News

1. Mark Furey takes no action on Assoun case

Glen Assoun. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister Mark Furey has yet to make inquiries to find out why someone within the Halifax RCMP deleted a large number of computer files and removed boxes of physical evidence that might have prevented Glen Assoun from being wrongfully imprisoned for 17 years for the murder of Brenda Way,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

The disappeared and deleted information was part of a case RCMP investigator Dave Moore was building on another suspect. Michael McCray, a convicted serial murderer, was also in Dartmouth the morning when Brenda Way was killed.

Assoun’s case was the subject of the Halifax Examiner’s “Dead Wrong” series, which in turn resulted in Examiner editor Tim Bousquet hosting the CBC’s Uncover: Dead Wrong podcast, which was published this summer.

Click here to read “It’s been 18 months since Glen Assoun was fully exonerated for the crime he spent 17 years in prison for, and Justice Minister Mark Furey still hasn’t investigated police wrong-doing, apologized to Assoun, or given him final compensation.”

Let’s be clear: Furey’s inaction is yet another injustice done to Assoun, and this injustice may well be intentional and planned by the political leadership of Nova Scotia.

Glen Assoun is not well. He faces mental and physical health crises. He has underlying medical conditions, including four heart attacks suffered in prison, that make him a perfect candidate for dying from the coronavirus.

Assoun is surrounded by loving family and other people who care about him, so hopefully with their help, he will continue to heal. But if not, if the worst comes to pass, he will not receive justice, and the RCMP will not be held accountable. It’s hard not to think that’s the reason for Furey’s continued delay.

Every delay takes us another step away from accountability.

Without accountability, what was done to Glen Assoun could be done to anyone. It could happen to me. It could happen to you.

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2. School reopening

Stephen McNeil at July 9 briefing. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Reports Jennifer Henderson:

“Teachers and principals are getting ready to welcome kids to school right now,” said Premier Stephen McNeil today. “Obviously there is some anxiety associated with that, no question. But the rhetoric around schools being in chaos is not helpful and not accurate.”

McNeil was referring to a comment made by Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) president Paul Wozney yesterday. Wozney sent out a news release stating schools are not prepared for the safe return of students and are “in a state of chaos.”

Click here to read “Premier chastises Teacher’s Union president for inaccurate ‘rhetoric.’”

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3. Delays in testing and receiving results

Kim MacInnis. Photo: Contributed

If people are anxious about school reopening, it may in part be because at least some testing is taking so long. Yvette d’Entremont reports:

A Dartmouth mother who had to take five days off work because of the wait time for her toddler’s COVID-19 testing says the situation is “completely unacceptable” and she fears the worst when school starts.

Kim MacInnis is a mother of two. Her four-and-a-half-year-old daughter starts Primary this year, and her son turns two in November. She works from home, and her son has been attending daycare since the beginning of August.

Last Sunday night he developed a runny nose, a symptom on Public Health’s COVID-19 list. Knowing he couldn’t return to daycare without a negative test, she called 811 at 7am Monday morning.

“I was told when I called that it could take up to three days for the test and then another two days to get the results…they said that was the standard,” MacInnis said in an interview.

While she described herself as extremely lucky to have a very understanding employer, she worries about what this might mean for other people and for her own limited time off if this scenario repeats itself throughout the fall and winter…

“I just envision this awful cycle of like my kid waits for a week for the test, he’s healthy, he goes back for a week, he gets sick, he’s off for a week, he comes back, and I’m just really worried,” she said.

Click here to read “Waiting 5 days for a COVID test and result for her child is ‘completely unacceptable,’ says Dartmouth mom.”

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4. Preparing for Back to School and a second wave

Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Jennifer Henderson spoke with Health Minister Randy Delorey yesterday about how Nova Scotia is positioned on various COVID-related fronts just as school is about to restart.

Click here to read “Where Nova Scotia stands with contact tracing, the COVID exposure app, and supports for nursing homes.”

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5. Bike lanes and bump outs

Curb extensions on Kaye Street installed earlier this year — the same kind that the municipality will now be installing elsewhere. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

“The municipality is looking for contractors to install several ‘tactical’ projects in Halifax and Dartmouth, according to tender documents posted Thursday,” reports Zane Woodford:

Since the adoption of the Integrated Mobility Plan in late 2017, Halifax has been using pilot projects to test street design changes in the hopes of improving pedestrian safety. Those projects, sometimes referred to as “tactical urbanism,” include things like the new curb extensions around the intersection of Young, Kaye, and Isleville, or bump outs on Agricola Street at Charles Street or Ochterloney Street at Wentworth Street.

Click here to read “City tenders for ‘tactical’ bike lane, bump outs in Halifax and Dartmouth.”

