1. We’re giving Cooke Aquaculture a free research chair

A salmon fish farm at Rattling Beach operated by Cooke Aquaculture. Photo: Cooke Aquaculture

Perennia Food & Agriculture Inc., which is the nonprofit funded by the province and housed at the Bestest Nova Scotian Evah! Ray Ivany campus on the Nova Scotia Community College and which shills for the food industry, has issued a Request for Quotes for a firm to conduct an “Economic Impact Study on the Aquaculture Industry in Nova Scotia.”

Hey Perennia! I’ll do it for free:

Through the Halifax Examiner’s sophisticated and detailed and world-class OFTFRFBF analysis, we’ve learned that the Aquaculture Industry has an economic impact of eleventy billion dollars and employs so many people it’s not worth counting them all.

That’s what you were looking for, right?

Meanwhile, a reporter filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for the status of a $25 million loan extended to Cooke Aquaculture in 2012. He (the reporter is identified as “he” in the documents but not by name) didn’t receive much, as the majority of the response to his request is redacted. This part gives a feel for it (click here to embiggen):

What’s this loan forgiveness about?

A November 2017 briefing note to the minister Keith Colwell explains that:

In 2014 Cooke entered into a partnership with the National Science and Engineering Research Council and Dalhousie University to create an Industrial Research Chair (‘IRC’) in sustainable aquaculture.

Expenditures made by Cooke in relation to the IRC may qualify Cooke for loan forgiveness, subject to the terms and conditions of the loan agreement and authorization by the Minister.

So, up to $4 million of what in the end was a $16 million loan is eligible for forgiveness because Cooke contributed to the establishment of the aptly named Cooke Industrial Research Chair in Sustainable Aquaculture at Dalhousie University, held by Jon Grant.

A December 19, 2013 press release from Dalhousie gave details of the establishment of the chair:

Cooke Aquaculture will contribute $160,000 annually for 5 years, totaling $800,000 to match the NSERC contribution. Cooke will also contribute in-kind resources, most specifically boat and diver costs toward the project. Cooke will not only provide funding support for the IRC program, it will provide employment opportunities in the short term (co-op, summer) and in the longer term for graduates as they complete their research programs.

In short, Cooke contributed $800,000 to the establishment of a Chair named in its honour and which is held by an industry-friendly researcher. Now, it looks like at least that $800,000 will in effect be paid by Nova Scotia Business Inc. via the loan forgiveness. (Because the documents are so heavily redacted, we don’t know if more of the $4 million eligible for loan forgiveness is related to the research chair.)

Jon Grant

Is it fair to say Grant is industry-friendly? Globe & Mail reporter Jane Taber wrote on the establishment of the research chair way back in 2013, quoting critics:

In the same way the land provides nutrients and sunshine for farmers to grow crops, Dr. Grant, 59, says the ocean provides “clean water and oxygen and the right temperature to grow Atlantic salmon.”

The Atlantic Salmon Federation, however, disagrees with Dr. Grant’s statements dismissing concerns about the industry. “It is concerning that Dr. Grant is beginning a five-year research project biased enough to say that critics who argue that open-pen salmon farming destroys the environment are relying on ‘rumour’,” Holly Johnson, of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, wrote in a letter to The Globe and Mail.

“Escapes are frequent occurrences in open-pen fish farming. Escapees enter rivers, and breed with wild salmon, causing reduced genetic diversity and fitness in wild populations. The prevalence of disease and parasites increases with the high density of fish in pens that is common to salmon aquaculture and spreads to wild fish, subsequently threatening the persistence of wild populations.”

This can quickly degenerate into a never-ending back and forth, but I’ll just note two things.

First, Grant has an impressive publication record in respected journals.

But, second, Grant’s appointment to the chair was announced in December 2013. A year before, in a letter published in the Chronicle Herald on February 29, 2012, Grant scolded critics of open pen aquaculture. That’s not to say scientists shouldn’t take principled stands on issues they study — indeed, they should. But we should at least question how Grant was selected for the chair. Are there equally qualified scientists who are critics of the industry who were passed over? I don’t know.

I’ll let others debate Grant’s science, but for me the issue at the moment is that Cooke got a research chair at a public university named after the company, and lots of press releases and news articles celebrating the $800,000 “gift” of the company to establish the chair, only to have that $800,000 secretly reimbursed by the government via the loan forgiveness.

