News

1. Benefits outweigh risks when it comes to vaccinating kids against COVID-19, new study says

Nurse Laura Bailey administers a COVID-19 vaccine dose to eight-year-old Jack Woodhead at the IWK COVID-19 vaccine clinic for children ages 5 to 11. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Yvette d’Entremont speaks with Dr. Karina Top, co-author of a new report on risks and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination for children.

Top says there are a lot of good reasons to vaccinate children, especially with the holidays coming:

Children in school are one of the largest unvaccinated groups still in the population that are contracting COVID,” she said.

“Children can get very seriously ill, and a small number of children can develop a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome that can occur a few weeks after their initial COVID infection.”

That syndrome is associated with high fevers that can cause inflammation of the heart and other organs. Top said most children who develop it will be hospitalized.

In addition to the rare but serious risks associated with children contracting COVID-19, Top said they can transmit it to those who are vulnerable as well as other unvaccinated people — including school classmates.

“We’re heading into the holiday season, and this is the best way for us to protect children and prevent them from spreading it to their grandparents and other vulnerable family members as well so we can enjoy a safer holiday season this year,” she said.

Interestingly, d’Entremont learns that the risk of myocarditis/pericarditis from the vaccine is lower than the risk of contracting the condition from COVID-19, and that children seem to be less at risk of this rare vaccine side effect than adolescents are.

The story also looks at what we know about the Omicron variant and vaccination.

Click here to read d’Entremont’s full story.

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2. COVID-19 update: 45 new cases, ICU numbers drop

Photo: Quinten Braem/Unsplash

The province reported 45 new cases of COVID-19 from Friday to Sunday. There are now 11 people in hospital, four of whom are in the ICU.

Tim Bousquet breaks down all the numbers, as usual.

We now have over 80% of the total population — including young children — with two doses of vaccine. I was going to write “fully vaccinated” there, but it seems we may have to rethink that phrase. Are the vaccines ideally a three-dose series? Maybe we will find some other configuration is required with new variants. We’ll see.

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3. COVID outbreak associated with Pictou County church

Photo: Edward Jenner/Pexels

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

A spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Department of Health has confirmed a cluster of COVID cases in the Northern Zone is centred in Pictou County.

Last Wednesday, December 1, Public Health reported 33 cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Zone among a community of mainly unvaccinated people. The Northern Zone covers a large geographic area that includes Cumberland, Colchester, and Pictou counties, as well as a portion of West Hants.

Yesterday, the Examiner asked Public Health if it could ease concerns among such a large population by confirming if the cluster was confined to members of a Mennonite Church community in the Pictou area.

I called Pastor Abe Plett of the Lighthouse Mennonite Church to ask him. Knowing I was reporting for the Halifax Examiner, Plett said some members of his Church had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus but no one was seriously ill and no one has died. He had been called and was aware that Public Health’s mobile unit had been offering PCR testing in the New Glasgow area since Wednesday of last week and over the past weekend. At the end of the conversation, Plett requested that his name and the name of the church not be part of any news coverage because he didn’t want any publicity.

The Examiner cannot confirm that this is where the cluster began — six new cases were reported for Northern Zone yesterday and the Health Department says there is limited spread in Northern Zone, which could be related to an earlier outbreak in the Cumberland area.

The Examiner asked Public Health if it could confirm the Lighthouse Church was the location of the most recent cluster. Here is the response we received from Marla MacInnis, spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Department of Health:

“The cluster in Northern Zone is occurring in a defined under-vaccinated community in Pictou County. It is important to also note that some who became infected with the virus only became eligible for the vaccine last week. The community is working closely and cooperatively with Public Health to manage the cluster. At this time there is no evidence of spread into the broader community, although Public Health continues to actively monitor. This demonstrates the impact that vaccines have in providing a layer of protection against the virus. Out of respect for the privacy of the community, this information is all we have to share.”

Readers will have to draw their own conclusions. The reference to people becoming eligible for the vaccine only last week may refer to children. A COVID briefing is scheduled for 3pm today. You can watch the briefing here.

