halifax school numbers still high

While the Yarmouth ferry languishes with low numbers, Halifax schools are dealing with more students than they can handle, reports Shaina Luck for CBC News. Park West school in Clayton Park added a sixth portable classroom over the summer to help deal with the fact that it has almost 50 per cent more students than it is meant to accommodate. Luck reports:

Park West is one of 23 schools in the Halifax region that were at or above capacity earlier this year.

Last year, half of Park West’s 32 classes had more students than the maximum size laid out by the province. Classes have a cap that differs by grade:

  • Grades P-2 capped at 20
  • Grades 3-6 capped at 25
  • Grades 7-9 capped at 28
  • Grades 10-12 capped at 32

[Parent Laura] Ankcorn doesn’t think the caps are making any difference at her children’s school. 

“They’re not being met at all. The caps don’t apply for that school, because there’s simply no room in the school. So the children, just because they live in that area, an area of high enrolment, they don’t get the benefit.”

5. New evidence introduced after investigation reopened mid-trial

Police reopened the investigation into Chelsea Probert’s murder over the weekend, in the midst of the trial of a teen accused of second degree murder in the case. They turned over new evidence to lawyers on Sunday, reports Blair Rhodes for CBC News.

The Crown objected Monday to the evidence being shared with the accused while he’s testifying but Judge Elizabeth Buckle sided with the defence, ruling the teen’s right to give a complete answer outweighs any other consideration.

The teen, who cannot be named because he was 16 when he was charged, was shown the new evidence over the lunch hour Monday. When the case resumed in the afternoon, the defence only asked him to confirm whether he is right- or left-handed. He is left-handed.

After a full afternoon of cross-examination by the Crown, it is still not clear what the new evidence might be.

6. Relax, unwind, centre, enhance

Graphic: Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation

In the lastest installment of Star/Metro Halifax’s “Countdown to Cannabis” series, Yvette D’Entremont interviews Dalhousie food scientist Sean Myles and finds out that the current differentiation of strains of marijuana is mostly just marketing, with only a “moderate correlation” to their actual genetic structure.

“Consumers are using these two things, both the ancestry labelling of indica/sativa and the strain names, as indicators of what they’re getting inside the package,” Myles explained.

“Our research to date suggests that neither of those things are reliable predictors of the actual genetic identity of the product inside the package.”

But fear not, while it seems that a good deal of marijuana labelling is poppycock, Canadian regulations require labels to include actual amounts THC and CBD, the two active ingredients, the effects of which have complex interactions which are still being studied.

While NSLC marijuana stores will display actual THC and CBD counts, the government corporation is also participating in the marketing charade for marijuana strains, reports D’Entremont:

Cannabis products will be identified under the labels “relax,” “unwind,” “enhance” and “centre.”

“I think you could equally put riesling under ‘relax’ and pinot noir under ‘excitement’ and you could just as easily go and label four different types of wine under those four labels, and that’s exactly what they’re doing with cannabis,” Myles said, laughing.

“There’s no evidence that those strains actually have those effects beyond what they’re saying from behind the counter, which is as reliable as what you see on beer commercials.”

7. Wells drying up in southwest NS

Local schools, fire stations, and health care providers are chipping in to make sure that people in southwest Nova Scotia whose wells are running dry will have access to water, reports Preston Mulligan for CBC News. The big concern is the possible re-occurrence of a drought such as the one in 2016, which left about 1000 families without water, reports Mulligan.

The problems could be solved by rainfall expected in the coming days, but it may not be enough, Mulligan reports:

“We need weeks of rain,” said Janine Muise, co-ordinator for the Argyle Emergency Management Organization. “The 40 to 50 millimetres of rain in the forecast is going to help, but it’s not going to solve the problem.”

8. Province tightens rules around clearcuts in email to major forestry companies

Michael Gorman of CBC News has obtained a copy of an email from the provincial department of lands and forestry to the province’s major tree harvesters, which tightens up the rules around clear-cutting in the province. Among other things, the letter establishes a 100-metre buffer around current and proposed protected areas, national parks, and Nature Conservancy lands.

Gorman spoke to a representative from Port Hawkesbury Paper who said the tightened regulations–which would require companies to justify their use of clearcuts–could add significant costs to the company’s operation. The letter also went out to Paper Excellence (Northern Pulp), Great Northern Timber, Westfor Management Inc., Taylor Lumber and the Medway Community Forest Cooperative.


Views

1. Africville in Black and White

In advance of tonight’s launch of Africville in Black and White, “a multi-platform, real-time exploration of the North End Black enclave that was razed half a century ago,” journalist Evelyn White speaks with scholar Chana Kai Lee, and filmmakers Juanita Peters and Cyrus Sundar Singh about the equally ignored and enduring legacy of Africville.


Noticed

1. Get ready, it’s gonna be a triple breach

No, this is not an update on the province’s beleagured FOIPOP site, which is still down, by the way. It’s a video gone viral, showing three humpbacks lazily “lolling” around before deciding to go for a deep dive in succession, to the thrill of the folks in the Zodiak beside them.

