1. COVID-19

As of yesterday, there were 59 known active cases of COVID-19 in the province, and no one in hospital with the disease.

The breakout centered around Halifax bars seems to have been contained, and there have been no recent cases in HRM that have been attributed to community spread — there were no new cases in HRM Saturday, and the three new HRM cases announced Sunday were close contacts of previously announced cases.

But the situation in the valley remains uncertain, as so far a total of six employees at the Eden Valley poultry processing plant in Berwick have tested positive for the virus. The plant is closed for two weeks. Public Health is opening testing centres for asymptomatic people in the valley, in Bridgewater and Wolfville (these are in addition to other asymptomatic testing centres across the province); to book a test, go here.

While Premier Stephen McNeil and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang were at pains last week to praise Eden Valley management for their cooperation with the plant closure order, Thom Oulton, chair of the Chicken Farmers of Nova Scotia, did not reciprocate and instead lambasted the province for what he characterized as a too lengthy closure: “It’s hard for us to agree that a 14-day shutdown is necessary when we don’t know how widespread the problem is,” Oulton said in a statement. That comes in stark contrast to Halifax bar owners who actually urged that their businesses be shut down for two weeks when an outbreak in the HRM was recognized. Maybe chicken farmers’ income is more important than bar employees’ income.

Otherwise, there have been a handful of new cases across the province, but all either travel related or close contacts with previous cases.

Also over the weekend, Public Health issued potential COVID exposure advisories for two sites in New Glasgow and four flights, as follows:

  • Atlantic Superstore (394 Westville Road, New Glasgow) on Dec. 6 between 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 20.
  • Canadian Tire (Highland Square Mall, 699 Westville Road, New Glasgow) on Dec. 6 between 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec. 20.
  • Passengers on Air Canada flight #144 travelling on Dec. 9 from Calgary (11:54 a.m.) to Toronto (5:22 p.m.) in rows 20-26, seats J, K and L. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on this flight on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec 23.
  • Passengers on Air Canada flight #8210 travelling from Toronto (Dec 9. at 8:55 p.m.) to Sydney (Dec. 10 at 12:10 a.m.) in rows 22-27, seats D and F. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on this flight on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec 24.
  • WestJet flight #228 travelling on Dec. 3 from Calgary (11:14 p.m.) to Halifax (Dec 4. at 7:06 a.m.). Passengers in rows 6-12, seats D, E and F are asked to continue to self-isolate and monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on this flight on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec 18.
  • WestJet flight #254 travelling on Dec. 8 from Toronto (9:45 p.m.) to Halifax (Dec. 9 at 12:48 a.m.) in rows 8-14, seats A, B and C are asked to continue to self-isolate and monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on this flight on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Dec 23.

It hasn’t been announced yet, but typically McNeil and Strang hold a COVID briefing on Tuesday afternoons; both signalled last week that they would announce changes in the Halifax area COVID restrictions this week.

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2. Violence towards Indigenous fisher

A 2008 “No Pipe” rally of Mi’kmaw chiefs and other opponents of Northern Pulp’s proposed effluent treatment system. Photo: Joan Baxter

The relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers on the North Shore has been notably different than that in southwest Nova Scotia. In particular, there has been mutual support around the Northern Pulp effluent issue, with non-Indigenous fishers supporting the closing of Boat Harbour as a sewer for the pulp mill, and then Indigenous fishers joining in on the protests against piping the effluent into the Northumberland Strait.

So it came as something of a surprise when Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul announced on her Facebook page yesterday that:

Today … a white male (3 of them actually) were seen pulling up our Netukulimk Fishing traps.

Our fisher went out to see who it was. They SHOT at him!!! They were there with a rifle and shot at my community member!!! My fisher was alone.

This is wrong on so many levels and it is not going to be ignored.

We know who you are!!!

She had several updates:

6:04 pm Sunday Dec 13: RCMP are aware and investigation is on. There are a number of officers on the case right now and they have the names of the men.

PLFN I ask that you please remain calm… Thank you everyone!

9:52 pm Sun Dec 13 – someone is in police custody. No name has been released.

10:05 pm Sun Dec 13 – second guy has surrendered.

6:41 am Mon Dec 14 – only one person in custody. Will know more later this morning.

There are reportedly no injuries associated with this incident.

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3. Furey’s conflict of interest

Justice Minister Mark Furey. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

“So, let me see if I have this straight,” writes Stephen Kimber:

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey, a 32-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, had no conflict of interest, real or perceived, while overseeing the provincial government’s response to Canada’s worst modern day mass murder. This is so, despite the reality RCMP actions — and inactions — before, during and after April’s Portapique shooting spree are at the heart of an ongoing public inquiry, an inquiry which Furey did his best for as long as he possibly could to avoid even calling.

