News

1. Cabot Links

The loan is listed on ACOA’s website.

Cabot Links has received a $2 million loan to “expand resort operations” from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

There are no further details, and neither ACOA nor Cabot Links are talking, reports Nancy King for the Cape Breton Post.

I’d like to see an honest economic impact study of Cabot Links, but we’ll never get such a thing because economic impact studies are authored by or paid for by promoters of the projects, use unrealistic or unreliable input data and untested multipliers, and never consider the potential impacts of alternative uses for the same public money.

So I’ll just note that Ben Cowan-Dewar has some serious mojo when it comes to accessing government financing.

Ben Cowan-Dewar, owner of Cabot Links.

2. Chignecto Isthmus

Photo: Bill Casey

“The federal government is investing $350,000 through the National Trade Corridors Fund for a study that will explore viable options to climate change impacts on the Chignecto Isthmus,” reports Andrea Gunn for the Chronicle Herald, who wins today’s award for best example of blindly adopting the government PR-speak of “investing”:

“In 2007 the United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change named two places in North America as the most vulnerable (to rising sea levels). One was New Orleans and one was this stretch between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick,” Casey told The Chronicle Herald.

In 2015, Casey said, the water levels in the surrounding Bay of Fundy came within a centimetre of the height of the rail line.

“The rail line was never built to be a breakwater but that’s what it’s doing now.”

3. DHX

“DHX Media Ltd. said Monday the sale of nearly half of its stake in the Peanuts entertainment business to a Sony Corp. division for $237 million in cash will help reduce the Canadian animation company’s debt load and improve its operating results,” reports he Canadian Press:

The Halifax-based company will retain 41 per cent of the Peanuts empire, which revolves around characters such as Snoopy, Charlie Brown and Lucy Van Pelt, while Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. will own 39 per cent. The family of creator Charles M. Schulz will continue to own 20 per cent.

DHX bought majority ownership of the Peanuts and Strawberry Shortcake brands last year under a US$345-million deal that significantly increased its revenue but also its debt load.

The Halifax company has been undergoing a strategic review of its options, including a potential sale of the company, as it struggles under the weight of its debt. Earlier this year, the company announced a management shake up, including replacing its chief executive officer and chief financial officer.

Its shares were down 10 per cent Monday morning after the Canadian animation company announced a quarterly loss and said it may not achieve its previously announced guidance for fiscal 2018.

4. Biometrics

Yesterday, I wrote about the new facial recognition software being used for our drivers’ licence photos, and raised concerns about how the biometric information collected will be used and protected.

Today, Jennifer Lee — a King’s J-school grad who got a job writing PR for Peter Moreira’s Entrevestor, which is paid by governments to non-critically plug local start-ups, and whose “articles” are for some reason published in the news pages of the Chronicle Herald — writes about RetailDeep, which is in the running for some big prize. You can read this link for the deets on the prize, but here’s what caught my attention:

RetailDeep equips stores with facial-recognition software that identifies customers who have digital accounts and tracks what they select from shelves. It automatically bills them for each item before they leave the shop. The system allows small and medium-sized retailers to compete with automated shops being pioneered by such corporate giants as Amazon. It lets consumers purchase things without waiting in line for a cashier and also helps retailers track data on their customers.

The company, which started in Shanghai, China, is expanding its eight-store pilot with Chinese retailer Pocket Noir to include 100 locations across China. It is also piloting locally, testing its AI at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market and several other businesses in the city.

Understand what’s being done here: customers’ biometric information is being held by someone somewhere (we’re not told who or where) and will be used by “small and medium-sized retailers” to do who knows what with. Sure, the big promise, and the value of RetailDeep, is to improve the retail experience (we can argue about the details of that later), but what happens with all this data?

This technology seems to be running far ahead of regulation. There need to be strict legal controls on who can own this data, where it can be stored, and what it can be used for.

5. Gottingen and Bloomfield

In the Government section below, I note that the Halifax & West Community Council will have a public hearing on proposed changes to the development at Gottingen and Bloomfield Streets. You can see the proposal here. A reader tells me there’s substantial neighbourhood opposition:

The community has mobilized as I’ve not seriously seen before about a truly neighbourhood-scale concern. They designed their own (very well-written) survey, and then distributed them. They got 105 responses from people who live within 3-4 blocks of the place. Functionally 100% response rate. Functionally 100% opposition to the application.


Government

City

Tuesday

Halifax & West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall) — public hearings on that building at the corner of Bloomfield and Gottingen Streets and a rezone affecting a building at 3834 Robie Street, which is at the far north end of Robie Street.

Wednesday

Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — minor tweaks to the Marketing Levy Special Event Reserve Grants program.

FCM 2018 Conference Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 1pm, City Hall) — updates and more updates.

Public Information Meeting – Case 21406 (Wednesday, 7pm, Knights of Columbus, 252 Cobequid Rd, Lower Sackville) — Teal Architects & Planners wants to build a four-storey, 36-unit apartment building at 216 Cobequid Road in Lower Sackville.

Province

Tuesday

Veterans Affairs (Tuesday, 2pm, One Government Place) — Joëlle Badman, the Education Program Manager of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, will speak about “Veteran Trainers to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers.”

