News

1. COVID-19

Seven new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Nova Scotia on Friday, but then just two on Saturday and two again on Sunday. Of those, five are close contacts with previously announced cases, three are related to travel outsider Atlantic Canada, and one is still under investigation.

There are now 41 known active cases in the province, and no one is in hospital with the disease.

Thankfully, we’ve managed to keep the virus out of nursing homes through the second outbreak, and no one has died during it.

I think we’re all holding our collective breath through the holiday season.

Premier Stephen McNeil and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang have scheduled a COVID briefing for 3pm today.

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2. Anti-democratic demagoguery

Nova Scotia legislature (exactly as illustrated)

“If you want to know just how quickly a flawed but functioning democracy can descend into anti-democratic demagoguery, may I direct your attention south of our border,” writes Stephen Kimber:

Yes, there.

If you want to know — and even if you don’t — how close to (or far from) that less than ideal we already are in Nova Scotia, may I direct your attention to the proceedings of the Second Session of the 63rd Assembly of our own House of Assembly on Friday, December 18.

Oops, sorry. You must have blinked and missed it.

I know, I know. Donald Trump is — hopefully was — a one off, a grab-’em-by-the-genitals reality TV star/real estate failure/bankrupt casino mogul/pretend billionaire/right-wing faux populist, in-it-only-for-himself grifter whose influence will fade faster than his fake tan in a post-White House prison of his own making.

So, what could the rise of such a figure in another country possibly have to say to us in Nova Scotia?

Well, start with this. Donald Trump didn’t emerge from nowhere. He was able to game the political system to his own advantage because it was ripe for the plucking. In part, that’s because, long before Trump arrived on the scene, America’s democracy was already distorted far beyond civics-class recognition. In part, it’s also because too many people who knew better were happy to abandon whatever modest principles they might have possessed in order to ride his soiled coattails for their own electoral and ideological benefit. And, in too large part, Trump was also able to get away with it because too many Americans looked the other way while their democracy disappeared.

Back to Nova Scotia.

Click here to read “Donald Trump, Stephen McNeil, and democracy in decline.”

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3. COVID prosecution

“More than 600 people have been charged with violating COVID-19 health orders in Nova Scotia since the pandemic began, with 18 people facing more than one charge,” reports Jack Julian for the CBC:

An anonymized database showed the date of the alleged violations, and whether charges were under Nova Scotia’s Health Protection Act, or the Emergency Management Act.

Between March 24 and Dec. 14, summary offence tickets were issued to 613 different people and three businesses. However, the database doesn’t include a ticket that was issued to a Bedford sports training facility on Dec. 7.

A conviction under the Emergency Management Act carries a maximum fine of up to $10,000 for an individual, and up to $100,000 for a business, plus a possibility of up to six months of imprisonment.

Convictions under the Health Protection Act carry fines of up to $2,000 for individuals and $10,000 for businesses, with a maximum of six months imprisonment. Repeat offences bring a possibility of increased fines, and imprisonment of up to a year.

Incidentally, police (and I guess in this case the Crown) make a habit of not releasing names of those charged with summary offence tickets, but there is absolutely nothing in public records laws that mandates that the names be kept secret, and there’s no privacy protection for organizations and businesses in Canada in any event.

I had this public records battle with the Halifax police when I was investigating a summary offence ticket issued to former Halifax councillor Linda Mosher after she struck a bicyclist with her vehicle (Mosher appealed the ticket and was found not guilty). The police initially declined to release Mosher’s name because they said they had a policy of not releasing the names of people charged with summary offence tickets; I asked them to cite the exact law that prohibited them from doing so, and after a couple of weeks of scouring the law library, they got back to me and admitted there was no such law.

So will police and the Crown cut it out already and just release the names?

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4. Scott Ferguson: “expert”

Scott Ferguson

I have Google News alerts set up for a million things, and this morning Alphabet, Inc. told me that according to Maneesh Pandeya, who writes for the Sunday Guardian (an Indian newspaper, not to be confused with the British Guardian or the Saltwire Charlottetown paper of the same name), former Trade Centre Limited president Scott Ferguson is now a “global business expert,” which is the funniest damn thing I’m going to read all year.

Ferguson perplexes me. He’s the most dimwitted guy in every room he appears in, and yet he manages to Peter Principle himself right up the success ladder.

Ferguson inherited the Trade Centre Limited after Fred MacGillivray retired. Neither TCL nor the province conducted any kind of search for a new president, nor asked for applicants for the job; the presidency of a multimillion dollar crown corporation was simply handed to Ferguson, no questions asked. (Likewise, Carrie Cussons, the current president of the rebranded TCL, Events East, didn’t have to compete for the job either; it’s like the crown corporation is some sort of medieval fiefdom, handed down from one baron to the next.)

And while former Halifax mayor Peter Kelly and the city’s former CAO Wayne Anstey share the blame, it was Ferguson who was primarily responsible for the concert scandal. As I wrote in an exhaustive report on the scandal for The Coast:

The documents also show that Trade Centre Limited president Scott Ferguson had previously been reprimanded for a ticket advance scheme that he later urged the city to adopt.

After the McCartney and KISS shows, basic accounting principles seem to have been thrown out the window.

A July 29, 2009 email sent directly to mayor Peter Kelly from a person whose name is redacted, but more than likely [promoter 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.

And indeed, the province backstopped TCL, calling the $700,000 loss on the McCarthy concert tourism promotion or some such.