Fair enough. And, in this same alternate universe, Donald Trump won the US presidential election “by a landslide.”

Click here to read “Mark Furey isn’t in a conflict, Donald Trump won by a landslide, and other tales from the alternate universe.”

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4. Halifax cops will get body-worn cameras

A body-worn camera on a Durham, Ont. police officer. Photo: Twitter/Durham Police

“Halifax Regional Police are charging ahead with body-worn video cameras, proposing in a new submission to phase them in over the next five years at an estimated cost of $3.71 million,” reports Zane Woodford:

For at least one justice reform activist, the plan and its price tag are “a slap in the face” for “a meaningless technocratic measure that doesn’t do anything to change” police behaviour.

Tari Ajadi, a doctoral candidate at Dalhousie University and a member of the Nova Scotia Policing Policy Working Group, said in an interview Friday that he believes people are generally supportive of the idea “because it appears to be a very simple fix.”

Tari Ajadi

“It feels intuitive: ‘Oh, well if they’re watched, then suddenly they won’t behave this way. The reason for police misconduct is a lack of visibility.’ But we’ve seen images of police officers acting badly for years, for decades now,” Ajadi said.

“African Nova Scotian communities and Indigenous communities have been talking about police misconduct for decades and decades, if not centuries, and nothing has changed. Why body-worn cameras would suddenly transform what is in fact a systemic issue, I don’t quite see how that would happen.”

“Body-worn cameras aren’t really going to do anything to transform community concerns about police harassment, police surveillance, excessive use of force, and systemic racism within the HRP,” Ajadi said.

“It’s a meaningless technocratic measure that doesn’t do anything to change those conditions on the ground.”

I predicted in June that despite the “defund police” movement, calls for police reform would actually lead to an increase in police budgets:

Lots of people seem to think body-worn cameras are a simple solution to police violence. What could it hurt? they argue. But given the unproven effectiveness of the cameras, we should consider the costs associated with them, which are enormous: it’s not just the initial camera purchase, but additionally the costs of storage (for how long?) and maintenance of video files; processing, editing, and redacting for court use; complying with privacy legislation; and responding to freedom of information requests. In fact, after a rush to employ body-worn cameras, many police departments in the US have abandoned them because of the costs.

But the urge to put cameras on every cop is a reflection of the prevailing neoliberal framing of society: every problem can be solved with more technology, more surveillance, and more money dumped into both technology and surveillance.

Camera advocates I’ve spoken with don’t say we shouldn’t talk about “root causes” or the sociology of police violence or even better approaches to addressing crime, but they want cameras now, and we’ll deal with those other issues later. Problem is, later never comes.

I can see how this might play out: putting cameras on cops will actually lead to an increase in the police budget. First for the purchase of the cameras, then for the costs of maintaining them, then for ongoing training of officers (via a contract to some connected insider), all in the name of “improving trust” or some such bullshit.

Along the way, there will be cultural sensitivity training for cops and the like, ballooning the police budget even more.

There’s not an easy fix to police violence. More training or some quick tech gimmick won’t address the issue.

And sure enough, Woodford reports that the body worn cameras come with a big price tag:

The initial capital cost in the first year is pegged at $795,000, with annual costs afterward of $380,000. HRP would also have to hire four people, all civilians, to process video files for court, “manage the technological aspects” of the cameras, and “support the FOIPOP section in processing FOI requests related to BWV content.”

The total cost for five years is $3.71 million, “factoring in capital, operating, and labour costs.”

That’s $3.71 million that won’t be spent on housing, or on meals programs, or on support systems for people trying to move out of the criminal justice system, or on recreational programs for young people, or on…

There’s always a good reason to spend more money on cops, and never a good reason to direct that money instead to support communities.

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5. Bus driver

Halifax Transit operator Jill Webb. Photo: LinkedIn

“A Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice has sided with an arbitrator, ruling in a decision released Friday that Halifax Transit was wrong to fire a bus driver who was repeatedly disciplined,” reports Zane Woodford:

Halifax Transit fired Jill Webb in September 2018. Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 508, filed a grievance on Webb’s behalf and an arbitrator, J.A. MacLellan, set aside Webb’s termination. After about 20 months off work, she was reinstated without back pay.

The municipality sought judicial review of the arbitrator’s decision, arguing MacLellan made several legal errors. Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Jamie Campbell heard the case on Dec. 3, and the court released his written decision on Friday, siding with the arbitrator.

Click here to read “Supreme court affirms arbitrator’s ruling: Halifax Transit was wrong to fire driver for dispute with cyclist, eating at the wheel.”

