1. Weather and power outages
Everything is opening late, or should be. It’s a mess out there.
As of 7:30am, across the province there were 1,918 power outages affecting 113,849 customers. Here’s the power outage map for the Halifax area:
Those big brown splotches are larger, area-wide outages.
My power in Central Dartmouth was out for a couple of hours last night. I have no idea how the line crews got things back up and running in that wind — the entire house was shaking something fearsome.
I saw several heated discussions on social media yesterday about the perceived increase in both the number and duration of power outages since Nova Scotia Power was privatized. I don’t know how to assess that — I moved here after the privatization, and all the evidence seems anecdotal; I’d like to see hard numbers.
It’s also possible that if there has been an increase in power outages, it isn’t a direct or necessary result of privatization. That is, another private power company could have perhaps done a better job, but the current iteration of Nova Scotia Power is its own specific form of incompetence.
But it’s interesting to compare power outages in New Brunswick, where the utility is public, to power outages in Nova Scotia, where the utility is private. This one storm isn’t a great comparison — the storm appears to have hit Nova Scotia somewhat harder, but all the main highways in New Brunswick were closed yesterday, and where the Halifax area got mostly wind and rain, northern and western New Brunswick got wind and snow. I think, however, that over time and over multiple storms, such a comparison might be useful. I’ll start a spreadsheet.
Anyway, the New Brunswick Power power outage map from this morning shows that there are 134 outages affecting 16,569 customers:
“Halifax has found a way to get around regulations that make it illegal to put recyclables in a landfill in Nova Scotia — by sending 300 tonnes of plastics to an out-of-province dump,” reports Nina Corfu for the CBC:
The municipality’s solid waste manager, Matt Keliher, said the stash of film plastics — materials such as shopping bags and plastic wrap — had been degrading at a storage facility in Halifax since August 2017, following China’s announcement it would no longer be importing recyclables beginning in 2018.
Keliher said he had hoped the province would agree to temporarily waive the rules banning recyclables from the dump, so the material could be disposed of locally.
But the province took too long to decide either way, he said, forcing the city to send the material to an undisclosed location outside the province where the materials are allowed in a landfill.
Keliher wouldn’t say where the material is going because “we don’t want other recycling operations to find our end markets and swoop in and take them.”
The city has found new markets for its film plastics, he said. It just wasn’t able to off-load those materials that had already degraded in storage.
New material coming in is being burned for fuel in a kiln. Keliher wouldn’t reveal whether the kiln is in Nova Scotia or what the fuel is being used for, citing “market conditions.”
Can we stop with this secrecy already? Waste management is a public policy issue that requires significant public participation and buy-in to be successful. By placing details behind a wall of secrecy, the city is basically telling citizens to stop caring — the average person will read this report and think, quite rightly, that sorting recyclables, filling the proper bags, and so forth, is simply a waste of time, a sort of ritual the public is asked to partake in in order to make city officials look good, no matter what the truth.
If the city is going to successfully get the public to participate in a meaningful way in recycling, then the entire process — warts, mistakes, failures, and all — should be transparent.
Moreover, the cornerstone of Halifax’s once-celebrated (why should we celebrate it now?) waste management system was that all garbage would be put in a local dump. Former CAO Richard Butts convinced city council to agree to extend the life of the Otter Lake dump by, in part, starting to send garbage from commercial businesses out of the HRM. That’s why this stockpiled plastic can be sent to the secret dump somewhere else.
Carol Moreira is co-author with her spouse Peter Moreira of the “Entrevestor” column in the Chronicle Herald, which has crossed so many journalistic ethical lines that it should be taught in J-school as an example of what not to do.
To start, the Moreiras are paid by government economic development agencies to promote the very companies they then write about for the Herald, a conflict-of-interest that is not disclosed to readers. Secondly, when Unique Solutions was searching for investors, Peter Moreira favourably plugged the company in the column, disclosing that he himself was an investor, but when that company began going south — information that Moreira was privy to — he failed to alert his readers, which in my opinion amounts to borderline investment fraud; it’s certainly not journalism.
