November subscription drive

Have you subscribed yet? This would be an excellent time, and if you buy an annual subscription this month, we’ll mail you a Halifax Examiner T-shirt. We’ve got lots of them:

Also, any subscription gets you into our subscriber party, to be held Sunday, November 25, 4–7pm at Bearly’s Tavern. The band Museum Pieces will play, and former CBC host and spice merchant Costas Halavrezos will introduce investigative journalist Linden MacIntyre as our guest speaker. Subscribe here.


News

1. More than half of city employees say workplace isn’t emotionally healthy

Photo: Halifax Examiner

Yesterday evening, the city released the results of its Employee Engagement Survey. The survey was conducted by CRA in May; 2,167 (61 per cent) of the city’s 3,533 employees responded.

Of note is employees’ attitudes about their relationships with managers and coworkers. “Just under one-half of HRM employees agree their work environment is an emotionally healthy one,” reads the report accompanying the survey results:

Approximately one-half of employees agree that health and wellness is a priority at HRM (49 per cent), their work environment is an emotionally healthy one (48 per cent), and that HRM is interested in the well-being of its employees (47 per cent).

• When compared to other Atlantic Canadian organizations, agreement in regards to their workplace being emotionally healthy and HRM’s interest in their well-being, falls below average.

The following business units have results 10 or more points greater than the overall HRM result, with regard to agreement:

• Legal, Municipal Clerk, and External Affairs (67 per cent), Governance (58 per cent), Finance and Asset Management (61 per cent), and Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency (67 per cent).

The following business units have results 10 or more points less than HRM overall result, with regard to agreement:

• HR/Diversity and Inclusion (33 per cent), Halifax Transit (37 per cent), and Halifax Regional Police (38 per cent).

Not surprisingly, managers think the workplace is more emotionally healthy than non-managers.

You can read the entire survey results here.

The result give credence to the work of Equity Watch, which has been addressing issues of bullying and discrimination in the workplace, including at City Hall.

2. Offshore “incident”

The heavy lift ship Forte, carrying the Noble Regina Allen drilling rig, was anchored near McNabs Island in November 2017. Photo: Halifax Examiner

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

It’s another bad day for transparency when it comes to workplace incidents on offshore oil rigs. Neither Exxon Mobil not the safety regulator, the Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, are willing to confirm or deny a worker on the Noble Regina Allen came within a foot of being seriously injured or killed when a 225-pound piece of rigging equipment crashed to the deck ten days ago.

A published report today in allnovascotia.com says it has a copy of the information provided to rig staff by ExxonMobil this past weekend which confirms one worker came within inches of being struck by the heavy falling object. Exxon spokesperson Merle MacIsaac and Sadie Toulany for the CNSOPB chose to ignore questions posed by The Halifax Examiner yesterday morning on that critical point while responding to others.

Here’s how a news release from the CNSOPB on November 8 — three days after the incident and one day after allnovascotia.com reported the story — described what happened:

The CNSOPB safety officer confirmed that a 52 foot chain, along with a swivel and shackle (a segment of lifting gear arrangement) with a combined weight of 225 pounds, fell to the deck in the derrick area. There were five workers in the area at the time but no one was injured. Although there were no injuries associated with this incident, it was determined that it had the potential for fatality, and has thus been classified as a high potential near miss.

What others might call that is a “near death” experience. Toulany says the reason the CNSOPB didn’t put out a news release sooner is because its safety officer had to visit the rig and ensure the information he gathered was accurate. Perhaps it was just a coincidence the release came out the day after the news report.

Operations on the rig were suspended from November 5 when the incident occurred until the night of November 10 when they resumed. The Noble Regina Allen has a crew of 150 and is about half-way through a two-year procedure to plug and abandon 22 natural gas wells that are part of the Sable Offshore Energy Project.

Toulany says the regulator continues its review of the incident to see if any regulations were broken and whether any changes to procedures or fines need to be considered. Today’s allnovascotia story says the ExxonMobil briefing to workers suggested the inspection of the rigging was not properly completed prior to the incident.

