News

1. Schools to reopen

Bicentennial School in Dartmouth closed abruptly in the spring because of the pandemic. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Public schools will reopen at full capacity in the fall, said Nova Scotia’s Education Minister Zach Churchill following yesterday’s Cabinet meeting,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

“Our plan is basically to get students back to school at 100% capacity with full curriculum,” said Churchill. “We know that’s where they are going to do their best. It’s best for families as well and for the teaching and learning environment. Of course we do have to be responsive to any developing situation with COVID-19. So we do have some fallback positions — either at 50% capacity or all the way down to zero — if the situation necessitates that from a Public Health perspective. Details of what that will look like will be available next Wednesday.”

Click here to read “Schools to open at 100% capacity.”

2. Boosting the tourism industry

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

“Nova Scotians will learn today whether and when Premier Stephen McNeil will ease restrictions to allow people from provinces outside Atlantic Canada to visit without being required to self-isolate for 14 days,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

On a telephone conference call following yesterday’s meeting of Cabinet ministers, the premier said he would be discussing that topic with the three other Atlantic premiers last night. McNeil made it clear Nova Scotia also has the option to “go it alone.”

Although families have been reunited, anecdotal reports from restaurant and hotel owners suggest the easing of the border restrictions has so far done very little to convince people to eat out or book an overnight stay. Nova Scotia Business Minister Geoff MacLellan confirmed the 2020 tourism season has so far been a dud.

“It’s scary what I’m hearing from the tourism industry association and the restaurant and hotel associations,” said MacLellan. “Things are slow and it is extremely worrying.”

Click here to read “In order to prop up tourism industry, the McNeil government considers doing away with the 14-day self-isolation requirement for travellers from the rest of Canada.”

After we published this article, I received notification of today’s COVID-19 update, scheduled for noon. “Details on further easing of restrictions will also be announced,” says the notification.

3. “Conquered people” lawsuit continues

That Alton gas site. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

“The province of Nova Scotia has filed with the court its statement of defence of Alex Cameron’s constructive dismissal lawsuit,” I reported yesterday:

Cameron was the provincial lawyer who argued in court briefs and in oral arguments before the court that the province had no legal obligation to consult with the Sipekne’katik First Nation about the Alton Gas project on the Shubenacadie River. In one brief, Cameron referred to the Mi’kmaq as “conquered people.”

After the contents of Cameron’s arguments became public, Premier Stephen McNeil and then-Justice Minister Diane Whalen stated they disagreed with the argument. Cameron was removed from the file, and then resigned.

Cameron filed a “constructive dismissal” lawsuit against the province, claiming that his job was made untenable and that McNeil and Whalen had defamed him.

Click here to read “Province: Alex Cameron was a rogue employee who ignored orders to give up his ‘conquered people’ argument.”

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The statement of defence provides a detailed narrative counter to Cameron’s claim: that of a lawyer so obsessed with derailing the government’s constitutional duty to consult with First Nations that he disobeyed direct orders and then worked a “back door” through uber bureaucrat Bernie Miller to intervene in the Alton Gas matter, even though Miller had no connection to the file.

Writes lawyer William McDowell in the statement of defence:

Cameron sought to circumvent the clear instructions from Deputy Minister [of Justice Karen] Hudson by engaging Mr. Miller, who was not briefed on the arguments and who would not typically not provide instructions in the circumstances, in an effort to obtain his desired instructions.

The thing is, as McDowell tells it, Miller did intervene, to the point of changing the instructions to Cameron on the day of oral arguments before the court.

None of this has been adjudicated, so who knows? But it strikes me as odd that other people have lost their jobs over the “conquered people” matter — not just Cameron, but, also other highly placed people — and yet by all appearances Miller has suffered no consequences at all and remains the most powerful bureaucrat in Province House, with a direct line to the premier.

I don’t know what accounts for this mojo.

4. Mass murder inquiry

Patricia Perry, an outreach worker and chairperson of the Nova Scotia Transition House Sector Committee.

“Nova Scotia transition house workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are adding to the chorus of voices calling for a public inquiry into the mass shooting murders of April 18-19,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

Members of CUPE’s Nova Scotia Transition House Sector Committee (NSTHSC) issued a media release Thursday morning demanding the provincial and federal governments conduct a “comprehensive, transparent public inquiry” into the tragedy.

