1. Lobster fishery at a crossroads
This morning, we’ve published the first of a three-part series by Linda Pannozzo and Joan Baxter that looks at the lobster fishery, the Indigenous move to claim their court-affirmed treaty rights to a “moderate livelihood,” and the response from some non-Indigenous fishers, all in the context of the looming threat that the entire fishery could land in control of corporate interests.
Click here to read “Part 1: It’s been 20 years since the Marshall decision, so why is there still no moderate livelihood fishery?”
Unfortunately, I know that because I posted this story on Facebook, I’ll be spending much of my day deleting racist comments.
We left this in front of the paywall so everyone can read it. But of course it takes considerable resources, both time and money, to produce this work. If you support in-depth explanatory journalism of this sort, please subscribe.
2. Apology, done wrong
Writes Stephen Kimber:
Premier Stephen McNeil was right to apologize for our justice system’s long history of racism, but he was wrong in his father-knows-best response to fixing it. It has been ever thus.
Click here to read “Good intentions, abysmal execution, lost opportunity.”
3. Liberal leadership
Iain Rankin will be making “an announcement regarding the Nova Scotia Liberal Leadership race” today at 1:30pm, presumably to throw his hat in the ring. Despite our deer-in-the-headlights file photo, Rankin is among the smartest and most forthcoming of the potential Leaders.
I understand that Randy Delorey is also slated to make an announcement today, but the folks around the Examiner water cooler are betting that he’s going to announce that he’s not in the running. We’ll see.
4. Ratepayers overcharged
As Jennifer Henderson reported in 2017, the Utilities and Review Board (UARB) has been looking at the complex relationship between the publicly regulated Nova Scotia Power (NSP) and its parent company, the unregulated Emera, Inc. At the time, UARB lawyer said the intertwined transactions between the two companies was “rife with ongoing conflict of interest situations.”
Particularly vexing was the lease of both companies’ Water Street headquarters. At the time of a 2016 audit, NSP leased part of the building to two Emera entities — Emera Power (which buys and sells fuel for power plants) and Newfoundland (which operates the Maritime Link).
The audit has blacked out or redacted information that would show how much rent NS Power is charging the two affiliate companies. The report does indicate it’s the same amount the UARB had earlier approved for charging the parent company (Emera) to rent office space from NS Power. Still, NS Power is required to get UARB approval to make sure other Emera companies are paying fair market value and not getting a sweetheart deal.
But Emera was subleasing part of its leased space back to NSP. As detailed in a UARB issued last month:
NS Power has confirmed it paid Emera to sublease some of this space at the rate Emera was required to pay for compliance with the 1H Decision. This rate exceeded fair market value, which was $27.50 in 2017. NS Power indicated the subleased space was occupied by various shared service employees. NS Power explained that while it understood the ACOC [Affiliate Code of Conduct], it was not aware of any other manner to structure shared service cost allocations that did not leave Emera absorbing the difference.
The Board expects NS Power would not have permitted shared services to occupy portions of the unregulated space without sufficient consideration of the consequences. Simpler options existed. The intent of Emera’s occupancy is for Emera, not ratepayers, to cover the costs of 24,000 sq. ft. of the 110,000 sq. ft. Nothing in the Board’s 1H Decision introduced a pricing exception that would permit NS Power to pay an affiliate more than fair market value.
NS Power confirmed that Emera revised the rent being charged related to “Emera space occupied by NS Power in Lower Water Street” (Block C) from $67.34 to $56.76 per square foot. This remains more than the $27.50 NS Power used as fair market value for Block A & B. The Board questioned the use of $27.50 per square foot for rent paid to the affiliate…
NS Power provided detail of the rental transactions with affiliates for 2015, 2016, and 2017 where NS Power indicated $27.50 was fair market value for rental purposes. The Board accepted $27.50 to be fair market value and in its April 4, 2019 decision letter directed NS Power to limit all rent being paid to affiliates to not exceed fair market value. Based on the information before the Board in the 2019 Affiliate Report, there was no evidence to support an increase in fair market value.
The Affiliate Code of Conduct is a framework governing these transactions, transactions and parameters are expected to be applied and followed on a consistent basis. Based on the evidence before it, the Board directs NS Power to limit the rent it pays an affiliate for Class A space to a fair market value of $27.50. As such, NS Power is directed to refund rent paid in excess of fair market value to customers related to the 2019 year. NS Power is directed to calculate this directly on the square footage of office space at the rate applicable to that office space compared to $27.50.
