News

1. “Expert panel” is toothless

Reports Jennifer Henderson:

After the deaths of three former nursing home residents linked to badly infected bedsores, months of mounting complaints through the Protection of Persons in Care Act, and published news stories from family members alleging nursing home staff are overworked and residents’ care is often neglected, Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey has announced the hiring of an expert advisory panel to recommend how to improve the quality of care residents receive in nursing homes and residential care facilities.

The panel’s mandate from the Health Department ends with the following caveat or caution: “Recommendations should be feasible and sustainable, authentic to the realities and complexities of long term care in Nova Scotia.” Translation: don’t make any changes that are radical or would cost a lot of money.

Click here to read “The nursing home ‘expert advisory panel’ is prohibited from recommending radical or costly changes.”

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2. The Whalley trial

John Whalley

Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator is doing a deep, deep dive into John Whalley’s constructive dismissal suit against the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, which was heard before the court from August 20 to August 24. As Campbell explains in her introduction:

On the surface, it was as billed — a constructive dismissal case in which the plaintiff, Whalley, the former economic development manager with the municipality, argued that the removal of all responsibility for port development from his file in May of 2015 amounted to a significant breach of his employment contract.

Scratch that rather dry, legal veneer, though, and Whalley’s suit was something quite different — it was a peek into the inner workings of the administration of CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke during a very controversial period that included the sale of Archibald’s Wharf, the McKeil deal and other strange doings around port development. (I trust that, as a Spectator reader, you are familiar with both. If you are new to the story, I suggest you make a cup of coffee, type “McKeil” or “Archibald’s Wharf” into the search bar on the home page and read everything that turns up.)

I hope justice will be done in the actual legal case (I always hope justice will be done, which should probably go without saying) but I won’t lie to you: my real interest this week was in this deeper current; this unnamed “something” the CBRM’s solicitor, Tony Mozvik of The Breton Law Group, feared the trial was “turning into; this attempt to, as Mozvik put it, “embarrass people”; this trip into “the weeds” of the McKeil deal and the sale of Archibald’s Wharf. In short, this possibility of finding out what was really going on at the Civic Centre during a period so puzzling it made me start caring about local municipal politics.

I woke up an hour early this morning with the aim of reading all six parts of Campbell’s account of the trial, but only made it through the first three parts before I had to start on this Morning File. Which is just as well because Campbell will write additional parts in the series.

Campbell writes as if she’s explaining it to a Fifth Grader, which is exactly what I needed as while I watch from afar, I’m not exactly up on all things CBRM. Through her reporting, Campbell gives important historic context to port development efforts in particular.

Part 1 is basically an overview of court procedures and the law around constructive dismissal. It’s worth reading if you’re unfamiliar with either.

Part 2 gets into the trial itself, and the testimony of former CAO Jerry Ryan. Campbell relates how the CBRM was formed in the first place, and how economic development was central in policy makers’ minds at the time. Specifically:

Ryan noted that at that time, a group of concerned citizens had recently published Urgent Agenda, a document outlining the economic challenges facing the Island. Ryan said his position was that the document was there and the new government “would have to deal with it.” To his way of thinking, economic development would be “the most important role this new government has to play.” Asked by Mitchell if this was a “new” or “different” role for the municipal government, Ryan replied, “Very different.”

I was curious about Urgent Agenda and in searching for further information stumbled upon this reference from a book called The Loom of Change: Weaving a New Economy on Cape Breton 2

Between 1990 and 1994, a highly organized and intensive attempt to develop a strategic economic development plan was carried out in that area of Cape Breton which now falls within the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The goals of this initiative, called Urgent Agenda, were to address the community’s need for an appropriate structure and an open effective process for economic planning and to come to agreement on new economic directions for the community.

Urgent Agenda was — wait for it —  “an initiative of New Dawn Enterprises.”

I suggested in Part I that Mayor Cecil Clarke was a presence during the Whalley trial, even though he wasn’t actually present, and the same can be said of New Dawn: Whalley now works for the organization; its president, Rankin MacSween, ran against Cecil Clarke for mayor not once but twice (as Mozvik reminded the court at least twice in my hearing); and (as I now realize) Ryan was referring to it when he cited the Urgent Agenda initiative as an inspiration.