2. You could give the Halifax agave a chance at long-term success

One of a series of posts giving literary voices to the Halifax agave plant, by Halifax poet Sue Goyette.

The Public Gardens agave plant will topple over any minute now, but you can honour its memory by helping to propagate some of its seeds, reports Marina von Stackelberg for CBC News.  The plant will produce hundreds if not thousands of seeds, which public gardens staff will be giving away, depending on demand.


Government

City

Tuesday

Special Joint Community Council Meeting [HEMDCC, HWCC, & NWCC](Tuesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — we’ll finally get that Events East business plan discussion. Also, the final vote on implementing the new smoking ban. Tim will be live-blogging the meeting via the Examiner’s Twitter feed, @hfxExaminer.

Wednesday

Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) – the committee is recommending that the city contribute $1 million to the Hospice Society of Greater Halifax and increase the St. Andrew’s Community Centre renovation budget by $1,950,000 (from $6,100,000). The shortfall from the latter is explained as resulting from “the unknown condition of the underground services, programming requirements and increased demolition costs estimates.”

Province

Tuesday

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)

Wednesday

Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House )


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Policy Matters: Policy Issues in Housing an Aging Population (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 1011, Rowe Management Building)

Wednesday

Frontiers in Ocean Sustainability (Wednesday, 8:30am, National Research Council of Canada, 1411 Oxford Street, Halifax) — back around 1985 or so, I (Tim is writing this) had a cartographer friend, I forget his name now because I’m old and my synapses have mostly died, but I remember that he worked for Moon Publications, the travel book people, which is neither here nor there except he was paid well and didn’t have to actually go to the office most of the time. And so my cartographer friend and I used to drink all day together and then go to grunge shows in the evening at Hey Juan’s, a ridiculously cheap burrito and beer place in Chico, and he’d heckle the bands: “you suck!” and “get a job!” I have no idea why management put up with us, or why the bands didn’t kick our asses. Anyway, between sets, he’d tell me he didn’t give a shit about anything because the oceans will soon “go septic” and every speck of life on this sad orb will die, and so actually living fruitfully and consciously was a meaningless waste of time. I’d nod my head and call him an asshole, and then he’d order another pitcher of beer and heckle the band some more. So, er, go to this conference, or not.

Vicky Stergiopoulos. Photo: nationtalk.ca

The Future of Psychiatry and Mental Health Care (Wednesday, 8:30am, Room 4074, Abbie J. Lane Memorial Building) — Vicky Stergiopoulos, from the University of Toronto and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, will speak.

Cross-coupling Reactions (Wednesday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Stephen G. Newman from the University of Ottawa will speak on “New Cross-coupling Reactions by C-O Bond Activation: A High Throughput Approach to Reaction Discovery.”

Healthy Living, Healthy Life Conference (Wednesday, 4pm, Halifax Convention Centre) — info here.

Understanding Genetic Variant Interpretation: Current Methods and Future Directions (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Jennifer Schleit and Christine Davies from Blueprint Genetics in Seattle, Washington, will speak.


In the harbour

Tim here. Besides writing the Maurice Pratt piece above, I had computer problems this morning (now fixed: thanks, MacEast!), so I’m behind on ships. I’ll try to update while I’m at council.


Footnotes

Tune in to @HfxExaminer for the usual highly entertaining live tweeting of today’s council meeting.

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8 Comments

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    1. The boat wasn’t under power. Boats aren’t allowed to approach whales closer than 100m, but whales are allowed to approach the boats…and often do. There is no provision in the regulations for a boat to “back off” if the whales surface nearby, particularly if the boat isn’t moving, so that the whales aren’t startled by the motors engaging.

      Apart from that, whales don’t “log” at the surface like that if they’re stressed by the boat being nearby. Whales can easily escape a single boat if they want to, these weren’t displaying any of the behaviours that would lead one to suspect that they were trying to get away from the boat in any fashion.

      1. Dolphins and humpback whales will both approach boats if they feel like it which they often do. They are intelligent creatures and find boats to be an interesting novelty. There is no obligation for boats to flee marine life, they just can’t chase it.

  1. If the province Liberal government won’t buy the turbine perhaps the federal Liberal government will. They seem to be into the purchase of outdated, dangerous, not working energy projects.

    1. You forgot they sold PetroCanada a long time ago, despite all the NDP and unions wanting the federal government to have greater ownership of the oil and gas industry.

  2. Tim’s friend sounds remarkably like Ford Prefect. He also worked for a travel publication and didn’t go to the office a lot and drank and heckled. He was also about the Earth being destroyed.

  3. I’ve read the environmental monitoring plan, and I dispute the idea that sensors reporting data is sufficient to be in compliance. There is limited storage space and bandwidth at FORCE, so effective monitoring requires shoreside data processing, including modelling based on captured data. Raw data from a hydrophone gets huge quickly, for example: you have to process it to detect animal sounds. That requires staff. If all they are doing is capturing it, they’ll be discarding it by next week. We should be asking about data retention and processing plans – heck, go for a full data management plan.