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6. Wannabe Liberal leaders

“Who will Liberals choose to be their next leader and premier of the province?” asks Jennifer Henderson:

Three white men and three former cabinet ministers — Randy Delorey, Labi Kousoulis, and Iain Rankin — are competing for the job. 

The first online forum went “live” late last week. They tussled politely over planning for a post-pandemic economic recovery and how to deal with a crisis in affordable housing, among many other topics. They also discussed the need to attract more women and people from diverse cultures to seek leadership roles within the political party. 

Click here to read “Where Liberal leadership hopefuls stand on the issues.”

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7. Veendam runs aground

The Aegean Majesty, formerly the Veendam, is pulled off a sandbar near Corinth, Greece. Photo: Jason Diving/ Facebook

In October, I reported on the sale of the cruise ship Veendam to a Greek businessman who staged a fake pirate attack as part of an insurance scam:

Holland American Lines (HAL) has sold five ships to a Greek company called Seajets. The sale includes the Maasdam and the Veendam, two of the workhouses of the Atlantic Canada cruise business. The Veendam in particular has been calling in Halifax about twice a week from the early summer into late October before heading to the Caribbean for the winter.

Seajets runs high-speed ferries in Greece and has never operated cruise ships. Its CEO, Marios Iliopoulos, isn’t saying what his intentions are with the ships, but it seems unlikely they’ll be returning to Halifax.

Iliopoulos is probably best known as the owner of the Brillante Virtuoso, a tanker that he said was attacked by Somali pirates in 2011. The supposed pirate attack is the subject of a fascinating 2017 article by Bloomberg reporters Kit Chellel and Matthew Campbell.

And seriously, if you didn’t read that article in October, read it now; it’s wild.

Anyway, the Veendam, now renamed the Aegean Majesty, is back in the news, as last month it “broke loose from her moorings and went aground on a sandbar at the port of Corinth, Greece,” reports The Maritime Executive.

I’m sure insurance paid for the refloating of the boat.

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Government

City

Monday

Board of Police Commissioners (Monday, 12:30pm) — virtual meeting, with discussion of the body cameras discussed above. Zane Woodford will have a report on this later today.

Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee (Monday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting.

North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm) — virtual meeting, with approval of a big mobile home park in Enfield on the agenda.

Tuesday

Regional Council and Budget Committee (Tuesday, 10am) — Regional council agenda here; budget committee agenda here.

Province

Monday

No meetings.

Tuesday

Natural Resources and Economic Development (Tuesday, 10am) — video conference: Department of the Environment — Lead in the Groundwater: Provincial Testing and Notification Regime. With Deputy Minister Scott Farmer, Andrew Murphy (Sustainability and Applied Sciences), and Elizabeth Kennedy (Water Branch).

Veterans Affairs (Tuesday, 2pm) — video conference for agenda setting.

On campus

King’s

Tuesday

Holiday Happy Hour (Tuesday, 5pm) — Zoom party with a festive cocktail demonstration, King’s trivia, and fireside chat. Bring your own cocktails (and fireside.) Register here.


In the harbour

06:00: YM Evolution, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
07:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, moves from Irving Oil to Dockyard
07:30: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Hamburg, Germany
10:30: Carmen, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
13:00: Algoma Mariner, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Port-Daniel–Gascons, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine
13:00: MSC Poh Lin, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
15:30: Lagrafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Portland
16:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
18:00: Carmen moves to Pier 31
18:00: YM Evolution sails for Rotterdam
18:00: Yantian Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk


Footnotes

I’m attending (virtually) a court hearing about Randy Riley this morning. I wrote about Riley’s case here. Today, the crown is attempting to have the court order that Riley’s lawyer be removed from the case. Depending on how this proceeds, I may have an article about it later today.

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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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17 Comments

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  1. Although rapid Covid testing is now readily available, we are STILL allowing infected carriers to board planes for Atlantic Canada. I don’t get it.

    1. A rapid test only gives you a result at a very specific moment in time. If the traveler feels fine when they head for the airport and passes the initial screening, do they have to undergo another test if/when they change planes? If not, seems to me that someone could be feeling fine in the morning, pass the rapid test at the first airport, and still be ill upon arrival.

      1. My (limited) understanding is that a negative test just tells you that you didn’t test positive. You could get a negative test and still be contagious. You could get a negative test and later find out you have COVID. Especially those rapid tests.

  2. Two weeks for the processing plant seems a bit much. You can deep clean a school for kids in what? 3-4 days. Surely there would be enough workers tested and negative to at least get some people working.

    As to Mark Furey, yeah I don’t agree with lots of legal findings/decisions/opinions but who agrees with everything. Obviously the ex-justice is incompetent because he disagrees with the Examiner. It appears that there is a conflict but I guess appearances don’t have too much standing in law or ethics rulings. Houston got his argument out there and it’s been binned, time to move on maybe.