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4. SaltWire offers buyouts

SaltWire’s “Chief People Officer,” Nancy Cook. Photo: LinkedIn

A CP story published at CBC says the SaltWire network is offering buyouts. From the story:

East Coast newspaper publisher SaltWire Network Inc. is offering voluntary buyouts and an option of reduced hours for employees.

In an internal memo, the company says that offers are part of its ongoing pivot from a traditional newspaper publisher to a digital media company.

SaltWire’s head of people and process Nancy Cook says in the memo that the company’s needs are shifting and it has to be nimble and ready to tackle the changes ahead.

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5. First tiny shelter installed on church property

St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, now site of a crisis shelter. Photo: Google Street View.

Heidi Petracek at CTV reports that a crisis shelter has been installed in the parking lot behind Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church in Dartmouth. It is the first of 20 such shelters to be installed on Catholic Church properties.

The project manager for the Archdiocese’s emergency shelters program says seeing the project come to fruition has been emotional.

“It’s wonderful,” says John Stevens, “I almost cried on Friday when I was touring the engineering facility before they put it on the truck.”

“It’s been a hard slog, from September to now to work everything out, and it looked like it wasn’t going to happen at all, and then we got the green light and here we are.”

Stevens says the first resident — who will be determined in consultation with service providers and social workers — will move in as soon as possible.

The sole occupant will have to abide by an occupancy agreement which bans open fires, smoking in the shelter, and illegal drugs.

But, Petracek notes, the city says it will only allow occupancy until the end of May.

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6. Flooding concerns at Peggy’s Cove

Hardened and raised roadbed at Peggy’s Cove. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

This story appeared late last week, but I thought I’d point to it given the rain, rain, rain we had overnight.

Jonathan MacInnis reports for CTV on concerns about the roadway flooding in Peggy’s Cove, despite millions spent on improvements. He writes:

 “This morning there was a foot of water and it was just a continuous stream to the other side of the road,” says Pam Lovelace.

According to Lovelace, the province’s lack of a stormwater management program is to blame for the lack of drainage.

“I’d like to see engineers come in here and actually look at what should have happened with this road, it was upgraded, you can see it’s quite low in that area,” she says.

In a statement to CTV News, Nova Scotia’s Department of Public Works says, “The department is aware of the situation. Staff are actively investigating options to remediate the problem on Peggy’s Point Road and find a solution that works for the community and users of the road.”

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Views

Nova Scotia business recap, 1892-1913

Cover of the Maritime Merchant and Commercial Review, July 3, 1913.

In July 1913, the editors of the Maritime Merchant and Commercial Review celebrated the 21st anniversary of their publication. Twenty-one marked the age of majority at the time, so the editors decided to take the opportunity to look back at what had changed on the business scene in the Maritimes over the previous two decades.

The Merchant was a newspaper of, well, the merchant class. The July 3, 1913 issue is typical in that it has reports on goods and industries including “The Grocery Trade,” “Hardware,” “Maritime Dry Goods,” “Insurance,” “The Fisheries,” and “Boots and Shoes.” It offers advice (“The tidy man makes the best impression”) and ads geared to shop owners (“Schools open the end of August: Are you prepared?”).

I have spent an inordinate number of hours reading through the paper over the past year, looking at ads for flour and molasses, exhortations to stock particular brands of tobacco, and reports on the trade in various goods throughout the region. It’s fascinating stuff.

But the recap published in July 1913 is particularly interesting. It highlights industries that were flourishing and are no more and others in their infancy, but it also demonstrates business attitudes that remain largely unchanged.

Take, for instance, the question of the need for public investment in ports.

In looking over the early numbers, we find an expression of the aspirations of Halifax and St. John to be great ports. Public meetings were being held in both places demanding that the Government subsidise a fast line of steamers between Canada and the Old Country. Halifax wanted a fast line for the winter months; St. John, all the year round. Governments changed but there remained a seeming indifference towards subsidising steamers to an extent that would at once put one or other or both of our principal Maritime ports on a par with New York with respect to service.