But, credit where credit is due: Carol Moreira takes the rare step today of profiling a failed entrepreneur, Ozge Yeloglu, a co-founder and CEO of topLog, a start-up that ran for three years out of the Volta Labs “incubator” before failing in 2016 (how long should a baby be in an incubator?). Yeloglu is now working for Microsoft in Toronto:
“I’ve learned about enterprise sales by working with banks, governments, insurance companies,” she said. “I’ve realized you need to be where your clients are — remote selling is not feasible. You need to build relationships.”
Well, then. If that is true, don’t start-ups here in Nova Scotia, hanging off the distant edge of the continent, a two-day drive to anywhere civilized, have, you know, a problem?
4. Pedestrian struck
A police report from yesterday morning:
At approximately 5:00pm hours an 8 year old girl ran into traffic at the 900 block of Herring Cove Road and was struck by a vehicle. The child was transported to the IWK for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. She was not in a crosswalk when she was struck. No charges are expected.
5. P.E.I. is surrounded by ice
P.E.I is nearly surrounded by ice, reports Dave Stewart for the Charlottetown Guardian:
Trevor Hodgson, superintendent of ice operations for the Canadian Coast Guard’s Ice Atlantic office, said ice covers the north, south and west sides of the province.
“Basically, the thicker ice is developing down off Charlottetown in the Northumberland Strait,’’ Hodgson said Wednesday. “Pretty much east of the Confederation Bridge we’re seeing the thicker grey, white ice up to about 30 centimetres thick.’’
Hodgson said it is unusual to see so much ice lining the north side of the province.
“Looking at our normal projections here, usually (in the) Northumberland Strait we’ll see a bit of ice fill in there. The stuff you’re seeing on the north side is spilling out of the Northumberland Strait. It’s sort of unusual for this time of year . . . we’d expect that to be ice free.’’
Hodgson expects the major winter storm that was forecast to hit P.E.I. Thursday and into today will hash most of the ice up and clear it away, leaving most province’s shores relatively ice free.
1. More collages
“I continue to mine my collage cryptocurrency (that’s gold Jerry, gold!) with a collection of collages that celebrate our Nova Scotian material culture and cultural landscapes (in other words, stuff I like),” writes Stephen Archibald:
Here are a pair of photos shot from my childhood bedroom in our house on Walnut Street. The year is about 1966 and I think they show the general dreariness of backyards in those days. Maybe the whole city was dreary. Hard to remember. Lots of fences.
No public meetings.
No public events.
In the harbour
Both the Atlantic Sky (ro-ro container ship arriving from Liverpool, England) and the Budapest Bridge (container ship arriving from Fos Sur Mer, France) are waiting out the storm before entering the harbour.
I’m going back to bed.
While I am thankful the power was restored quickly and by workers doing a decent job, never forget 1000 of those workers weren’t from here, they were brought in by NSP for this storm specifically, because of the problem noted from the storm, the severity, and the number of outages that they knew they would be dealing with. (hence the trucks from Quebec, and Quebec workers) And the biggest reason they were on top of it this time is because they were caught unawares the storm severity Christmas day and the outages then. If that storm hadn’t happened, we’s still be in the dark now. Thankfully it did, they learned (short term at least) and we aren’t.
I’m not an electrical engineer or provincial planner, but ‘above ground’ electrical wire with 50 year old telephone poles is not current technology by any stretch. Being a maritime province and subject to high winds that are just going to get more ferocious with climate change, I would posit that burying the power lines like our friends out west would be a solid investment for a safe and productive future.
Agreed, but I recall during the massive ice storm that paralyzed Montreal 20 years ago the issue of why high tension lines could no just be buried out of harms way rather than on towers which collapsed and the answer offered was that it would cost five times as much to build them that way. I would guess something similar applies to local electrical distribution systems.
A pity, because this would otherwise appear a much better alternative otherwise.
The linemen are certainly heroic, BUT the communications side of NSP is PATHETIC.
At the time of Juan they told us we would have power restored in a few hours, when everyone could see that the city had to be rewired and many were out for a week.
Now we get stupidly unrealistically long estimates … 3 days for EVERY outage in the province, when many were done in twelve hours.???
If you can’t say something sensible, SHUT UP!
