News

1. Knowledge House

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Dan Potter, once hailed as a star of Nova Scotia’s private sector, is headed to prison for helping orchestrate a massive fraud prosecutors estimated at $86 million — one that led to the longest and most complicated criminal trial in the province’s history,” reports Jean Laroche for the CBC:

The former CEO of e-learning company Knowledge House was sentenced Wednesday in a Halifax courtroom to five years in prison, while co-conspirator and lawyer Bloise Colpitts was handed 4½ years behind bars.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Kevin Coady sentenced the pair for their roles in a stock manipulation scheme that cost investors millions of dollars and 120 company employees their jobs. 

Knowledge House was a high-flying technology company traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange before its 2001 collapse. On Wednesday, Coady called Potter the “mastermind” behind the fraud, adding Colpitts used his legal skills and reputation to carry out the crime.

I particularly like this detail:

Knowledge House had once been the darling of Nova Scotia’s tech sector. Not long before the company’s 2001 implosion, the provincial government named Potter the chair of Crown corporation Nova Scotia Business Inc. and said he had some of the best private-sector expertise in the province. Potter resigned just months later.

I’m sure that could never happen again because now the Powers That Be don’t get starry-eyed about tech start-ups and everyone is totally aware that a lot of these operations are warmed-over scams. And Nova Scotia Business Inc. execs are always chosen for their hard work and political neutrality, and never, ever for baldly partisan reasons (see: “Laurel Broten proves Nova Scotia is the land of opportunity“).

In his decision, Justice Coady spelled out how Colpitts and Potter played Halifax’s mucky mucks:

Both defendants in this case enjoyed strong reputations in Halifax’s business and legal communities. Mr. Potter established his stake in KHI having just sold his interest in ITI, a well-known, post-secondary education firm, to Torstar in Toronto. He was seen as a leading entrepreneur in education and technology. Mr. Colpitts was, by his own admission, widely known as a leading business and securities lawyer in Atlantic Canada through his partnership with the prestigious law firm of Stewart McKelvey.

Mr. Potter and Mr. Colpitts clearly recognized the value of prestige and image. They attracted a veritable “who’s who” of Nova Scotia businessmen to KHI’s Board of Directors, including David Fountain, Charles Keating, Derek Banks, and others. Both men were able to leverage their positions, reputations, and connections to recruit and defraud unsuspecting investors.

Anyway, Knowledge House was already an old story when I moved to Halifax in 2004. I remember once being in the courthouse for something else and poking my head into the Knowledge House trial; there were something like 14 be-robed lawyers lined up in the courtroom. The trial has been a veritable make-work project for Halifax law firms.

And it’s not over yet, reports the Canadian Press:

Two of Nova Scotia’s most notorious white-collar criminals will ask for bail today, one day after being taken into custody in the blockbuster Knowledge House fraud case.

The disgraced executives, found guilty in March of conspiracy to manipulate the firm’s share price and carrying out fraudulent activities in a regulated securities market, have appealed their conviction.

We’ll see if the judge grants bail. On bail, the pair can probably bounce appeal procedures along for so long that they may yet get to their graves before seeing any substantial jail time.

One odd thing about Coady’s decision is in his findings for mitigating factors with regard to sentencing; one of those mitigating factors is “Publicity and stigma”:

The names of both defendants have appeared in the media in relation to the collapse of KHI and to the resulting legal proceedings. There has been limited coverage on the CBC website and in the Chronicle Herald. Coverage on the paid subscription business news website AllNovaScotia.com, has been much more extensive. It must be noted, however, that Mr. Potter generated some of his own attention by creating a website where he expressed his views on, among other things, National Bank Financial, Mr. Colpitts, and Stewart McKelvey.

So I guess simply reporting on an ongoing court case is reason to knock a few years off defendants’ sentences… Criminals take note! I’ll be sure to use that logic when requesting interviews from people charged with drug dealing and such: “hey man, if you talk to me, the judge will call it a mitigating factor and cut time off your sentence.”

And the judge cut Colpitts, the lawyer, even more slack. Recall that Colpitts used “prestige and image” to play to investors, but his very own prestige is now a mitigating factor:

Mr. Colpitts will presumably be disbarred as a result of his convictions. The loss of his entitlement to practice law is a mitigating factor. That said, there is no reason to assume, with Mr. Colpitts’ skills, experience, and connections within the local business community, that he will be unable to find meaningful and rewarding work upon release.