But then came the Black Eyed Peas and Kid Rock concerts, when MacKay was again asking for loans based on ticket sales for future shows:

That is, the plan was to use Black Eyed Peas ticket sales to pay Kid Rock’s advance fee. This is madness, because had either act cancelled, there would be no money with which to refund ticket holders.

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.”

Eleven minutes later, at 8:25pm, Anstey wrote back to the redacted person. “Scott has agreed to the funding. I’ll get the paperwork to you on Monday morning.”

Monday evening, at 5:19pm, Anstey wrote back again, saying that he “just got the cheque from TCL. I will send it to you first thing in the morning, unless you want to pick it up at my house tonight.”

So, despite having been previously reprimanded for an advanced ticket sales loan scheme, Ferguson not only recommended that the city do exactly that, but then facilitated the loan by running it through a Metro Centre bank account that he controlled.

After the concert scandal blew up, Peter Kelly wore much of the blame and Wayne Anstey was nudged into retirement, but nothing at all happened to Scott Ferguson. In fact, he got a raise, and then successfully lobbied for a new convention centre (we all see how that’s working out).

In 2016, Ferguson failed upwards again by getting hired as the president of the World Trade Center Association (WTCA) in New York. There’s no evidence that Ferguson knew anything at all about world trade, but maybe they needed some creative financing ideas, I don’t know.

Sandhya Raju

And now, back to Maneesh Pandeya at the Sunday Guardian, I learn that Ferguson left the WTCA last year to become president of Quark Enterprises, which is the holding company owned by Sandhya Raju, who is a celebrated dancer and actor in India, and daughter-in-law of Ramalinga Raju, who is a famous embezzler, having stole $1.5 billion — yes, billion, with a B — from Satyam Computers, leading to its collapse. I don’t see that Sandhya benefitted from the proceeds of the embezzlement, but it all feels a little Kushner-y.

In any event, Quark Enterprises in turn owns CallHealth, which provides online and telephone medical services in India. CallHealth has been called a tech industry “startup” since at least 2015, which makes me wonder if maybe the term is pretty much meaningless now.

If Ferguson has any experience in either holding companies or health care, I’m not aware of it, but here we are again.

Pandeya, the reporter, rang Ferguson up to ask about… President-elect Joe Biden’s diplomatic stand on China. And you guessed it: if Ferguson has any experience in diplomacy or with regard to China, I’m not aware of it. Writes Pandeya:

There are reasons for Biden’s “diplomatic compulsions”, says global business expert Scott Ferguson, who is former CEO of World Trade Center Association. “I do not think President Biden will have much of a choice. President Trump was the first US President to challenge China in this manner and many now believe this was long overdue. As a result, he has the support of many Democrats as well as a majority of the American population when it comes to dealing with China. This is one of the few issues where Democrats and Republicans readily agree. During the Obama administration, VP Biden was the point person on the US-China relationship, so one might think he might bring a slightly more moderate tone to the table. However, with the severity of the coronavirus, the weakness of the US economy, the unsettled trade war as well as China’s continued global aggressiveness have left Biden with little, but to pursue the tone of Trump administration,” says Ferguson.

Which just about guarantees that there will be a new age of Chinese-American detente and prosperous cooperation.

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Government

No meetings.


On campus

No events.


In the harbour

05:00: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England

Liberty. Photo: Halifax Examiner

06:00: Liberty, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
08:30: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
11:00: Liberty sails for sea
13:00: Niovi.gr, buker, arrives at Pier 28 from Baltimore
13:30: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
15:30: Atlantic Sea sails for New York
17:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida


Footnotes

Yes, a skimpy Morning File. That’s likely to be the case for the next couple of weeks.

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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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6 Comments

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  1. We have ample evidence that in order to run up the pipe of jobs that try to make snake oil seem like a viable healthcare alternative, or keep capitalism chugging along in it’s never ending drive for inequality and making something out of nothing, dimwitted Ferguson’s are a valuable commodity.

  2. When googling ‘single parent families on Halifax peninsula’ I obtained a hit on ‘davidmckie.com’. He is an excellent journalist and I have mentioned him before in relation to policing.

    I found this : ” Law enforcement logged nearly 16,800 calls in one year to Walmarts in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis. That’s two calls an hour, every hour, every day.

    Local Walmarts, on average, generated four times as many calls as nearby Targets, the Times found. Many individual supercenters attracted more calls than the much larger WestShore Plaza mall.

    When it comes to calling the cops, Walmart is such an outlier compared with its competitors that experts criticized the corporate giant for shifting too much of its security burden onto taxpayers. Several local law enforcement officers also emphasized that all the hours spent at Walmart cut into how often they can patrol other neighborhoods and prevent other crimes.” https://projects.tampabay.com/projects/2016/public-safety/walmart-police/

    I wonder if HRP has similar experience.

    1. Wal-Mart never ceases to amaze.

      When I worked at a big box store (not Wal-Mart), under 2% of the cash that went into the register got paid back to the employees (us employees were told what daily sales were at morning meetings). We’re addicted to cheap crap.

  3. I suggest sticking to the facts and avoiding judgement like calling someone the most dimwitted person in any room they have been in. It makes a well-researched story look like trolling for spite.

  4. The story of Scott Ferguson is astounding and always has been. Right from his first mid-appointment right up to his failed role at the WTCA ( one could ask why he left or was booted out). No credentials at all really. And look at the mess he left here in Halifax which we are still trying to clear up.