News

1. Northern Pulp sues province for $450 million

Northern Pulp A Paper Excellence company. Photo: Joan Baxter

Yesterday, Northern Pulp sued the Province of Nova Scotia for $450 million.

Joan Baxter gives context:

The Paper Excellence company that is part of the global corporate empire of the Widjaja family has submitted plans for the “transformation” of its hibernating pulp mill to the Nova Scotia government for approval, even as it sues the same government for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Click here to read “Northern Pulp mill plans ‘best in class’ or best in BS?”

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2. One millionth customer!

Some lucky consumer is Nova Scotia’s one millionth customer, and will presumably be given a gift basket of donairs and a three-minute shopping spree at East Coast Lifestyles.

To hear Premier Tim Houston tell it, that enough Ontarians have cashed out of their Toronto condos to buy up cheap (for them) Nova Scotian homes proves that this province is some sort of economic mecca:

Reaching the one million mark is a significant moment in our province’s history. After years of a declining population, the world is learning how special Nova Scotia is; we have momentum and are growing. More people make us stronger in every way. We all benefit from this growth with a greater tax base, new businesses and jobs, greater diversity and culture and improved infrastructure. I ask our citizens, employers, communities, schools and workplaces to open their arms to new Nova Scotians and provide a warm welcome to all who choose our spectacular province as their home.

Of course we should be open to newcomers of all stripes, and the diversity thing is real — we need new perspectives to help us grow as people. And as climate refugees roam the planet, we have the obligation to take many of them in.

Still, population by itself is not an indicator of economic health, especially if we aren’t talking about inequality and the allocation of wealth. Sure, the tax base will increase, but if we don’t raise taxes to help the most needy, what have we really gained? If the number of jobs increases but wages decrease, we’re worse off, not better.

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3. COVID

Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

A week ago today, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang confidently told us he thought the surge in COVID cases associated with StFX had either already peaked or would over the weekend. Instead, the daily new case counts continue to mount, to 287 announced yesterday alone.

Businesses are closing, people are suffering, depression and anxiety are rising.

I don’t have anything useful to say about this.

Premier Tim Houston and Strang have scheduled a press briefing for 2pm today; such briefings are no longer in-person, but I’ll be on the phone line and will follow along on my Twitter account.

Meanwhile, anti-vaxxers have formed an official political party, the province’s sixth, joining the PCs, Liberals, NDP, Green, and Atlantica Party.

The new party is called Nova Scotia United, and is led by a character named Leigh Baker. You can hear him spew a bunch of untruths here.

In papers filed with Elections Nova Scotia, the party says it has $393 in cash and $1,000 in liabilities, leaving a net deficit of $607. Not a great position to start with, to try to convince the 90%+ of eligible voters who have already been vaccinated to join the anti-vax crusade.

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4. Cobequid tolls

Cobequid Pass toll booth. Photo: CobequidPass

The province yesterday removed tolls on the Cobequid Pass — but only for vehicles registered in Nova Scotia. The toll booths will remain, as well as the rumble strips and reduced speed limits, but drivers with transponders will be able to drive through without stopping.

Those without transponders will have to stop to demonstrate registration (the announcement doesn’t say if the licence plate suffices or if you have to show the paper registration). You can get a transponder here. If you have a MacPass, you can set up a Cobequid Pass account by calling 1-877-727-7104 and providing them with your transponder serial number (located on the lower left hand corner of your transponder (i.e. CAHD ########).

Removal of the tolls will make a difference in people’s lives, especially those who regularly commute across the pass. But I’m uncomfortable setting different tiers of public service based on residence, and besides that, it strikes me that one of the first things tourists will experience after crossing the provincial border is an obvious money grab from them — which isn’t the most welcoming message.

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5. Don’t mention the oncertcay andalscay

Hugh Townsend slobbers all over Scott Ferguson, omitting one tiny incident:

A July 29, 2009 email sent directly to mayor Peter Kelly from a person whose name is redacted, but more than likely [Harold] MacKay, announces a creative solution: “In a meeting I had with Scott [Ferguson, president of Trade Centre Limited] today he mentioned that it might be possible to have funds covered through the TCL as long as he had coverage from his end from the City or Province. The concept would be that TCL holds as an advance on next year’s shows which we should have locked down by Nov/Dec as that it our strategy. Our plan confidentially would be for two more back to back shows and we have some very solid leads at the moment.”

