News

1. Northern Pulp

Northern Pulp Mill. Photo: Halifax Examiner

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has received 3,200 submissions from people with an interest in whether the federal regulator should carry out a review of Northern Pulp’s plan to pipe treated effluent 4.1 kilometers out into prime lobster fishing area in the Northumberland Strait. Yesterday in Charlottetown, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the pulp mill cleanup. Here’s the mushy answer he gave The Canadian Press:

“This project is of concern to us. We know we need to protect our coasts and oceans,” said the Prime Minister. “It’s a provincial lead, going through environmental assessments, but the federal government is looking into ways that it can support.”

Meanwhile, in Nova Scotia, March 29 is the date by which provincial Environment Minister Margaret Miller will decide if the environmental assessment prepared by Northern Pulp Nova Scotia is sufficient to grant approval to build a new wastewater treatment system for the 50-year-old mill at Abercrombie. The province decided the project would be subject to a Class 1 assessment limiting the review to 50 days. It rejected a more rigorous Class 2 assessment which could have lasted 275 days and included an independent panel to hear from the public.

The third option, a review by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to determine the impact on the marine environment, is the preferred option of PEI Premier Wade MacLauchlan and the Friends of the Northumberland Strait, a non-profit group representing fishermen, First Nations people, and environmentalists in Pictou County opposed to the mill’s cleanup plan. Both Environment Minister Margaret Miller and Premier Stephen McNeil have said they do not support the call for a federal review.

A lawyer for the Friends’ group sent a letter to Environment Minister Margaret Miller outlining why it believes the federal agency would offer a more impartial review than its provincial counterpart. The letter says the Nova Scotia Department of Environment could find itself in a conflict of interest with the Nova Scotia Department of Finance (the mill owes the province tens of millions of dollars) and the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry (the mill buys woodchips and logs from many other mills and contractors) if it  did not pass the environmental assessment and greenlight the Project.

“We think that the conflict of interest presented in this situation creates a real problem for the Minister and for the Province of Nova Scotia,” said James Gunvaldsen Klaassen, a lawyer with EcoJustice who sent the letter on behalf of the Friends of the Northumberland Strait.

Later today, the Halifax Examiner will publish Joan Baxter’s review of the environmental assessment.

2. The Icarus Report

Last night at Stanfield International, a plane slid off the runway and into a snowbank, getting stuck there and closing the airport for a couple of hours.

If you or I were driving down the road and slid into a snowbank, and our car was stuck there, we’d say we “crashed” into a snowbank. But airlines and regulators steadfastly avoid the word “crash,” and so I started a game of Crash Euphemism Bingo; which word or phrase would be used to describe the crash — “hard landing”? “taxiing delay”? or my favourite, “runway excursion”?

And the winner is…. [drumroll]… landing incident:

#TSBAir deploys a team of investigators to a landing incident at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Nova Scotia https://t.co/h5AGHTPV39

— TSB of Canada (@TSBCanada) March 5, 2019

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is deploying a team of investigators to Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Nova Scotia, following a landing incident involving an Air Canada Boeing 767. The TSB will gather information and assess the occurrence.

The flight was Air Canada Flight 614, and according to CTV, “some of the 211 passengers onboard tell CTV News the plane slipped and turned 180 degrees,”

They were transported to the airport terminal by a bus.

“They were all very nice about it, they handled it quite well, but it was a little scary,” said passenger Valerie Patriquin.

Air Canada Flight 624

Crashes at or near the airport are becoming distressingly common. Swiss Air 111 (229 dead) and MK Airlines Flight 1602 (seven dead), from 1998 and 2004 respectively, may seem like ancient history, but while more recent crashes have thankfully not resulted in any loss of life, they are becoming more frequent, with three in the last four years: Air Canada Flight 624 (March 29, 2015, a “hard landing”), Sky Lease Cargo Flight 4854 (November 7, 2018, a “runway excursion”), and now Air Canada Flight 614 (March 4, 2019,” a “landing incident”).

Flight GG 4854 was just one of several crashes at the Halifax airport. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Yes, yes, I know, there’s more of a chance dying while driving to the airport than blah, blah, blah, but no one has actually provided stats of death rates specifically of driving to the airport (as opposed to driving in general), so allow me my fears.

And come on: planes are not supposed to do uncontrolled 180s on the runway. They’re just not. Something is terribly wrong.