“We take safety seriously and we are still investigating the near miss so that we can incorporate learnings to prevent future reoccurrence,” wrote Merle MacIsaac, ExxonMobil spokesperson in an email.

In the last five years, there have been few serious injuries offshore. Since 2014, the CNSOPB reports there has been one “major” disabling injury and 11 injuries that resulted in more than three days of lost time at work. How many “near misses” is another matter.

On November 5, 2018, ExxonMobil Canada Ltd (ExxonMobil) reported a near miss with respect to a dropped object on the Noble Regina Allen (NRA). The CNSOPB deployed a safety officer to the NRA early the following day to investigate and collect information about the incident.

3. Old library

A city graphic for the proposed rebuilding of the newly tree- and pigeon-free old library.

Yesterday, I reported on efforts to renovate and expand the old library so it could be used by city planning offices and the Dalhousie School of Architecture. Later in the day, the Nova Scotia Choral Federation expressed frustration at the plan, reports Heidi Petracek for CTV:

“We’d been told it would be a long time before anything would be happening,” said Tim Callahan-Cross of the Nova Scotia Choral Federation.

Dalhousie’s detailed proposal caught Callahan-Cross by surprise. He toured the site this spring with other arts groups with the hope of creating a cultural centre.

“It could really be a great hub,” he said. “It’s a perfect location. It could have great public access and it would address a lot of community needs.”

But Callahan-Cross says a city staffer told the group to wait before making its formal pitch. Now, he’s not sure what to do.

4. Former cop convicted of theft

“A Halifax Regional Police officer’s career has come crashing down after he stole cash from a taxi driver during a traffic stop this summer,” reports Steve Bruce for the Chronicle Herald:

Anthony George Sparks, 45, of Cole Harbour pleaded guilty recently in Dartmouth provincial court to a charge of theft under $5,000.

Sparks will be sentenced in January after the court receives a presentence report.

The constable resigned from the police force before entering the guilty plea Oct. 29. He was on the force for 13 years.

The facts have not been read into the record yet, but The Chronicle Herald has learned details about the brazen theft from sources.

Sparks was on duty in Dartmouth early in the morning of Aug. 12 when he stopped a taxi driver for a traffic violation.

The cabbie, Houssen Milad, left the vehicle during the stop to do his morning prayers.

After returning to his cab, Milad realized $425 had been taken from a pouch. The theft was captured on a video camera in the vehicle.

Bruce goes on to report that Milad, the cab driver, had twice been charged with sexual assault, but never convicted. I wonder if those charges led to the camera being placed in the car.

5. Square Roots

Photo: Sobey School of Business

Tomorrow, the University Entrepreneurship Centre at Saint Mary’s University is celebrating the “Square Roots program,” which is described as a “social enterprise from the Enactus Saint Mary’s that tackles food insecurity!”

The program is explained here:

Square Roots is a food security program, originally established in 2016 with Options Youth participants Mikel Kelsie and Cortrell Thomas from Uniacke Square. Since its inception, the program has delivered affordable fresh produce boxes/bags in partnership with Annapolis Valley farmers. 

And here:

Square Roots sources imperfect produce from growers and provides bundles at affordable prices in low-income areas. Saint Mary’s University’s Enactus organization has been working on the program in the Halifax-Dartmouth area and recently visited the Truro Farmers’ Market in an effort to source more fruits and vegetables.

“It would be ideal to have this expand across Nova Scotia, and Truro has so much farm land nearby I see it as logical to move in that area,” said Christine Ingham, one of the project managers. “We’re looking for farms willing to sell produce and for franchise managers.”

Franchise managers receive training through Enactus Saint Mary’s so they are able to build and maintain relationships with producers and customers, sort produce bundles and arrange drop-off locations. Ten-pound bundles are sold for $5 or $10, depending on what a person can afford, and usually consist of potatoes, apples, onions and one or two other seasonal vegetables. People can also sponsor bundles for others.