“We want the government to be fully transparent in what they’re doing so that they’re not just going back and repeating the work that’s already been done for years,” Patricia Perry, an outreach worker and chairperson of the Nova Scotia Transition House Sector Committee (NSTHSC), said in an interview.

Click here to read “Shelter workers also call for public inquiry into mass murder.”

5. McNeil on mass murder inquiry

Portapique Church Hall. Photo: Joan Baxter

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

At yesterday’s post-cabinet scrum with reporters, Premier Stephen McNeil was asked if he supports a public inquiry into the Portapique mass shooting which would include a feminist analysis.

“My view continues to be that review has to be as broad as possible to deal with all of the issues associated with it and that review will take on many aspects. I’m looking forward to the conclusion of the conversation between the province and the federal government so we can communicate to the families and all Nova Scotians.”

Justice Minister Mark Furey said his comments last week that used the phrase “restorative approach” had been misunderstood by numerous women’s groups that expressed concerns a public inquiry might include “restorative justice.” Furey clarified a “restorative approach” would attempt to avoid causing further grief or harm to family members of victims. It has nothing to do with “restorative justice” within the legal system, which allows the perpetrator of the crime and the victims to meet together with community members to discuss a solution.

6. Furey on Assoun, Rao

Justice Minister Mark Furey. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

This item is also written by Jennifer Henderson.

Furey was also asked what he intended to do about revelations a year ago that the RCMP destroyed evidence related to the appeal of Glen Assoun’s murder conviction. (Assoun’s conviction was subsequently overturned after 17 years in prison, and he is seeking compensation).

“There is an ongoing discussion among federal and provincial governments and legal counsel for Mr. Assoun,” answered Furey. “I’m not going to elaborate on any additional work until such time as those matters are resolved.”

Episode 7 of the Uncover: Dead Wrong podcast looks at the RCMP’s role in the Assoun case. That episode will be published next Wednesday. In Episode 8 of the podcast, published the following Wednesday, Tim Bousquet asks Furey about the case.

Furey also declined yesterday to comment on a question from a journalist who wanted to know if Furey believes the arrest of Santina Rao by Halifax police officers at a WalMart constituted an illegal street check. Furey replied that while the actions captured on video would certainly cause some concern, he didn’t want to comment while the conduct of the police officers is still being investigated by SIRT (Serious Incident Response Team). 

7. Robie towers

The original proposal, left, and the updated one. — Kassner Goodspeed Architects/ZZap Consulting

“The developer behind one of the two big, controversial projects proposed for the corner of Robie Street and Spring Garden Road has tweaked his design, opting for taller towers and more units,” reports Zane Woodford:

ZZapp Consulting submitted an updated design to the municipality on behalf of a numbered company owned by Peter Rouvalis in May, and it was posted online this week.

Rouvalis’ original proposal contemplated towers of 26 and 20 storeys, with about 400 residential units, 32,000 square feet of commercial space, and more than 350 parking spaces.

The towers in the updated proposal would be 29 and 28 storeys, plus mechanical penthouses. The number of units has increased to 577, commercial space to about 43,000 square feet, and the number of parking spaces to more than 500.

Click here to read “Halifax developer updates design of massive Robie Street project with taller towers and more units.”

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Noticed

Some random thoughts on the Examiner:

After a career at the CBC, Jennifer Henderson has been working with the Examiner. She has an enormous reputation, and is as respected as any reporter in town.

And look at all the work she’s been producing! A few weeks ago, there was some story coming up, and Jennifer said to me something along the lines of, “people expect the Examiner to cover this.” She was right — the Examiner has grown to the point that we can’t just slough off major stories like we used to.

Yesterday, there was a post-cabinet scrum, but we were stretched thin. I was in court, dealing with the search warrants related to the mass murder investigation, and Zane Woodford and Yvette d’Entremont were both working on other articles. So Jennifer stepped up. She had personal things going on, but she “attended” (via phone) the scrum, and tweeted out the news that schools would fully reopen, telling me she’d write the article for this morning. I amplified her tweet. It was big news.

But a half-dozen people doubted the news. They told me that no other media reported it, so therefore it couldn’t be true. One person demanded to know our source for this information. Another person implied we were lying.

This is the world we live in now, I guess. A respected reporter reports big news, and it’s called into question.