On the plus side, however, if nothing else, all the planes hard landing and going on runway excursions and otherwise incidenting are giving the emergency responders a lot of real-world training. None of that simulation stuff at Stanfield International.

3. Icy sidewalks

I was walking home early evening yesterday and found because no sidewalk plows had come by, it was easier to walk in the street. That worked fine until traffic started coming, and so I made my way to the sidewalk, only to slip and fall. I banged up my hand pretty badly. It hurts to type. I’ve taken some expired acetaminophen (I wasn’t about to walk to the drug store to get a fresh supply), and we’ll see how it goes; if the pain persists maybe I’ll head over to the hospital to get an x-ray.

I don’t know why I fall and injure myself so often — undoubtedly it’s some combination of my own unbalance (I have inner ear problems), the crappy weather, and the city’s inability to clear the sidewalks, but I don’t see how I can live through these conditions into my old age. People die from injuries sustained by falling on the ice.

Out of simple laziness, I’ve outsourced reporting on the state of the sidewalks this morning to my Twitter followers:

Buried under glaciers …

— Robert Snell (@robertsnell) March 5, 2019

Shit in north end Dartmouth

— 🎃 Pumpkin King Pat 🎃 (@hfxrebelyeah) March 5, 2019

In the Dartmouth core there are lots not done. Witnessed pedestrians having to jump or pick over big plow rows at intersections.

— Kim (@KimiSaysWhat) March 5, 2019

also in a neighbourhood with two schools and they have not gone over them once, and people who tried to shovel theirs are pure ice now- so impassible. Hopefully people see the kids over the snowbanks on the road.

— Laurie Burns 🐝 (@lauriecburns) March 5, 2019

Is deathtrappy a word?

— Matt (@thinkontheclock) March 5, 2019

Uncleared, and where they are cleared, they are unsalted

— Lee Cripps (@TheCriptykLee) March 5, 2019

North End is hell. Injured twice this winter.

— Caiti (@callmecaiti902) March 5, 2019

4. Tuition

“Dozens of protesters braved wind, sleet and snow Monday to call for an end to what they call a post-secondary ‘crisis’ in Nova Scotia as officials discussed the financial future of education in the province,” reports Alex Cooke for StarMetro Halifax:

Addressing the large crowd gathered on the steps of the Maritime Centre in downtown Halifax, the chairperson for the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students decried soaring tuition fees and a lack of funding for institutions in the province.

“The weather today is echoing how I’m feeling, because I am angry,” said Aidan McNally, shouting into a megaphone to have her voice heard over the whipping wind. “It is not extreme to say that this government has made an enemy of students.”

The rally took place as university presidents and government representatives met at the Maritime Centre to discuss tuition fees and funding for the next five years, as the current memorandum of understanding between the province and its institutions outlining these regulations is expiring at the end of the month.

The MOU, which came into effect in April 2015, currently allows universities to increase their undergraduate tuition fees up to 3 per cent annually, on top of a one-time market adjustment “in order to charge similar amounts for similar programs at peer institutions.”

5.  aioTV

Last year, I reported that “The tech company aioTV has ceased operations, and Innovacorp has lost its entire $1.7 million investment in the company”:

The company was founded in Halifax in 2010 by Michael Earle, whom Innovacorp described as “a veteran executive from the cable television sector and a seasoned entrepreneur.”

Before he started aioTV, Earle ran a company called TV Anywhere, Inc. As tech blogger and podcaster Brian Mahoney explained in 2009, TV Anywhere was betting against the success of the now ubiquitous Roku.

Michael Earle

At the same time, Earle was the president of v.1 Labs, which developed and sold an “application software to broadband, Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), wireless, and dial-up Internet service providers.” While v.1 operated out of a Halifax address, Earle listed a Centennial, Colorado address as his personal address with the Registry of Joint Stock Companies. Centennial is a suburb of Denver. v.1 folded operations in 2010.

aioTV is the acronym for “all in one TV.” In 2010, the company billed itself as an “all-in-one metadata, curation, and personalization software development company. By enabling video operators, content owners and apps to build world-class video software solutions, aioTV makes it easy to turn metadata into relevant, accurate, and personalized video experiences for consumers.”

