News

1. Chickens and other fowl

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Hesitant to settle for chickens, Halifax councillors decided to include all egg-laying fowl in the rules on backyard birds in residential areas,” reports Zane Woodford for Star Halifax:

Council voted on Tuesday to tell planning staff to start drafting bylaw amendments, with only Councillor Russell Walker voting no, citing concerns about rodents.

A planning report to council recommended allowing chickens across Halifax Regional Municipality, but didn’t propose a limit on numbers or ban roosters, the louder male chickens.

2. Pedestrian dies

A 69-year-old pedestrian who was struck by an SUV driven by a 31-year-old woman on July 25 while crossing Oak Street has died. Police have not named the pedestrian, but at yesterday’s council meeting, Richard Zurawski named her as Joy Ruth Mendleson. She died on July 28.

Police say they are still investigating the incident, but no charges have been laid.

Mendleson was the second pedestrian to die in Halifax in a week. On July 24, 63-year-old Sandy Doucette was struck by a truck driven by a 53-year-old Dartmouth man while crossing Lady Hammond Road.* Doucette died at the scene.

3. Repaving contracts

Yesterday, I published a long list of contracts awarded for repaving Halifax roads. I may as well keep up with it; after I published the list, another award was announced:

$993,388 to Dexter Construction for repaving Gottingen Street, between Macara and Young Streets (includes replacing sidewalks)

So now we’re up to about $27 million spent on various road-related projects since the first of the year. These aren’t new roads, just maintaining what we have.

I’m not against repaving roads; I’m just pointing out it costs a heck of a lot of money and no one blinks an eye at it. Moreover, we could perhaps reduce those costs if we got more people using non-car modes of transportation. Fewer cars on the road mean fewer potholes to fill.

This morning, the city issued a tender offer for the repaving of Herring Cove Road between Lynette Road and Greystone Drive. It closes on August 16.

4. Launch Mechanic

In other tendering news (I guess that’s going to be an Examiner thing now), Nova Scotia Business, Inc. has awarded a $225,000 contract to Boston-based Launch Mechanic LLC for something called the “Scale-up Hub.” The tender document explains that:

NSBI, in Partnership with the Government of Canada, Opportunities New Brunswick, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Innovation PEI, is undertaking an initiative called Scale-up Hub: Cambridge (Atlantic Canada) and for this document, will be referred to as the “Program”. It is an accelerated program to be based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts that will provide business development support to a group Atlantic Canada companies that are technology-enabled, high growth, and possess distinct innovation.

The main objective of this initiative is to enable companies to drive sales revenue from the Greater Boston Region and provide each participating Atlantic Canada company with an opportunity to make important inroads in key US markets during the program tenure.

The Program is designed to help a select group of Atlantic Canada companies (the “Cohort”) achieve accelerated sales growth in New England. The Program participant firms will be experienced exporters with the capacity to scale internationally. They will possess sufficient financial resources and a keen commitment to support a long-term New England presence.

The “Cohort” will consist of a maximum of eight companies, a minimum of four. Launch Mechanic will “first and foremost, create high value for the Cohort by both introducing and supporting sales opportunities with the goal of maximizing sales revenue for each participant company in the Program.”

The tender document doesn’t explain how the Cohort companies will be selected.

With the help of Launch Mechanic, the Cohort is supposedly going to see combined export sales of at least $2.5 million in the 13-month period of the contract. They’ll do this because Launch Mechanic will “attend sales meetings with key influencers” and other such business babble gobbledygook.

Christine Carr. Photo: LinkedIn

Launch Mechanic is cofounded by Christine Carr, who has been doing similar work with NSBI since 2017. Before that, she was the Trade Commissioner with the Consulate General of Canada Boston.

The other cofounder of Launch Mechanic is Jackie Llewelyn, who holds the title of VP Operations. I don’t know anything about Llewelyn, as Launch Mechanic’s website is maddeningly obtuse about who runs the place.

I have no idea if the relationship between NSBI and Launch Mechanic makes any sense. My gut tells me that any increase in tax revenue collected in Atlantic Canada from increased operations due to exports to the US will be dwarfed by the ACOA and NSBI financing the “Cohort” companies have already received, and if any of the companies actually “scale up” to a significant degree, they’ll quickly be bought up by an American firm, leaving Atlantic Canada no better off than if we had never undertaken the exercise. But who knows? I’m sure some bean-counter can justify the program if it’s held up to the light and turned just so.

What bothers me more is that the contract seems to have been designed specifically for Carr to win. The RFP for the contract was titled “Business Development Consultant Scale-up Hub: Cambridge for Atlantic Canada Companies” — not Boston, not New York, not Silicon Valley, but specifically Cambridge, where Carr operates. And the tender documents don’t relate that anyone else at all bid on the contract.