(The $1.6 million total for the chair over five years translates to $320,000 a year. Last year, Grant was paid $197,120.)

Further, my strong suspicion is that the rest of the $4 million eligible for loan forgiveness is the “in-kind resources” contributed by Cooke to the Chair — the “boat and diver costs” and possibly even the “employment opportunities in the short term (co-op, summer) and in the longer term for graduates as they complete their research programs.” I can’t say for sure, because the documents are redacted, but it sure looks like another $3.2 million of the loan is being forgiven so that Cooke can hire its own employees.

Is this a great province or what?

If the government is going to fully fund the chair, can’t we at least take Cooke’s name off it? As is, it amounts to free advertising.

2. Fatal house fire

An RCMP release from yesterday:

At approximately 9 a.m. this morning, Colchester District RCMP, EHS, Shubenacadie Fire and Emergency Services, Milford and District Volunteer Fire Department and multiple other fire departments responded to a house fire on Heritage Ln. in Shubenacadie East. A civilian was first on scene and attempted to enter the home but was pushed back by flames and smoke.

Investigators located human remains at the scene. Colchester District RCMP will remain on scene with the Nova Scotia Office of the Fire Marshal while an investigation is conducted. The Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Service will conduct an autopsy. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.


Government

City

Tuesday

Public Information Meeting/Open House – Case 20226 (Tuesday, 5:30pm, Comfort Hotel, Bayer’s Lake) — Armco (remember them?) wants to amend its already-approved Beechville development.

Centre Plan – Discuss Package “A” (Tuesday, 6pm, Maritime Hall, Halifax Forum) — see here.

Wednesday

North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm, four pad arena named for a fucking bank, 61 Gary Martin Dr., Bedford) — Kevin Riles is moving forward with his “Union Courtyard” development. I wrote about it here.

Province

Tuesday

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 10am, Province House)

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Auditor General Michael Pickup will talk about the reception and implementation of his 2014 and 2015 recommendations.


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Typed Calculi, Constructive Logics, and Categorical Models: The Intuitionistic Linear Logic Case (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Francisco Rios will speak. His abstract:

For decades, classical and intuitionistic logics have served extensively in the design of programming languages and analysis of programs and specifications. However, the recent advancements in quantum computing, in general, and the likely arrival of scalable programmable quantum devices in the near future, in particular, have motivated the research and development of quantum programming languages — for which classical and intuitionistic logics are not sufficient. For these languages to be useful, they must, among other things, be able to handle quantum information as a non-duplicable resource. Linear logic, being a resource-sensitive formal system, provides an appropriate framework for the study of such languages. In this talk, I will discuss the remarkable relationship among typed linear term calculi (the bases for functional quantum programming languages), constructive logics, and categorical models, with an emphasis on those corresponding to the intuitionistic fragment of linear logic.

Wednesday

Newfangled Rounds: Seeing Through the Eardrum: a New Microscope for Middle Ear Visualization (Wednesday, 8am, Weather Watch Room, 5th Floor Dickson Building, VG) — Rob Adamson will speak.

Dwayne Morgan   Image: YouTube

Self-publishing Workshop (Wednesday, 11:30am, Room 1007, Rowe Building) — Toronto poet and performer Dwayne Morgan will address his experiences with self-publishing, the challenges self-published writers face, and the changing landscape of publishing and book consumption in Canada.

Brass and Percussion Recital (Wednesday, 11:45am, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — students of Eric Mathis, David Parker, Richard Simoneau, and D’Arcy Gray will perform.

Effective Tax Strategies (Wednesday, 12pm, Room 5001, Rowe Building) — Register here.

Discovery of Novel Kinesin Spindle Protein [KSP] Inhibitors (Wednesday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — M. Arshad Siddiqui, president and CEO of Paraza Pharma Inc., Montreal, will speak.

Shakespeare in Performance (Wednesday, 3pm, Studio Two, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — the second-year acting class presents a studio workshop of scenes they have been preparing.

Regina Carter. Photo: Christopher Drukker via reginacarter.com

Strings and Improvisation Workshop (Wednesday, 4pm, Dunn Theatre, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Regina Carter will perform.

Mining Antimicrobial-Resistance Genes from Metagenomic Data (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Robert Beiko will speak.

The Business of Art (Wednesday, 5:30pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — Dwayne Morgan will discuss his career.