But there was another familiar presence hidden in this “Urgent Agenda” reference. The Loom of Change (which was published by the Cape Breton University press in 2003) continues:

[A]fter four years of renewed and dedicated effort, with the reports of all of the sectoral planning groups in hand, the initiative once again came up against the need for operating funds to move to the next stage. Already under pressure to accept political appointees in exchange for federal support, Urgent Agenda’s management committee was notified by the county warden that the whole initiative would no longer be under its control. The members of the management committee were asked to resign and a new politically active chairperson was appointed by the warden. The Urgent Agenda initiative was then reconstituted as the Cape Breton County Economic Development Authority [CBCEDA], ostensibly accountable to the council of the newly amalgamated municipality but in fact answerable to neither the municipal council nor the community.

I consulted the minutes from the 14 June 1995 CBRM “Council/Staff Orientation” meeting and sure enough, there was a delegation from CBCEDA — including its board chair, CBRM Councilor Ray Kavanaugh, and its executive director, Eileen Lannon Oldford — presenting to council.

As you will probably recall, Cape Breton County Economic Development Authority (CBCEDA) employed Clarke for a year after he’d left provincial politics to run, unsuccessfully, in the federal riding of Sydney-Victoria. CBCEDA lost its federal funding in 2013 and morphed into Business Cape Breton (BCB), which continued to be led by Lannon Oldford.

Clarke left CBCEDA to run for mayor and once in office, declared the organization (now BCB) CBRM’s “economic development arm” and (as we’ll see when we get to Whalley’s own testimony) concerned himself personally with ensuring the organization had funding, but right up until its recent demise, one could fairly have said of BCB that it was “ostensibly accountable to the council of the…amalgamated municipality but in fact answerable to neither the municipal council nor the community.”

There really is something to be said for knowing your history, isn’t there?

Part 3 deals with the testimony of Whalley, and zeroes in on port development issues. Really, you have to read the whole thing yourself to understand all the ins and outs, but I’m beginning to get the gist of just how delusional the collective CBRM mind is on port development, and how certain figures have understood they can use the collective delusion for their personal benefit.

And that’s worth understanding because it’s how economic development works everywhere: seemingly everyone wants “economic development,” but it’s an undefined and amorphous term that allows all sorts of self-serving agendas and private interests to take control of what should be public policy. The details in Cape Breton shed light on what happens at Halifax City Hall or at Province House. 

I’ll have more to say about Campbell’s series later this week. But you can read Part IPart II, and Part III.

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
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3. Tuition

“Nova Scotia universities and colleges are charging some of the highest tuition fees in Canada for the 2018-19 academic year, according to new Statistics Canada figures released Wednesday,” reports Taryn Grant for StarMetro Halifax:

Nova Scotia is the most expensive spot in the country to get an undergraduate education in three of the top four fields: humanities; social and behavioural sciences, and legal studies; and physical and life sciences and technologies.

The average tuition cost in the province for each of those fields, respectively, is $7,113, $7,162 and $7,831, whereas the national average in each field is $5,773, $5,893 and $6,395, respectively.

In the fourth field — business, management and public administration — Nova Scotia institutions charge an average of $7,782, again above the national average of $7,409. The fee is second only to Ontario, where average fees are $10,570.

4. FOIPOP site

The province has taken baby steps to restoring the Freedom of Information website. Yesterday, it re-launched the page that allows anyone to see publicly released responses to FOI requests made since April 1.

That’s interesting and worthwhile, but the full functionality of the old (pre-security failure) site is not restored. We’re still unable to file requests electronically or pay the perfunctory $5 search fee online.

This is the biggest hassle for using the Freedom of Information law: You have to find a chequebook (I think the Halifax Examiner chequebook is somewhere in my office, under a bunch of documents; I haven’t used it since the Middle Ages), then print up the required form (for me, that means a trip to the library for the public printer, 10 cents a page), and then the long search for a envelope and stamp (who has stamps anymore?), which usually entails going to the actual post office. Then, you have to keep checking the physical mailbox for the returned documents. I check my PO box about once a week, but most people will use the obnoxious “community mailboxes” down the road; I’ve checked mine three times since they installed it two years ago.

Maybe they’ll get the full FOIPOP site running before I retire.

5. Torture

A normal (not for solitary confinement) jail cell in the renovated north wing of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. Photo: Halifax Examiner

One of the responses to a FOI request listed on the new FOI webpage mentioned above is the response to a member of the public who requested:

The number of inmates in Cape Breton Correctional Facility and Southwest Nova Correctional Facility combined that went to segregation cells for longer than 10 days for each year from 2012 to 2018.

People have their own specific interests when making FOI requests, so I don’t know why the requester didn’t ask for the same stats from the Burnside jail.

