News

1. Eleven more security failures

Yesterday, the provincial Department of Internal Services announced that it has discovered 11 more potential security failures related to the Freedom of Information website:

Work is progressing on addressing the privacy breach of government’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP) website.

To date the province has:
— secured the services of Trans Union, one of Canada’s leading credit reporting agencies. These services will be provided free of charge for a year to the 323 Nova Scotians who had sensitive personal information accessed
— continued testing of the FOIPOP website to ensure it is secure and works properly before it goes back online. Vendor testing continues and a third-party has been contracted by government to do further testing
— continued investigating the breach [sic, it’s not a breach] and determined 11 other instances of unusual activity. These instances did not involve new information and no additional Nova Scotians were impacted.

The 11 additional instances of unusual activity involved the download of almost 900 of the same documents accessed in the breach previously reported on April 11.

The province is notifying 53 people who had sensitive personal information accessed. This could include information such as birthdates, social insurance numbers and addresses. These individuals were impacted and already notified as part of the previously reported breach and are being notified again.

Information on all unusual activity has been provided to police to be considered as part of their investigation. The Nova Scotia Auditor General Michael Pickup and the Information and Privacy Commissioner Catherine Tully are also investigating.

“There are multiple ongoing investigations and our main goal is to help support Nova Scotians in keeping their private and personal information secure,” said Minister of Internal Services Patricia Arab. “We’re co-operating with police and will work closely with both the Auditor General and the Information and Privacy Commissioner to assist them with their investigations. We want to make this right and we want Nova Scotians to once again have confidence that their information is secure.”

Who knows what these “11 additional instances of unusual activity” are. They could be a teenager in his mom’s basement, which is surprisingly still a thing. Or they could be Google’s robot crawlers doing what they do to every website on the planet. Or something else. But whatever they are, I think characterizing them as “unusual” is a stretch — this is how the internet works.

And now what? Does the province sic search warrant-laden cops on Google’s home office? Does it ask Halifax PD to send a dozen SWAT teams to harass a bunch more hapless Halifax teenagers and their families?

Or does it simply place blame where it belongs, accept responsibility for its own screw-up, and make right by the people whose information provincial employees put on a public-facing website?

I’d opt for the latter.

2. Tidal operation failed to properly monitor sealife

The barge Scotia Tide carried the tidal turbine through Halifax Harbour in 2016. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“A spokesman for the Fundy United Federation fishermen’s group says he’s pleased that government regulators have issued a stern warning to both Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. and the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE),” reports Bruce Wark:

“This warning was needed,” Darren Porter said today during a telephone interview. “I don’t think it’s enough,” he added, “but it’s a start.”

Porter was referring to documents released yesterday from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment (NSE) imposing new requirements for environmental monitoring at the FORCE tidal test site near Parrsboro. The monitoring is needed to try to gauge the effects of turbines on fish, marine mammals, lobsters and other sea creatures.

Among other things, government regulators say monitoring devices must be field-tested before another Cape Sharp turbine is deployed at the site, there must be back-up systems in place in case monitoring equipment fails to work properly and monitoring results must be compared with predictions that tidal turbines would have minimal effects when environmental approvals were granted in 2009.

The regulators were reacting to Cape Sharp’s acknowledgement that some of its fish and marine mammal monitoring devices did not work properly and others failed to work at all from the date of deployment on November 7, 2016 until April 21, 2017 when the turbine was disconnected from its data cables in preparation for retrieval.

It took the company eight weeks to raise the turbine and during that period, there was no monitoring of its effects on sea creatures.

The DFO and Department of Environment documents are found here.

3. Cross-border doctor regulation failures

The Toronto Star has published the first of a series dubbed “Medical Disorder“; today’s instalment details the results of an 18-month investigation into “how doctors criss-cross the Canada-U.S. border while a broken system keeps secret the records of their crimes, malpractice and disciplinary rulings.” The results are staggering:

In Bellingham, Wash., family physician Gary McCallum raped a pregnant patient in his office, the state’s medical commission ruled.

In Duluth, Minn., neurosurgeon Stefan Konasiewicz’s patients complained of mistakes that caused serious injuries, including quadriplegia and the death of a young mother, triggering regulatory sanctions and several malpractice payouts.

