In the harbour
1. P3 schools
The province advised Nova Learning today, July 28, that it will purchase two of their nine schools in July 2018 after the leases expire. The schools are O’Connell Drive Elementary School in Porters Lake and Riverside Education Centre in Milford, Hants Co.
Government was required to advise Nova Learning of its decision to purchase, surrender or extend the lease of the two schools prior to July 31, 2016.
“Both the Halifax and Chignecto-Central Regional School Boards identified these schools as ones that need to stay open to meet the educational needs of students living in the surrounding communities,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey.
“In these two cases, purchasing is more affordable than extending the leases and will provide a long-term solution to providing schools for the area.”
The decision to purchase instead of extending the lease for these two schools will save the province about $20 million. The province will invest $3.95 million to purchase O’Connell Drive Elementary School and $8.95 million to purchase Riverside Education Centre.
There are seven other Nova Learning schools with decision notice dates ranging from July 2017 to August 2018. Altogether there are 39 P3 schools in the province. Negotiations are ongoing with the developers for the remaining schools.
“We will continue to negotiate with the best interests of students, families and taxpayers in mind,” said Ms. Casey.
Scotia Learning reached an agreement with the province in June to extend the decision notice dates on its schools to October 31, 2016.
For the Examineradio podcast, I had an extensive discussion with Christine Saulnier, the Nova Scotia Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, about P3 schools. You can listen to that conversation here.
“The Nova Scotia government spent more than $250,000 in a one-year period on public opinion polls and surveys, raising concerns about transparency and cost,” reports Aly Thompson for the Canadian Press:
According to documents obtained by The Canadian Press through access to information legislation, the Nova Scotia government commissioned 28 polls, surveys and focus groups worth $252,875 between May 1, 2015, and April 28, 2016.
The topics of the reports run the gamut from assessing activity on the Nova Scotia government website to asking the public how often they pay for services “under the table.”
Predictably, Kevin Lacey, the most over-quoted person in Atlantic Canada, is against polling. But:
Howard Ramos, a professor of sociology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said it’s not uncommon for governments to conduct public opinion polls. He said consulting with the public is an important aspect of the government’s mandate.
“If you’re a government, you want to make sure you’re responding to the needs and interests of your population,” Ramos said in a recent phone interview. “That’s what democracy is about. It’s about serving the people.”
But Ramos said the province should consider releasing the polls, surveys and focus groups publicly through its open data initiative.
“Transcontinental Inc. says it’s shutting down a printing plant in Dartmouth, resulting in about 55 layoffs, by mid-August,” reports the Canadian Press:
The company says it’s selling most of its commercial printing line of business operated from its plant in Dartmouth to Advocate Printing and Publishing Co. Ltd., an independent printer and publisher in Atlantic Canada.
Jacques Gregoire, president of Transcontinental Printing, says the decision was made due to the shifting landscape for some commercial products.
The newspaper and flyer side of the business continues out of Transcon’s Ragged Lake plant.
4. Dump fire
“A total of 20 charges have been laid against the operator of a Kings County, N.S., construction and demolition site, after a massive fire in late March,” reports the CBC:
The charges have been filed against Shaffer Enterprises and a numbered company, both operated by Derrick Shaffer, at the dump in Kentville.
Those charges include 13 violations under the Environment Act, and another violation that falls under air quality regulations. There are six charges that “went to a numbered company that dealt with the transfer station under the Environment Act,” said Environment Minister Margaret Miller.
The charges relate to a fire that broke out at the facility near Kentville on March 22, prompting Environment Canada to issue an air quality warning for Kings County.
Thick black smoke billowed from the fire for almost four days. It was a major effort for fire crews to keep water on the smouldering pile of debris
5. Wild Kingdom
“After decades of searching the woods and waterways, volunteers with the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute (MTRI) have found a fourth pocket of Blanding’s turtles in Nova Scotia,” reports Jonathan Riley for the Digby Courier:
Blanding’s turtles are endangered in Nova Scotia and before this discovery researchers knew of three populations totalling maybe 350 adults.
It was a trout fisherman who called MTRI last fall to say he’d seen Blanding’s turtles and Ribbon snakes in another spot.
This spring a team of volunteers from MTRI started looking again in earnest.
“It’s easier in the spring before the vegetation and leaves comes out,” says Harold Clapp of Smith’s Cove, who along with his wife Diane have been looking for Blanding’s turtles since 2006.
The couple have done visual surveys and set out sardine-laden traps on 24 different water bodies all across southwestern Nova Scotia – and still, in ten years of constant searching, they only managed to find a few scattered turtles.
And then one day they found one. The next day they found four.
“Finding even one new turtle is a big deal, we’ve done a lot of looking and it doesn’t happen very often,” said Harold. “For a while we were finding a new one every day or so, it was very exciting.”
And by following the turtles, the researchers find more turtles.
By the end of June, the researchers had counted 31 turtles in this new population.
1. Marilla Stephenson
“There are so many angles to this Marilla Stephenson story that I don’t know where to begin,” writes Graham Steele, noting that Premier Stephen McNeil has been “petulant and defensive” about hiring the former Chronicle Herald columnist.
Steele goes on to discuss some of the angles to the story before zeroing in on the Freedom of Information issue:
This story would not have come to light were it not for an FOI request filed by the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU).
[But] page after page of material is hidden from public view. Instead of getting the whole story, we get only glimpses.
What are we not being told? Who is being protected by all this redaction? Is the deletion of whole swaths of a document in the public interest or in the government’s political interest?
Based on my experience with FOI, on both sides of the legislative aisle, I’m willing to bet it’s the latter.
