November subscription drive

Sorry to pester you again, but just a short note to say we’re in the middle of our annual subscription drive. The Halifax Examiner needs your money to make this work possible. Please subscribe.

Subscription party details: Reserve Sunday, November 25 on your calendars. We have Bearly’s Tavern, 1269 Barrington Street, 4-7pm. The band Museum Pieces will play, and former CBC host and spice merchant Costas Halavrezos will introduce investigative journalist Linden MacIntyre as our guest speaker. Entry is free for subscribers.

Linden MacIntyre

News

Public policy failure #1: Clayton Cromwell

Clayton Cromwell

“Staff at Nova Scotia’s largest jail knew in the days before Clayton Cromwell’s overdose death that illicit drugs were floating around the facility, but failed to properly search inmates and cells and did not adequately monitor inmates receiving methadone,” reports Angela MacIvor for the CBC:

This is according to internal documents obtained by CBC News through freedom-of-information laws that show staff at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, also known as the Burnside jail, did not follow their own policies and procedures leading up to the inmate’s 2014 death.

A corrections investigation report dated July 22, 2014, details how Cromwell appeared groggy on video footage the night before his death. 

His bunkmate said Cromwell had been gurgling in his sleep between 11:30 p.m. and 2 a.m. and that he rolled him over on his side. At breakfast time, the inmate called for help when he noticed Cromwell wasn’t moving.

The same report discloses that Cromwell’s wing was on lockdown since the previous day, and correctional officers were aware inmates had been “all pilled up.” 

Justice and health officials have previously told CBC they believed Cromwell had taken methadone that was “cheeked” by another inmate. That’s when someone either conceals methadone during intake or throws it up and sells the filtered liquid. 

The Nova Scotia Health Authority said as a result, it changed the jail’s methadone policy to hold inmates for 30 minutes after they received methadone, rather than 20 minutes.

An internal memo dated Sept. 9, 2014, shows the 30-minute time limit was in fact the requirement before Cromwell’s death, and staff did not adhere to the policy the day before he died — not even close.

“Offenders were held between 3 and 18 minutes in a secure vestibule not the required 30 minutes after taking methadone,” the memo states.

Public policy failure #2: OpenHydro

The abandoned tidal turbine. Photo: Cape Sharpe Tidal

“The company that placed a 13,000-tonne-turbine at the bottom of the Minas Passage then sought creditor protection has applied for $17,807,391 worth of tax credits,” reports Aaron Beswick for the Chronicle Herald:

An affidavit filed with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on behalf of Open Hydro Technologies Canada Ltd. states that company has filed for $7,360,751 in provincial tax credits under the scientific research and experimental development program for the fiscal years 2015 and 2016.

The company also claims to have filed for $6,318,954 worth of the same credits at the federal level.

The affidavit states that only the provincial portion would, if approved, be refundable.

Meanwhile, the company has also filed for a $4,127,686 Capital Investment Tax Credit with the provincial government.

I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to get my hands on that bankruptcy file for weeks, and the one day I was out of town it became available to Beswick.

Public policy failure #3: Offshore is a bust

The West Aquarius rig was leased by BP to drill on the Scotian Slope at the Aspy well site. From Seadrill handout.

“A third well exploration effort off Nova Scotia has failed to find commercially viable levels of oil in the deep waters of the Scotian Shelf,” reports the Canadian Press:

Hess Corp., the drilling partners on the BP-operated Scotian Basin Exploration Drilling Project, issued a news release Tuesday saying it will write off its share of the well cost, and BP will abandon the Aspy well.

It is BP’s only well currently being drilled in the deep waters of the Scotian Shelf, an area about 330 kilometres from Halifax where the company holds multiple licences in waters over two kilometres deep.

