1. An apology

The Halifax Examiner acknowledges that the Armour Group Limited neither hired, nor fired, the janitors previously employed to clean Founder’s Square. Further, The Halifax Examiner retracts, and apologizes for the allegation that Armour Group engaged in racial discrimination in determining to no longer engage with GDI Integrated Facility Services. The original article was published here.

2. Shambhala

Sakyong Mipham

Stephanie Domet has authored today’s cover story in The Coast, “Portrait of the sakyong as a fallen man,” which gives an overview of the crisis within the Shambhala community. This quote jumped out at me:

“There was an air of, ‘Oh, it’s different here, in our spiritual bubble. It’s not the same as the world out there,’” [Marguerite Drescher, who grew up in the Shambhala community] says.

It’s good to see Domet reporting again; the former Coast editor turned CBC Mainstreet host left the radio show a while back to concentrate on writing her next book. I don’t know if she’s wrapped that project up or if the Shambhala story was just so compelling that she had to get into it.

The “Sunshine Report” that exposed a litany of sexual assaults in the Shambhala community and by its leader, Mipham Mukpo, who goes by the title Sakyong Mipham, was researched and written by Andrea Winn. On her website, Winn had written that she would only speak to three journalists, whom she did not name. It appears that Domet was one of the three.

3. Bad pharmacist and privacy failures

Yesterday, Catherine Tully, the privacy officer for Nova Scotia, issued two reports on a privacy breach at the hands of a Sobeys pharmacist. In her reports, Tully does not name the pharmacist, but according to Global, the Nova Scotia’s College of Pharmacists has identified her as Robyn Keddy.

In her reports, Tully explains the operations of the Drug Information System (DIS), which is “used by approximately 11,000 authorized users including pharmacists in community pharmacies across the province. Once granted access, a user of the DIS can access the DIS profile of any person in Nova Scotia.”

Tully’s report includes this diagram of the broader information system:

Tully gets into how the system works in detail in her report, but the gist of it is that a local pharmacist creates a customer profile on their own local “POS” database, which then syncs up to the same customer’s patient profile on the provincial health system’s DIS database.

But Keddy, explains Tully, would create profiles of people who were not Sobeys customers on the Sobeys’ local POS database. So long as Keddy had a name and identifying information for a person, she could see that person’s drug history. And Keddy did horrible things with that information. Writes Tully:

The types of access by the pharmacist as recounted by witnesses included looking up DIS information (such as prescriptions and medical conditions) of:

  • her child’s girlfriend and her parents;
  • her child’s friends and acquaintances;
  • an individual she had been involved in a car accident with;
  • her child’s teachers and former teachers;
  • her former teacher (deceased);
  • relatives (including deceased relatives);
  • her and her family’s health care providers;
  • a former high school classmate who had recently suffered a significant illness; and
  • co-workers.

The investigation also confirmed significant details of the circumstances, scope and nature of several of the privacy breaches:

  • An employee reported that the pharmacist had encouraged her to use the network access to obtain contact information to send birthday greetings to known individuals.
  • An employee witnessed the pharmacist access the DIS in March 2017 and then call her spouse on the phone to discuss what she had discovered. The employee heard the pharmacist say that their child cannot see this person because of the medications she and her parent were on.
  • An employee observed the pharmacist look up personal health information after a Prescription Monitoring Profile alert was received in January 2017. The employee observed the pharmacist make notes about what was viewed and then call her spouse on the phone to determine if the subject of the alert was someone known to them socially.
  • An employee found the notes made by the pharmacist following an apparent unauthorized access and kept the evidence, eventually providing it to the district manager in September 2017.
  • An employee observed the pharmacist look up an individual in the DIS whom she had been in a motor vehicle accident with; several staff at her child’s school; her child’s therapist; and her family doctor.
  • An employee reported that she was consulted by the pharmacist to assist in fabricating reasons for her access of the DIS in response to audit activity by the College of Pharmacists.
  • An employee expressed concern that, although it was not directly witnessed, the pharmacist had also viewed the DIS profiles of other employees at the corporate location, including the employees supervised by the pharmacist.
  • An employee reported that the pharmacist solicited her to obtain patient contact information from the local POS system after her termination.
  • An employee confirmed her spouse was approached by the pharmacist at their home with a document the pharmacist had prepared for signature that claimed the individual had consented to the access and fabricating a reason for the access. This employee also had second hand knowledge that the pharmacist had approached up to a dozen other affected individuals in a similar manner.