Those darn nay-sayers and government types who wouldn’t see the light and invest in the fast steamers. Can you believe them?

The paper goes on to note that the business has grown despite the lack of government support and celebrates the fact that “there are steamers coming to these ports part of the year at least that are equal to some of the principal steamers sailing to New York.” (Emphasis added.)

Business puffery never changes (see Canso spaceport, etc). We may not be equal to New York, but for part of the year, steamers just as good as the ones that go to New York dock here. So there.

The editors also celebrate the booming steel and coal businesses, and the towns that have grown up around them:

Glace Bay, a mere village then, has 16,000 people today — even more. [This is about the same population as in the 2016 census.] Other towns that didn’t exist have grown up on coal, like Dominion, New Waterford, Inverness — all good, substantial towns.

Steel and coal together have worked wonders in Pictou and Cape Breton Counties… The steel industry at New Glasgow was a small thing and only about ten years old when the “Merchant” came into existence. But behold it today! A flourishing group of towns — New Glasgow, Trenton, Stellarton, Westville — jointly making a considerable city, have grown up on this combination of coal and steel.

I particularly like how the paper refers to Sydney Mines: “the last place in the world to think of in 1892.”

The writers praise the growth of agriculture, and in particular the booming apple business:

This barely existed twenty-one years ago; today it is a big factor in our commercial affairs — a million barrels a year and rapidly growing. Even general agriculture is going ahead, to which the interest that our farmers take in the college at Truro bears witness.

This leads the Merchant to offer this advice:

Boys growing up on our farms should be encouraged to make agriculture their calling in view of the fact that farming is undoubtedly one of the lucrative professions of the future.

(The history of the apple business in Nova Scotia is fascinating. But I won’t delve deeper into it here.)

Logging, or “timbering” was “being carried on in a more modern manner” and the pulp business was promising:

Quite likely we may see some development in the pulp industry when world conditions justify it; for we are coming to be one of the few remaining sources of supply… The principal thing that concerns us in this connection is proper conservation.

We get a quick review of the state of the fishery and learn that “in New Brunswick the discovery of natural gas is ushering in a new era.”

Then, as now, population was a concern:

People who look at the census returns and see only a small gain in population in the past two decades are apt to take that as the measure of our growth. But we have grown richer. Our people are better employed and have better incomes; they are living better. Our urban population has increased and our rural population has declined.

I particularly enjoyed a note following the retrospective of the previous two decades called “Our Great Advantages.” Here, the Merchant decries the naysayer attitude of Maritimers, and the way we see the rest of the country:

There is no denying the fact that as a people we are a lot of “grouchers,” always finding fault with things around us and always willing to listen without a frown to the big stories that are told of the money that is being made in other places…

A friend who spends his winters in California came to have a chat with us the other day. This gentleman has been in the golden sunset state every winter for the past ten years and he is in a position from personal observation to make a comparison between our conditions in the Maritime Provinces and what he has found in the far west…

“Talking with real estate men out there,” said he, “I have told them that I had not a doubt in my mind as to which country I should prefer as between Nova Scotia and California if I wished to go into fruit raising… “We have the material from which to make twice as good a story about these provinces,” said he, “but we do not make it: we just sit back and let the other fellows fill our minds with big statements about how much better their country is than any other, and the result of it all is that envy is kindled in our hearts which incidentally causes us to belittle the good fortune which has fallen us.”

Maybe we should bring back the word “grouchers.”

I think I’ll return to the Merchant in a future Morning File, but for now, here’s a bit from July 1913 with good news about gold mining:

The gold mines of Goldenville, Guysboro Co., will resume operations. This is encouraging news, for not only Guysboro Co., but in nearly all the familiar gold mining sections, operations have been at a low ebb for some time. An interesting feature of the present Goldenville development is the fact that the Liscombe River has been dammed and a power plant erected there, from which power may be used to work other mines in the neighborhood.

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Noticed: Innovacorp Recap, 2011-2021

Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator has been trying to find out how much money Innovacorp has made or lost exiting companies in which it has invested since 2011.