Public policy failure #4: Shipbuilding contracts

Irving Shipyard. Photo: Halifax Examiner

While travelling over the weekend, I finally devoured Mary Campbell’s timeline regarding all things shipbuilding related. She explains:

This week, I decided to focus my attention on two (luckily related) stories I’m interested in. Stories I’ve been following for years (eight years for one, one year for the other) but following in a kind of hit-and-miss way. Like I was watching Game of Thrones, but only when I was in an airport lounge or a laundromat with a television running.

It all came to a head when I realized that, if pressed, I couldn’t coherently explain either of these stories to anyone.

(I call it my Reach-for-the-Top Syndrome: the fear that someone is suddenly going to ask me a question about current events that I can’t answer. It’s actually just one strain of Reach-for-the-Top Syndrome — another is the fear someone will ask you a question about current events and you’ll KNOW the answer but your buzzer won’t work. I’m not sure which is worse.)

Here are the stories I am focusing on:

  1. The National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS) and more particularly, the large-vessel component of the NSS.
  2. The criminal case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.

I channeled my interest in both into a Timeline of Events which took me a borderline disturbing amount of time and energy to compile but which actually helped me to better understand both the NSS and the case (such as it is) against Norman.

That said, my first recommendation to anyone interested in the Norman case is not to read my timeline, but to read Postmedia reporter David Pugliese’s fantastic January 2018 “Man Overboard” article about the case, which is referenced so many times in the footnotes to my Timeline, you’ll sound like a frog if you read them aloud (“ibid ibid ibid).

After you’ve read Pugliese’s piece (or before, since you’re already here), check out my Timeline. Although probably exhausting it is nowhere near exhaustive but it does contain links to a lot of additional material. I don’t expect you to read all of it in one sitting, but it will be here, waiting for you, anytime you need to verify some NSS-related event.

Click here to read “Of Ships And Men (Or Rather, Man).”

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Campbell’s right: the timeline she created is an essential document for understanding how the politics of shipbuilding work in Canada. There’s no smoking gun here (yet, but now I’m extremely interested in what will be revealed during the Norman trial), but the whole thing is like a giant stink bomb, which seems to have been exploded somewhere between Scott Brison’s office and the Irving Shipyard.

Campbell’s timeline and David Pugliese’s National Post article both bring into focus the role of lobbyists in the shipbuilding contracts. I’ve been following those lobbyists closely, and have a small item to add, perhaps.

Pugliese points out that Brian Mersereau, of the lobbying firm Hill + Knowlton, was coordinating Davie Shipyard’s political campaign and communicating with Vice-Admiral Mark Norman before Norman was removed from his position (he was subsequently criminally charged with breaching security). I notice that Mersereau has not done any lobbying work for Davie since, and the company is now using Naresh Raghubeer of Elmvale Strategies. Meanwhile, I’m eagerly waiting the release of the October lobbying reports because I think they will give insight into the battle over how $7 billion in repair and maintenance work was divvied up. As I say, small items, but somebody has to track this stuff.

Public policy failure #5: Northern Pulp

Northern Pulp Mill. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“The owners of a pulp and paper mill in Pictou County, N.S., say it’s unlikely a new effluent treatment pipeline will be ready in time for the government-imposed deadline of January 2020,” reports Paul Withers for the CBC:

“We are at risk of missing the timelines by a few months,” said Jean-Francois Guillot, vice president of operations at Paper Excellence.

“At this point, it’s risky,” he said. “I don’t think so. We can have effluent treatment working by January 2020, it’s just the discharge point, we kind of have to do backflips to make that happen.” 

The deadline matters because the mill’s provincial industrial approval expires Jan. 30, 2020 and a functioning effluent treatment system is required.

“If we don’t have an industrial permit, we have to stop the mill,” Guillot said. “What do we do at that time? What do we do with the employees? What do we do with the asset itself?

Public policy failure #6: Old library

Looks like they’re planning on chopping down the trees in front of the old library.

Yesterday, Halifax council made public a previously secret staff report about the potential renovation/reconstruction/repurposing of the old library. The gist of the proposal is that a giant glass superstructure would be built atop and behind the thing, the new building be used (possibly as a P3) half for city offices and Dalhousie University’s School of Architecture, the other half leased out. All this could cost up to $30 million.

