News

1. Mitsubishi’s Fish

We’ve published an in-depth investigation by Linda Pannozzo, who looks at the failure to implement a new regulatory regime for fish farms in Nova Scotia as recommended by the 2014 Doelle-Lahey report. That failure is particularly important now that Cermaq Canada is looking to expand operations into provincial waters.

Pannozzo unpacks many aspects of fish farms, but one that jumped out at me was this:

It’s probably fair to say that fish farms have been good for their owners, but when all things are considered, benefits to local communities have been largely overstated. According to provincial data, over the last 25 years, production and sales in finfish aquaculture (salmon, trout, halibut, bass, etc.) have skyrocketed from just 1.5 million kg in 1995 to 8.2 million kg in 2018. Over the same time period, sales increased seven fold to more than $74 million in 2018.

But despite the promise of jobs, technological “innovations” have resulted in jobs being shed, not gained. In the finfish industry — where there’s been a five-fold increase in production since the mid-1990s — the number of jobs has actually declined. In 1995, 311 people were employed in the industry, 100 of those full-time. By 2018 only 189 people were employed, and of those, 138 were full time.

Our provincial government has long been focused on increasing exports as the source of supposed future full employment, but these numbers show that increasing exports from fish farms increases employment marginally, if at all — but at great risk to our environment.

I’m reminded that just yesterday Philip Moscovitch quoted Emily Tipton, co-owner of Boxing Rock Brewery:

Everyone’s looking for a quick fix to get them through. There’s no quick fix. Years ago, Cooke aquaculture was going to move to Shelburne and open this giant salmon processing plant and have all these fish pens and they were going to create, I can’t remember, 200 jobs, 400 jobs whatever. So half the community really wanted it and half the community really didn’t and the government gave them a bunch of money.

You know it’s just a complete disaster because the people who are making jobs 400 at a time are coming here not to give to it, not to build, not to invest in it. They’re trying to make money off it. They’re thinking, “This is the cheapest place that we can process this fish. Let’s do it here. And the government’s going to give us money. Let’s do that.”

Whereas craft breweries are an example of a much more organic approach to rural economic development. I think real economic development happens by creating 10 jobs at a time not 400. Because we’re not going anywhere. Even if I wanted to, I’m stuck here. If you had 20 businesses like that, that each created 10 jobs, that’s way better because you’re way more resilient, if one of them doesn’t work. Whereas when the Cooke Aquaculture thing didn’t work out? That’s a giant gaping hole. We all got our hopes up and then nothing happened.

It’s true that Boxing Rock is probably not a big exporter, so there’s a complex question about where and how wealth is generated, and people can take different positions on that. From my view, however, we’re betting our entire economy on this casino that promises a short term payoff of free “Money From Away” — from tourism, or by catering to financial institutions that provide tax avoidance schemes for billionaires, or by sending a bunch of fish to China, whatever — without considering the social, environmental, and yes, ethical costs of chasing that wealth.

I’ve been writing about this forever, or at least since 2013:

Anything for Money From Away. What we won’t do is invest in our own students, so they can graduate debt-free and generate homegrown wealth — because that view of the world doesn’t fit the ideological filter of mercantilism. We worship rich people who might bring money here. Our own hard-working people are worthless, because they have no money.

Fish farms are just the latest roll of the loaded dice, the pot always going to the house, with the managerial dealers at Province House getting a tip along the way. We sucker citizens keep rolling, rolling, rolling, lured by the never-ending promise of Money From Away, and we never seem to quite understand why we’re ending up broke at the end of the day at the casino.

In any event, Pannozzo’s investigation is a long but important slog. Grab a cup of coffee and have a read through.

Click here to read “Mitsubishi’s Fish.”

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2. Ellen Page and “There’s Something in the Water”

Ellen Page covers her face due to the stench from Boat Harbour. Still from “There’s Something in the Water.”

Wednesday, TIME Magazine broke the news that Ellen Page’s documentary “There’s Something in the Water” will be available worldwide on Netflix starting March 27.

As soon as the issue hit the newsstand, Page called Joan Baxter and offered an exclusive interview for the Halifax Examiner. Baxter went on to speak with the local women Page speaks to in the film — Ingrid Waldron who wrote the book of the same name, Michelle Francis-Denny, Louise Delisle — about the effect the documentary has had on their lives and causes, and what they hope will happen once it’s available around the world.