The UARB decision does not provide a total amount that ratepayers were overcharged, but we can do the calculation: Emera was charging NSP $56.76/ square foot, when it should have been charging the fair market price of $27.50/sf, a difference of $29.26/sf. At 24,000 square feet, that’s $702,240 per year. But it’s possible that some “common areas” will be excluded from that calculation.
Nova Scotia Power has until October 9 to file a plan with the UARB for refunding the money to ratepayers.
5. Nancy King
Cape Breton Post reporter Nancy King died Friday.
I never met King personally, but I found her work to be everything you’d want from a local reporter: dependable, in-depth, and provided with historic context. Moreover, judging by the tributes of those who worked with her and loved her, she seemed to be a lively, congenial friend and colleague.
No meetings Monday or Tuesday.
Community Services (Tuesday, 10am, Province House) — Adult Service Centres – Community-based Vocational Programs For Adults with Disabilities. With Tracy Taweel, Community Services; Bob Bennett, Summer Street Adult Services Centre; Mike Townsend, DIRECTIONS Council for Vocational Services Society.
Thinking Outside the Box: Creating and Working in Audio With Beverley Cooper (Monday, 10:05am) — with writer, dramaturge, and teacher Beverley Cooper. Info and Zoom link here.
Matter (Tuesday, 12pm) — architecture lecture with Joep Storms from TUDelft and Michaela Büsse, Basel. More info and Zoom link here.
Vulnerabilities exposed and the opportunity to respond: Reflections on public libraries in the time of COVID‑19 (Tuesday, 5:30pm) — with Åsa Kachan. More info and link here. From the listing:
When COVID-19 necessitated the sudden closure of public libraries in March, libraries were faced with an unprecedented challenge. After years of bringing growing numbers of people together within our spaces to learn, share, laugh and even dance, gathering had suddenly become dangerous. From her own experience, and with stories from across the county, Åsa Kachan will share the remarkable ways public libraries have responded to our communities’ urgent need for accurate information, entertainment, technology and connection in a time of COVID.
E-Commerce, Omnichannel and the Future of Retailing (Monday, 10am) — a webinar in which senior retail executives from Giant Tiger, Sobeys, Pax Canada, Staples, and Well.ca will talk about “the shift to an online world and the importance of creating a seamless experience for today’s consumers between physical and digital retail.” Info here.
How to Spot Fake News (Tuesday, 11am) — webinar info here.
In the harbour
02:00: East Coast, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for Charlottetown
03:45: MSC Weser, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Montreal
05:00: YM Evolution, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
10:30: Mediterranean Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
15:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
16:30: YM Evolution sails for Rotterdam
20:30: Mediterranean Highway sails for sea
An American friend says: “just once, I’d like to wake up in the morning without worrying about what mayhem the president has wreaked overnight.”
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Not to contradict you, Tim, but my experience with Iain Rankin as our MLA has been rather nasty. As you know, McNeil holds a dim view of civil servants and organized labour generally…..and Iain Rankin holds this same view. Back in the days of Bill 148 my husband and I tried to have a discussion with Iain regarding this and Iain shut us down and refused to talk about it. His response, ‘What do you want me to do about it?’ My husband’s response, ‘I’d like you to represent your constituents, many of whom are civil servants’. He said, ‘I don’t agree with you and I’m not prepared to do anything’.
In your summation of the NSP Emera rent paying scam, it became clear what was going on. Although it must be pointed out that the summation says rent “Emera was charging NSP” while the article mentioned several times the opposite, NSP charging Emera rent. The story, while no doubt remaining true to the facts, was written in such a way that I believe would deter people from reading it. Overly complicated, just like the relationship of NSP, Emera, and the public board. Which is how Emera likes it. So that all transactions and dealings are “in the language of priests”. (The entire financial industry is based on this as well.) It seems so important these days to use the clearest of language to be able to decode the nefarious dealings of corporations. The entities largely responsible for the unequal distribution of wealth and obfuscated power dynamics. I hope the Examiner will continue to clarify these relationships and use language understood by average people. It seems to me more essential now than ever before.