In San Diego, Calif., children’s kidney specialist Jacques Lemire pleaded guilty to possessing sexually explicit photos of boys. The judge who sentenced Lemire to 15 months in prison called the images “sadistic.”

American medical boards disciplined these men — all Canadian-trained doctors — for their actions while they were working stateside.

All returned to Canada where physicians’ colleges in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec let them keep or renew their medical licences. A patient looking up any of these doctors on the colleges’ websites would find no trace of their U.S. disciplinary or criminal histories. Most Canadian regulators told the Star that privacy laws prohibit them from sharing such details with the public.

The Star committed a lot of time and resources to the investigation:

To build the Star’s database, reporters collected physician rosters and discipline information from medical regulators in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and 13 Canadian provinces and territories. We looked for every discipline record on one side of the border that matched the name of a doctor who held a licence on the other. The process took more than a year.

Using publicly available information — birthdates, medical school graduation details and other records — we were able to verify the identities of 159 cross-border doctors with disciplinary records.

In creating this database, we logged every disciplinary decision issued by regulators. We noted the start and end dates of every licence we found for each physician. Then we looked for patterns.

The Star’s investigation was in collaboration with its StarMetro reporters across the country. Here in Nova Scotia, reporter Haley Ryan looked at the case of Cape Breton doctor Eugene Ignacio who worked for some time in New York:

The New York state medical board found Ignacio guilty of “negligence on more than one occasion,” a finding that would lead in May 2008 to the physician surrendering his New York licence and agreeing to never re-apply in exchange for having his three-year probation lifted.

The problem is, Ignacio’s disciplinary record was never made public by Nova Scotian regulators. Well, until a recent incident happened:

[Pattie] Lacroix, the [Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons] spokesperson, said the college reviewed the New York decision when Ignacio applied for renewal in 2006.

According to the eight-page disciplinary finding posted by the Nova Scotia college last month, a nurse had called Ignacio asking for instructions concerning a patient who had just been admitted. Ignacio refused and said: “Can you let me eat my God DAMN lunch” and “stop bothering me,” before slamming down the phone.

Igancio did offer a brief apology to the nurse when he came to hospital that night. A week later, after a workplace complaint had been filed, Ignacio went to the hospital and, according to three witnesses, “sought out the Nurse, pointed his finger in her face and screamed at her, ‘You’re a f——’ bitch why don’t ya report that one,’” according to the report.

Ignacio was reprimanded and ordered to enrol in a support program.

He seems nice.

This is good and important work by the Star and its collaborators at the various Metros. Congratulations to Ryan.

4. Sea level rise

The Long Lake berm.

“From Liverpool to East Chezzetcook to Lawrencetown to Queensland Beach, this winter’s storms have raised a critical question for Nova Scotians: What is the provincial government going to do to deal with the devastating combination of rising sea levels and more intense storms, both driven by the earth’s rising temperature?” reports Richard Bell for the Chronicle Herald:

At a two-hour meeting with homeowners from around the freshwater Meisners Lake in Lower East Chezzetcook on April 25, Department of Natural Resources officials said that in their case, the answer is simple: nothing.

As the message sunk in, one person shouted: “You just killed my property!”

Homeowners from around the lake have been clamouring for help from Natural Resources since early January, when a storm punched a hole through the rocky berm that anchors Long Beach, separating the ocean from the freshwater lake behind the berm.

As Bell reports, the bureaucrats seem to be behaving in a heavy-handed manner:

At the April 25 meeting, homeowners were shown a PowerPoint presentation on the findings of the CBCL report, called Coastal Risk Assessment at Meisners Long Beach. One vocal local resident who had gone to the media earlier in the year wasn’t invited, and those who were asked were told they couldn’t record the meeting.

That sort of official attitude does no one any good.

I don’t know anything at all about the particulars at Long Beach, so won’t pretend to talk about them intelligently. Maybe it is as simple (as residents seem to think) as sending a dump truck to fill in the hole in the berm, or maybe (as the government thinks) it will involve a massive $9 million reconstruction.