You can read the staff report here.

I have questions:
• Why was the staff report secret in the first place? It was a proposal involving two different public bodies, and there is no defensible argument that secrecy was needed to protect bargaining positions.
• Can’t we for once build something that isn’t glass?
• Who thought a P3 would be a good idea?
• Is there any architectural or historic merit to the old library, and if so, doesn’t building a glass mini-borg atop it obliterate that merit?
• What kind of cockamamie financing plan is staff going to dream up to fool the public into believing that this won’t cost them anything?

On that last point, councillor Tim Outhit was refreshingly clear-thinking in his comments to StarMetro Halifax reporter Zane Woodford:

“When I first looked at this picture, I said, ‘Look at that, they took the old library and plunked the new library on top of the old library,’” Councillor Tim Outhit said on Tuesday.

Outhit, one of three votes against the staff report, cautioned his fellow councillors against supporting another pricey project.

“It just seems like we’re incapable of ever saying no,” Outhit said, referring to council’s vote in favour of a staff report on a CFL stadium at its last meeting.

“If the universities want this and the other levels of government want this, let’s let them pony up a little too, because you know the stadium’s all going to drop in our lap. They’ve already said there’ll be no provincial capital for that. Let’s just see, maybe go a week without spending a whole lot of money.”

For myself, I think we should just let the site be a bit of green space. The old library served its purpose, and served it well, for nearly 65 years. Compare that to the new convention centre’s planned lifetime of 25 years. We should thank the library for all the joys and memories it brought, then blow it up.

Yes, I know, there are lots of needs for downtown building space, and everyone has their favourite: museum, homeless shelter, business incubator, and so on. But everyone who has seriously looked at the building has found it’s just too old and broken down to rehabilitate into a modern functional building.

And if we’ve got $30 million lying around, maybe we can use it for housing vouchers or more buses or something else useful, instead of wasting it on this architectural vanity project.


Government

City

Wednesday

Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 9am, 3rd Floor Duke Room 2, Duke Tower) — presentations from Atlantic Film Festival, Blue Nose Marathon, Halifax Comedy Festival, Halifax Busker Festival, Halifax Jazz Festival, Halifax Pop Explosion, and SEDMHA.

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Wednesday, 5pm, HEMDCC Large Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — Shannon Miedema, the city’s manager of Energy & Environment, will talk about the “Benthic macroinvertebrate study in Lake Charles to assess potential impacts of sedimentation on lake health.”

Halifax & West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, City Hall) — StudioWorks International, which is architect Ron Smith’s firm, is applying to build a nine-storey, 51-unit apartment building behind the St. Patrick’s Rectory at 2267 Brunswick Street. I wrote about this yesterday.

Thursday

Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — Jayme Melrose, the “garden doula,” will talk to the committee about the need for a new site for the Common Roots Urban Farm.

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm, City Hall) — Scott MacDonald and James Butler (I have no idea who they are) will talk to the committee about “distracted driver’ impacts on active transportation.”

Province

No public meetings today or Thursday.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Thesis Defence, Computer Science (Wednesday, 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Elham Etemad will defend her ​​thesis, “Perceptual Shape Feature Based Image Coding for Visual Content Classification and Object Recognition.”

Stranger things: the green algal organelle genome edition (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — David Smith from Western University will speak.

The Social Implications Of Artificial Intelligence (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Halifax Central Library) — from the event listing:

A panel discussion exploring the potential social impacts of artificial intelligence and the role humanities and social sciences will play in identifying the legal, ethical and policy issues we should start considering today.

Gabriel Miller, Ian Kerr, Teresa Heffernan, Duncan MacIntosh, and Fuyuki Kurasawa comprise the panel. Info here.

Thursday

Indigenous Knowledge & Access Symposium (Thursday, 8am, Room 170, Collaborative Health Education Building) — register here.