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6. Whitman is not preferred

Mike Savage and Matt Whitman are running for mayor. Photos: HRM

“A new poll indicates Mike Savage will have no trouble holding onto the mayor’s seat in October’s municipal election,” reports Zane Woodford:

Narrative Research, formerly known as Corporate Research Associates, released polling results Thursday indicating nine out of 10 decided voters, 89%, will choose the incumbent over Coun. Matt Whitman — his only challenger in the Oct. 17 election.

Click here to read “Nine out of 10 decided voters would choose Halifax Mayor Mike Savage over Coun. Matt Whitman according to a new poll.”

After we published Woodford’s article, Matt Whitman, who had previously blocked me on Twitter, sent me this Direct Message:

I saw the poll. It’s a very small sample size. I guess I can’t count on those 210 voters (the population of one apartment building on Larry Uteck). HRM is a very large municipality of over 400,000 residents. With Covid, summer, unemployment & back to school, residents aren’t focused on municipal politics. There’s still 6 weeks til election day. That’s the poll that counts! Because of COVID, voters have been unable to see me at the doorstep. That’s where I connect, face to face & have my biggest impact. I pledged to “go green” and run a campaign without election signs, a predominantly digital campaign, that’s likely had an impact during this crisis. My campaign is gaining momentum and will continue all the way til the night of October 17th. Voters can look forward to getting my campaign information and reasons to support me like My stance on Dartmouth branding, housing affordability, Veterans, Seniors, History & Heritage. Also, The cfl stadium, winter bike lane plowing, paid statue removal task-force, UBER delays, smoking ban and bloated overpaid bureaucracy & secret firings and severance packages. There’s lots of time to change voter’s minds. My love for this great municipality remains unchanged. More info: whitman2020.ca

Keep telling yourself that, but no one much likes you, Matt.

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7. Jen Powley

Jen Powley. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Jen Powley has announced she is a candidate for Halifax council.

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Noticed

Joey Coleman publishes The Public Record, a digital news site that deeply covers the Hamilton, Ontario city council. As we’re roughly undertaking similar adventures — figuring out how to make online news work and pay for itself — Coleman and I sometimes compare notes and discuss business, although of course we’re both too busy to touch base very often.

A couple of days ago, Coleman alerted me to the publication of a thesis written by Dalhousie student Benjamin D. Andrews for his MA in Political Science. It’s titled “Does Democracy Die in Darkness? An Examination of the Relationship Between Local Newspaper Health and Municipal Elections.” You can read it here.

I’ll leave it up to Andrews’ advisor and thesis committee to assess the theoretical value of the thesis, and I wish him all the best in his future career. It ain’t easy advancing in academia in the best of times; the challenges in the midst of the pandemic, when universities are slashing teaching staff, are frightening.

Still, I have observations as someone who is actually in the news business.

Andrews limits his study to the four most populated provinces — Ontario, Quebec, B.C., and Alberta, so excludes Nova Scotia, and therefore the Halifax Examiner. And then, while intended or not, disses efforts such as this:

Despite print’s decline, no sustainable alternative has yet asserted itself. This study excludes digital publications to focus on print newspapers for three reasons. First, recent losses in the industry necessitate a fuller understanding of the quantifiable—not aspirational—civic function of print newspapers. We must illuminate the contours of the void left by print to better shape its digital replacement. Second, online native projects have thus far proved either short-lived or marginal (Anderson, Coleman & Thumin, 2015), and it is increasingly evident that print losses are outpacing digital gains. And third, data is more readily available for legacy print publications than recent start-ups. [emphasis added]

For the record: the Halifax Examiner is not only sustaining itself, but also growing, on subscription revenue alone, and has been doing so for six years, which at least from the perspective of my aging eyes, seems considerably more than “short-lived.” People can argue about the undefined “marginal,” but I feel like the Examiner is contributing worthwhile reporting and making a difference in this small corner of the globe.

I have no idea how to assess Andrews’ calculations about the decline of print publications and how that relates to mayoral turnouts. Above my paygrade, as they say. But let’s cut to the concluding pages, where he writes:

According to my findings, local newspapers influence municipal political participation but have a limited effect on electoral competitiveness. In short, local newspapers can convince someone to vote but not to run for office. Higher turnout in municipal elections is related to the range of publications and how many times each publishes per week but not their circulation or format. Most of the civic benefit, therefore, occurs on the supply side, highlighting the importance of information availability. As such, further bolstering the relative success of large newspapers with monopolies on urban readership will do little to improve political participation—and may even have the opposite effect. Policies should therefore attempt to achieve the following six objectives: (1) support the proliferation of local publications rather than channeling support towards legacy players, (2) ease the transition from print to digital for existing publications, (3) support emerging digital initiatives, (4) expand local CBC coverage, and (5) direct funding to journalists rather than organizations by expanding the model of the Local Journalism Initiative (refer to the Public Policy Forum’s 2017 report, The Shattered Mirror, for a detailed discussion of this initiative).