There is also a Square Roots token program, with tokens sold for $5 being redeemable for a meal made from surplus ingredients from partnering restaurants.

Undoubtedly, part of the “food insecurity” problem is caused by the way our food distribution and retail system works. There used to be plenty of neighbourhood produce stands, and in the case of Uniacke Square, a small Sobeys a block away. But in Nova Scotia, the retail side of the industry has become a duopoly of two giant corporations, one of which has admitted to price-fixing, and the corporations find it more profitable to consolidate their smaller operations into giant big box supermarkets and leave struggling communities behind.

So yes, there’s a niche market for bringing affordable food into under-served communities. There’s nothing wrong with providing that service, and it meets immediate needs. Good on the students; they’re making people’s lives better right now.

But by far the larger part of the food insecurity problem is that, by definition, poor people don’t have enough money. Among many other things, they can’t afford food.

We all know the causes of increased poverty: increasing inequality, minimum wage and social assistance payouts that don’t keep pace with inflation, soaring rents, the shift to the gig economy, a rentier class that has monetized the commons, a union-busting provincial government, and so on. And until we start addressing those causes, we will only have stop-gap solutions and half-measures for addressing the problems caused.

For sure, the enemy of the good is the perfect, so be careful where you tread, Bousquet.

But while the Grass Roots program is providing a necessary stop-gap, I hope that alongside their work, the students are also being taught about the structural causes of poverty. Maybe they are. But I fear they aren’t, as their program is being honoured with awards named after Hellman’s mayonnaise and, after all, is a product of the Sobey School of Business. It has the feel of indoctrination: the solution to the problems caused by capitalism is more capitalism.

In any event, you can register here to attend the event.

6. John Risley

John Risley

Chronicle Herald columnist John Demont purports to show the “human side” of John Risley, who talked about his mom, a poor immigrant. I’m sure she was nice, and it’s bad form to slag someone’s beloved mom in any event.

But this is a bit much:

[Risley] hinted that some of his success must be due to the values he learned from his mother — determination, pluck, perseverance and thrift — which, he feels, newcomers from away bring to a country like Canada.

Not to downplay determination, pluck, perseverance, and thrift, but you kind of don’t have a choice when you’re poor, ya know? Poor people are the most “innovative” people around, and it’s a downright miracle they can make it through the day at all.

And thrift? I mean, you’re not going to build a giant mansion on a private island or buy a $30 million dollar yacht when you’re counting pennies to feed your kids, are you? Damn right poor people are thrifty.

But maybe Risley’s mom could have avoided all that perseverance and thrift stuff had she instead landed a bunch of ACOA grants. It certainly worked for her son.

Rich people who use the government to amass their billions lecturing the rest of us about the value of hard work and thrift is, well, annoying.

7. Hemimastigotes

Hemimastigotes

Why can’t all press releases be as cool as the one I got from Dalhousie’s Faculty of Science yesterday?

Scientists at Dalhousie University have discovered a new branch on the “Tree of Life” that no one knew existed. Their findings were published today in the journal Nature and will be critical to better understanding the evolutionary history of life on earth. 
 
“This discovery literally redraws our branch of the ‘Tree of Life’ at one of its deepest points,” explains Alastair Simpson, the lead author of the study and biology professor at Dalhousie. “It opens a new door to understanding the evolution of complex cells — and their ancient origins — back well before animals and plants emerged on Earth.”
 
The team of biologists used a relatively new scientific technique called single-cell transcriptomics to sequence the first genetic information of two rarely-observed microscopic species belonging to a group of organisms called hemimastigotes. The paper outlines how that genetic information proves that hemimastigotes warrant a rethinking of established “supergroups” on the Tree of Life.
 
Hemimastigotes are complex cells, like the cells of animals and plants, and belong to the same domain on the Tree of Life: Eukarya. In other words, hemimastigotes share an ancient common ancestor with humans, other animals, fungi and plants. However, since there was no genetic information available on hemimastigotes prior to this study, it was unclear where they belonged within Eukarya.
 