Newfangled Rounds: Springloaded Technology Newfangling to Change the Way People Move (Thursday, 8:30am, Bethune Ballroom, Bethune Building, VG Site) — from the listing:

Learn more about how this Halifax-based start up developed the world’s first bionic knee brace, and how it is changing the way people move.

Register: Paula.Steeves@nshealth.ca

Capturing Transparent Objects: From Appearances to Full 3D Models (Thursday, 10am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Minglun Gong from Memorial University will speak. His abstract:

Modeling and rendering real objects are active topics in both computer vision and graphics. Many powerful techniques are available for capturing the 3D shapes and photorealistic appearances of opaque objects, but the ones for handling transparent objects are not as capable. The challenges are due to the facts that transparent objects do not have their own colors but acquire their appearances from the environments and that these objects interact with light in complex manners including reflection, refraction, and scattering.

Three research projects that advance the state-of-the-art on this front are presented here. The first one investigates how transparent objects interact with the environments using a frequency-based  environment matting approach. Unlike existing methods that require thousands of captured images and/or long processing time, our approach exploits compressive sensing theory to extract the matte effectively and efficiently. The second project develops a new refraction-based algorithm for estimating 3D point positions on transparent object surfaces. By introducing a novel surface and refraction normal consistency constraint, an optimization procedure is designed to jointly reconstruct the 3D positions and normals of these points. Finally, the third project aims at reconstructing full 3D models for transparent objects. Starts from a rough but complete 3D model generated from space carving, our algorithm progressively optimizes the model under three constraints: surface and refraction normal consistency, surface projection and silhouette consistency, and surface smoothness.

Mini Medical School (Thursday, 7pm, Theatre B, Tupper Link) — Jacklynn Humphrey will speak on “Small Steps, Big Success,” followed at 8:15 by Sarah Ramer with “How Do I Know if I am Having a Heart Attack?”

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

SMU Indigenous Blanket Exercise (Wednesday, 1pm, Loyola 290) — Register: raymond.sewell@smu.ca

Mount Saint Vincent

Thursday

Book Launch (Thursday, 7pm, Seven Bays Bouldering, 2019 Gottingen Street) — Mount profs will talk about their books. Amy Thurlow has Social Media, Organizational Identity and Public Relations: The Challenge of Authenticity; Anthony Yue and Luc Peters have On Mirrors! Philosophy Art — Organization; and Ian Reilly has Media Hoaxing: The Yes Men and Utopian Politics. Then you can rock climb, I guess.

King’s

Wednesday

The Nature of Truth (Wednesday, 12pm, Alumni Hall) — this year’s Armbrae Dialogue has several events open to the public:

1:15pm Truth Pursued: The Journalist’s Mandate — a screening of Anatomy of A Killing, a documentary showing how a team of BBC investigative journalists uncovered the facts of the murders of Cameroonian civilians by members of the Cameroonian Armed Forces.

WARNING: disturbing images

1:30pm Aliaume Leroy — Skype interview and Q&A with a member of the BBC documentary team.

2:30pm Truth Contrived — King’s journalism prof Pauline Dakin will talk about her book, Run, Hide Repeat.

3:45pm Truth as Seen: The Eye Witness Account — a screening of the NFB film, The Purse.

7pm Truth as Perception: Memory, Memoir and Heart Knowledge —  journalist and author Duncan McCue will talk about his memoir, The Shoe Boy: A Trapline Memoir, and about Anishinaabe teachings of debwewin (loosely translated as “truth,” literally translated as “sound of the heart”). Info here.