Can you imagine being a teenager, trying to work out how all this dating and sex stuff works, only to find that your mom has been prying into your dates’ drug records, and if she found your dates were taking birth control pills or anti-depressants, prevented you from dating them? I don’t know anything about parenting, but that seems like such a breach of trust that I think it’d destroy the familial relationship.

Anyway, while Keddy is obviously responsible for her own actions, Tully notes that the Department of Health and Wellness has failed to maintain proper security of the system or to develop protocols to deal with privacy breaches.

Read Tully’s reports here and here.

4. Convention centre

The Grafton Street Glory Hole, with the convention centre and empty hotel above it. Photo: Halifax Examiner

There’s good news and bad news on the convention centre front.

The good news is two-fold. First, thanks to plummeting interest rates, the city’s annual payment for construction and leasing of the convention centre is lower than was expected. Back in 2010, those annual payments were forecast to be $6.65 million annually. But now, city staff tells me, the payments are $5.38 million. (Unless I’m missing something.)

The second good news piece for the city is that contrary to my earlier assumption, the city is not paying for Fred MacGillivray’s pension. My confusion came about because Trade Centre Limited’s latest (and final) annual report doesn’t say what will happen to TCL’s liabilities other than that the convention centre liabilities will be rolled over to Events East. But provincial staff confirmed for me yesterday that the province will be assuming all of TCL’s liabilities that are not directly related to the operation of the convention centre, including MacGillivray’s pension. So, we taxpayers are still on the hook for the pension, just not through our city taxes.

The bad news is three-fold.

First, while the city is saving about $1.3 million annually on the construction costs, the city has to pay $2.11 million for this year’s operations of Events East. (All these figures are matched by the province, incidentally.) This is the first year’s operation, and it will likely take a few years before budgets settle down — consultant reports supporting the construction of the convention centre said that there would be a “honeymoon period” of four years of booming numbers of conventions, but after that the figures will settle down. Who knows how this will play out, but I’m guessing it means we’ll see annual subidies in the neighbourhood of $4 million (collectively from the city and province) for the next few years, and then the bottom will drop out.

Secondly, somehow through the changeover from TCL to Events East, the province ended up with sole ownership of Ticket Atlantic. You’ll recall that, without authorization, MacGillivray “transferred ownership of” (i.e., stole) the city-owned Metro Centre box office over to the provincially owned TCL to create Ticket Atlantic, which eventually was one of the causes of the concert scandal (it was a moribund box office bank account that was used by TCL to improperly loan promoter Harold MacKay money to put on the concerts). Councillor Waye Mason raised the Ticket Atlantic issue at council Tuesday, and CAO Jacque Dubé agreed that the city should own it, not the province. We’ll see where that goes.

Thirdly, there’s still the issue of property tax revenue the city receives from the Nova Centre. Back in April, I reported that the city is taking a $23.67 million hit from expected revenues over the next 10 years. But even those revised revenue expectations don’t take into account potentially lower assessments on the Nova Centre.

The Nova Centre is now assessed at almost exactly $200 million ($200,009,000), but developer Joe Ramia has appealed that assessment. Such appeals can potentially go through three stages. First, Ramia appeals to the Property Values Services Corporation, which is unlikely to change its opinion about the assessment. Once PVSC rejects the appeal, Ramia can take it to the Appeal Tribunal; I believe that’s where his appeal sits now. But no matter how the Tribunal rules, given the large dollar figures at stake, the appeal certainly will be brought to the third level, to the Utilities and Review Board. (PVSC can appeal a Tribunal ruling, as can Ramia.)

As of this morning, the appeal hasn’t yet reached the UARB. When it does, we’ll know what Ramia is arguing his assessment should be, and if he wins what the further hit to city coffers will be. Given other assessment appeals I’m following (more on this soon), the hit to the city from a lower assessment on the Nova Centre could be spectacularly large, on the order of millions of dollars.

5. Bedford Highway

The city this morning issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) from firms that can produce a Bedford Highway Functional Plan. The primary study area is from Windsor Street to Hammonds Plains Road, but “subject to budget availability,” it could be expanded (the dotted line above) through Bedford proper to as far as Highway 102.

The functional plan will have two parts: transportation planning for the highway and land-use planning along the corridor and adjacent roadways.