It’s the very secrecy — combined with the premier’s petulant tone — that makes me think there’s more to this story than we’ve yet to see.
Stephen Archibald went to Brazil in 2006. Surprisingly, despite the incredible beauty he captured with his camera, he has no desire to return.
3. Low-income bus passes
“The City of Calgary is offering huge discounts on transit passes for residents who live in poverty,” writes Robert Devet:
People who make $12,000 or less per year will pay only $5.15 per month. The price increases along a sliding scale as people earn more. Calgary residents pay full price once their income exceeds the poverty line.
Devet goes on to explore why Calgary can offer such stiff reductions in fare prices and Halifax can’t. The basic reason is that the Albertan provincial government is working with the city.
My thinking on this is evolving. I’ve long thought that bus fares were necessary in order to get some level of buy-in from riders, and (weirdly) to make transit more appealing to middle-class commuters. But those fares are obviously out of reach for many, many people. I’ve never liked means testing for government programs — it turns what should be basic government services into welfare programs, at least in the mind of much of the public, and therefore threatens the continued existence of the programs in a the general anti-tax, anti-government atmosphere. If a government program or government service is worth providing, then it’s worth providing with no user fee attached. The best vehicle for “means testing” is a progressive income tax coupled with a wealth tax.
4. Cranky letter of the day
When I read a recent headline (‘Glace Bay is the worst of all,’ Cape Breton Post, July 12), I felt like I was kicked in the stomach.
The article was about littering in parking lots, around fast-food outlets, in fields and along shorelines, but in my opinion that certainly wasn’t what that headline stated, or the message it implied.
What a terrible impression of Glace Bay that gave online readers. I’m sure there will be a surge of visitors to see the worst of towns.
I commend and thank those who cleaned those areas, and also the CBRM for reducing the number of unsightly properties. But the job isn’t finished. Getting rid of those eye-sores would certainly improve the appearance of any area. With unsightly property by-laws, a lucrative travel allowance for councillors and obvious culprits, how long should those properties exist?
Comparing Glace Bay to Louisbourg and Membertou is ridiculous. Glace Bay has 100 miles of streets and a lot of fields, off-road areas and shorelines. How many miles of streets or shorelines do Louisbourg and Membertou have?
The greatest source of curb litter is clearly fast food packaging with Tim Horton products being the most abundant. The more outlets you have, the more curb litter you have. Glace Bay has four outlets (two Tim Hortons) plus several roadside venders. How many do Louisbourg and Membertou have?
I walk, bike or drive throughout this town I love daily. I thoroughly enjoy its plebian values, lifestyle and lack of pretentiousness. This is a former blue-collar mining town in the midst of a difficult transition, but succeeding.
The Table Head area is an excellent example of such a transition. The change in this town has been absolutely amazing. So many more residents now take pride in their properties and work hard to keep them clean. If you drive along Brookside, South, Main or Reserve streets, Sterling and Phalen Rds. Maple Ave. or Steele’s Hill, etc., you will see it for yourself. That heading was very insulting to those people.
The first stage of the leadership cycle is identifying a problem. The group certainly did that. However, when it came to stage two – generating a solution – they came up emptier than a bottle of cheap wine on Sunday morning with the usual solutions of education and fines mentioned (the 11th political commandant, pass the buck).
And how will we educate those wonderful examples of citizenship? It’s difficult to find a good hickory baseball bat anymore? If this has been reoccurring, for some time, in the same areas how many charges have been laid?
Since they offered no real solutions, please consider the following:
- Encourage coffee shops to use mugs at their outlets.
- Encourage drive-through patrons to use refill containers, with a buy five refills and get one free promotion.
- Make a deal with recycling depots to pay a penny or two for all identifiable paper and plastic products.
- Have the CBRM waste department collect those products from the recycling depots, reimburse the recycle depots, and bill those business outlets to recover the costs.
Al Moore, Glace Bay
No public meetings.
Malware (11:30am, Shiftkey Labs, Goldberg Computer Science Building, Dalhousie) — Natalia Stakhanova, from the University of New Brunswick, will speak on “Know Your Enemy: Authorship Attribution in Malware Domain.”
Saint Mary’s University Sobey School of Business Executive MBA Program (Peter Kelly is a proud graduate) is organizing a “a three-day, multi-sector business-to-business trade mission” to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. It’s actually a 10-day trip, however:
Three (3) days are dedicated to Ho Chi Minh Company/Mission Delegate meetings, while the remaining days are dedicated to company visits, thought leaders/speakers and cultural activities.
I’ve always wanted to meet a thought leader, but could never find one. I guess they’re all in Asia.
Scheduled as of 7am:
5:30am: Valiant Ace, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Bremerhaven, Germany
11am: Boheme, car carrier, sails from Pier 31 for sea
11:15am: Valiant Ace, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre
6am: Maersk Palermo, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from Montreal
Long weekend. Get some sun.
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transit should be free (aka tax funded) its a public service. and put the damn railway back so you can get from Sidney to Yarmouth via train. marilla s can start the fundraising by giving up her made-up job.
It’s odd that Halifax can’t offer cheaper low-income transit passes. Whenever I comment to my superiors that we are losing thousands of dollars each year with ferry transfers, instead of fixing the system (which is a 1 sentence memo, btw) I’m told that we aren’t in the money making business, we are in the people carrying business!
Why is Kevin Lacey even consulted on anything?
I am a taxpayer and his federation does NOT reflect any of my values.
Could the learned stooges in the media please make that known to the viewers and readers next time he apes some right wing thinktank?