“It was clear from our analyses that hemimastigotes didn’t belong to any known kingdom-level group, or even to a known ‘super-group’ of several kingdoms together, like the one that includes both animals and fungi,” says Dr. Simpson. “This one little collection of organisms is a whole new group at that level, all on its own. It’s a branch of the Tree of Life that has been separate for a very long time, perhaps more than a billion years, and we had no information on it whatsoever.”
 
Yana Eglit, a PhD Candidate in Biology at Dalhousie, found the hemimastigotes in a soil sample taken while hiking near Halifax, N.S. In addition to this discovery, Eglit was able to culture one of the two hemimastigotes for the first time, making it easier for scientists to study moving forward.
 
“It’s an unusual looking group of organisms,” says Eglit, a first author of the study. “The way they behave under the microscope, you won’t immediately spot them… There are likely more representatives in this group that we just simply haven’t met yet.”
 
These findings are vital for evolutionary biologists striving to piece together how the complex cells of animals, plants, fungi, algae and protozoa have evolved over the last 1-2 billion years. Further, ecologists around the world studying the hugely important roles of microbes on the planet will now be able to identify hemimastigotes in their genetic datasets; this biodiversity would have passed as unidentified until now.
 
The collaborative research effort was made possible through Dalhousie’s Centre for Comparative Genomic and Evolutionary Bioinformatics (CGEB). The researchers from the Faculties of Science and Medicine have named one of the species Hemimastix kukwesjijk, paying tribute to it being discovered in Nova Scotia—territory of the Mi’kmaq First Nation. “Kukwes” is a “ravenous, hairy ogre” in Mi’kmaq folklore. The team says this predatory microbe looks and behaves similarly.


Government

City

Thursday

Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — Jayme Melrose, the “garden doula,” will talk to the committee about the need for a new site for the Common Roots Urban Farm.

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm, City Hall) — Scott MacDonald and James Butler (I have no idea who they are) will talk to the committee about ‘distracted driver’ impacts on active transportation.”

Friday

Volunteer Conference 2018 (Friday, 8am – Saturday, 4pm, Atlantica Hotel Halifax) —  info here.

Province

No public meetings today or Friday.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Indigenous Knowledge & Access Symposium (Thursday, 8am, Room 170, Collaborative Health Education Building) — register here.

Newfangled Rounds: Springloaded Technology Newfangling to Change the Way People Move (Thursday, 8:30am, Bethune Ballroom, Bethune Building, VG Site) — from the listing:

Learn more about how this Halifax-based start up developed the world’s first bionic knee brace, and how it is changing the way people move.

Register: Paula.Steeves@nshealth.ca

Capturing Transparent Objects: From Appearances to Full 3D Models (Thursday, 10am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Minglun Gong from Memorial University will speak.

Mini Medical School (Thursday, 7pm, Theatre B, Tupper Link) — Jacklynn Humphrey will speak on “Small Steps, Big Success,” followed at 8:15pm by Sarah Ramer with “How Do I Know if I am Having a Heart Attack?”

Friday

Thesis Defence, English (Friday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) —PhD candidate Rose Sneyd will defend her ​​thesis, “And He Loved Light Rather than Darkness: Giacomo Leopardi’s Poetics and Pessimism in the Work of Matthew Arnold, George Eliot, and A. E. Housman.”

Challenge, Some Success, Heartbreak, More Success and Still Much More to be Done: A Personal Story About Positive Electrode Materials for Lithiumion Batteries (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Jeff R. Dahn will speak.

Do languages really exist? (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1130, Marion McCain Building) — Robert J. Stainton from Western University will speak. His abstract:

I will begin, as philosophers are wont to do, by explaining my question, in part by reviewing startling arguments for a negative answer. I myself don’t find these arguments compelling, and think that our question should receive a resounding “Yes.” Rather than reply on behalf of the reality of languages, however, I will emphasize the “meta-question” about why it matters who is right.