Maybe he can get a job with Nova Scotia Business Inc.

2. Anti-Muslim harassment

“A teenage girl in Halifax said she felt frozen with fear when a man yelled anti-Muslim insults at her this week on a downtown street,” reports Taryn Grant for StarMetro Halifax:

She said when she left class around 3 p.m. on Monday, she donned her headphones, as usual, and turned the volume up on her music while she walked, alone, towards the bus. She was near the Halifax Central Library when she noticed a man trying to get her attention.

“A guy was in my face and he looked like he was yelling, so I took my headphones out and said, ‘Excuse me?’ So he just turned around again and said, ‘F— you, f— all Muslims.’”

She said he also told her to go back to her home country — a cutting remark, she added, because she considers Canada her home. She was born in Egypt and grew up in Saudi Arabia before moving to Halifax.

3. Cogswell

The city this morning issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for firms that could provide construction services for the Cogswell District Redevelopment Project. This is the first step in the Cogswell rebuild process; qualified firms will be selected in September and be asked to reply to a Request for Proposals (RFP) in December, with actual construction starting in April 2019, and completed three and a half years later, in December 2022.

The RFQ describes the project:

The proposed plan will convert 22 acres of road infrastructure into a mixed-use neighborhood, extending the entrance of the downtown northwards and reuniting communities separated by the interchange lands. The urban street grid will be reinstated and create development blocks capable of supporting new residential and commercial environments for 2500 people. High quality dedicated cycling lanes, multi-use trails, new parks and open spaces, a reimagined transit hub, and a significant central urban square transforms this traffic-centric area into a livable pedestrian friendly area for people to live, work, and play.

But as I’ve said before, none of this will be particularly interesting unless they tear down the casino, its parking garage, and the Purdy’s Wharf parking garage, and create waterfront access to the new neighbourhood.

With waterfront access, new residents will say: “I live in that neighbourhood near that cool new waterfront park.”

Without waterfront access, new residents will say: “I live just down from the sewage plant.”

4. Cornwallis committee members named

As we go to publish, the city has announced the members of the Special Advisory Committee on the Commemoration of Edward Cornwallis and Commemoration of Indigenous History:

  • Chief Roderick Googoo – Chief of the We’koqma’q Mi’kmaw Community (Co-chair)
  • Daniel Paul – Social justice advocate, author, journalist, consultant, and volunteer
  • Bernie Francis – Mi’kmaw linguist and consultant. Developed a new orthography of the Mi’kmaw language with Professor Doug Smith
  • Pam Glode-Desrochers – Executive director of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre
  • Jaime Battiste – Mi’kmaw writer, researcher, advocate and activist from Potlotek Mi’kmaw Community
  • Sheila Fougere – Former Halifax city councillor, community volunteer, and management professional
  • John Reid – Professor of history with research and teaching interest in 17th and 18th century northeastern North America and the history of Atlantic Canada
  • AJB (John) Johnston – Historian, novelist, and museum writer. Former Parks Canada historian
  • Paul Friesen – Anglican priest, rector Saint Paul’s Church in Halifax
  • Monica MacDonald – Specialist in public history. Currently manager of research, Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (Co-chair)

Government

City

Thursday

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — lots of stuff is being discussed:

Herring Cove Road sidewalk

The interim option involves adding temporary sidewalk on the east side of Herring Cove Road only. Extending the repaved shoulders and curb stops to the west side of the street would be challenging as the ditches would need to be infilled and a stormwater system installed. This stormwater infrastructure is costly and should not be considered as part of a temporary solution. It is not advisable to install a stormwater system until the permanent cross-section (including lane widths and placement) is determined.

Lady Drive Her

The car service, which provides women drivers for people going to the airport, wants to start providing services all around the city; for that, they’ll need a new category of taxi licence created so that Lady Driver Her’s drivers can jump the long queue of waiting taxi licencees.

Road Safety Plan

On average, 14 people die on HRM streets every year; if the city meets its lacklustre goals, that number will be reduced to …. 11 in five years.