It’s a good read. Click here to read “Ellen Page: ‘The more we filmed … the more incredible women we met’: The Halifax-born actor says her new film, “There’s Something in the Water,” which is coming to Netflix, is a testament to the Black and Indigenous women who have been advocating for their communities in Nova Scotia.

3. Northern Pulp articles

Northern Pulp Mill at night. Photo courtesy Tony DeCoste Photo-Video

This morning we took a series of articles published in January about Northern Pulp Mill out from behind the paywall.

From January 10, by Joan Baxter, “Northern Pulp, past and future: It ain’t over till it’s over.”

From January 21, co-written by Joan Baxter and Jennifer Henderson, “‘The province has in effect decided that it is not going to fully enforce the Boat Harbour Act.’

From January 24, co-written by Joan Baxter and Jennifer Henderson, “Northern Pulp takes province to court: The saga continues.

From January 31, by Joan Baxter, “The province issues tough new orders to Northern Pulp.”

You can read our complete library of articles about Northern Pulp here.

After some time, usually a month, we make paywalled articles available for everyone, in part so the writers can repurpose their work elsewhere if they choose (the Examiner holds exclusive rights to the material while it’s paywalled, but it’s important to me that writers make as much money as they can), but also because I want the historic record of the articles to be maintained.

Still, I hope readers understand the depth of reporting that goes into producing these articles, and understand that it doesn’t come cheap. This reporting is sustained solely by your subscriptions. Please subscribe.

4. Reconciliation

Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Kathleen Yurcheson and Premier Stephen McNeil having a “fireside chat” without a fire. Screenshot and snark by Mary Campbell

Premier Stephen McNeil has been travelling the province giving “State of the Province” addresses to paid attendees at Chambers of Commerce because, as Mary Campbell notes in the Cape Breton Spectator, this “allowed the premier to by-pass the press and the general public and speak directly to the people who matter, the business community.”

But Campbell was able to listen in to the Sydney event via live-streaming. She notes that Cape Breton Regional Chamber CEO Kathleen Yurchesyn and McNeil had the following exchange:

Yurchesyn:

The pipeline protest that’s happening right now across various areas of Canada — is there a role that the province plans on taking in terms of those…protests, specifically regarding the shipment of goods that are affecting here locally businesses but across the province?

McNeil:

[W]e have a role to play. This is a national issue, it belongs to the national government. When it comes to dealing with the issues of this whole protest that’s happening — and I do want to comment on the protest itself in a minute but …specifically to your question. If, for example, somebody is being protested, they would go to court to get an injunction, whether it’s a public infrastructure that we the government would go … to court to get an injunction. And then we’d have the law enforcement agencies in our province to … uphold the law.

If it is private or commercial entity, then they would have to…go and get the injunction and then we would expect, quite frankly, if there’s an injunction ordered by the court of our province we expect law enforcement agency to enforce the injunction.

We cannot allow, in my humble opinion, a small number of Canadians who are upset to hold up the economic future of Canada. We rely on that rail line. We rely on our highway infrastructure. And goods and services should be moved across that.

Now here, I do want to address this, this is about a First Nations pipeline, First Nations in British Columbia. I want to recognizes [Membertou] Chief [Terry] Paul who’s here and I’ve said this, I said this in Yarmouth in front of [Acadia First Nation] Chief [Deborah] Robinson, [wags finger] let’s not make the mistake that the protests you’re seeing in this province are being led by the Mi’kmaq. Let’s not fall into the old trap of being divided based on this. These are people who have a … bee in their bonnet about something, who are using this as an opportunity to protest, which they have the right to do, but it’s not the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia who are out protesting and stopping the investments that were being made in that, Terry and the chiefs have been a great partner for us…

And I, as your premier, want to make sure that we fully understand that the relationship with our First Nations is paramount, it’s one built on respect and they are not the ones driving and slowing down any economic development here or, quite frankly, the goods and services moving across our country … But, I as the premier, if it becomes an issue for us, we will do what is required to ensure the economic future of our province continues to move forward.

Campbell unpacks all that, and everyone should read her full analysis. But she concludes:

Reconciliation is hard, and easy answers — like, get an injunction to stop these people with the bees in their bonnets — aren’t going to cut it.