Innovacorp is the provincial Crown corporation that provides venture capital to companies in an effort to make our region “one of the top 10 start-up ecosystems in the world.” Public organization, public money… but not much public information on this subject.

Last week, Tim Bousquet wrote about the first article in Campbell’s series on the subject. He quoted from Campbell’s story, saying:

This is a work in progress, so we’ll see where Campbell takes it, but I’m cheering loudly from the sidelines: it’s important work, and it’s hard work.

Well, Campbell has published Part 2 of the series: Innovacorp: Which Way Out? Because the Crown corporation won’t provide her with the figures, Campbell’s been looking at media releases on acquisitions, old Peter Moreira Entrevestor columns, and Innovacorp “Accountability” reports.

I find it interesting to not only see how well the corporation did in supporting businesses that will make us “one of the top 10 start-up ecosystems in the world” but how flimsy some of these businesses and their models seem to be, and how — with rare exceptions — underwhelming the results are.

From what I know of the VC world, you expect to have a bunch of misses and hope that the hits make up for them. (This is how publishing, music, film, and presumably countless other businesses work, too.) If you’re investing in a pharmaceutical company, for instance, their drugs may not work, or won’t get approved, and ultimately your investment may be worthless. But at least there’s some potential public benefit there.

Campbell writes about Appili Therapeutics:

In June 2019, Appili Therapeutics, a Halifax-based company that “specializes in bringing to market drugs that prevent infectious diseases,” began trading on the TSX Venture Exchange. In 2020, it issued stock twice, raising $27 million, and in September 2020, it moved to the main board of the Toronto Stock Exchange. At that point, its shares were trading at $1.05, giving Appili a market capitalization of $65.9 million.

Innovacorp has invested $3 million in the company but, according to Entrevestor, “It’s understood Innovacorp’s shares are still subject to a lock-up and cannot be sold yet.”

The company posted a net loss of $14.3 million for fiscal 2021 and in November, Appili shares plunged 53% on disappointing results from a COVID-19 drug trial. As of November 30, it was trading at 11 cents per share.

How did Innovacorp do with Kings County company Livelenz, in which it had invested $1.6 million? And how many jobs did the company create? (The company “analyzes data for fast food restaurants.”)

Campbell writes:

In January 2016, Livelenz was sold to Chandler, Arizona-based Mobivity for “less than $1 million in stock.” Mobivity helps its clients — chiefly restaurants — target their customers with special offers via text messages or coupons printed on their receipts or (since COVID) their “to-go” bags.

Through the Livelenz deal, Innovacorp became an owner of Mobivity shares, which were subject to an 18-month lockup. I don’t know if Innovacorp subsequently sold the shares or, if so, how much it raised from the sale, although this information is presumably tucked away somewhere in an “Accountability” report. (At the time of the sale, Mobivity shares were trading at US 63 cents, as of Nov. 29, they were at US$1.43.)

In 2012, according to this Innovacorp press release, Livelenz was based in Centreville, NS and employed 10 people. At the time of the sale, it was based in Bedford and had “about five” employees.

In April 2016, NSBI gave Mobivity a payroll rebate worth a maximum of $427,500 in the hope that it would create “up to 40” jobs. Mobivity has retained an office in Halifax, but according to the progress reports it has filed with NSBI, it hired just 11 people between October 2015 and September 2020, at least two of whom… have since left…

I checked the company’s most recent results and found it had reported a net loss of $4.1 million for the nine months ended 30 September 2021…

I learned that Mobivity is now looking to monetize the “massive set of actionable data” it has collected from its clients’ customers… [CEO Dennis] Becker says the company is now branching out to “digital customers” including “crypto, streaming video and gaming operators.”

Becker was asked just one question on the call, by a person who wanted to put him in touch with a large, First Nations casino operator, suggesting there is not much analyst interest in the firm.

Well, how did things go with InNetwork?

Innovacorp invested $510,500 in Halifax-based InNetwork, a marketing startup founded by Chris Keevill. InNetwork, according to Entrevestor, helped clients “spread their messages through influencers.”

In March 2016, Innovacorp “sold its equity interest in InNetwork in an all-share transaction to with gShift Labs of Barrie, ON.”

