News

1. Pedestrian accident

Emergency responders attend to a pedestrian hit at the corner of Victoria Road and Thistle Street last night.

Last night a female pedestrian was struck at the corner of Victoria and Thistle Streets in Dartmouth. This is the very same intersection where Judy MacIsaac-Davis was struck and killed in May. In the photo above, you can see the memorial to MacIsaac-Davis on the street light pole at the corner.

MacIsaac-Davis was using a motorized scooter, but otherwise the incidents are similar. Both women were crossing Thistle Street, and both were struck by vehicles travelling south on Victoria and turning left onto Thistle. I’m told that last night a witness saw that the pedestrian was crossing with the “walk” sign. She was conscious and speaking with emergency responders, so hopefully she’ll be OK.

HRPD sergeant Bill Morris’ end-of-shift email to reporters doesn’t give much more information:

At 7:19 pm members of the Halifax Regional Police responded to a car pedestrian accident at Victoria Road and Thistle Street in Dartmouth. The vehicle was turning left from Victoria Road to Thistle Street when it struck the pedestrian in the marked crosswalk. The 50 year old female pedestrian was transported to the QE2 with non life threatening injuries. The 63 year old male driver was issued a SOT for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

This intersection is near my house, and I’m very familiar with it. Cars travelling north on Victoria barrel up the hill towards the intersection, and southbound drivers wait for a break in the traffic before darting left onto Thistle. Pedestrians tend to get overlooked in the quick decision-making involved. Last night’s accident was the fourth pedestrian incident at the intersection this year. There are two schools at the intersection, with grades primary through 12. It’s also the main walking route for people heading to the Bridge Terminal.

How many more people will get hit before action is taken? How many more will die? At the very least, it’s time to install a left turn light at the intersection. It’s a prime candidate for a roundabout, to slow traffic down, and there’s plenty of room to install one. But if that isn’t feasible for whatever reason, some other traffic calming measures should be considered, and of course increased enforcement.

2. Fatal collision

A Halifax Regional Police release:

Halifax Regional Police is on scene at a fatal collision on North West Arm Drive in Halifax.

Police were called to the scene at 3:15 p.m. after a collision between a car and a pickup truck on the overpass with Highway 102. The 17-year-old male driver, the lone occupant of the car, was pronounced deceased at the scene. His name is not being released at this time pending next-of-kin notification. The driver of the pick-up was not injured.

3. Publication ban

A Halifax Regional Police release:

Investigators in the Integrated General Investigation Section of the Criminal Investigation Division have concluded seven files in connection with possible breaches of a court-imposed publication ban on the identity of a victim in a child pornography case.

Investigators commenced the investigations in late September based on complaints from citizens about the possible breaches of the publication ban after the victim’s name was published by both citizens and local media. Investigators considered whether the victim’s name was used in connection with the child pornography charges as well as the overall context in which her name was used.  Based on the investigation, which included consultation with the Crown, charges will not be laid in these files.

In case you’ve been under a rock for the past year, this involves what media has taken to referring to as “the high-profile” incident in Nova Scotia. A high school girl was allegedly sexually assaulted, and a photo of the event was spread via social media, causing her untold stress, and she committed suicide. The boy (now an adult) who took the picture was charged with distributing child pornography, pleaded guilty, and was given a conditional one-year sentence with no jail time. Another boy (now adult) will be tried next week on child pornography charges.

The girl’s story gained international attention and prompted much needed discussion about sexual assault and “slut-shaming.” The two reporters who told the story won wide and deserved acclaim, including a national journalism award. But once child pornography and sexual assault charges were levelled, a publication ban on the girl’s name was automatically applied in Canada. Such bans usually make sense—they protect the victim of assault, after all—but in this case a publication ban makes no sense at all. The victim is dead, and positive use of her name has become part of a social movement to address sexual assault. Her family says that the publication ban dishonours the girl, and they’ve taken to violating it, as has a local freelance reporter.

So the police announcement that no charges will be filed related to violating the publication ban makes immense sense. The crown wouldn’t have been able to win a conviction anyway: Can you imagine any jury in the world convicting a grieving parent, a parent who had lost a daughter in horribly tragic circumstances, for simply using her name? But more than that, the police decision is simply the right thing to do.

It’s a small additional point, but this situation demonstrates that the police can and do use discretion when deciding which laws to enforce, and which laws can be ignored in the name of the greater social good. Earlier this year, when they busted the Farm Assists medical marijuana operation, police claimed the exact opposite: They could use no discretion, the law’s the law, and so people are going to jail. If you don’t like it, they said, change the law. But the very same police department just decided not to prosecute people under a different law, which hasn’t been changed.