The Justice Department didn’t track the use of solitary confinement until February 2017, but the individual jails do have such stats — but only back to 2015. Those figures are as follows:

CBCF
2015 (April 1 to December 31): 45
2016: 62
2017 (through February 18, 2017): 39

SNSCF
2015: none
2016: 8
2017: 5

The release notes that “these are not necessarily unique individuals (i.e. a person could have a period of segregation more than once in the time frame or in more than one facility).”

This is, in a word, torture. And the jails are increasingly using such torture as a control mechanism.

The increase in the Cape Breton jail is particularly alarming. We only have stats for the first 49 days of 2017; maybe that was a problematic time at the jail, but at those levels of segregation, the jail was on track to use excessive solitary confinement 290 times in 2017.

And these are the stats for extraordinary confinements exceeding 10 days; they miss the use of solitary confinement for shorter periods.

I’m often looking at habeas applications to the court from prisoners who are objecting to being placed in solitary confinement for bogus reasons or for excessive periods. But after the application is filed with the court the jail releases the prisoner from solitary confinement, and the judge has nothing to rule on: the issue is moot. And so we have this dance going on where prison administrations basically torture prisoners for as long as they can get away with it, but once an application is sent to a judge, they release the prisoner. This happens so often I’ve stopped reporting on it; I now realize that’s a mistake and I should at least start keeping stats on it.

6. Electoral Boundaries

Bill Turpin attended a required consultation by the Electoral Boundaries Commission, at which no reporters were present. The commission rolled out the soon-to-be-released draft of its recommendations. Writes Turpin:

… the commission’s draft proposal is to restore four new seats to the Legislative Assembly.

Three “Acadian” seats would be resurrected: Clare, Argyle and Richmond. All were vaporized by the NDP in 2012. Preston, too, would return. These changes are in response to complaints from Acadians and African Nova Scotians.

HRM could get two more seats…


Government

City

Thursday

Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — absolutely nothing on the agenda.

Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, Mic Mac Amateur Aquatic Club Hall, Dartmouth) — among other things, the council will be looking at a proposal for a seven-storey building at 651 Portland Hills Drive.

Friday

Cogswell District pop-up – Bedford (Friday, 4pm, Sunnyside Mall) — “Learn about the Cogswell District project. Project staff want to discuss the plan, share information, and get your feedback on the design of public spaces.”

If you go, tell them the whole thing is a waste of time and money if they don’t blow up the casino and the two parking garages.

Province

Thursday

Legislature sits (Thursday, 11am, Province House) — pomp! and circumstance! Be there or be… er, not so bored.

Friday

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Anti-Black Racism, “Afro-Phobia” and Blood: Theorizing Black Health Studies in Canada (Thursday, 11am, Room 2L7, Tupper Link) — OmiSoore Dryden from Thorneloe University will speak.

Putting Trials on Trial (Thursday, 6:30pm, Halifax Central Library) — Elaine Craig will talk about her book, Putting Trials on Trial: Sexual Assault and the Failure of the Legal Profession.

Friday

$p$-adic Valuations of Certain Colored Partition Functions (Friday, 3pm, Room 227, Chase Building) — Maciej Ulas from Jagiellonian University, Krakow, will speak. His abstract:

Let $$G(x)=\prod_{n=0}^{\infty}\frac{1}{(1-x^{2^{n}})}$$ be the generating function for the binary partition function. For each $m\in\mathbb{N}_{+}$, the $n$-th coefficient in the power series expansion $$G(x)^{m}=\sum_{n=0}^{\infty}b_{m}(n)x^{n}$$ counts the number of representations of the integer $n$ as a sum of powers of two, where each summand can have one among $m$ colors.

In the first part of the talk, we present the exact value of the 2-adic valuation of the number $b_{m}(n)$, with $m=2^{s}-1$, – a result which generalizes the well known expression concerning the 2-adic valuation of the values of the binary partition function introduced by Euler and studied by Churchhouse and others.

Next, we consider the power series $F(x)=\frac{1}{1-x}G(x)$, which represents the generating function of the number of binary partitions of even integers. Then, for given $m\in\mathbb{Z}$ we work with the sequence $(c_{m}(n))_{n\in\mathbb{N}}$, where $$F(x)^{m}=\sum_{n=0}^{\infty}c_{m}(n)x^{n}.$$

The number $c_{m}(n), m\in\mathbb{N}_{+}$ has, a natural combinatorial interpretation too. It counts the number of binary representations of $n$ such that the part equal to $1$ can have one among $2m$ colors and other parts can be colored by $m$ colors. We show that for each $m\in\mathbb{Z}\setminus\{0\}$, the sequence $(\nu_{2}(c_{m}(n)))_{n\in\mathbb{N}}$ is bounded. In fact, for $m$ even, we have $\nu_{2}(c_{m}(n))=\nu_{2}(m)+1$ for $n\geq 1$. Moreover, for $m$ odd and $n\in\mathbb{N}_{+}$ we have $\nu_{2}(c_{m}(n))\in\{1,\nu_{2}(m+1)+1\}$.