Crosswalk

Shawn Cleary, who does not have a degree in Transportation Management, wants a crosswalk at Winter Street and Crown Drive.

Friday

No public meetings.

Province

No public meetings this week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

(Re)conceptualizing the last eukaryotic common ancestor (Thursday, 10am, Room 3-H1, Tupper Medical Building) — Maureen O’Malley from the University of Bordeaux / University of Sydney will speak. Her abstract:

By definition, the last eukaryotic common ancestor (LECA) gave rise to all extant eukaryotes (and some extinct ones too). However, there is more to LECA than its assignment to a node in an ancestral reconstruction. LECA was indisputably a biological entity of some sort. But what can we say about that entity, without subscribing to any particular hypothesis of eukaryotic origins? Michelle Leger, Jeremy Wideman, and Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo and I are exploring that question. We first analyse a continuum of LECA conceptions. These include LECA as a single cell, LECA as a population, and LECA as a community. We end up focusing on a pangenomic notion of LECA, which describes a population that exhibits extensive genomic and phenotypic heterogeneity, despite being the same ‘species’ (though that can be argued against). We look into what a pangenomic concept of LECA might mean for how early eukaryote evolution and ancestral reconstruction are understood.

28th annual Dalhousie Engineering Robot Competition (Thursday, 10am, Sexton Gymnasium) — From the event listing:

This full-day event features automated robots, designed by undergraduate electrical and computer engineering students, competing in obstacle course races. Groups of students test their engineering skills, creativity, stamina, teamwork, multi-tasking abilities, and endurance when sleep-deprived as they compete to create a robot that can finish the course the fastest (assuming, of course, that their robot finishes at all!). The competition is open to the public, so anyone with an interest in design, robotics, electrical engineering, or mechanical mayhem is welcome to join us in the Sexton Gym.​

Bring your own human-killing robot.

Friday

No public events.


In the harbour

4am: Torm Saone, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for Amsterdam
5am: Alpine Mary, oil tanker, moves from Bedford Basin anchorage to Imperial Oil
5:30am: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
7am: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
7am: Maasdam, cruise ship with up to 1,510 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney
11:30am: Skogafoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
Noon: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
3:30pm: Maasdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor
3:30pm: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
4:30pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport back to Pier 41
6:30pm: Jona, container ship, arrives at pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal


Footnotes

I was going to write about the Centre Plan, but I couldn’t stop laughing.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Full of good burns on this one.

    > Shawn Cleary, who does not have a degree in Transportation Management, wants a crosswalk at Winter Street and Crown Drive.

  2. We keep hearing people expecting violence from the immigrants and refugees entering our country, but all we usually end up seeing is the reverse.

  3. If publicity and stigma is a factor in sentencing, then it should be formalized. Put some stocks up in front of the courthouse on Spring Garden Road

  4. Cleary is asking for a “sidewalk”, not a “crosswalk”.

    The quotations are appropriate since it isn’t a sidewalk as we know it that he’s asking for. Instead it seems he wants them to consider painting a sidewalk on the side of the road, maybe with some temporary curbs.

  5. ” On average, 14 people die on HRM streets every year; if the city meets its lacklustre goals, that number will be reduced to …. 11 in five years.”
    Incorrect. The document claims that 14 people die on roads within the boundaries of HRM but does not explain that the number of deaths includes provincial highways. Other than that the meeting will be a group of middle class white people explaining why spending more money cycling infrastructure is the way to improve health outcomes. Councillor David Hendsbee will not be asked to speak about improving health outcomes in Preston by extending a water main to a more than 200 year old community.
    See here from December 2014 : http://legacycontent.halifax.ca/Commcoun/east/documents/20141204AECOMPrestonCommunityCouncilpresentation.pdf

  6. The Cogswell narrative sounds SO good. But the picture looks like Larry Uteck Blvd in architectural drawing form.

    Which should we believe?

  7. Spouting hate in random children’s faces is not ok by any measure. If they can’t identify the culprit by cctv they need a greater pedestrian police presence on Spring Garden. The panhandlers and hustlers should not be as omnipresent as they are.

    1. I don’t think it is fair to combine concerns about racists and “panhandlers and hustlers.” Racism is hateful. We shouldn’t align it with folks who are on the margins for any number of reasons or on the street for whatever reason.