4. The most over-quoted man in Nova Scotia

Because of the on-going byline strike at the Chronicle Herald, I can’t say for sure who penned this article about Halifax CAO Richard Butts, but I’m guessing it’s the usually very good reporter Brett Bundale. But she’s committed the unforgivable sin of quoting the most over-quoted man in Nova Scotia, Kevin Lacey. Lacey represents no one at all besides a handful of multibillion dollar corporations that fund the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. The CTF claims to speak for “taxpayers” generally, but conducts no surveys and asks for no public input. As the Tyee points out:

The most over-quoted man in Nova Scotia.

While the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, or CTF, boasts that it speaks for 84,000 supporters, it has just five—count ’em, five—actual members who decide its policies.

And the CTF does not hold an open annual general meeting, policy conferences, or any other membership gatherings that one might expect from a group that’s constantly in the news demanding transparency from others.

Those five members form a board of directors who determine its budget, strategic plan and communications.

Donor names are secret, staff salaries are not posted by name, and while the CTF strongly denies being corporately funded and insists that 94 per cent of their donations are less than $1,000, there is no way to determine if that’s true.

It’s a free country; Lacey can say whatever he wants. But going to Lacey for quotes is simply lazy journalism. You’d get a better idea of the “taxpayers” perspective by stopping three random people on the street than going to someone driving an American-style libertarian agenda.

Anyway, whenever I see Lacey quoted in an article, I stop reading.

5. They all look the same

Yet another police release:

Eliahs Knudsen Kent

Police have charged a man in relation to an incident earlier this month where another man was mistakenly released from custody from the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility (CNSCF) in Dartmouth.

On November 7 at 9:18 a.m., police received a call from CNSCF advising that Eliahs Knudsen Kent, age 22, had been mistakenly released from custody. On November 8, officers located Mr. Kent in Spryfield and after a short foot pursuit, took him into custody. The investigation determined that another inmate who was due to be released that day allowed Mr. Kent to pose as him enabling Mr. Kent to leave the facility.

Thirty-year-old Gregory Sheldon Spears appeared in Dartmouth Provincial Court earlier this afternoon to face charges of permitting escape and breach of recognizance.

I googled around for a bit this morning looking for a picture of Spears, but there are a gazillion “Greg Spears” on the internet and none clearly identify themselves as “dude sitting in Burnside Jail,” so I dunno. But it’s unlikely, I think, that Greg Spears looks much like Kent.

Anyway, shouldn’t we expect prisoners to game the system? They’ll get away with whatever they can get away with, and who knows if Spears was threatened, bought off, desperate or whatever? The real culprit here isn’t Spears, but rather the jail administrators who couldn’t bother to check the prisoner they released against their own mug shots of the guy. And this is the fifth time they’ve mistakenly released an inmate in seven years.


Views

1. Electricity rates wrapped in pro-fracking argument

Bill Black goes on and on about electricity generation, attacking environmentalists and throwing in his support (of course) for fracking, but also criticizing Energy Minister Andrew Younger for manipulating Nova Scotia Power rates for short-term political benefit at long-term additional cost to ratepayers:

At the urging of government, NSP proposed that the excess costs be spread over four years beginning in 2016, resulting in an additional $24.1 million in interest costs to customers. Although NSP has retreated somewhat from that proposal, which was opposed by customer advocates, the minister continues to support deferral, arguing that “customers need a break.” 

No doubt they do, but requiring them to pay interest to NSP while postponing the inevitable is not exactly a gift.

2. Electricity rates explained simply

Without attacking environmentalists or supporting fracking, Rachel Brighton gets right to the point and details the numbers related to the government’s deferred fuel cost plan for Nova Scotia Power:

Recovering the unpaid costs in a single year would increase power bills by seven per cent for residential customers, 7.8 per cent for commercial customers and 9.7 per cent for industrial customers. 

The province wants to delay the start of the cost recovery until 2016 and the utility proposes to start recovering some of the costs in April next year.

Deferring $96.2 million until 2016 would incur carrying charges of about $7.5 million. Deferring it one year, then recovering it over four years, would add about $24.1 million to the original bill.

The 2016 date is telling. It shows Liberals want to artificially lower power rates by deferring the costs of even higher rate increases until after the next election. The plan is cynical, manipulative, and bad policy besides. Which means it’ll probably work.


Noticed

When I was growing up in Norfolk, Virginia, I was a paper boy for the Virginian Pilot, the daily newspaper in the Hampton Roads area. I’d get up at 5am (some things never change) and peddle my bike a half-mile over to a small commercial plaza next to a bridge over the railroad tracks. The paper truck would drop off a few bundles under the bridge, I’d take them over to the sidewalk in front of the drug store, the store lights providing needed light in the dark early morning, put rubber bands around 100 or so papers, and go deliver them. At one time or another I had routes all over the neighbourhood. I knew every house, every house number, every bad dog, every shortcut through hedges. Every two weeks I’d make the rounds with my collection book, tearing out a little one square inch receipt for, as I recall, $1.80. It went up to $2.10 once, I remember. I had to buy most of my own clothes as a kid, which explains all those ridiculous photos, but after I paid for the papers, I had enough left over to spend most afternoons playing pool at the hot dog stand, or to take the bus to the beach.