In short, Ferguson was suggesting that MacKay’s loss on the McCartney show could be covered by the city or province advancing money based on future sales of tickets for shows that did not yet exist.

Neither was there money in the Metro Centre account to lend MacKay. Through March, MacKay was being advanced money for both the country and the rock shows, and the city’s account was being bled dry. Anstey was signing authorizations for $400,000 one day, $200,000 a few days later, and promising more should the account get topped up. But MacKay still couldn’t pay Kid Rock’s upfront fee. (The documents don’t say what the upfront fee was.)

“My problem is I don’t have any more money to cover the advances with,” wrote Anstey on Saturday, March 27, 2010, at 2:13pm. “To make this work, Ticket Atlantic is going to have to take on 300K of risk on the Country show, thereby freeing up 300K of Metro Centre money for this show or alternatively take on 300K of the risk for this show. Overall, HRM will be carrying two-thirds of the risk with virtually no return, whereas Ticket Atlantic will only carry one-third with at least the opportunity to make some money.

“What do you say, Scott. Can’t we work together to make this work?”

At 8:14pm, Ferguson wrote back to Anstey, saying that “the auditor general has already put us on record regarding risk as a result of the past world events we hosted. I am not permitted to do so again.”

Evidently, Ferguson had used an advance-on-ticket-sales scheme for the world hockey tournament held at the Metro Centre, and was reprimanded for it. But that didn’t stop him from recommending the exact same scheme to the city.

“I could advance the funds from hmc if it was approved from your end,” writes Ferguson, seemingly suggesting that the money come not from the city’s Metro Centre surplus fund, which was depleted, but rather from Metro Centre’s operating funds. “The risk would only be short term as I expect the additional 300K would be returned within a week of the onsale.”

And I expect ponies and unicorns for Christmas, but so it goes, eh?

Incidentally, because of all that mess, it occurred to me that someone must have been on the take, so I went on a fishing incident at the property office, pulling records for all the relevant city managers, Ferguson, Anstey, and Kelly, to see if someone had, I don’t know, a big house on the Arm that exceeded the reach of their salary.

I didn’t find a big house on the Arm, but I found a tiny postage stamp-sized parcel back behind Kearney Lake, part of a failed development from the 1950s. It was valued at just over $3,000. I thought to myself, “What the heck is this?” and went to find out. What I found was, er, interesting.

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Government

No meetings.


On campus

No events.


In the harbour

Halifax
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
16:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
16:45: Nolhanava sails for Saint-Pierre
17:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
21:30: Contship Leo, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
21:30: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
Midnight: One Houston, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York

Cape Breton
14:00: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Belledune, New Brunswick


Footnotes

I was going to write about space junk again, but my heart’s not in it.


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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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  1. “Incidentally, because of all that mess, it occurred to me that someone must have been on the take …”

    My thought is that type of blatant corruption is much less of a problem than, well, hubris. Smart, responsible, visionary people are making BIG decisions! Power seems to change all but the absolute wisest leaders, plus our society tells the folks in the C-suite that they merit all of their perks and power. They are the elite – they know how to lead, how to manage. Their intelligence and drive has gotten them to the top. The meritocracy is a giant hubris machine, cranking out bad judgement.

    Also, how did someone manage to lose money on Paul McCartney!?!? There were about 30,000 at the show. Anyways, alarm bells didn’t start going off because we were in a pissing match with Moncton.

  2. Tim, Joan, Iris, and all the other inspired reporters of the Examiner-
    Thank you, thank you for the diligent and honest reporting you do day after day.

    This time is terribly challenging and frightening to many, but you guys consistently bring basic goodness to your reporting. The basic goodness of truth and a deep fearless look into what is really going on in Nova Scotia. I know I can reliably turn to the Halifax Examiner for a no bullshit, tell it like it is, report on my city and province.

    I wish I could psychically send you my appreciation and that it would lift you from whatever depression you feel. Many of us, fairly or not, are counting on you, and when I read you every morning, I know even the difficult news will be a lift to my day because someone cared enough to do a thorough job of looking at our world. May blessings fall on all of you.

    1. If there were a like button for this comment, I would press it multiple times. I heartily second what this reader has written. Do whatever you need to do to keep yourselves healthy so that this great reporting can continue. Thank you *SO* much for all that you do!