Local Struggles for Justice, SOSA, and the Marshall Commission (Wednesday, 6pm, Halifax Central Public Library) — from the event listing:

This panel discussion will trace from the Marshall Commission (1988-9), on which retired Sociology & Social Anthropology (SOSA) professor Don Clairmont served, to work that academics and community activists at Dalhousie and beyond are doing in the area of Black and Indigenous justice. Panelists will reflect on the university and department’s entanglements with social justice issues, the impacts these have had on Black and Mi’kmaq Nova Scotians, as citizens and students, and the past and present state of relations between dominant Nova Scotia institutions (education, justice) and Black and Mi’kmaq communities.

Speakers include:
Afua Cooper, Sheila Francis, Lynn Jones, Diana Lewis, Jane Mcmillan, and Michelle Williams.

Spoken Word + Storytelling (6:30pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — hosted by Dwayne Morgan. From the event listing:

This event will feature a walkabout of the Dalhousie Art Gallery, and students of CRWR 3200 will give poetic responses to visual artist Marlene Creates’ exhibition “Places, Paths, and Pauses,” on display at the gallery through May 6.

King’s

Wednesday

Stephanie Dick   Image: YouTube

Making Up Minds: Thinking With, About, and For Humans (Wednesday, 7pm, Alumni Hall) — Stephanie Dick, a King’s grad and author of Of Models and Machines, will talk about the development of Artificial Intelligence.


In the harbour

7:30am: USS Little Rock, U.S. combat ship, arrives at Dockyard from Montreal. The ship had been stuck in the ice on the St. Lawrence River for three months
9am: HDMS Ejnar Mikkelson, Danish naval patrol vessel, arrives at Dockyard from Nuuk, Greenland
1:30pm: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Jacksonville, Florida
4:30pm: Em Kea, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
5:30pm: Falcon Maryam, oil tanker, arrives at Bedford Basin anchorage from Antwerp, Belgium


Footnotes

Some days there just isn’t much news, and there’s no sense pretending there is, so I went off on the Cooke thing.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. For some reason StatsCan has no idea how many dollars worth of fish aquaculture in Nova Scotia produces, but they do know how many tons of fish we produce. We produce 15 times less fish than BC does, so assuming a ton of salmon produced in NS is worth the same as a ton produced in BC, we produce about 50 million dollars worth of salmon in the province.

    Data from here.

    1. Nick, is that BC figure ‘all’ salmon, or just aquaculture? the wild salmon in BC is expensive (and delicious ) and there is a good market for wild, smoked salmon for the tourist trade. I have never (in my 11 years from BC) found whole, wild NS salmon for sale here, but have found whole, wild BC salmon here.

      1. Laine, I have no idea – I just looked at the relative tonnages of salmon and calculated what the salmon NS produces would be worth if it sold for the same price as BC salmon. I didn’t use any information not contained in the link.

        It’s a good question how value added products like smoked salmon are counted. If salmon is counted once, when fresh, including when it is sold to a smoked salmon manufacturer, the higher price per pound of smoked salmon wouldn’t change the numbers.

  2. cooke’s UK holdings as of Dec 2016. Canada is the red haired step child.
    year EndedDec 2016
    Total Assets£189.15m
    +£11.23m (6.31%)
    vs previous year
    Total Liabilities£-156.87m
    -£3.65m (2.27%)
    vs previous year
    Net Assets£32.28m
    +£14.87m (85.41%)
    vs previous year
    Cash in Bank£9m
    +£7.29m (427.37%)
    vs previous year
    Employees316
    +19 (6.4%)
    vs previous year
    Turnover £123.77m
    +£36.4m (41.66%)
    vs previous year
    Debt Ratio (%)82.93%
    -7.28 (8.07%)
    vs previous year

  3. Loan forgiveness always grates against the notion that public money should always be spent wisely and provide the public with discernible and appreciated benefits. But legislated rules and policy are just that. If a given corporate entity qualifies, then they should be entitled to the “free” public funds, right? A fair playing field is the only thing acceptable. So like it or not, if Cooke qualified then access to the funds should be allowed…. if the policy stipulations are incorrect governing who can qualify, then change the policy. Complaining about spilt milk, does nothing to clean up the mess.

  4. let’s get real here and just admit that Cooke Aqua is a welfare bum. and Tim, you can never ‘go off on’ too strongly with those bums. I am beyond enraged at our lickspittle politicians.

  5. If salmon aquaculture is such a great business why can it not survive without huge subsidies?
    How about boosting the journalism business with simikar subsidies to media?