In the mornings, after delivering the papers but before going to school, I often had an hour or so to kill, and so read the Pilot from front to back. It was an excellent paper, and was primarily responsible for my early political education.

The paper still does excellent work. Last week, investigative reporter John Holland published a series of articles examining Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, who is also the president of TowneBank. The first piece, on November 7, explains:

The Virginian-Pilot tracked every vote taken by the City Council since Sessoms’ inauguration on Jan. 5, 2009, and compared them with more than 3,000 real estate sales documents, land deed records, council agendas, lawsuits and agreements between the city and developers who funded projects through TowneBank.

In all, Sessoms voted at least 60 times on actions involving businesses, developers and individuals who received TowneBank loans. He rarely recused himself from voting and never disclosed that he was personally named as a trustee on more than $90 million worth of the loans. Trustees are appointed by banks for all loans involving a deed of trust—similar to a mortgage—and are legally responsible for protecting the bank’s interests.

The impact of Holland’s work was immediate. As the Colombia Journalism Review notes:

The mayor, who says he didn’t knowingly do anything wrong, is on leave as the bank and public officials conduct separate investigations in response to the story. Just yesterday, two other mayors in nearby towns stepped down from their positions on the bank’s board.

Holland told the CJR how he found the story:

I was reading the agendas and they were pushing through a lot of things without comment, without any discussion, and it seemed to involve the same people over and over again, so it got me curious. Then I got a tip that was completely wrong, it was a tip to go look at the mayor’s involvement in a deal that the mayor did nothing wrong with. But as I pulled the land records and started examining it I saw his name on the deed of trust. On a hunch I typed his name into the property records with the city and 748 hits came up immediately. At the point we knew we were on to something.

This, folks, is what good journalism is all about. A beat reporter, understanding the ins and out of local government, curious about process, developing sources and tips, following his instincts, landing the story.

Alas, just as the Pilot was preparing to publish Holland’s articles, the paper announced a layoff of 32 newsroom employees, about a quarter of its already reduced reporting staff:

In terms of numbers and percentages, it is the deepest of about a half-dozen cuts since 2008. It leaves the newsroom at less than half of its size in 2007, when it had 248 staff members.

These are difficult times for newspapers, and for media generally. Similar deep cuts are being made at the Chronicle Herald here in Halifax. The cuts won’t be good for readers, and they won’t be good for the quality of reporting. But as Holland told the CJR:

I’ve been doing this for a while and I’ve never had a response like it. We got over 250 emails, people just thanking us. I’d never seen that happen before. There is a feeling that it’s good seeing newspapers still doing this. They weren’t thanking me, they were thanking the newspaper. It’s good to see that people are still doing this type of reporting, is the general feel of it. 


In the harbour

A slow day in the harbour, as most ship remain pierside or at anchor. Map:marinetraffic.com

(click on vessel names for pictures and more information about the ships)

Cma-cgm Montreal, container ship, Montreal to Pier 41, then sails for Rotterdam


Footnotes

Morning File takes Sundays off, so see you Monday.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. What would a Weekend Herald be without another article promoting fracking. Bill Black does one thing that could be useful: He shines a light – all be it a rather dim light – on NSP’s purchase of the Newpage boiler/biomass generator. There is no incentive for NSP to do anything other than spend rate payer money to acquire assets. When NSP purchased the generator, it was common knowledge that Newpage was in trouble, yet NSP chose to over pay for an asset they probably could have purchased for fifty cents on the dollar had they waited a couple of months. Simply put, when you have Russian style oligarchs running the only electric utility, nothing will be done in the public interest. NSP profits are calculated as a return on assets. There is no incentive to manage wisely or efficiently. Spend too much on fuel and the rate payers pay. Spend too much on assets and allowable profits to shareholders increase. It’s a simple equation that guarantees outrageous power rates in perpetuity.
    Oh, and by-the way, as I said to my former (thank god) MLA, Marilyn Moore, a few years ago in regard to biomass; “deforestation is one of the main causes of climate change and burning stuff doesn’t help either, so please don’t call it renewable energy”.

  2. Couldn’t agree more about the CTF. Kevin Lacey certainly doesn’t speak for me.

    The point of the Herald article though was to question executive pay at City Hall. A topic wholly under covered. Much is made of union compensation but less so of senior managements’ seemingly secretive contracts.

    More transparency would be most welcome by us real taxpayers.