Perhaps “world-class” should have been a tell, but in 2011 Innovacorp bought a $1 million equity stake in aioTV. The next year, aioTV sold 44 per cent of the company “to China’s UTStarcom Holdings Corp. for $8 million,” wrote Peter Moreira. The headquarters of the company was moved to Denver, but the firm kept a development office in Halifax, on Argyle Street.

In 2015, the company changed focus, wrote Moreira:

About a year ago, the company realized its strategy of offering several products on a single platform just wasn’t the path to get where it wanted to go.

“We were successful in selling to second- and third-tier telco operators, but they didn’t have the scale to give us what we wanted,” Earle said in an interview from his base in Denver. “You end up spending a lot more in customization for these small guys than you could ever recoup.”

So the company began to research what the Tier 1 telecom and television companies around the world need in the ensuing one to three years, and the answer came back that they needed an enhanced curation function.

The aioTV curation function that it has now produced is a personalized recommendation engine that chooses a broad array of material for the user from more than just a list of movies. For example, if you have just watched a movie, the curation function could tell you there is material on YouTube about the making of the movie, or where to find interviews with the stars.

Evidently, Innovacorp was impressed, as it invested another $700,000, Charlie Baxter, Innovacorp’s VP of Investment, told me in a phone interview today.

Well, it wasn’t just Innovacorp who lost public money by investing into aioTV. Turns out, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) lost an additional half-million dollars or so of public money by thinking the tech startup was the best thing going.

On January 31, 2017, ACOA loaned aioTV $500,000 to assist the company to “Develop [a] metadata management and curation platform.” Then, on March 31, 2017, ACOA gave aioTV a $50,000 grant to “hire a digital marketing and social media manager.”

The grant, however, was dependant upon aioTV actually hiring the manager, but according to a claim filed in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, aioTV “failed to comply” with the conditions of both the loan and the grant, and so the company defaulted on both financing arrangements on April 30, 2018.

The claim says the company owes ACOA $559,083.29, which represents $539,995.43 in principal plus $19,072.86 in interest.

So just over $2.2 million in public money was lost chasing the aioTV dream.

6. Immigration fraud

The right wing in Canada has picked up the American right wing’s mantra of “immigration fraud!” to attack the Trudeau government and to vilify immigrants generally, but there’s no evidence that the immigration authorities are at all falling down on the job.

On the contrary, those authorities are often accused of being overly rule-bound (see: Abdoul Abdi), and even when the process “works,” it’s still time-consuming and expensive. I say this from my own experience — as a white American man with family connections in Canada, I was among the easiest immigration cases imaginable, and while the officials I dealt with were professional and courteous to a person, it was still a gigantic hassle.

And there’s no indication that the immigration officials are falling down on the job.

Court documents obtained by the Halifax Examiner illustrate the point.

In March of 2018, Jason Cannon, a criminal investigator with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) was investigating 13 people claiming to be living in a single Vimy Road apartment in Halifax. “Based on my experience in conducting immigration investigations,” wrote Cannon in his application for a search warrant, “I know that multiple foreign nationals associated with small apartments, over a short time frame, can be indicative of immigration fraud.”

All 13 people claiming to live at the apartment were related to a Jordanian man named Hani Abdelrahman, They had claimed residence at the apartment “from March 2006 onward,” wrote Cannon.

Hani Abdelrahman himself drew Cannon’s attention for two reasons. First, he had been charged with fraud over $5,000 by the Halifax police, but had not been arrested because he was out of the country. Halifax police confirmed to me that “on Aug 23, 2012, we received a report of a fraud that had occurred in June at the Scotiabank located at 6169 Quinpool Road in Halifax. 29-year-old Hani Abdelrahman has been charged with fraud over $5,000 in relation to that incident. A warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to appear in court to face the charges on May 1, 2013. He was arrested on the warrant on February 5, 2019 and held to appear before a judge.” A separate charging document obtained by the Examiner shows that Abdelrahman is accused of defrauding the bank between June 19 and June 30, 2012. He was released on a $2,000 bond to another apartment in the same Vimy Road complex, and is to appear in court this Friday.

The second thing that drew Cannon’s attention is that on Abdelrahman’s reapplication for a permanent residency card (they are required to be renewed every five years), he claimed to be out of the country for just 136 days over the past five years, but entry and exit documents Cannon obtained from the Jordanian government show that he had been in that country for 994 days.

The search warrant was for Abdelrahman’s iphone, which would presumably give location data over that time.