In the harbour

01:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
01:00: Bomar Rebecca, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands
10:00: Augusta Unity, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Mariel, Cuba


Footnotes

I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. As recently as a few days ago the City swore up and down it wasn’t talking to anyone else, including Dal, about repurposing the old Library. Fingers were obviously crossed firmly behind their backs. For many months, a broad-based group of well-established music-related organizations has been trying to engage these same people with conceptual plans to develop the space into a music hub that could include studio space, workshops, offices and possibly ancillary services such as a centralized cultural ticket outlet. Peggy Walt has been a key player in this exploration. Tim Cross of the Nova Scotia Choral Federation was interviewed by CTV’s Heidi Petracek on this topic today. The building is not in as dire shape as many people think. It was certainly outgrown and outdated as a library for the 21st century but it holds great potential for redevelopment within the existing envelope. It even has fine acoustic properties. Such a facility would be an excellent complement the new library. This is yet another example of the city admin and council’s fixation with pie in the sky schemes out of all proportion to the local economy, (convention centre, CFL etc.) and failure to understand what can be accomplished by the organizations whose passion and skills are devoted to keeping Halifax as a vibrant centre for its citizens and visitors, not just a collection of glass towers and cookie-cutter condos with ground floor retail. The lack of vision/failure of imagination is profoundly depressing.

  2. The oil and gas boom was great while it lasted – almost 50 years. The province made a lot of money and many Nova Scotians gained decades of employment around the world. I recall one man who rose to toolpusher with an income of $500,000 a year.

  3. Any excavation of the library site would have to deal with the remains of many occupants of the former Poor House and, probably, indigenous individuals too.

  4. How is it that Europe, for example, is able to repurpose buildings for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years, but we feel we have to demolish an interesting-looking building after just 65 years? And please tell me the new convention was built to last more than 25 years. It’s a typo, right?

    1. The city and province have a 25-year lease on the convention centre with options for two five-year renewals, so conceivably 35 years. The typical newly constructed building is said to have a lifetime of 40 years, but I’d be surprised if many of them last that long.

    2. Stone buildings last forever as long as somebody replaces the roofing and timber components regularly. Even timber buildings can last centuries (actual timber, not modern stick construction). My grandfather grew up in a now-630 year old farm house – which is now ruined after just 2 generations of neglect – a 630 year old farm house being an ordinary enough thing in Europe that nobody cared enough to preserve it.

      Also, a lot of stuff that was destroyed in the world wars was rebuilt in the same style – so a building that blends seamlessly in with buildings built 200 years ago might actually have been built in the latter half of the ’40s or the early ’20s.

  5. Public policy failure number 7: Months after Capital Health evicted the Common Roots Urban Farm (CRUF) from its location on the Halifax Common’s Central Common, CRUF is still landless. Thanks to the effort of Friends of Halifax Common’s Beverly Miller, CRUF was conceived of as an interim use for the site on the former Queen Elizabeth High School land. But according to the 1994 Halifax Common Plan and based on what the public wanted, the former QEHS property should have reverted to the Halifax Common. The obvious best choice for the Common Roots Urban Farm (CRUF) is the former St Pat’s High School land. It’s located near the present site so many Capital Health staff, patients and visitors could still make their way there, (same benefits could go to the adjacent St Vincent’s), the city owns it and the Farm needs it. What could be simpler and why is it taking HRM so long to re-establish this magical project? HRM wants to add thousands of citizens to the Peninsula but continues to reduce public open space…i.e. the former School for the Blind, QEHS, Bloomfield, St Pat’s High School, St Pat’s Alexander and next the old city library.

  6. 1. the name Hill + Knowlton always makes me take notice and start sniffing, as their long deep ugly involvement with ‘reframing’ tobacco’s killing properties is well documented.

    2. re Glass Buildings: are developers buying into and bargaining on climate change’s warming influence? Because glass has a very low insulating value, as anyone who’s had a Home Energy Audit done knows. Why would we fill a city in Canada with glass buildings?

  7. Aren’t you just a ray of sunshine this morning?

    Agree on the old library. It would make a great green space, and maybe even a sculpture garden.

    Philosophy and bouldering. What a great combo. Next comes ax throwing and astronomy.

    1. I tried to get the subscription party at the Axe-throwing place but it couldn’t work out; they can’t have amplified music.