Click here to read “McNeil on Wet’suwet’en Support Actions: ‘It’s Not the Mi’kmaq,’”

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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5. Conquered people

McNeil’s attitudes towards Indigenous people is the subject of the ongoing wrongful dismissal lawsuit former provincial lawyer Alex Cameron has filed against McNeil and former justice minister Diana Whalen.

Cameron, you’ll recall, authored a legal brief for the province in the Alton Gas case in which he argued that the province had no constitutional duty to consult with the Sipekne’katik First Nation because such a duty applies only to “unconquered people,” implying that the Sipekne’katik were indeed conquered. My understanding is that the Sipekne’katik and other First Nations in the Maritimes never ceded sovereignty to the crown, and in fact the peace and friendship treaties respect that sovereignty.

In July, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a temporary sealing order on affidavits filed by Cameron in his lawsuit. Yesterday, the court unsealed those documents.

Reporting for the CBC, Michael Gorman picks up the story from there:

According to the affidavit, Cameron said then-deputy justice minister Tilly Pillay and Julie Towers, CEO of the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, were made aware of the plan ahead of hearings in 2016 and raised no objections during a meeting to prepare for the case.

“At the conclusion of the meeting, it was my understanding that all were agreed to advance the arguments I raised, including the sovereignty argument,” said the affidavit.

But senior officials with the province disagree with the characterization of that meeting.

Justin Houston, CEO of the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, said in an affidavit that he and Towers expressed concern during that meeting that Cameron’s brief did not reflect the province’s current approach to Aboriginal and treaty rights and consultation.

Then-deputy environment minister Frances Martin also filed an affidavit saying Cameron did not seek advice on the argument or send a draft to her or anyone else seeking approval.

One issue in this is how much bureaucrat Bernie Miller, who was an advisor to the premier, knew, and what he told McNeil. It’s a complex story, and Gorman gets into the weeds of it.

Yesterday, in response to the court’s unsealing order, Miller issued a press release that to my eyes obfuscates and muddies the central questions.

6. Yarmouth ferry

The Alakai, when it was docked at Yarmouth. Photo: Suzanne Rent

“Bay Ferries will announce Friday it will be ready to start its new service between Yarmouth and Bar Harbour by June 26,” reports Jean Laroche for the CBC:

According to a source familiar with company operations, tickets for the inaugural season will go on sale starting Friday morning.

As of this morning, the boat, the Alakai, is still tied up in Charleston, South Carolina.


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Representational Competencies and the Flipped Classroom: Redesigning the Learning Experience in Chemistry (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Brett McCollum from Mount Royal University will talk.


In the harbour

04:30: Hansa Meersburg, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Kingston, Jamaica
06:00: ZIM Monaco, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
07:15: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Quebec City
12:00: Noble Regina Allen, oil platform, and Siem Commander, offshore supply ship, sails from Anchorage #2 (by McNabs Island) for sea
15:00: Onego Rio, cargo ship, moves from Pier 27 to Bedford Basin
16:30: ZIM Monaco sails for New York


Footnotes

The podcast project is into high gear right now, so I’m not writing much for the Examiner. I expect this to go on for a few more weeks before the workload lessens a bit. Thanks for understanding.

But I’m very grateful for the many wonderful writers who are stepping up right now to fill my shoes. And for Iris, who is keeping the place running with essentially no direction from me.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. I personally don’t care if the Premier has had personal calls from which ever company it is that has his private When he says … But, I as the premier, if it becomes an issue for us, we will do what is required to ensure the economic future of our province continues to move forward. What’s going to do pick up the phone and call who ?

  2. It is quite obvious that he is referring to non-Aboriginals, and those people who appeared at City Hall to block Ms Freeland and the young white woman who assaulted the African Nova Scotian commissionaire trying to open a door to allow Ms Freeland entry to city hall.

  3. Tim, when will your podcast go to air? (or wherever it goes) I tried looking on the CBC site a while back but had no luck finding anything. Looking forward very much to listening to it.

    1. Oh, it will be a good while yet, maybe summer. This is a highly researched, highly produced effort. Takes time.

  4. Strange. Chamber of Commerce events here in NB are almost always open to the media, and if anything, the higher profile the guest, the more they want the media there. But in the end you can get in anyway by buying a ticket, as there are usually some available for non-members because they want to sell such people memberships. The outlet for which I work belongs to the Chamber here, and while that is mainly for the business side of things that doesn’t involve me, as a representative of a member they can’t refuse me entry.