If the government focuses on these policy objectives, it will be targeting the demonstrable value of print newspapers, rather than entrenching the idealistic and often nostalgic myth of local journalism.

I broadly agree with that, although I could quibble about this or that particular policy. But again, while there’s a wave of the hand to digital in policy objective (3), Andrews goes on to place digital news in a context that seems to ignore the reality of the Halifax Examiner:

The characteristics that made local print journalism successful for much of the 20th century are rarely articulated in full. Studies on the topic often revert to industry tropes of “watchdog” (Williams, Harte & Turner, 2015, p. 209) or “adversarial” (Public Policy Forum, 2017, p. 84) journalism. Bentley (2001), by contrast, attempted to articulate the “special something” (p. 14) that kept print newspapers popular beyond their time, but got little further than “ambience” and “aura” before claiming that the field of media studies “is ripe for a search” (p. 14). He ultimately concluded that the former success of local newspapers may have been “due to the mixture of “legitimate” news and community gossip that allow[ed] readers to fulfill their politically incorrect desire to be “nosy” in a way that is not only accepted but lauded by society” (p. 14).

Considering recent challenges to digital news, Bentley’s quote reads like a warning about the transformative potential of social media. As the so-called ‘gossip’ function of news publications is increasingly filled by social media—which are also acting as the primary news aggregators—the ‘civic’ function of news publications suffers. Social media have filled the gossip gap to displace newspapers as purveyors of pulp. As a result, fact is relegated to the periphery of public discourse. The separation of guilty pleasure and community benefit has produced gossip without fact and news without funding.

It is the rare business model by which pure civic function journalism pays for itself. It has always been the case that, regardless of medium, extraneous entertainments support hard reporting. From classified advertisements to baseball scores to horoscopes, readership has always been sustained by superfluous extras. The internet has merely highlighted this relationship by dividing and individually monetizing these products. This fragmentation deprives pulp content of its serious veneer and serious content of its paying readership. I discuss none of this to glorify the print newspaper nor denigrate social media—on balance, digital technology has improved access to quality information (and misinformation)—but instead to highlight the challenges local civic function journalism will continue to face in its transition away from print newspapers. Understanding the true nature of print newspapers is the first step in this transition. [emphasis added]

Andrews’ has his framing right — the history of local newspapers is indeed much broader than simply doing hard news; all the “pulp” of horoscopes, sports scores, “lifestyle,” comics, and so forth have long been the underpinning for local newspapers, and that’s an important foundational understanding to keep in mind when looking to support news production into the future.

But he seems unaware that there is a successful, growing, digital news-only endeavour right in his university’s home town. And it’s one that will never have advertising, or horoscopes, or gossip, or… well, the Examiner isn’t averse to sports or entertainment, but it doesn’t fit our business model.

Maybe the Halifax Examiner is an outlier, but I don’t think so. There’s Coleman’s The Public Record in Hamilton. In Calgary, there’s The Sprawl, a “pop up news site.” In rural Ontario, The Village. In Newfoundland, The Indy. In Vancouver, The Tyee.

Digital news is emerging seemingly everywhere, and people are showing that they will support hard news reporting with their subscription dollars.

If you believe in digital news, you can subscribe to the Halifax Examiner here.

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Government

No meetings.


In the harbour

04:30: Atlantic Sun, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool
05:00: ZIM Luanda, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
05:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:00: Atlantic Kestrel, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from the Sable Island field
11:00: LMZ Ariel, bulker, arrives at anchorage from New York
11:30: Augusta Luna, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for Bilboa, Spain
12:30: Acadian, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Irving Oil
15:30: ZIM Luanda, container ship, sails for New York
15:30: LMZ Ariel sails for Montreal
16:30: Nolhanava sails for Saint-Pierre
18:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s


Footnotes

I was in a mood yesterday, so rather than continuing with my own reporting project, I took care of some too long-ignored managerial chores (I was facing a deadline of next week). I always appreciate them, but it’s on days like yesterday when I especially value my Examiner colleagues, who continue to produce quality work when I’m a little AWOL. Thanks to the entire team!

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Tim Bousquet

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

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4 Comments

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  1. Minister Furey doesn’t even refer to Glen Assoun as a person. He continually refers to the Assoun “matter”. just another file to him.

    1. Might be time for another demonstration in front of Minister Furey’s office. Things with the Portapique “matter” seemed to move quickly after the demo in support of the inquiry.

  2. On this day in 1788 the Dartmouth Common was granted to the inhabitants of the town. Enjoy the small area that remains.

  3. Maybe it is the other way around – if a city has dynamic politics, that creates news. The upcoming mayoral election is not going to generate too much news, because Savage has done his job well. There is no partisan fight here, no major municipal crisis going on and Whitman is hardly a contender for the role.

    Now imagine if Whitman was the mayor – that would create reams of content.