Waste management is not sexy, it does not usually garner much interest from the general public. Yet waste management is just as important as reliable electric power service, healthcare, or availability of fuels for motor vehicles (just to name a few essentials). Just imagine what it would be like if every household had to dispose of their own garbage through their own efforts. People would be dumping it everywhere, but at the local dump, which would charge them directly a tipping fee. Even today many do not adhere to voluntary recycling processes for electronic waste materials. As long as local garbage and recyclables are picked up at the curb through a municipally managed program, most people are happy to forget about what occurs during the disposal and recycling processes.
Does anyone know what the area rate is that is charged against property assessments in order to pay for garbage pickup? What the landfill costs to operate?
How about the area rate for recycling?
What is the difference between what is charged to residences versus industrial-commercial-institutional (ICI) locations?
Consider a $200K accessed value property and a $400K property with 4 people living in each location and generating the same amount of waste materials. The cost to remove and process for each household is not the same, because the charge is levied against the assessed property value, not because of the actual amount of waste that is actually generated at a given household.
Tim states that the costs to the public and what actually occurs with respect to the the various processes involved in waste management should be made transparent to the public and he is quite correct in that statement.
Next consider the ethics surrounding waste management processes. What is best for public health and the environment? What about only choosing the lowest cost processing alternative when the public actually has the funds available to process waste materials in a better way for the environment? What about extracting the maximum value from our waste materials and only burying it as an absolutely last resort? New technologies exist that can extract value from waste materials and those technologies do cost more to implement that just burying the garbage.
One might find it interesting that Hants and Colchester Counties both have projects being implemented to process waste materials using new technologies that HRM turned down because HRM was not willing to take the risk to see if waste could be managed using these new technologies. Yes these technologies may cost the taxpayer more (perhaps), but HRM boasts that they are leaders in waste management excellence,,,, their leadership status does appear to be in question. Actually it appears HRM is really only interested in the lowest cost solution, not the best solution and implementing the public’s recommendations is not a popular objective for HRM staff or Council.
We need to have our governments regulate manufacturers to only create products that can be fully recycled when those products reach the “End of Life” (EOL) state for its intended usage. Import tariffs should be higher for products that will cost more to process at EOL.
There is a price to pay to do things right and waste management deserves to be managed in a manner that diverts the maximum amount of waste from being buried in a landfill; while ensuring that the maximum value is extracted from those diverted materials through re-purposing and recycling processes. Public and environmental safety standards should never be bargained away in order to keep costs down.
My wife and I moved to and have lived in rural Nova Scotia for over forty years and so we have experience of the power corp under both public and private management. My impression is that service is more reliable now than in the past. Also, there seems to be a good pruning program in place to keep branches and trees from falling on power lines. The radio explanations to the public by the corp seem to be timely and useful. Maybe rural people are more open to the idea that shit happens. I’m satisfied with our power service.
Speaking for myself, I am more dependent on things that require power, and charged batteries than I was in 1992, so a power outage feels like a greater impact today.
My power went out twice last night due to the natural storm event. It was restored in the middle of the storm, in the middle of the night, by people working for Nova Scotia Power.
I am grateful to those workers and Nova Scotia Power for their work under those conditions.
I hear what you’re saying, and I, too appreciate what the workers did. However, recognizing that people are working hard doesn’t necessarily answer the question as to whether or not Nova Scotia Power has gotten worse. I certainly don’t know what the answer is, but people working hard doesn’t mean that a company is providing good service for money. People work hard all of the time. People over-work and get under-paid in lots of places. Still doesn’t mean that the company is great or couldn’t improve. As we’re learning over and over again, many companies, making billions in profit, intentionally under-staff. I don’t know if this is the case with NS Power or not. Maybe they’re the best power company out there. Maybe they’re the worst. Still doesn’t mean the workers don’t work hard or don’t deserve to be appreciated.
Name 3 companies making billions in profits who intentionally under-staff.
That was actually a typo, but I couldn’t correct my mistake. I meant millions in profits. Loblaws is one of them. If you worked there, you would know what I’m talking about. Banks are another–one of the biggest culprits. (I’ve talked intimately about this with a few people who have worked in banks and finally quit) They under-stafff—-expecting more and more out of fewer and fewer people. If you expect the work to be completed and you refuse to allow the labour hours, you are intentionally under-staffing. This type of information isn’t widely reported because we don’t daily report on labour issues. But it only takes talking with someone in any of these jobs–especially managers—to discover the same practice. I learn over and over again just how pervasive an issue this is for workers in large companies who make millions in profits.