The RFP notes “project constraints”:

• Municipally owned ROW [right-of way] along the corridor is limited, and there are existing encroachments of private property on municipal ROW (and vice versa). The functional plan must consider these ROW constraints and identify property acquisition and utility impacts for each functional design option completed;

• There are current flooding issues along some sections of the Bedford Highway, primarily between Bayview Road and Kearney Lake Road. There are also issues within the Sackville floodplain area – it is anticipated that the results of the Sackville Floodplain Study, including mapping, will be released to Regional Council in August 2018. These issues should be considered as part of any contemplated changes.

• The project includes funding contributions from external agencies. To satisfy agreements with these funding partners, work must be complete by March 31, 2019. The availability of funding may influence which functional design option will be pursued, as well as the implementation timeline.

• Integration of transportation and land use planning is essential to this project. It is expected that the successful proponent’s team include engineering and land use professionals that work in an integrated manner throughout the project. At minimum, teams should include a Transportation Engineer licensed to practice engineering in Nova Scotia, and a Land Use Planner registered with the Licensed Professional Planners Association of Nova Scotia (or equivalent Registered Professional Planner provincial designation)

The RFP was supposed to be issued in July, so they’re already two days late, but the timeline calls for the RFP to be awarded this month, with some “Public & Stakeholder Engagement” in October, the issuance of reports over the next few months, and the project winding up in March.

6. Leitches Creek

I haven’t followed the case because it’s too distant for me to report on or make any sense of, but Parker Donham appears to have provided the most definitive narrative of events that led to the death of 17-year-old Joneil Hanna on a highway in Leitches Creek.

In his piece, Donham takes aim at Chronicle Herald reporter Andrew Rankin:

Officers the scene that night on [sic] honestly didn’t believe Hayden [Laffin, the driver of the car that struck and killed Hanna] was impaired, and they had no objective evidence to suggest he was. Notwithstanding the Halifax lawyers, named and unnamed, who listened to Chronicle Herald reporter Andrew Rankin’s one-sided recital of the facts before opining that police should have demanded a breath sample, the police couldn’t have done so legally.

Note to readers: I presume reporter Rankin gave lawyers one-sided accounts because his stories themselves contain one-sided recitals of the facts. They have relentlessly defamed Hayden on the say-so of teenagers and others. Rankin consistently grants these sources anonymity, for reasons he never explains. He regularly posts his anti-Hayden, anti-police stories in the Cape Breton Rant Room Facebook site, a haven for trolls, and perhaps a supply of anonymous sources for his follow-up stories.

One of Rankin’s stories quoted an unnamed uncle of Hayden’s, seemingly speaking for the family and saying it would have been better had he taken the breathalyzer. Hayden has two uncles. Both live in Alberta. Neither has spoken to Rankin.

Most damningly, Rankin made no attempt to seek comment from Hayden or his family until three weeks — and a slew of lurid stories — after the accident.

7. Dispensary fire

From an early morning police release:

At 12:23 a.m. Halifax Regional Police received reports of a fire at Chronic Relief, 3700 Joseph Howe Drive Halifax. Caller reported seeing an unknown person set the business on fire. The suspect was last seen fleeing on foot.

Suspect is described as white male, tall, wearing all black, face was covered and carrying a bookbag.

Halifax Regional Police, HRM Fire and Emergency, and Emergency Health Services all responded. The fire was extinguished.

The fire is deemed suspicious. Police will remain on scene throughout the night while Warrant is obtained to process the scene in the daytime.

Police and a service dog searched the area and have not been able to locate the suspect.

8. That woman with the white blouse and black beret

She pops up everywhere. Back in October 2016, I saw her in the architectural drawings for a development proposed for (and now under construction at) the corner of Hollis and Bishop Streets:

I wrote at the time:

Never mind the ghost building up above: the power lines will not, of course, be placed underground, nor will the city allow two one-way streets be un-signed. But the real problem with this rendering is that the building will apparently be built on a planet with two suns. Notice how there’s a late afternoon sun that casts the shadow of the buildings on the west side of the street eastward, right to the curb line across the street, such that the proposed building is in full sunlight and in stark contrast. And yet, there is a second sun, a morning sun, that casts a shadow of the tree on the northeast corner of the intersection (a large tree actually exists at that spot) into the intersection — that is, westward. The beret-wearing woman, who appears to be standing in the middle of the street, gets the benefit of both suns, as her face and (importantly!) her breasts cast no shadow at all.