5. Warrants

I check court records on a regular basis, and then report on private lawsuits, claims against the government, corporate bankruptcies, murder trials, habeas corpus applications, and so forth, but there’s one sort of quasi-court record I can’t get my hands on: sheriff’s warrants.

Sheriff’s warrants are filed through the court, and there’s a court file number assigned to them, but they’re not actually court documents. Rather, they are considered government records, and so in order to gain access to them I’d have to file a Freedom of Information report and any response I would get would be stripped of “personal information,” making the response meaningless. That, anyway, is how it is explained to me by Jennifer Stairs, the courts’ communication person. (Stairs is fantastically helpful; none of this should be construed as criticism of her.)

I rarely come across references to warrants that might interest me; I think over the past two years there have been two. But yesterday, three such warrants popped up.

The Yantian Express on fire.

One warrant is SMIT Salvage Americas LLC vs Yantian Express. The Yantian Express is the container ship that caught fire in the North Atlantic back in January and was eventually towed to Halifax, arriving in May.

SMIT Salvage is a Houston-based firm that is perhaps best known for its involvement in the Deepwater Horizon response — president Doug Martin’s testimony before Congress detailed how his firm was frustrated in the response by BP.

I called Martin yesterday and asked him what was up with the Yantian Express. He told me he had no idea. He said he has a team dealing with the ship, but he hasn’t been informed of any legal action. “It’s nothing big,” he assured me, as otherwise he would know about it. He did say that the fire was related to a single container on the ship.

The two other warrants that interested me yesterday name our favourite billionaire: Palais de Justice vs John Risley and Direction des Services Judicaires vs John Risley. These presumably originate in a French-speaking jurisdiction, maybe even France itself, but I don’t know which jurisdiction and I don’t speak French in any event, so I didn’t call anyone to ask about the warrants.

I wonder, however, if they are related to Risley’s South African adventure, in which Risley is the money behind a lawsuit attempting to profit from a deal that saw French helicopters sold through an intermediary to the Apartheid-era South African government.

That was a fun story to report. I’m keeping my eye on the legal action.

6. Legal fund

Photo: Halifax Examiner

We’ve received our last lawyer bill for the successful court action the Halifax Examiner undertook with the CBC and the Canadian Press to unseal documents in the Assoun wrongful conviction case. The Examiner’s third of the total is $10,106.

Through our legal fund, we’ve collected $3,064. The balance of the lawyer’s bill will be paid from regular subscription income. I cannot thank both those who contributed to the legal fund and regular subscribers enough: you’re responsible for funding some important reporting.

I should add that although I can’t provide an exact accounting, the total reporting costs on the Assoun story were and continue to be considerably greater than the legal costs alone.

The Examiner runs on a tight budget, and we have a bit less in the bank account than is typical for this time of year (summer is always the low point). The short of it is that when money runs low, we buy fewer freelancer-written pieces, delay on publishing articles in the works, and I write more Morning Files myself, which takes time away from other projects I’m working on. Not the end of the world, but frustrating.

So if you haven’t already, and you like what the Examiner does, this would be an excellent time to subscribe. And it’s not too late to contribute to the Examiner’s legal fund; if you’d like to, please contact Iris.

7. Podcast

People occasionally ask about the Examineradio podcast.

It’s on hold for a while. Basically, I was spending too much time on it and even then not giving it enough time for the quality I would like.

And besides, there was no obvious financial return. I’m advertising-adverse, and especially adverse to the kind of advertising that dominates the podcasting industry: host-voiced endorsements of products. I’m physically incapable of doing such.

Still, podcasting can be an interesting vehicle for story telling whether there’s financial return or not, and producing a high quality podcast might bring more subscribers to the website. So I’m thinking about it.

I have the idea that the podcast should evolve into short serials, four or five episodes long, about one story. I’ve been working on an astonishing story for some time now (it’s not time sensitive); let’s call it Story Z. I think Story Z would make for a good podcast subject, but I have considerable research still to do and I’ve been pulled away on other projects — the Assoun story right now, but you know I’m always pulled in a thousand directions. (The Assoun story is of course obvious podcast material, but I’m shopping that around to larger outfits.)

I do steal an hour or two here and there to do research on Story Z. I very much want this to happen — Story Z is the most bizarre and unlikely story I’ve ever reported on, which is saying a lot — but I’m a long way from being ready to plot out a podcast series. It will take months at the minimum, perhaps years.

In the meanwhile, we might turn the platform over to guest podcasters. But, well, we don’t have money for that right now. Soon, perhaps.


Views

1. Mary Campbell

Mary Campbell

Robert Devet interviews Mary Campbell. Among other things, she says:

It is a constraint to have to pretend that you’re neutral because nobody ever is really neutral. Bias begins with what stories you cover and then it goes on in terms of who you decide you’re going to talk to about that story, and the parts you are going to include. You are shaping the story all along, and inevitably you are shaping it along the way you view it. You may as well be open about it.