But whatever the proximate cause of the Long Beach berm breach, and whatever the short-term solutions, the underlying issue at Long Beach is sea level rise, and these sorts of debates are going to be increasingly common. And unfortunately, increasingly, we’re going to give up on engineering solutions and abandon huge sections of our coastal land.

I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia. Flooding was always an issue. An 18th century hurricane actually created a two-mile-long sandbar called Willoughby Spit; it is now a neighbourhood of bayfront vacation properties. In the 1960s, the city built a giant cement flood wall around downtown. Whenever a hurricane or sea surge comes by, the flood wall’s gates are closed. Nor’easters and the flood waters they bring have always been common.

But sea level rise is bringing those problems to a whole new level, reported the New York Times in 2010:

Like many other cities, Norfolk was built on filled-in marsh. Now that fill is settling and compacting. In addition, the city is in an area where significant natural sinking of land is occurring. The result is that Norfolk has experienced the highest relative increase in sea level on the East Coast — 14.5 inches since 1930, according to readings by the Sewells Point naval station here.

My anecdotal experience involves my childhood home, which is on a tidal estuary called the Lafayette River. When I was a kid, we’d occasionally get floods coming over the bulkhead, but the flood waters never came anywhere near the house. Around 1970 or so, my father built a three-foot-high retaining wall about halfway down the slope of the yard, so that the part of the yard near the house could be filled in and levelled off; on the newly flat ground, he built us a basketball court. Floods kept coming, but they barely reached the base of the retaining wall. But now, 40 years later, the flood waters come over the wall and lap up against the foundation of the house.

Norfolk is the leading edge of sea level rise in North America, but all coastal communities on the continent will have similar experiences soon enough.

The response to sea level rise will always in the end be a financial calculation. Norfolk is a large city with lots of pricey real estate and, more important, home to the Norfolk Naval Base. The powers that be will spend whatever money is needed to keep the base safe from sea level rise for as long as possible. The capital and operational investment into the base is probably several trillion dollars, so spending even billions to shore it up makes financial sense. New York City will eventually build a structure out in the harbour to keep Sandy-like storm surges (and larger) from repeatedly submerging Manhattan. But Long Lake, Nova Scotia? At what expense? And can we continually shore up the hundreds of kilometres of oceanfront property in Nova Scotia? Who’s going to pay for that?

In the short term, it’d make sense to have a policy about how to deal with these coastal flooding situations. In the long term, however, it’s a lost cause: Even with engineering solutions, the battle against sea level rise will ultimately be lost. There’s no holding back the sea.

The worst of it is that the effect of sea level rise on oceanfront property is probably one of the least costly effects of climate change.

5. Forestry review

Besides the security failure update, there was another odd news release from the province yesterday.

It involved the unnecessary and redundant forestry review:

University of King’s College president Bill Lahey has informed Natural Resources Minister Margaret Miller that although he will be completing his report on forest practices in the next few days, he is subjecting it to further review by advisors in international law and forestry economics before he finalizes his report for submission to the minister and public release.

Prof. Lahey will finalize his report once he has this input. He will then submit it to the minister and make it available to the public.

“This is a significant matter for our forest industry and I appreciate Professor Lahey’s considered judgment to subject his report to further review,” said Ms. Miller.

The Independent Review of Forest Practices will provide recommendations to improve how Nova Scotia balances long-term environmental, social and economic interests in managing the province’s forests.

Comments David Patriquin:

‘Glad to hear the report will be released to the public at the same time it is submitted to government, and that Prof Lahey is being very diligent, asking for reviews before finalizing it. I certainly look forward to seeing it.

I guess in the meantime, we might wonder what has happened of the WestFor front. Back in October, it was revealed that “the minister advised that the agreement would be extended for six months, but it came with a catch. There has been a reduction in allocation, and elimination of unused allocation…said Margaret Miller: “I think we are all aware in this House that part of the campaign was a promise that there would be no more long-term commitments for mills until after there was a forestry review. Unfortunately, the forestry review could not be completed and won’t be ready until the end of February. But we are standing by our word. There are no long-term commitments. The mills were aware of that. WestFor was aware of that” View Post, Nov 17, 2017, citing Hansard for Oct 3, 2017.