And there she was again at Tuesday’s council meeting, popping up in the architectural renderings for the development proposed for the corner of Robie and Pepperell Streets, behind the Atlantica Hotel:

The sun doesn’t make any sense in that drawing, either. This looks to be like the shadow that might be cast by the unseen tree onto Robie Street in the early hours of a winter day, but if so, it’s an exceptional snow-free winter and warm besides, as the woman doesn’t need a coat. More confusing, however, is that she is walking in the shadow, and yet the sun once again fully illuminates her face and breasts.

9. The Icarus Report

“An American Airlines flight travelling from Shannon, Ireland, to Philadelphia, Pa., had to make an emergency landing at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Wednesday afternoon because of smoke in the cabin,” reports Cassie Williams for the CBC:

The Boeing 757 aircraft declared the emergency at 12:40 p.m. AT and landed safely in Halifax about 10 minutes later, said Theresa Rath Spicer, speaking for the airport.

Firefighters, EMTs, coroners, and lawyers lined the runway as the plane landed, but thankfully their services were not required.

10. Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Park

The Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes wilderness. Photo: Tim Bousquet

Bill Turpin reviews the repeated delays in getting the park created, including a lawsuit filed by the Annapolis Group against the city. He writes:

But why are we going through this? Do company directors cease being citizens once they’re behind boardroom doors? Maybe you can’t be a board member and my friend Dave at the same time.

Or, maybe you can accept the fact you speculated on some land and lost, which is part of being a developer. Then you can be a citizen for a moment and realize you are standing in the way of an historic project that will improve the lives of everybody in your community and their descendants — forever.

You can sit down with the city and negotiate a fair deal.

For the same reasons, if you’re a councillor, you can stop being afraid and direct staff to begin expropriation. The Utility and Review Board might have to adjudicate, but it’s a lot faster and cheaper than the court system. My guess is the two sides will quickly come to an agreement because, as the saying goes, nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of a hanging.

Other landowners will follow suit and all concerned will be celebrated as legacy-builders.

Annapolis directors*: do the right thing and take your place in history.

Councillors**: grow a pair of ovaries and start the expropriation process. Leave a legacy when your council days are over instead of an empty chair.


Government

City

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee(Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — nothing exciting.

Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — the committee is considering what me looks to me like two noncontroversial zoning changes.

Friday

No public meetings.

Province

No public meetings today or Friday.


On campus

No public events for the rest of the week.


In the harbour

1:15am: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
5am: YM Modesty, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
7am: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney
10am: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
10am: IT Intrepid, cable layer, moves from Pier 9 to Pier 25
11:30am: Morning Crown, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
Noon: Topaz Express, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
3pm: Feng Huang Ao, asphalt tanker, sails from McAsphalt to sea
3:30pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor
4pm: YM Modesty, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
5pm: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
8:30pm: Ef Ava, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea


Footnotes

I’m taking rest of the day off.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. The Mic Mac AAC cannot change its name unless a bill to do so is introduced and passed in the legislature where ordinary citizens can make their views know to the Private and Local bills committee.
    White middle class people and middle class people of mixed race should be more concerned about access to canoe clubs by racially visible children.
    And when did Cornwallis Island become McNabs Island ?

    1. Current-day McNab’s Island was named Cornwallis Island after you-know-who by the first English settlers in 1759. Cornwallis appears to have simply assumed ownership and deeded it to 3 of his nephews, who never actually lived there. They started leasing out parcels in the 1760’s, including one to Scottish merchant Peter McNab. In 1773 the Cornwallis family put the island up for sale, for the “exorbitant price” of 1000 pounds sterling. By 1782 Peter McNab had managed to raise that amount and purchased the island, though he had to buy out two other leases from prominent citizens later on. The island’s name seems to have changed gradually from this time on.

      Source: Friends of McNab’s Island Society https://mcnabsisland.ca/introduction

      1. A 1775 survey by Charles Morris shows Cornwallis Island as does a later 1778 copy released in Paris.

  2. I really hope that Council saves the Blue Mountain / Birch Cove area. I don’t really care much one way or another about statues or marijuana laws or bike lanes but losing that wilderness so close to the city and so well suited to exploration by canoe or on foot would be a real shame.

    1. Actually I will say that I’m a little annoyed they got rid of the plinth for the Cornwallis statue, it was a perfectly good plinth and I think it would have been nice to reuse it for whatever they put there.

    2. I agree, Nick. This is a tremendous opportunity to do the right thing, and is squarely in the Public Interest. Bill Turpin’s comments are spot-on. His full article (link provided above) is a must-read.