Who knows? Immigrants have complex financial dealings that may confuse banks, and Abdelrahman hasn’t been convicted on the fraud charge. Moreover, there may be an honest explanation for the travel discrepancies. I just thought the documents shed some light on investigations into such matters.


Views

1. Child poverty

“For Nova Scotia Liberals, the devil was definitely in the details,” writes Richard Starr:

With the opposition and the media having a field day on the SNC-Lavalin fiasco, the federal Liberal government countered with a good news announcement last week. The minister responsible for social development issued a statement proclaiming that the Liberal government has hit its 2020 poverty reduction targets three years early.

Based on the latest Canadian Income Survey (CIS) from Stats Canada, the glad tidings from minister Jean-Yves Duclos were spread far and wide by Liberal MPs via twitter. And why not do some self-congratulating? A couple of years ago the Liberals targeted a 20 per cent reduction in 2015 poverty levels by 2020. According to the minister’s math, the target was reached in 2017.

But there is one glaring exception — Nova Scotia. Here, the federal Liberals’ effort to highlight their poverty-reduction success backfired badly.

A rare closer look by reporters revealed that not only was Nova Scotia’s overall poverty stubbornly high, the number of children in families with low income in 2017 was up by 5,000 — a stunning 23 per cent jump from 2016. Worse, this spike in child poverty in Nova Scotia appeared even as other provinces were showing significant reductions…


Government

City

Tuesday

City Council (Tuesday , 1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda. I’ll try to make it to the meeting, but can’t say for sure I’ll be there.

Public Planning Session – Northbrook Park (Tuesday, 7pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — a public planning session for upgrades to Northbrook Park.

Wednesday

No public meetings.

Province

Tuesday

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)

Wednesday

Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Thesis Defence, Mechanical Engineering (Tuesday, 9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Gregory Sweet will defend his ​​thesis, “Improving the Mechanical and Physical Properties of an Aluminum Powder Metallurgy Metal Matrix Composite via Hot Upset Forging.”

Thesis Defence, Oceanography (Tuesday, 1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Brent Law​​​​​ will defend his ​​thesis, “Quantifying Transport of Aquaculture Particulate Wastes.​”

When I Stutter (Tuesday, 6:45pm, Room 301, Halifax Central Library) — Maritimes premiere of the 2017 documentary. View trailer here.

Wednesday

Understanding Synthetic Media (Wednesday, 10am, University Hall, MacDonald Building) — Carl Miller will explain how “synthetic media” can harm democracy, followed by a discussion and Q&A with Howard Ramos and Karen Foster. From the listing:

New technology can create fake photos and videos that look very real. Movies and TV use this technology to create amazing special effects, but when it gets in the wrong hands it can be used to show real people doing and saying things that they haven’t. It’s called a deepfake, and it can be especially dangerous during an election, a time when we make important choices based on what candidates say and do.

Register here.

Women and the Canadian Military (Wednesday, 2:30pm, Room 305, Weldon Law Building) — a panel with Brigadier-General Josée Robidoux, Canadian Armed Forces; Gaëlle Rivard Piché, Defence Research and Development Canada; and Andrea Lane, Dalhousie University.

Controlling DNA end resection and strand invasion during DNA double-strand break repair (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Jean-Yves Masson from Laval University Cancer Research Center will speak.

The Aftermath of the Cannabis Act: New Opportunities to Promote Harm Reduction and Criminal Justice Reform (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Archie Kaiser will speak with Cindy MacIsaac from Direction 180 and Gillian Mitts and Doug Earl from Halifax Area Network of Drug Using People (HANDUP).

Smadar Lavie. Photo: Wikipedia

The War on Gaza and Mizrahi Feminism (Wednesday, 7pm, Room W204, Weldon Law Building) — Smadar Lavie will speak. From the listing:

What is the relationship between Mizraḥi feminism and Israeli ultra-nationalism? What is the relevance of gender justice activism to the 2014 Gaza War and Israel’s foreign policy? Mizraḥi protests dissipate and disappear when the Israel-Palestine conflict dominates the headlines. This lecture connects intra-Jewish racial and gendered dynamics to the 2014 Gaza War. It tracks sequences that began with social protest and ended with elections that bolstered Israel’s political Right. In between came bloodletting between the IDF, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel’s neighboring Arab states. The 2014 Gaza War was a watershed, but not only in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Under the smokescreen of war, Israel accelerated neoliberal economic reform. The first victims of this restructuring were Mizraḥi single mothers. Palestinians, however, would pay the highest price for Israel’s Mizraḥi-Ashkenazi rift.​

Saint Mary’s

Tuesday

Irish Nationalism, 1886-1924, and Ernie O’Malley’s IRA Role, 1916-1924 (Tuesday, 7pm, Room 171 Loyola) — Cormac O’Malley will talk about one of the most significant figures in the Irish Revolution.