Government

City

Tuesday

No public meetings.

Wednesday

North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm, Sackville Heights Community Centre) — here’s the agenda.

Province

Tuesday

Community Services (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — Fred Deveaux , the executive director of the Cape Breton Community Housing Association, will be asked about housing and homelessness in Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — we know what they should be talking about… but instead they’ll be asking Byron Rafuse, the deputy minister of Finance, and Bret Mitchell, the CEO of the NSLC, about booze.


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Fluid Resuscitation in 2018: Is there a State of the Art? (Tuesday, 12pm, Theatre B, Tupper Medical Building) — Mitchell Levy from Brown University will speak.

Wednesday

Service Learning Program Project Presentations (Wednesday, 4pm, Rooms 264 and 266, Collaborative Health Education Building) — second year Medical students show off their work. RSVEP to sarah.peddle@dal.ca.


In the harbour

1am: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
5am: Berlin Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Fos Sur Mer, France
6am: AS Felicia, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Kingston, Jamaica
6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
7:30am: Salarium, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Saint John
11am: Nordic Yarra, bulker, arrives at anchorage for inspection from Wilmington, Deleware
11:30am: Berlin Bridge, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
11:30am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
11:45am: Glorious Leader, car carrier, arrives at Pier 27 from Southampton, England
3pm: Augusta Unity, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea
4pm: Nordic Yarra, bulker, sails from anchorage for sea
5pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Autoport for St. John’s
9:30pm: AS Felicia, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea


Footnotes

I may have an article or two coming later today.

Tim Bousquet

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

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11 Comments

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  1. Climate change has been on the scientific agenda since the 1960s, or much earlier, depending on your perspective. But it’s been front and centre fo 30 years—plenty of time to react, really.

  2. As Deputy Minister of Environment during the Rodney MacDonald government, Bill Lahey was the driving force behind Nova Scotia’s exemplary Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act. He is now president of Kings. Is there a better person to try to strike a balance between the forestry goals of the Ecology Action Centre, of which the Halifax Examiner is an unofficial editorial arm, and the thousands of workers and suppliers in rural Nova Scotia who rely on the forest industry for their livelihoods?

    There is nothing odd about the news release.

    No. 1: He promises to release his report to the public at the same time he releases it to the government. Would that every government report writer hewed to this ethical standard.

    No. 2: He is seeking expert advice to ensure nothing in his report gives ammunition to US forest industry litigators who continually seek trader sanctions against Nova Scotia forest exports.

    Sounds sensible and prudent to me.

  3. If the province is saying “let nature take its course” for sea level rise, then DO NOT proceed with building a massive multi-Million dollar art gallery NSCAD at the foot of Salter Street. Otherwise spend whatever it takes to preserve the homes on the eastern shore.

    1. And ‘spend whatever it takes to preserve the homes on all the shores of Nova Scotia’ and then people can continue driving to their summer properties and continue living as though climate change is not a clear and present danger.
      I prefer we let nature take its course and energy cots double or triple.

  4. Between the Federal student loan screw up and this FOIPOP mess, I’m getting years of free credit monitoring! #winning

  5. 1. I’d rather have the information I’d requested free of charge rather than the 1000$ I was quoted for the info on a shady land swap. Now I just get my info released.
    3. There should be a national accreditation body. There’s no reason the 4 Atlantic provinces need 4 colleges doing a poor job tracking things along with hospitals repeating the poor job. Such is bureaucracy I suppose but most of it is self reporting.
    4. I’m going to put in a sea wall to temporize shore loss at our cottage but it won’t be cheap. Not sure what else can be done but it sort of made my info request redundant as the land swap in question from 1. will be submerged before it would ever be addressed… I don’t think that’s a win?

  6. Eugene Ignacio sounds human. I would snap too if 5 hospital workers called me in a row wanting to know the same damn thing I had just told the first 4 callers.

    There are too many clerks and managers and not enough doctors and nurses.

  7. Sea level rise is not even just a climate change issue. Nova Scotia is actually sinking at about the same rate as s see a levels are rising… so we get double the global average.