There are constraints when you are supported by advertisers. There’s no question that if a publication depends heavily on advertising you’re going to tread lightly on your biggest advertisers. You’re not going to rock the boat unless there is something so grievous that there is no way to avoid it. 

There is also the idea that it is rude to be critical. It is certainly negative. The word negative comes up all the time. If you are critical or questioning  the word that is used is negative, and you are just dragging this province down, and you are the reason nothing ever happens here. 

Sing it, sister!


Government

No public meetings for the rest of the week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Thesis Defence, Interdisciplinary PhD Program (Wednesday, 11am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Tuan Dang will defend “Making Sense of Social Media Text and the Spread Of Rumours in Online Social Networks – An Interdisciplinary Approach.​​”

Thursday

Thesis Defence, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Thursday, 9:30am, Room C264, Collaborative health Education Building) — Christopher Fetter will defend “Exploring Catalysis in the Mandelate Racemase Subgroup of the Enolase Superfamily: Subtle Differences in the Catalytic Machinery.”​

Deep Learning Applied to Wind Time Series Forecasting (Thursday, 11:30am, in the auditorium named after a bank, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Jaume Manero from the University of Catalonia in Barcelona will speak. His abstract:

The Climate Crisis requires a decarbornization of our economies, and the renewable generation of energy will be a key contributor to the switch from fossil fuels to clean sources of generation. However, renewable sources are intermittent and in order to assure stability in our grids, continuous forecasting of demand and generation needs to be performed. In this area Deep Learning can contribute by using its learning capabilities to learn from the wind time series, and obtain accurate predictions.

The objective of this research has been to analyze the capabilities of Deep Learning when applied to the wind time series forecasting task. Architectures like Multi-layer perceptrons, Convolutional or Recurrent Networks have been designed and tested with a large Wind Dataset (125,692 wind sites) from the National Renewable Laboratory of the US. Using the available resources from the Barcelona Super Computing Center (BSC), a relevant set of experiments has been performed and relevant conclusions obtained. The results show how the complexity of the sites and the location are identified by the strong learning capabilities of the deep networks when predicting wind with a 12h window.

Thesis Defence, Microbiology and Immunology (Thursday, 2pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Naif Jalal will defend “Disulfide Bond Formation and Methionine Sulfoxide Reduction in Streptococcus Gordonii.​​”


In the harbour

06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
07:30: Siem Commander, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Tananger, Norway
09:15: Grandeur of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 2,446 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a nine-day roundtrip cruise out of Baltimore
16:00: X-Press Makalu, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
18:30: Grandeur of the Seas sails for Baltimore


Footnotes

I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.

* As originally published, we misstyped the road’s name.


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Legal fund

To contribute to the Halifax Examiner’s legal fundplease contact Iris.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Why is cycling so whitemiddleclasspublicsectormon-fri8-5 ?
    Fillmore is certain of re-election,pulled away a lot of probable NDP voters and will be well placed for cabinet.
    The downside of the announcement is that HRM now has $20 million available for a stadium.

  2. Joy Mendleson was married to my optometrist, and on the occasions I met her, seemed like a lovely person. These deaths are so heartbreaking.

    1. She was on the library board for part of my tenure there, and I see that her family have asked for donations to the library in her memory.

  3. You could do the Patreon thing with podcasts, but I suppose that might only eat away at subscriptions you’d get for your written work.

    What about sponsorships from something/someone there is next to no chance you’d have to report on? Even PBS takes sponsorships.

    I very much liked the podcast. I liked the review of the weekly news, and then the guest interview, but I can see your point about it probably being a lot of work that didn’t pay for itself let alone draw a profit.

    As to Sheriff’s warrants, what exactly are they for? Do they seize something? What is their purpose? I wonder if a judge would consider them government records rather than court documents, if they have to be processed through a court.

    1. I liked the podcast as well. Since its a news roundup kind of show, perhaps Tim could pair up with some organization that would help with some of the costs. News 95.7? CBC? The School of Journalism?

  4. The warrant from Smit likely relates to cargo that has not yet paid the Salvage Security. That Cargo would be sitting at Fairview Cove, and if the Security is not paid by the cargo owner, it can be sold. Given Cargo was delayed 6 months, and the Salvage and General Average Securities are 60% cargo value, and not everyone had insurance, they are likely taking action to secure the cargo.

  5. https://www.pavementinteractive.org/reference-desk/design/design-parameters/equivalent-single-axle-load/

    Damage to roads by vehicles is proportional to the fourth power of axle weight, while fuel consumption (and therefore fuel taxes) are proportional to vehicle weight. Passenger cars are far less destructive than heavy commercial and utility vehicles (not to mention buses). Operators of heavy vehicles are therefore subsidised by everyone else.

    Of course, a bike, with an axle weight of 100 lbs is effectively harmless to pavement.