You’re kidding right? How many companies, big or small follow the misbegotten motto “Do more with less”, “we must find efficiencies”. All are euphemisms for cutting people. Anyone who doesn’t believe NSP has been doing this for years is delusional. How much does the NSP chairman get paid again?
I was pretty young when NSP privatize, but I was a news junkie even then and I don’t recall having much information on outage size, duration or cause.
I don’t remember when NS Power was private, but I do wonder if this has to do with the age of electrical infrastructure in the province. We may be seeing more outages because infrastructure is getting older, and hence more susceptible to failure. Of course, if this is the case then it still falls on NS Power to maintain and update lines.
A few points on the Entrevestor article:
– 2-3 years “incubating” is exactly what Volta is about: help a startup company get on its feet with office space and advice and sometimes investment.
– While there’s always lots of noise about the big tech startups that have big exits or take over the world or whatever, the truth is that most startups fail, and often in startup culture it’s a plus to have a few failures under your belt. It’s just how this industry works. Usually it’s VC money that gets lost in a startup failure, but due to our smaller market here, that’s sometimes government money too. Whether that’s a good use of government money is a whole discussion we could have, but a startup can make a bigger impact per dollar than, say, a ferry to Maine or an under-used lumber mill.
– Something like Enterprise Sales for Microsoft is of course going to be better in Toronto. Big corporate sales is a high-touch kind of business, involving lots of meetings and expensive steak lunches and all that kind of thing. Startups in Halifax can do fine if they’re not selling directly to the CTOs of major banks or whatever.
– There’s no reason Halifax can’t have lots of successful startups selling things to the world – we do need a bit of help sometimes to compete with more vibrant places like Toronto or Silicon Valley, which is why a place like Volta is useful.
(Disclosure: two of my own projects have been featured in “Entrevestor” over the years after short phone interviews, and I often work out of Volta – but I haven’t been in any of their incubator programs.)
“There’s no reason Halifax can’t have lots of successful startups selling things to the world”
“we do need a bit of help sometimes”
… I’m going to be respectful and note that what have proven to be successful ideas in the free market had a hard time being identified by the world’s leading capitalists, never mind the kind of people whose prime achievements were being born into the right family in Cape Breton and “do you know who I am”-ing a plane into an emergency landing. Is this the best use of public funds?
Nova Scotia Power should never have been privatized. They are not accountable to the people who use the service. A public utility (at least in theory) is.
Anything short of stringing up NSP’s multimillionaire board of directors won’t stop ratepayers from being a cash cow for investors and Emera.
Perhaps an investigation of utilities in the States might be a good idea. I know Eversource in Massachesetts is private. Haven’t heard anywhere near the outages there and they went through the same storm.
Location. Location. Location.
While you are doing your comparison of the power companies, outages, and so on, include a study of changes in weather patterns. For example I heard that one reason Hurricane Juan caused so much damage was because the high winds hit the trees from a direction they weren’t used to, hence were weaker.
I think it is a good idea to track NS and NB for power outages. As a kid growing up here I recall car accidents shearing off power poles as the number one cause for lights out, I don’t recall salty fog being a problem.
Salty fog was only recently added to the NS Power’s ‘Excuse Wheel’. Not a single Nova Scotian – other than the NSP spokespeople who are paid to come up with this stuff – believes that one for a second.
The “salty fog” thing was something NSP invented years ago. There is no such meteorological condition. At that time they were caught lying as Environment Canada quickly squashed that. This time they do have sort of a point. A lot of road salt is now applied as brine. When it dries it does become airborne and can cause problems. However it should not be causing this kind of widespread impact. Someone needs to investigate this independently as we know NSP will not be forthcoming. If it is salt, which is unlikely, then we have to examine how it can be mitigated.
Mother Nature taking a cue from Sharon, Lois & Bram? (“If you need a patsy, man, I’ll be your salty fog.”)
Sorry, I’ll see myself out now…