  3. “That comes in stark contrast to Halifax bar owners who actually urged that their businesses be shut down for two weeks when an outbreak in the HRM was recognized. Maybe chicken farmers’ income is more important than bar employees’ income.” Hmmm, given the very different nature of the businesses, this statement seems a little unfair…

    1. Chicken farmers have a different cost structure than bars. Bars can lay all their employees off and only need to pay rent, which they might be able to get subsidies to do. Chickens don’t stop growing and needing to be fed etc because the slaughterhouse is closed. Chickens bred for meat need to be slaughtered at a certain age because they will develop problems from excess muscle growth, and there is a possibility that oversize chickens will be difficult for Eden Valley to process once they do reopen.

      Maybe we could learn from this and not eat so much meat from animals bred to optimize the growth of (tasteless) chicken breasts, and maybe instead of relentless cost cutting we should have more, smaller meat processors. I suspect we won’t.

        1. Fair point, although to me a ‘bar’ means a place that serves drinks and bar food, which is mostly pretty stable stuff. But yeah, actual restaurants, or fancy bars that serve real food, ouch.

          Another win for chains that mostly reheat Sysco products.

          1. I was speaking to the risk of community spread between the two businesses, not so much the economic losses. Seems to me there may be other ways to deal with containment in a factory, and it’s fair enough for the farmers to ask government to consider them. So yeah, I found your statement harsh…

  4. Re Police Body Cameras. A few years ago cameras were seen as a means to shine light in interactions between police and the community. Now, the investment is “taking funding from the community “. Trying to have it both ways in the public debate is intellectually dishonest as is defunding the police.

    1. Body cameras on police have shown their utility in the United States. I respectfully disagree with those who make this into an “either/or” issue in budgeting. It is a false dichotomy.

        1. “The total cost for five years is $3.71 million.” That isn’t a lot of money over five years for a large municipality, and nobody ever called it “free money”. There is no free money when it comes to budgets, budgets are just a set of priorities. So change the priorities, within the police budget itself preferably.

          I think something like this should get provincial funding in all provinces, as the cost will be hard on smaller and poorer municipalities, but the utility of body cameras on police has been shown numerous times in the United States. Numerous abuses and even murders have been proven by them. Until desired conditions come about in terms of police mentality and culture, I think they are pretty useful.

          As to the cost, I would investigate further. It is possible that this was inflated in order to make the proposition look unattractive. This is a common response by internal bureaucrats and vested interests to unwanted reform.

          Saying a municipality should be spending money on other things too is likely true, but again, a false dichotomy. Maybe the whole budget, not just the police budget, should be reviewed as to where money is going. They could well be pissing it away in a lot of other areas. It comes down to electing councillors who will change things.

        2. The police budget being increased may well happen, but with body cameras that would be a case of doing the right thing the wrong way.

          Police budgets always seem to balloon, and there are objections to this that predate the defund movement: every municipality I cover is unhappy with this, and in NB, Saint John is particularly unhappy.

          There are reasons for that apart from the expense of equipment. Binding arbitration doesn’t take into account the ability of a municipality to pay increased salary and benefits to unionized police members, something the government of NB is trying to change. This change BTW is seen here as a fundamentally conservative, not progressive, approach to police (and fire) budgets.

          At least in the case of Halifax and Saint John the municipal councils have some power to shift priorities in the police budget, apart from expenditures required by law. If you are a municipality policed by the RCMP you essentially get handed a bill, and you have to pay it, period. The municipalities raise numerous objections, not just cost but to the kind of policing they are getting, but their only other option is to find the money to come up with municipal or regional policing of their own. They usually can’t afford the significant upfront costs, and in any event, while it might prove cheaper there is no guarantee there will be an overall improvement, or that municipal control over the police budget won’t lead to improper political meddling, particularly in smaller communities.

    2. The request for body cameras has been in the HRM civilian bureaucracy for months. Dube has been aware of the proposed purchase and probably gave a nod to the purchase during one of his regular meetings with Chief Kinsella.
      Here is one study of the use of body cameras from 2017 : ” We find that BWC-wearing officers generated significantly fewer complaints and use of force reports relative to control officers without cameras. BWC wearing officers also made more arrests and issued more citations than their nonBWC-wearing controls. In addition, our cost-benefit analysis revealed that savings from reduced complaints against officers, and the reduced time required to resolve such complaints, resulted in substantial cost savings for the police department. Considering that LVMPD had already introduced reforms regarding use of force through a
      Collaborative Reform Initiative prior to implementing body worn cameras, these
      findings suggest that body worn cameras can have compelling effects without increasing costs ” https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/251416.pdf
      Other articles studies are available through a Google search of ‘effectiveness of police body cameras’.