As we’re human, we will sometimes make mistakes, but we make every effort to correct those mistakes and explain to readers what happened. But this was of a different variety: we were accused of being duplicitous.

Of course Jennifer was correct, and other media have since caught up with our reporting.

Anyway, the Examiner soldiers on. But we remain stretched thin. I’m behind on everything. I’m now editing two very good, but very long, investigative pieces. I’m reporting a handful of stories myself. There is a queue of articles from other reporters on my plate. And today is my last day working on the podcast, so I’m heading back to the studio one final time.

Iris told me the other day that I need to more often prod people to subscribe. It goes against my instincts, but I suppose she’s right.

My hope is that maybe by the fall we can grow to the point that the Examiner can hire a managing editor, which would broaden our coverage, get to stories we’re missing now, and give me the opportunity to do more reporting. To get to that point, we need about a 15% increase in the number of subscribers. So if you haven’t already, please subscribe. Thanks much!


Government

No meetings.


In the harbour

05:30: John J Carrick, tank barge, with Leo A. McArthur, tug, sails from McAsphalt for sea
06:00: ZIM Yokohama, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
06:00: Silver Amanda, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage for inspection from Antwerp
10:00: Silver Amanda moves to Imperial Oil
13:00: IT Integrity, supply vessel, moves from Pier 9 to Bedford Basin for sea trials
13:30: ZIM Yokohama sails for New York
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
18:00: Elka Glory, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea


Footnotes

Gonna talk to the premier today.

Tim Bousquet

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

Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. Went to Sunnyside restaurant today. First time in months. Meat lovers skillet! Waitress teared up when I gave her a twenty buck tip.

  2. Re. Alex Cameron’s court case: It is hard to believe that a competent lawyer would argue that the native people of Nova Scotia were a conquered people unless he was indeed instructed to advance such an argument, or told that he could give it a try. The notion that native people of Nova Scotia were a conquered people is based on the assumption the English made when England “conquered” Nova Scotia from the French that the native people of Nova Scotia were French subjects. Native people regarded themselves as allies of the French, not subjects of the French. It is my understanding that the treaties of the early 1760s between the native people of the province/colony were treaties of friendship, not submission.

  3. I’m not all that surprised tourism numbers haven’t jumped.

    1) It’s only been two weeks. It typically takes more time than that to book a vacation of any scale.
    2) I don’t know about other people, but the challenges of child care during COVID means I burned all my vacation time for the year. I suspect many other people have a similar situation.
    3) Even if people do still have vacation time, we’re currently in the phase of getting everything back up and running. This is precisely the time when many people CAN’T take vacation. I know I’m pretty swamped with work because last week was the week every one of our clients woke up and decided we should get some work done.
    4) It still feels super uncomfortable. Going to a restaurant right now is still a relatively stressful experience.

    Opening up the borders isn’t going to change 1-3, and it’s going to make 4 worse. Plus, will it cause PEI and NB (our easiest tourism links) to close back down to us? Seems to me like we should spend another month refining the Atlantic Bubble.

  4. Re: Jennifer Henderson

    News flash: Breaking news first reported by women and/or minority journalists is routinely viewed as “suspect” until confirmed by white male “authorities.” The price we pay for our excellence. Honed on the sharpening stone of having always been compelled to work two, three, four times harder than our mediocre counterparts.

    This from a Black woman reporter (that would be me) once accused of plagiarism by a white male hack at the Chronicle Herald.

  5. In 2010 the Dexter government funded 39 HRP officers and 12 RCMP officers in HRM. There were 20 officers for street crime units. Cost to HRM taxpayers was $0.

  6. Who serously thinks that easing travel restrictions will encourage anyone living here to dine in a restaurant or book an overnight stay away from home?

  7. Ok, we made it through the initial Covid19 onslaught (at least the lucky ones did) and brought the numbers way down, so let’s see if we can screw it up.

  8. re: Jennifer Henderson. I saw the tweet you’d retweeted. Didn’t know she’d joined you. Sent news to friend with kids in school, who freaked out and started looking for more info. Couldn’t find anything at first, eventually saw someone say that Churchill had said this to some in the media. But we never doubted it was true. Why? Because Jennifer Henderson.

    (though an immediate second tweet indicating it was direct from the horse’s mouth would have saved us a bit of time)