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Simon d’Entremont, the deputy minister at the Department of Seniors, will be asked about “Nova Scotia’s Action Plan for an Aging Population and Age-friendly Communities Grant” and not about that FOIPOP security failure.


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

No public events today.

Wednesday

The Utility-based Regression Problem (Wednesday, 12:30pm, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Paula Branco from the University of Porto, Portugal, will speak. Her abstract:

“In this talk we will discuss the Utility-based Regression problem. Utility-based learning problems involve the use of non-uniform preferences when assessing the predictive performance of the models. We describe some important relationships between utility-based learning and other predictive tasks such as standard predictive tasks and the problem of learning from imbalanced domains. We present the challenges raised by utility-based regression tasks, and discuss some possible solutions. In particular, we provide examples of both modeling and pre-processing solutions for these tasks.”


In the harbour

5:30am: Delhi Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
6am: Asian Sun, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from San Juan, Puerto Rico
6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 36 from St. John’s
6am: AS Felicia, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Kingston, Jamaica
6:45am: Maasdam, cruise ship with up to 1,510 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John
2pm: Grande Halifax, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Gioia Tauro, Italy
4:30pm: Maasdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Sydney
4:30pm: Asian Sun, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea


Footnotes

I’m on an early morning reporting assignment, so today’s Morning File is short if not sweet.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. “The company, which started in Shanghai, China, is … testing its AI at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market and several other businesses in the city.” WHAT ???

    When I first read this I wondered, “Is it April 1st ?” Then I thought, “WTF!”
    Who gave a Chinese company permission to do this? I’m a private citizen, I don’t recall doing it. Who’s protecting my rights ? Are there large signs posted at the Farmers Market letting people know their personal data is being perused, studied, and stored some place we-don’t-know-where and used by … well, by who ? As far as I know, China is still a fascist country with a dictator in power. What brilliant Nova Scotian, CANADIAN, thought this pilot project was okay ? It should be ended immediately.

  2. Being an avid golfer and driving through Inverness last year, I had to stop in and take a look around for sure. I had checked out the website for both courses and did notice a Nova Scotian discount. I still couldn’t afford it! With the kind of money invested in the area I hope they do well because you don’t go to Cape Breton to work in a coal mine unless you got the blues! You go for the scenery, the people, and a part of Nova Scotia that is a unique as the rest of the province. When we use our hard earned tax dollars for investment like this, I hope we don’t use our own money to upscale a project to exclude our hard working Nova Scotian’s from accessing their golf courses or the beaches as well. Maybe Nova Scotian’s could get a better discount after this cash infusion. I look forward to my next trip to Cape Breton and a better pricing on eighteen holes in Inverness.

  3. How does spending millions collected from all the people of Nova Scotia on a project that will benefit a few folks in Inverness become something all the people of Nova Scotia should value–particularly when the project promotes a rich white man’s sport that is dying as surely as coal mining?

  4. In lieu of an economic impact study you would dismiss as bullshit anyway, might I suggest you take a drive down the main street of Inverness? Then compare what you see to photos of the hideous coal waste dump that occupied the land between the main street and the waterfront for decades before Cabot Links was built? Inverness effectively had no industry for the half century between the mine’s closure and the opening of the golf course. It did function as a shire town for owners of summer vacation properties, but that was it. It was in a terribly sad state: decrepit, ugly, bereft. At a minimum, young people in the town now have a way to earn money while they pursue higher education. It is beyond rational argument that this has improved the area’s financial fortunes. But since the guy who built it was a capitalist, and since governments loaned him money for the project, and most of all, since he succeeded, you cannot overcome your visceral hatred, or your Halifax-centric ignorance of facts on the ground in Cape Breton.

    1. I think they require police background checks for everyone.. even someone mowing the grass.

    2. Is a “capitalist” who borrows from the government a capitalist or just a crony and grifter?

      Would love to hear a Bousquet-Donham Examiner Radio.

      1. No….he’s helping a desperate government look good.
        Alan J was akin to a Laird looking after supplicants (fishermen) by spending money of painting fishing shacks or cobbling a few planks on a wharf and making sure such work lasted for 13 weeks and then the folk would sit back and collect EI. The feds used to beg David Read,owner of many McD outlets in metro, to take money to train people chosen by the EI office. The deal would result in people no longer be counted as on EI and the government could claim a reduction in the number of persons being unemployed. The whole programme was a sham with many small businesses temporarily employing people every year doing the same work as those previously subsidised by the federal government. Looked good on paper and the really dirty secret was the number of businesses that were greasing the palms of local EI office managers.

  5. The link for your event item for Public Information Meeting – Case 21406 links to an administrative order document and not the development proposal.

  6. There is a 5-6 storey cheap looking and not very visually unattractive seniors home behind the proposed Gottingen/Bloomfield development.

  7. There have been a number of studies done on the Chignecto dykes over the years. All have raised a red flag on the potential effects of sea level rise combined with a storm surge event. Governments have ignored this for at least 25 years when the first study I recall stated emphatically the imminent risk to transportation infrastructure.

    I think we should all be dreaming of a wide isthmus.