Wednesday

Canada’s Food Guide.

Canada’s Food Guide (Wednesday , 12pm, MM320) — Melanie Ingram will talk about the new guidelines on what to eat regularly and what to avoid. Register here.


In the harbour

05:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
05:00: YM Evolution, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
14:00: CMA CGM Pellas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
15:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
16:00: YM Evolution sails for Rotterdam
23;00: Atlantic Sail sails for New York


Footnotes

Dog, I dislike Tuesdays.


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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. The sidewalks are treacherous ice fields around the Jubilee, Quinpool, Oxford area too but they’re even worse in the far north end (streets off Leeds and Novalea) where I’m a volunteer dog walker. The only sidewalk clearance there is whatever has been done by residents, so it’s very patchy. Ice cleats have saved my aged wrists, arms, ankles, shoulders etc. many time this winter. I recommend them highly. Lee Valley, MEC, Canadian Tire all have good ones. Small investment compared to the inconvenience of plaster casts and concussions.

  2. On my street, one side had been ‘cleared’, meaning the only part of the sidewalk that wasn’t an un-salted un-gravelled sheet of ice was the little bits of snow left by the tracks of the bobcat the contractor used. The other side had a few inches of snow left, which was much better because at least you won’t slip on snow.

    The sidewalk-clearing efforts near me actually made things worse.

  3. Oh, the HRM policy priorities. Just think of the tax dollars (yours and mine) allocated to hire an expert from Toronto to “study” the validity of street checks in (calling it what it is) the historically Black north end. Same ‘hood (among others) where side walk plows are routinely MISSING IN ACTION.

    Counting the days until the CHOCOLATE MILK (that’s what I said) report is released. To recap: Street check stats already compiled by Halifax Police and TURFED (wonder why?), Halifax police cold-busted by CBC investigation, Say Sayonara Halifax chief of police proclaims to need a “definition” of systemic racism, white Toronto expert poised to enlighten us all. And the tab? Who knows. But ducats (again yours and mine) that clearly could have been put to better use.

    1. Scott Wortley has more than 20 years experience studying street checks and is widely recognised as the expert in Canada.

  4. From my experience, immigration into Canada is extremely expensive and cumbersome, even if one is married to a Canadian and comfortable enough with language and law to complete the process without hiring a lawyer. To be fair, I did the immigration papers for two family members going into the US and it was no better and no less expensive. The immigration process works well to weed out fraud.

    But cross border fraud exists and those engaged in fraud find it more profitable and expeditious to bypass the immigration authorities and process. One need to look at all of the UN and international conventions on human smuggling, slavery and transnational crime to comprehend the pervasiveness of the problem and to understand that the immigration authorities are working very hard to combat it.

    1. I don’t know why we don’t track entry/exit data more extensively. The tech is there to make sure people are in Canada the required number of days for benefits/healthcare but we conveniently choose to ignore it unless forced.

  5. Icy sidewalk report (Boreas Report?): My tiny sliver of the North End is an unmitigated disaster as it is after every snowfall. Cornwallis Street, like its namesake, is a real burden that has the potential for death. Slippery and unsalted, anyone who may slip on the steep part near its foot at Barrington risks sliding into morning traffic. Perhaps the only thing stopping more unintended vehicular manslaughters are the large snowbanks *on* the sidewalk of Barrington.

    Story has it Dalhousie pays their snow clearing workers three times as much as the city pays theirs. Dal was closed all afternoon yesterday and despite this the paths are the clearest on the peninsula thanks to plough operators working non-stop throughout the snowy deluge. Maybe HRM should invest as much into HRM.

    1. Hear! Hear! James Shakey is correct….Add Brunswick Street and Cogswell to the ice zones. It is darned dangerous to get to any of the bus stops if one does not wish to slide all the way to the safety of Dal.