The buyer “declined to place any value” on the transaction, as did Innovacorp.

I have to say, I enjoy going to the company websites and just reading what they do. Like Swarmio Media:

A global gaming & esports technology and media company that provides solutions purpose-built to support the growth of gaming & esports communities, enterprises and developers. We help brands drive real results by establishing deep connections with gaming & esports communities and fans through online and offline experiences.

(Campbell points out that Innovacorp VP Andrew Ray serves on the Swarmio board.)

Campbell does note some seeming success stories, including WoodsCamp Technologies (disclosure: co-founder Will Martin is my brother-in-law) and Marcato, but even there, we don’t learn what the return was, other than “The Accountability Report for 2018-2019 said only that Innovacorp received $2.3 million in “distributions” from exiting companies that year.”

This is a Crown corporation — though you wouldn’t know it from looking at their website — and you would think we might be able to easily find out how our investments have done.

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.

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Government

City

Tuesday

Budget Committee and Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — also livestreamed; Budget Committee agenda here; Regional Council agenda here

Wednesday

Appeals Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — no live broadcast

Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Commmittee (Wednesday, 1pm , City Hall) — agenda here

Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm — livestreamed

North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — livestreamed

Province

Natural Resources and Economic Development (Tuesday, 9am, One Government Place) — organizational and agenda-setting meeting

Health (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) — organizational and agenda-setting meeting


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Solstice Songs and Folk Songs (Tuesday, 7:30pm. St. Andrew’s United Church, 6036 Coburg Road, Halifax) — $10/$15; info here. They can’t ruin Whamageddon for you if it’s a cover.

Dal Bookstore Yard Sale (Tuesday to Wednesday, 9:30am-4:30pm) — 2nd floor SUB, and at the Bookstore, Cox Institute, Truro Campus

Wednesday

PhD thesis defence: Interdisciplinary PhD program (Wednesday, 8:30am) — by Hussain Sinan

Dal Bookstore Yard Sale (Wednesday, 9:30am-4:30pm) — 2nd floor SUB, and at the Bookstore, Cox Institute, Truro Campus

PhD thesis defence: Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science (Wednesday, 10am) — by Spencer Farrell

Effects of 5′-Triphosphate Metabolites of Specific Antiviral Drugs on CTP Synthase Activity (Wednesday, 10am, Room C-264, CHEB Building) — Thomas Gillis will defend his M.Sc thesis

Deciphering the molecular landscape of Wilms tumors via a multi-omics playbook (Wednesday, 4pm) — Tobias K. Karakach will talk


In the harbour

Halifax
07:30: Tiger moves to Pier 27
11:30: Tiger sails for sea
11:30: Augusta Luna, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Moa, Cuba
12:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
12:00: Em Kea, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Montreal
19:00: CMA CGM A. Lincoln, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka (this is one of the ultra large ships that now regularly call in Halifax)
20:00: MSC Weser, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from New York

Cape Breton
05:00: Arctic Lift, barge, with Western Tugger, tug, sail through the causeway to Aulds Cove quarry from Charlottetown
05:30: Algoma Victory, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for Tampa, Florida
13:30: Rossi A. Desgagnes, chemical tanker, moves from anchorage to Government Dock (Sydney)
14:00: Balsa 94, cargo ship, sails from Mulgrave for sea


Footnotes

It’s that time of year.

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Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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  1. Innovacorp sure did seem to invest in some flimsy offerings. Guess I should pull my shit together and get a proposal going. Just have to dazzle them with words and things they may not understand.

  2. “Are the vaccines ideally a three-dose series?”

    I’m pretty sure the shareholders of Pfizer, Moderna etc would like the injections to be as frequent as possible – they make billions of dollars per dose we collectively get. Pharmaceutical companies can buy scientists and politicians – famously, the Sackler family bought an entire medical journal and used it to push opiates.

    Relying on unaccountable for profit corporations as part of the public health infrastructure is not a good plan, especially now that the infrastructure and precedent for “totally not mandatory” administration of medicine is in place.