Saint Mary’s

Friday

Celebrating Student Entrepreneurship & Newfangledness (Friday, 12pm, University Entrepreneurship Centre, 960 Tower Road) — see #5 above.

Mount Saint Vincent

Thursday

Book Launch (Thursday, 7pm, Seven Bays Bouldering, 2019 Gottingen Street) — Mount profs will talk about their books. Amy Thurlow has Social Media, Organizational Identity and Public Relations: The Challenge of Authenticity; Anthony Yue and Luc Peters have On Mirrors! Philosophy Art — Organization; and Ian Reilly has Media Hoaxing: The Yes Men and Utopian Politics. Then you can rock climb, I guess.

Friday

MSVU Department of Communication Studies Graduate Student and Faculty Research Panel (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 130, E. Margaret Fulton Communications Centre) — Kate Venas will speak on “Werk It: The Promise and Limitations of Podcasting as a Feminist Medium,” followed by Ian Reilly with “Exploring Humour and Media Hoaxing in Social Justice Activism.”


In the harbour

06:00: Jinan, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Imperial Oil
06:00: ZIM Yokohama, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Algeciras, Spain
06:00: Catharina Schulte, container ship, moves from Pier 41 to Pier 36
07:30: Nor’easter, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Irving Oil
11:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Autoport from St. John’s
13:00: Shanghai Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Portbury, England
16:00: Jennifer Schepers, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
16:30: Bomar Rebecca, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
16:30: ZIM Yokohama sails for New York
18:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 36 from Reykjavik, Iceland


Footnotes

It’s Thursday, and I’m still recovering from my weekend trip. Am I old?

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. I copied and pasted the names of the Board of Directors and Officers who manufacture AIMS – Atlantic Institute for Market Studies – this wealthy group of non-educators sound really credible – power and money talks.

    Challenging the “old boys club” operandi is difficult when the media allow John to degrade education in Nova Scotia as fact.

    AIMS is a wealthy group of CEOs who created AIMS to promote their unqualifed educational opinion as fact. Because they have money and power they get air-time on a subject that they know nothing about.

    By creating AIMS and making himself a CEO, John Risley’s opinion on education appears to be legitimate – who knows the difference?

    AIMS employs a few writers to champion their views. AIMS publishes for their shareholders – a podium for creating false narratives on education.

    The public should know the shareholders of AIMS have a primary mission – discredit and dismantle the Nova Scotia public education system – it is an elitist perspective grounded in patriarchy and the old boys club.

    Is touting a false narrative fair?

    Here are the Directors and Officers of AIMS

    Board Officers

    John Risley, Chairman
    John F. Irving, Past Chair
    Dr. Marco Navarro-Genie, President & CEO
    Scott McCain, Vice-Chair (NB)
    Leo Power, Vice-Chair (NL)
    Don Mills, Vice-Chair (NS)
    Fae Shaw, Secretary
    Doug Reid, Treasurer
    Directors

    Paul Antle
    Lee Bragg
    Dr. Robert Campbell
    Dr. Richard Florizone
    Doug Hall
    Dennice Leahey
    Todd McDonald
    Jonathan Meretsky
    Andrew Oland
    Bob Owens
    John Steele
    André Vincent
    Peter Woodward

  2. Risley does seem disconnected from reality. A few years back, I heard him speak on a CBC forum about Nova Scotian youth leaving the province. His comment was that young Nova Scotians cannot find local jobs because they are under educated.

  3. Tim Callahan-Cross and his group should have said they were thinking of converting the old library to a stadium and they would have had people bending over backwards for them.
    Pretty clear to me that the “ole boys club” has their plans in place for the library and are not interested in anyone else’s ideas.

  4. Came close to meeting John Risley some years ago when he was the keynote speaker at a business awards banquet in Shelburne. His speech was an all-out, 45-minute rant about why all of the shitty, incompetent teachers were the real problem in education in the province. Had to restrain my wife – principal of the local high school – from jumping up and throttling him. The promised Q&A period was replaced by Risley’s dash out a rear door to a waiting helicopter. A real charmer, he was.