Finally, we describe some results concerning colored $p$ – ary partitions and state several questions and conjectures.

2018 Summer Student Research Scholars’ Poster Presentations (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1020, Kenneth Rowe Building) — from the event description:

Imhotep’s Legacy Academy (ILA), in partnership with the Dalhousie University faculties of engineering, health, science, and medicine, provides $6,500 and $5,000 scholarships to university students of African heritage to conduct summer research under the supervision of a DAL faculty researcher. Student researchers will present posters detailing their intriguing summer activity.

RSVP by September 4, 2018 to admin.imhotep@dal.ca

Saint Mary’s

Friday

#callresponse (Friday, 8pm, SMU Art Gallery) — from the event listing:

This show begins with a series of five local art commissions by Indigenous women and artists whose home territories are located in the Canadian nation state, including Christi Belcourt, Maria Hupfield, Ursula Johnson, Tania Willard, and Laakkuluk Williamson-Bathory. Shining a light on work that is both urgent and long-term, #callresponse is structured as a connective support system that strategically centres Indigenous women across multiple platforms.


In the harbour

Midnight: Atlantic Huron, bulker, sails from Pier 9 for Cote-Sainte-Catherine, Quebec

The cruise ship Crystal Serenity at Pier 22. Photo: Halifax Examiner

7am: Crystal Symphony, cruise ship with up to 1,095 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Bar Harbor

Rotterdam. Photo: Halifax Examiner

7am: Rotterdam, cruise ship, with up to 1,685 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney
7:20am: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
9am: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
11am: Skogafoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
11:30am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
3pm: Onego Trader, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for sea
3:30pm: Rotterdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor
4:30pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport back to Pier 41
6;30pm: Crystal Symphony, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Charlottetown
8pm: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England


Footnotes

I’ll likely be publishing something later today.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Taryn Grant’s story overlooks a fact so central to the problem of high tuitions at Nova Scotia universities as to mislead readers.

    Much of the funding for higher education in Canada comes in the form of transfers from the Ottawa to individual provinces. Ottawa allocates these transfers on a per-capita basis, rather than a per-student basis. This has the effect of punishing provinces with universities that attract a lot of students, and rewarding those with university systems that are less successful at attracting students.

    Nova Scotia universities punch above their weight in terms of attracting students. We have the highest (or among the highest) per-capita post-secondary enrolment in Canada. This means our per-capita allowances are spread among a much larger group of students. This is a key cause of higher tuitions here, one that is outside provincial control. (NS governments have protested this unfair system for half a century, to no avail.)

    We also attract thousands of students from other provinces. The subsidies for these students go not to Nova Scotia but to their home provinces, where they support universities that failed to attract or retain those students.

    We are a province with relatively high taxes and low incomes. Many worthy purposes compete for priority in our provincial budget. We don’t have the resources to compensate for the unfairness of federal funding. Simplistic demands for the province to throw more money at tuition subsidies are unrealistic and unhelpful.

  2. ““Solitary confinement is a harsh measure which is contrary to rehabilitation, the aim of the penitentiary system,” he stressed in presenting his first interim report on the practice, calling it global in nature and subject to widespread abuse.

    Indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement in excess of 15 days should also be subject to an absolute prohibition, he added, citing scientific studies that have established that some lasting mental damage is caused after a few days of social isolation.

    “Considering the severe mental pain or suffering solitary confinement may cause, it can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment when used as a punishment, during pre-trial detention, indefinitely or for a prolonged period, for persons with mental disabilities or juveniles,” he warned.” .

    your source for calling segregation/solitary confinement torture. I think anyone who has really been tortured would disagree.

    1. It seems like our jails completely lack meaningful carrots to go with the sticks. Even the famously nice Scandinavian system has very real sticks – the apartment-like prisons with attached vocational schools are only for prisoners who behave well. They have prisons with conditions much more like Burnside as well. If you have done something very serious you start in the bad prison and can eventually graduate to the good one. If your crime was less serious, you start in the good prison, but can lose the privilege.